Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Birthkit, Number 49, Spring 2006.
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Giving birth is a highly creative act, possibly the most creative act we can engage in as women. Experiencing birth can help us tap into and align ourselves with a greater creative power. One way to prepare for birth is to become comfortable with our own creative powers. The more we trust in our creative process, the more open we can be to the creative power of birth. Creativity is about expression; when we give voice to our deepest, innermost selves, we then become comfortable trusting our inner knowing.
I first began to see the connections between birth and creativity when I was training to be a BirthWorks childbirth educator. I was taught that the knowledge of how to give birth already exists within us, although many women are out of touch with it. In BirthWorks we do meditations, visualizations, journaling exercises and artwork to help women explore different issues. The exploration of each issue is enhanced by using the creative process.
I also facilitate writing workshops for pregnant women based on the Amherst Writers and Artists method. In these workshops women write together, then we read our work aloud, responding only with what we liked. One reason these workshops are so powerful is that women’s voices are affirmed. Positive feedback will make a woman more confident and trusting in both her writing and her life. It can heal past wounds and raise self-esteem. It can encourage her to trust her voice in situations where she may have chosen to be silent in the past.
The work that I do both with my writing workshops and in my birth classes is less a teaching than a facilitation of re-discovery. Every woman knows how to birth; everyone is a writer and has a sacred, unique voice. For too many of us this voice was silenced during our formative years, yet it is still there, buried somewhere deep within. No one can know what they will need in labor; if they can trust and listen to their intuition as they cope with the contractions, their bodies will soon tell them.
The process of birth transforms women into mothers. If we can look at the experience of birth as a learning process it can have even more meaning in our lives. Perhaps our labors happen in certain ways because we can learn lessons from them. Perhaps on a soul level we are choosing certain situations because we need to resolve different issues. This process may be painful but re-framing it in this way gives it meaning. Thinking about birth as a process that offers a gift or a lesson, no matter what happens, can take away any kind of judgment from it and can also free us to love ourselves more.
So many things get in the way of women’s creative lives. We have been stripped of our power in too many ways. In terms of birth, a culture of fear, litigation and convenience surrounds us. Recognition of this process as transformative and sacred is lacking. The births we hear about and the births we view on TV are almost all medicalized. Women’s sexuality is used as a marketing tool, and sexual abuse of women and children is rampant. We are taught not to love and trust our bodies. Women tell me that they don’t have time or energy to be creative; yet everyone benefits from the flow of creative energy. Pregnancy and birth can be a wonderful time for healing. We also can be better mothers if we take time to nurture our creativity.
The following are some “prompts” I give to women in my classes to encourage creative expression. Some of these relate specifically to the body, as both creativity and trust in our body are important in birth. I use the word “write” but encourage women to replace it with “draw,” “sculpt,” “paint,” “symbolize” or anything they like. I encourage the women to be fearless when doing these exercises; this is creative work they are doing only for themselves and no judgment is attached to it. Nothing that they create will be right or wrong; it will simply be a tool to greater self-discovery and increased confidence.
With the birth of each new baby comes the opportunity to heal the wounds of our ancestors. What strengths and positive qualities do you have from your ancestors? What are some things you do not wish to pass on to the next generation?
- Write a letter to the last person in your family who had a “natural” birth (it may be several generations back and you may not know her personally). What do you want to learn from her? What does she want you to know?
- What needs healing in your life? How will you make that happen?
- Write a letter to a woman on the other side of the world who will be in labor at the same time you are. How are you connected? How will your experiences be different?
Daub, Cathy. 2002. BirthWorks Childbirth Educator Training Manual, 4th ed. Medford, New Jersey: BirthWorks.