Embracing Our Potential: Birth as a Metaphor

Written by NPN Guest on June 12th, 2012

Balance, Belief, Birth, Preparing for Parenting
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Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

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Birth is about more than healthy babies and healthy mothers.

Pregnancy, labor, birth and the postpartum period are a mother’s rite of passage. Each time we grow a baby, give birth and learn anew to mother, we are pushing ourselves to the limits of our abilities.

And who knows what we are capable of?

Laboring for over an entire day? Birthing an 11 lb baby? Mothering a newborn who needs to be worn and walked almost constantly?

Birth, just as life, is an unknown.

It is this part of birth’s nature that makes birth one of our greatest teachers. It is a rare experience in life that asks us to let go so completely, that forces us to surrender so fully, that requires us to lose control in order to stay afloat.

We cannot force birth; we cannot force life.

Indeed, life at times works like the mysterious process of pregnancy, feels like the intensity of labor and can be as up and down as the postpartum period. We are presented with challenges. We work hard and make the best decisions we can. We experience hurt. We experience joy.

Regardless of what our birth experiences are, the metaphor of birth is there to aid us in our journey through life.

I have found myself in a group of other mothers saying, “It’s just like pregnancy!” to a chorus of nodding heads. Pregnancy can teach us how to give of ourselves, how to balance our needs with those of others, how to slow down, how to think and prepare long term. Even unexpected twists serve as useful lessons. For instance, we can learn that it is never too late to begin using our voice. Care provider not respecting you at your 36 week prenatal appointment? Get a new care provider!

Even with non-parents I find myself trying to explain, “It’s just like birth!,” followed by an explanation in which I express how the opening of birth, in all its complexity, mirrors the opening up to the possibilities of life. For me this is a quite literal life meditation as I work to manifest a new existence for myself and my family through the creation of A Living Family community.

Just as in birth, I find myself blind to what is coming next and when, deaf to the world around me as I seek to listen to the voice within, mute to speak of my transformation as the web of experience weaves together at its own pace and in its own way.

Just as in birth, I gather strength and courage and trust beyond what I thought possible, riding the waves of reality in the moment to moment and diving deeper and deeper into that dark mystery of creation.

Another very real example of the metaphor of birth exists in my own struggles with aversion when nursing my toddler.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Pam England’s Birthing from Within that first time around. My body (and mind) can both create the pain and help it go away.

I have struggled since my pregnancy with my son to deal with feelings of aversion while nursing my daughter. In fact, I recognized when she weaned during pregnancy that I was experiencing freedom from those feelings and the limits on my wardrobe. When the aversion came back as she learned to nurse after the birth, I felt the same threat of hopelessness I felt when I was in early labor with her.

Desperate for direction, I sought out the same intuition I had during my first birth: Use my breath and visualize. . . .

I started to see my struggles differently. My nursing aversion is my labor of love. It has all the urgency and intensity of birth. It has the same letting go, the surrender, the wild, shifting feelings. This realization encouraged me to trust, to stay open to the possibility, to keep on working.

Still struggling, I reached inside for wisdom from my second birth: I already have all I need.

I face something that feels difficult emotionally and mentally, just like birth. I know that I am these feelings I feel when I nurse my daughter. I know that a shift in me would create a shift in my daughter, and in our whole family. The work feels as hard as the work of birth as I say to myself, “I can do this” and labor to love my child.

It is the metaphor of birth, written into my body memory from my birth experiences, that tells me to embrace my potential.

My potential to know.
To feel.
To learn.
To grow.
To stretch.
To shift.
To move through.
To overcome.

Birth inspires me to embrace and trust my power to transform, my Self, my family, my community and the world.

