A Powerful Case for the Ancient Birthing Wisdom of the Body
Appeared in the Chicago Monthly Aspectarian January 2000
By Cori and Bill Nielsen
Cori: I was 35 when I became pregnant with our first baby. It was important to us to that the baby had a non-medicated, peaceful birth. We took the Bradley Method Natural Childbirth classes together. I ate well and exercised every day. We planned a homebirth, soft lighting, music and me in the natural squatting position so that gravity would help the baby pass through the birth canal easily.
My labor started five weeks early, too early for a home birth. Our doctor sent us to his back-up hospital, saying he’d be there when he finished his office hours. Labor progressed more rapidly than expected and our doctor was delayed in rush hour traffic. The pediatrician who was called in to assist found himself in charge. He didn’t know us, how we’d prepared or what our wishes were. He was from the old school and followed the standard birthing routines. This means that he delivered our baby instead of helping us birth him.
In the cold, sterile delivery room I was placed flat on my back on a hard table; feet in stirrups and was told to push again and again. The situation felt like it was rapidly spiraling out of control. So was my body. I was so scared. I heard screaming and was embarrassed when I realized it was coming from me. The pain was incredibly intense.
My husband, Bill, was beside me every step of the way, refusing those routine procedures that we’d learned about and had decided were unnecessary; battling for the birth we’d planned. The doctor insisted I needed an episiotomy or the baby’s well-being would be compromised. We believed him.
Brad was born after 9 ½ hours of labor. He nursed immediately, a good indication that he was fine. In spite of this he was whisked away, screaming, from the only comforts he knew: my warmth, my heartbeat, my voice. I can still hear him crying for me as they examined him under the warming lights. I wanted to yell, “Bring him back! Check him while I hold him. I’ll keep him warm. He needs me!” but I didn’t. They whisked him off to the nursery and I didn’t see him for over an hour.
I felt an immediate sense of loss and disconnection upon being separated from the heart that had beat so close to mine for nine months. Brad responded by retreating into deep, deep sleep for several days. It took eight long years before he stopped experiencing separation anxiety. Was this a result of his birth experience? For me, every night when I nursed him to sleep, I’d replay his birth in my mind, willing myself to remember to sit up, grieving for our peaceful birth gone wrong, feeling guilty that having a healthy baby wasn’t enough. It took nine months to work through the process.
When I became pregnant the second time, we decided to use a midwife for our home birth. We visited her back-up doctor, wrote our birth plan, and visited the back-up hospital. I ate well and exercised regularly. Again we were prepared.
I was in labor off and on for five days. The baby was fine so we waited. On the fifth day we received an incredible gift. I woke up knowing with extreme clarity that I needed to visit a particular hypnotherapist I’d heard about. We went to see him that evening. Under hypnosis he gave me very specific information about how to access the ancient birthing wisdom of my body. Then we went home and went to bed.
At 12:35 a.m. I was awakened by a sound like a champagne cork popping followed by three strong contractions. Feeling the intensity of the contractions, I started to panic and tense up, but a voice deep inside of me said:
“Your body knows how to do this! Breathe deeply! Relax! Each contraction brings deeper and greater relaxation. All the muscles in your body relax except those working to push the baby out.”
Bill timed my contractions and called the midwife. I focused on the contractions, breathing in, following them to the to the peak with my breath, breathing out. The contractions felt like enormous ocean waves building intensity and momentum to their crest then ebbing away. Riding them, using my breath as the board, was like surfing. At one point a voice in my head said, “I want to name this feeling pain because I know no other word for this intense squeezing. But this is not pain. This is power, RAW power!”
I was totally focused. The stillness within created an acute clarity and presence. I felt no fear, no pain. Kneeling at the foot of our bed, letting gravity do its part, I visualized the baby surrounded by a beautiful white light. I envisioned my perineum opening up like a flower blooming, caressing our baby’s head, as it crowned and passed comfortably for both the baby and myself. I looked down and watched my abdominal muscles undulate from top to bottom and then start at the top again. The rest of my body was totally relaxed while my belly pulsed intensely – beautifully. It was incredible to watch, wave upon wave upon wave. I was the silent observer, awed by the power of my body.
The depths of my being rejoiced saying, “I knew it!!! THIS is what I’ve been longing for!”
As I was mesmerized by my dancing belly, those muscles birthed Caleb’s head without my feeling it. Amazed and eager to have our baby in my arms, I intentionally pushed to get the shoulders out and ripped in two places. I imagine that if I’d allowed my body to continue its own rhythm, I probably wouldn’t have ripped at all.
Caleb was born one and one-half hours after my labor started. Bill snuggled us in our bed. Caleb peacefully gazed at me, content, warm, and secure. He and I rested in bed for several days, slowly easing him into the light and noise of the world as he adjusted to his new surroundings. He seldom cried. Whenever he wanted to nurse he made a specific “I want to eat now” sound. He was a very alert, peaceful baby. He is a happy, self-directed boy. Is this a result of his birth experience?
Bill: When I asked Cori to marry me, she made it very clear that she wanted to have children. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea since I already had custody of my three boys from a previous marriage. Jeremy was 12, Jake 10, and Adam 7. Being a single parent had taken its toll and I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of more children.
