And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Kahlil Gibran, "On Children" from The Prophet (Knopf, 1923)
Stephanie draws from the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran's, "On Children," for exploring our instinct to control birth (and everything), and even better, how to move beyond it. Control is an illusion and a concept that we deal with in every area of life. Birth is teaching us to let go from the get go. It's a powerful microcosm of what the parenting journey is going to bring about. We have nine months to basically learn how to let go, and if we don't figure it out in the birth space it sets us up for a harder time letting go as a parent. We really see this play out in the third trimester. We can feel like we're at the end of our rope—sore, uncomfortable, losing sleep, emotional, fatigued, poor mental health, low self-esteem, and so much more. This is when the illusion of control becomes very, very enticing and why we're so susceptible and vulnerable to suggestion at that time.
On one side of a spectrum we're dealing with an over-medicalized birth control illusion—we can end your waiting game! Just come on in, we'll insert these chemicals, insert these tools, insert these IVs, etc. and get that baby here! Now, medically indicated induction is a different topic entirely. Routine and non-medically indicated induction, however, is problematic and feeds the illusion of control for both providers and parents—human nature loves being able to plan, schedule, and remove the guessing game. Now the standard length of a birth has changed. It used to be that 42 weeks was considered normal and standard. Now, when a birther hits 39 weeks she feels immense pressure and has fear tactics thrown at her. So often we are basing induction off of estimated due dates. Experienced IBCLCs can often tell by the oral development of a baby whether or not they are truly to term. They often observe babies are much "younger" than their ultrasounds or EDDs predicted.
If we continue with the illusion that we can control birth, it will carry into parenthood, believing that we can control our children and adults that they will become. Parents can only provide opportunities and foster the environment, but they can't make them "become."
On the other side of the spectrum there is a more subtle or passive illusion of control that is found in the over-idealized side of birth. It sounds like—I don't want any interventions, I won't give birth at a hospital, it HAS to be vaginal, I will NOT have another c-section, etc. All of these are forms of control. Now, there are things within your control—what you eat, your posture, your mindset, your birth team, and many others. A really big one that's within your control? Your response. Your attitude. Your mindset. Like we learn from 7 Habits, though you cannot control the stimulus, you can control the response. Most births are a unique combination of "idyllic" and "medical." Rarely is it all one or the other.
Is it possible that the baby is also playing a role in the nature of their birth? It's an open-ended question. You can't prove or disprove how much the baby is involved, but it's certainly worth looking at because of how it can shift your mindset. Let's enter the "what if" realm. Sometimes, with the gift of hindsight, you can look back at the births of your children and see some of their personality revealed? Their births can also be an expression of their life path. What if the way that your child came to this earth holds significant meaning for them? We often try to own the birth story as MINE, but isn't it also theirs, as well? Really good stories are not perfect stories, but messy, even broken. Like the lotus flowers blooming from the muddy pond. Sometimes we need to get out of the way of our babies' birth stories from being written.
Learning the details of your own birth story is a potentially big opportunity for seeing these connections. You may see how your birth story and your personality and/or life lessons are deeply interconnected.
As the wise wizard Gandolf once said, with a slight alteration of words, "A baby is never late. He arrives precisely when he means to."
References from this episode:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey
If you'd like to learn more about Stephanie's work please visit www.bhavabirth.com