Another obvious childbirth question: who is giving birth? It's you, of course, mama. You're giving birth, you're trusting birth, you're trusting your body. At least, that's what you've been told. But do you really know that body that you're trusting?
That's another question I've been exploring as I prepare for Riceball's birth – how can you trust your body if you don't really know it? It's a challenging question. Maybe I'll be labeled a heretic in the natural birth movement 😉 But I think that we, as women, need to understand more than just the physiology of birth. It's important to understand your unique body.
Trust Comes from Exploration
The thought of exploring a birthing body is a bit taboo in our society simply because we're generally taught that genitals are rather taboo. I'm not advocating for open play between friends or for violating one's moral principles about what should be held between husband and wife (I hold fairly strong beliefs in those areas).
But there does come a point where we as women haven't explored and therefore don't explore, even as we prepare for a baby.
Sure we may prepare with “safe” things like breathing and relaxation. Those are pretty popular. Some of us may even move into practicing a few different positions in anticipation of birthing. But that tame territory is where it ends for most women. There's no exploration of the area where your baby comes out of. Of course you can (and should) relax your jaw during birthing and that helps. But that's not where your baby is coming out of!
I do feel that many women can intrinsically discover how to trust birth and their bodies without truly knowing their body. I myself did this with my first three babies. I understood, physiologically, what happens to all birthing women. And I felt strongly that birth was natural and I could have a baby naturally. And I did. Three times.
The Curve of a Baby's Head
My awareness began expand when we were preparing for Galen's birth. I used href=”https://www.naturalbirthandbabycare.com/childbirth-dvd/” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”>the Pink Kit, which talked about the pelvis. Not just any pelvis. MY pelvis. How I, uniquely, was shaped. And how I could work with that.
But my true desire to explore and understand came during Galen's birth. Our midwife wasn't there. I'd been 3cms dilated and she went home (about 10 minutes away) to nap. Things intensified dramatically after she left, and in the birthing tub I had the urge to feel “up there” and see what I could feel. What I felt was Galen's head in my birth canal. I wasn't exactly sure what I was feeling – I thought that the bag of waters I felt was still skin from me, meaning he wasn't through my cervix yet. But that distinct curve of his head, that feeling of my own body opened wide around it, was thrilling. The next rush brought my water breaking and the next, Galen's head and body in one swift, involuntary push.
With my next baby, Honor, I wanted to feel that again, and I did. I felt her head just as it began to move down. After her head crowned and was born, I rubbed her head gently, waiting for another contraction to push out her little barrel chest.
I was amazed at the awareness touch brought, and of the opening my own body did.
We've been working through the Pink Kit again this pregnancy, and I've studied a lot about breath, relaxation, etc. that I really should blog about. But different parts of the Pink Kit have been compelling to me this time around. The Internal Work is one of those.
We did the Internal Work with both Galen and Honor. Scott did it for me. Honor, as I mentioned above, was really big (my biggest baby, though 8lbs 12oz is small compared to what some of you have birthed!). So this time around I wanted to be really prepared and aware for another big baby. I truly wanted to know myself.
I decided to do the Internal Work twice a day – once with Scott doing it for me as we did in the last two pregnancies – and once just by myself.
It's amazing the amount of awareness I have in my own body, and the deep level of trust and respect I've developed. The Internal Work literally works the internal muscle and tissues of the birth canal (not the top of the birth canal where the cervix is, and not the front against the urethra, but all other areas of the birth canal and the tissue under the labia). It's not at all sexual in nature, but some women feel ashamed to think of “touching themselves.”
It's an exploration and an exercise in relaxation. It's developing respect for your own body. It's developing trust in your body and in its ability to birth. It's that simple. But it's incredibly powerful.
One of the most powerful things is the amount of control I've developed over my birthing muscles in just a few weeks' time. We started around 32 weeks. I'm 37 weeks as I write this. I'm amazed at how I can soften and release all the birthing muscles now as compared to five weeks ago.
I'm also amazed to feel the amount of room my body has. Plenty of room for my baby's head and body. And I can soften those muscles, unfold, and open. I know that I'll be able to do that around my baby's body. Should I be in a place to have perineal support during birthing, I know that I can soften instantly to that touch (be it my own touch, Scott's, or perhaps even my midwife's). I will be able to soften in response to the beautiful pressure of my baby's descending head.
Breathing and relaxation are wonderful. Classic books on birth are vital. Midwives are superb. But developing trust and respect for your own body is one of the most powerful ways you can prepare for childbirth. Your baby will come through your pelvis and your birth canal. Loosen your jaw, relax your forehead, lean on your partner and midwife – all of that is good.
But please, also understand your unique body. Know what positions open you up. And know how to relax and soften those places that your baby will pass through – after all, that is the gateway for your new baby, and the key to truly trusting in your own body's amazing ability to give birth.
Photo by janetmck