As we continued to talk, I became aware of just how much having children of her own meant to her. The loving ways she accepted and cared for my boys finally won me over. She was, and is, a wonderful mother to all of our boys. Brad came along in ’90, Caleb in ’93.
From the moment we began talking about having a baby together, Cori expressed strong views concerning the birthing of children. I have to admit I never thought about it much (my first three sons were all C-section babies). I was about to be educated. It began with Joseph Chilton Pierce’s book, The Magical Child. It ended with me delivering my son, Caleb, in our bedroom.
When Cori became pregnant with Brad, we chose a group of doctors who were advocates of home birth. Their policy of endorsing drug-free childbirth, with little or no intervention, and breastfeeding, seemed to make them the perfect choice.
When Cori’s water broke five weeks early, the birth we’d hoped for went to hell. The whole day was one battle after another. The recommended hospital (and staff) had birthing attitudes from the 50’s. I was Cori’s only advocate for the birth she wanted and I failed her miserably. In the midst of constant confusion, and confrontations by those who “knew better” what was required, I was rendered powerless. Bradley’s birth was not unlike what mine must have been like 40 years before. It was awful: cold, sterile, and very routine – awful. But regardless of circumstances, we had our beautiful baby boy, and that overwhelmed the disappointment, or so I thought. Yet as I sit here and recall it fourteen years later, I still feel a great sadness.
A little over two years later we decided that our little family of six was missing something. This time it was going to be different – and it was. We decided on a midwife-assisted birth at home. We studied, chose a back-up physician and hospital, and waited. When Cori’s labor began, we were very ready. When it stopped, that was okay, too. And when her mom went back home and all was quiet, Cori made her dream of how it could be, and should be, come true just after midnight.
There was no fear, no panic, no confusion. Cori was quiet and determined. Her contractions came fast and furious yet she never cried out. Our two boys in the next room slept peacefully through it all. We spoke softly to each other, staying close.
When Caleb was born in our bedroom, it was one of the most joyous moments of my life. Being with Cori as she quietly labored to bring our child into the world, I was both awed and humbled by the power of it. Laying together, the three of us where moments before there were only two – there are no words to describe it.
I’ve had five sons come into the world and yet, if it weren’t for Cori (and Caleb), I might never have had the experience of seeing and feeling the deeply profound beauty of birthing a child. For that I will always be eternally grateful.
Cori: That was eleven years ago. I have heard many birth stories since then and few are similar to ours. This has troubled me. Even more distressing is that according to the National Center for Healthcare Statistics the national rate for Cesarean sections is at an all time high of 24.4% and while a C-section can be a life saving intervention, those scheduled for patent or provider convenience or to avoid labor pain in my opinion are unnecessary. If my body could experience a pain-free birth at age 39, so can the bodies of other women of all ages. I spoke with the hypnotherapist I worked with that night. When I told with him that I am a Reiki Master/Teacher, he suggested that Reiki be used to teach women how to access their body’s birthing wisdom.
Reiki is defined as spiritually guided life force energy. It is a precise, easy to learn method of body work that connects the body’s innate healing powers with the life force that surrounds, permeates and sustains it. It is gentle. It is powerful. It works on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. The recipient feels wonderfully nurtured, relaxed and vibrant.
Giving birth is a rite of passage into motherhood. Our gift and our power as women is the inherent knowledge in the cells of our bodies about how to birth our babies pain-free without drugs. We have believed for far too long that we must suffer pain in childbirth. IT NO LONGER HAS TO BE THAT WAY!
KNOW in every cell of your being that
IT IS POSSIBLE
TO BIRTH your babies
We must learn how to re-awaken the inherent knowledge of our bodies about how to do it. We must reclaim this wisdom that is our birthright as women and in so doing we will create the space within ourselves and within our families that life is about pleasure and empowerment.
Doreen Virtue Ph.D., doctor of psychology, states in The Crystal Children that the new generation of children is highly psychic and sensitive. They are beautiful inside and out—one look in their eyes and you can see Divine love and wisdom. They have profound insights concerning peace and love. It is my opinion that all the precious ones being born deserve to experience their birth as a gentle, non-medicated, pleasurable passing from womb to world.
Over the last seven years I have taught expectant couples the Reiki for Pleasurable Childbirth Method. In both hospital and home settings they have been able to birth without pain, without an epidural or medication for pain, even when labor needed to be induced. If it was a second birth, their experience was empowering even when the first birth had left them with a deep-seated disappointment. The Reiki for Pleasurable Childbirth Method was an integral part of their positive birth experience.
The children are the most rewarding part of this story. Consistently they are happy, peaceful children. Physically they hold their heads up, rollover, sit, crawl, walk and talk sooner than the accepted norm. I attribute this in part to the fact that their bodies are not stressed by their mother’s fear or from medication. And in part it may be because they are sensitive, wise, gifted children.
It is my prayer that your hearts are stirring as mine did, searching for a tranquil way to birth your babies. It is my dream that our story awakens within you a deep-seated “Yes!” that is the “knowing” of the soul; the knowing that as we settle into the new millennium, it is time – it is past time – to learn how to birth these children of the Heavens in peace and power. It is knowing that in doing so we make each child’s birth a springboard for the essential earthwork they come to do. It is knowing that NOW is the time to take this step in bringing greater peace, cooperation and harmony to our planet.