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A middle school teacher in a past life, Sheila Pai followed a calling after the homebirth of her daughter to create A Living Family: a community of extended “family” focused on making a life instead of making a living. First through the blog and then by co-founding a local Meetup community in the Philadelphia region, Sheila began building community, support and resources for natural birth, parenting and living. After the homebirth of her son in December, she is now shifting to her role as a tandem nurturer and planning the Life Learning Unschooling Coop and Homesteading Cooperative she plans to launch through A Living Family in the fall. Some day, when she is finally certified, Sheila hopes to offer her services as a childbirth preparation mentor with a focus on H/VBAC mamas, partners/dads and second time around families.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon June 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • I was Foolish Then — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings describes how foolish lack of preparation for childbirth led to a feeling of powerlessness and fear, but that in the end she had her baby in her arms, and that’s one thing she can celebrate.
  • Sometimes no plan is the best plan — Tat at Mum in search contemplates that maybe she doesn’t need a birth plan for her upcoming birth.
  • Disturbing the peace — Kenna at Million Tiny Things thought she would be a calm, quiet baby-haver. Ha!
  • Accepting the Unexpected During Birth — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM imagined herself laboring on a birthing ball but she never imagined where she’d really be most comfortable when the time came…
  • Sacred This Time, Too — Kimber at The Single Crunch learned enough to know that the way she birthed wasn’t they way she wanted to; but she also knew to enjoy it for what it was.
  • The Birth Partner: A Great Natural Labor Companion — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger thinks that the secret to her pleasant natural labors was having a great support system.
  • the Best Thing About My Labor ExperienceCrunchy Con Mommy realizes that amidst all the things that seemed to go wrong with her labor, the love and support of her husband was the one thing she could always count on!
  • Your Birth Was My FavoriteDulce de leche describes some of the highlights from each of her four births and explains why despite the differences, they are all her favorites.
  • Birth Story: Part One – Moon on a Stick! Gentle Mama Moon tells the first part of her birth story to share some of the delight of labouring at home.
  • Embracing My Birth Experience by Sharing My Birth Story — Dionna at Code Name: Mama made peace with her first birth by sharing the story with her son.
  • Focusing on the Beauty of Birth — Julia at A Little Bit of All of It shares the beautiful aspects of her birth center water birth.
  • A Joyful Induced Delivery — Amy Willa: Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work notes the meditations and perspective that helped her achieve an unmedicated birth despite being induced for medical reasons.
  • Finding Joy in an Imperfect Childbirth Experience — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells what she learned from her two very different childbirth experiences.
  • What’s to like about a c-section? — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama is glad she her second child at home, but she also cherishes much about the c-section she had four years earlier.
  • What Story Will I Tell? — Rachael at The Variegated Life realizes that the way she tells the story of her second child’s birth matters — and could be exhilarating.
  • I Quietly Put My Hopes to Rest E — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her emotional ups and downs with the highly intervened birth of her special needs daughter, Bella.
  • Tale of Six Births — Jessica at Instead of Institutions appreciates that unique challenges and joys of each of her births.
  • Labouring naturally: nature’s gift — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the most beautiful, spiritual aspect of the labour of her son, the first stages along a bumpy road to giving birth.
  • All The Woman I Am. — Lindsay at This Woman’s Work shares a poem about letting go and surrendering during the thralls of labor.
  • A twin birth story: embracing the unexpected — Megan at The Boho Mama shares her twin birth experience and how she found the silver lining when faced with preterm labor, premature birth, and a two-week NICU stay.
  • Giving Birth With Eminem — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares how fiery rap music contributed to an empowered homebirth with her third baby.
  • Two Different Births — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares how she learned from her first birth experience and how to trust yourself and your body.
  • Embracing Our Potential: Birth as a Metaphor — Sheila from A Living Family guest posts at Natural Parents Network and expresses how birth has served as a metaphor to help her through other experiences in life.
  • Little Sister’s Birth Story: Our VBAC Adventure — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama describes the recent birth story of her baby girl, her pride in an epidural-free VBAC, and how her story isn’t exactly the birth experience she had planned for.
  • A Journey in Birth Confidence — Shannon at The Artful Mama shares her experiences with labor during both of her sons’ births.

11 Responses to Embracing Our Potential: Birth as a Metaphor

  1. Dionna  

    This post has honestly opened my eyes – I was so proud of myself, I felt so empowered, by Ailia’s birth – why can’t I use that empowerment in every single area of my life? Very powerful post, Sheila!

  2. Sheila  

    Dionna, I am moved and touched. I had much the same realization. I am not sure I would have arrived at this epiphany if nursing my toddler through and after pregnancy wasn’t so hard. :( To my great fortune, folks such as yourself have shared resources and your own stories that have lit my way along this journey. It is one such post on *your* blog that has given me back my nursing relationship and improved my whole family experience. (Got that tandem nursing update with the story coming Friday on A Living Family blog!) I, and my family, thank you, truly, for your support.

  3. Emily  

    Thank you for sharing! I am 15 weeks pregnant and sometimes struggle with nursing my 2 1/2 year old. I’ve reached a point when I’m trying to cherish the time I have nursing her alone before the baby comes (I really do love nursing her) but have trouble letting go of the moments I don’t enjoy it. It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one who has struggled with this!

    • Sheila  

      Emily, “I really do love nursing her” is not something I have been able to say for a while. I think she had weaned by the time I was 15 weeks. Thankfully, I have another opportunity to do as you are wisely doing (the first time)–cherish these nursing moments.

      I have a post coming out Friday, though, with something I learned from CodeNameMama’s site that helped it not be such a struggle. I hope you get a chance to check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!

      ~sheila

  4. Andrea  

    Sheila, I hadn’t previously paralleled trusting ourselves in birth to trusting ourselves in life, but, I agree, it’s really the exact same feeling of being guided from the inside. What an “a-ha” moment. Thank you.

    • Sheila  

      Thank you, Andrea, for sharing wisdom in your own words. An important reminder for me right now to trust, trust, trust and keep on trusting. Apparently, I birth babies quickly and my life s.l.o.w.l.y.
      ~sheila :)

  5. Lauren  

    Thanks so much for making the parallel between birth and nursing aversion. I’ve had a wicked case of it, and it’s really made me sad. Some days I find solutions, and some days not as much. I’m going to try this next time to ride the waves the way I did in birth – thanks for that perspective!

    • Sheila  

      Every single time some other mama tells me she is struggling with nursing aversion I feel relief. Relief that I am can release my guilt and even some of my sadness. That I am ok, in the struggle. I struggled today, for instance, through my aversion to nurse my feverish toddler. How betrayed I felt to have my tired, hungry, thirsty tandem nursing body throw my aversion in my face just when I needed to open my heart and breasts to my child. It has been a hard day, and your words somehow ease the hardship.
      Thank you.
      ~sheila

  6. Gaby  

    This was so beautiful that I’m so filled with emotion right now. As a birth educator, I’m always trying to nail down the words to describe exactly what you described so perfectly.

    The shifting emotions and the urgency that arises in parenthood are so similar to birth.

    “This realization encouraged me to trust, to stay open to the possibility, to keep on working.” –If I can say this to myself every day of my life, I know I’ll be just as proud of my mothering as I have been with my births.

    • Sheila  

      Wow. To hear my own words again with new lessons. Gratitude, Gaby, for helping me give myself permission to be proud of myself, for my births and for my mothering. Pride, it would seem, might not be the evil it is made out to be…when tempered with the humility I feel about my efforts and whatever wisdom I have gained. I *am* wiser, and may my newfound wisdom serve me and my family well.
      Thanks for reading,
      ~sheila

  7. Amy Phoenix  

    I love you Sheila. Thank you for this.

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