Wednesday Nov 09, 2022

Episode 15: You Birth Like You Live

You birth like you live. So how do you live? If you're really willing to ponder that simple question, you can go pretty deep. This is not meant to make you feel guilt, shame, or self-judgement. It's simply a reflection of who you are right now. Instead of just plunging into what society has told you is a good birth, this is about curating birth to your specific wants and needs, even if it doesn't look like anyone else's. Birth is a mirror that reflects back at us to help us grow.

How do you live in connection with pain, stress, and intensity? Think about how you respond to a strained ankle, a hard workout, menstrual cramps, or sickness. How do you cope? What brings comfort? Katie benefits from hot and cold contrasts, like baths, compresses, ice packs, rice bags, etc. She needs solitude and quiet, huddled in her room covered with blankets where she can sleep it off. In contrast, her sister would throw herself onto the couch in the middle of the living room in a "whoa is me" demeanor. She needs more attention and to be catered to. This is her nature and what helps her cope. They are so different, and both valid. Think of stress—how does it manifest in your life? You may get irritable, touched out, shut down, panicky, or emotional. What steps do you take to de-escalate? Typically when you come into your birth space you will want the same types of comfort and coping tools and de-escalation steps.

How do you live in relation to each of your senses—which of your senses are more sensitive than others? Think about your senses of touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell. What triggers these senses and what pacifies them? How can you set yourself up for success in the birth space knowing this about yourself? Sometimes you may think to yourself, "I didn't cope very well," if you were messy, loud, triggered, or intense. But is there a bad way to cope in the birth space? Coping is coping no matter how you did it.

How do you live in connection with your body? Do you have a good understanding of your bodily sensations, movements, and feelings? Do you respect your body? What is your relationship like? Katie used to try to control her body with her brain, forcing it do or not do what she deemed okay. Birth has helped heal her relationship with her body. Stephanie felt really checked out from her body, almost like it were No Man's Land. She was ignorant of her anatomy, despite being sexually active and having given birth. She didn't know what the vulva, clitoris, or cervix were, or how many orifices she had. As she came to know her body on a first-name basis, her body went from No Man's Land to Homeland--it aided her experience of embodiment. Body shame hugely affects us in the birth space. Most of us are very self-conscious about the more unpleasant sides of the human body. Our body is quite actively pushing out all sorts of fluids and smells in the process of pushing the baby out--blood, amniotic fluid, discharge, poop, farts, burps, throw up, etc. It's important to see this as a natural part of the birth process. And yet, if you are grossed out by these things, that's helpful self-awareness. You can move forward exactly as you are and take steps to safeguard yourself at whatever level you choose. And you can hold an openness to learning more about yourself and growing incrementally.

How do you live in relation to self advocacy? Think about how you are in standing up for yourself or honestly assessing your own needs and ensuring those needs get met? What steps can I take to help me better advocate for myself if I know it's challenging? How can I move away from people-pleasing and into self-advocacy. Be mindful in how you pick your birth team that you can communicate these needs with ahead of time and ask them to support you in the process of self-advocacy.

Each birth is a beautiful mirror. It will show you deeper layers of who you are. You may learn some things that aren't fun to learn, but it's important. We can get to the point where we're not beating ourselves up about these issues, but saying "this is no longer serving me." We can use it simply as information to help us grow. All of your birth preparation actually carries into parenthood. Birth skills are also life skills. You can birth like you live but you can also live like you birth. Everything you experience in birth can be the wind that carries you into empowered parenting.

For more information about Katie's work, please visit freyabirth.com.

References from this episode:

Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Full quote: “When we call a place by its name, it is transformed from wilderness to homeland.”

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