Years ago when I was pregnant for the first time in Luxembourg in 2010, I spent a lot of time preparing for the arrival of my little one.
I was not a spring-chicken and was well-established in my demanding career as Chartered Accountant & Auditor at one of the Big 4 audit firms. I knew very well how to manage several multi-cultural teams from different offices to work together and produce neatly filed audit evidence for complex hedge and investment funds. My rational thinking brain was operating like a well-oiled machine. Yet at night, highly overstimulated I was sobbing on my pillow for the toll this career was taking on me, thinking I am not tough enough, there must be something wrong with me.
Planning for baby
I am a Highly Sensitive Person (“HSP”) and back then didn’t know it but today I believe it was this innate trait of mine that led me to meticulously plan and set myself up for a well-prepared postpartum period. I knew I was very sensitive to a lack of sleep, so I also spent a lot of time and energy to prepare for and optimise the change in sleep coming our way. And when it came to baby’s development, needs and sensory world – I was on top of it too!
Seeking meaning and connection (a typical HSP trait) but also in an attempt to live out my unfulfilled, deeper, creative side, each night before bed, I wrote poems in a tiny blue notebook to my baby in the womb, dreaming about how I would be mothering her and what she will be like, knowing I would keep it as souvenir for my child. Fast forward 9 years later, a drastic career change after my second daughter was born, I now know that prenatal bonding in any shape or form is highly beneficial to the development of baby and that babies are deeply conscious and aware beings, super keen to connect to the outside world.
“We are not surprised that the baby after birth has a remarkable degree of self-esteem and a secure access to its personal potential.” says Dr. Gerhard Schroth from the Association of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health (“APPAH) on the topic of prenatal bonding.
As organised and conscientious mama-to-be I did my prenatal fitness, ate well, cut alcohol and other nasty habits, didn’t eat too much sugar and decorated a dream nursery with my hubby after we successfully managed to search for, buy and move in to a bigger apartment during pregnancy. Everything so well planned!
Gosh and all that planning paid off. Big time. Our baby was happy, content and I found it natural to coo with her (leaving pauses so she feels seen, heard and has time to respond which builds her brain through “serve and return” I now know), massage her little body, protect her sleep and tune into her needs, even with some initial breastfeeding struggles and frustration, but we made it! All the meal prep, freezer-stocking, online grocery practice rounds, cleaning services outsourced, my hubby off with me for 3 weeks and distinguishing helpers from visitors so we can focus on bonding, resting and breastfeeding was well worth it. We were over the moon and in love.
Except for 1 little thing. Well actually a massive thing. The birth. I mistakenly relied only on the prenatal training at the hospital to prepare for birth, which was great if you want to train how to be a good patient (at that time). Coupled with the book “What to expect when you’re expecting” I completely missed out on really understanding what’s needed if you’re interested in a natural birth, which I realised was best for my baby.
I didn’t know then that the thinking brain is not in charge of giving birth. That it needs to be trained, like one would train a puppy, with love, tons of patience and without judgement, again and again to chill out, sit back and let the ancient reptilian brain (responsible for our physiology and instincts) instinctively facilitate birth (like all mammals do) along with input from the limbic brain system (responsible for emotions, feelings, sensations).
You see, my thinking brain was in overdrive. And when you have an anxious and fearful mind the body is full of tension and the experience of birth sensations will be extra intense, leaning towards suffering. As an HSP in disguise, I was even more vulnerable to this and at that point had not yet discovered mindfulness, meditation or any personal development tool for that matter. Numbing was my only coping tool in life and so of course in birth when the epidural was presented to me by the health care system on a platter it was only “natural” (pun intended) to accept it with open arms.
I also didn’t know that I needed to practice a variety of different comfort measures for labour to help myself be comfortable, how to set up a birth-conducive environment in the delivery room (dim lighting, homey feeling etc), how to truly connect to and be fully in my body to welcome and work with sensations with feel-good movement and gravity to make more space in the pelvis for baby, how to work with my natural endorphins and birth hormones (think oxytocin, the love hormone through skin-to-skin touch, kissing and feeling loved up by my partner), how to navigate the maternity care system and interpret medical “orders” by fully understanding their impact and my rights and to ask the BRAINS questions (benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, need time, scientific evidence).
Nope, I knew none of that. Only that I was trained culturally to see my body as faulty and that Eve bit the apple so women deserve to suffer in labour, like my mom and aunty did and like all women in movies did, so I just had to obey whatever I was told to do. Then induction via drip (for no specific clear medical reason) was what put me in the cascade of interventions that followed each other as my body could not anymore produce it’s own symphony of hormones when the artificial spanner got in the wheel so to speak. Long story short, one thing led to another and an emergency C-section later that left me baffled and secretly traumatised (I wasn’t able to admit it then) thinking that my body failed and the medical establishment saved me and my baby as we couldn’t do it.
I now know that my 2nd daughter’s birth 17 months later also went the same way because I still didn’t know what I didn’t know and suppressing the emotional reality on what really went down…
That all changed when I switched careers after my 2nd daughter went off to creche. I knew I wanted to help expecting parents plan for the life change. I realised I was good at the practical and organisational planning aspects and others were looking for help in this area. I started my training as Perinatal Coach/educator initially thinking I only need to know about the practical, rational stuff. But in the required reading curriculum of my training, there were some books that completely shattered the limited paradigm I was operating from.
The “Thinking women’s guide to a better birth” by Hency Goer shook me up. I started realising what really happened. And so my fascination with Birth Empowerment started.
I now also know that my emotional closet was full of painful & unresolved emotional imprints starting from conception, which has the tendency to show up uninvited in times of intensity, especially giving birth, increasing the likelihood of complications. And that it can even prevent some from falling pregnant in the 1st place.
Subsequently, I went on to learn more about birth from all angles and certified as Holistic Childbirth Educator, Dancing for Birth Instructor, Fearless Birthing Professional (clearing fears for birth rapidly and effectively with reflective repatterning on the subconscious and emotional brain), Calm Birth® Teacher. And perhaps the biggest impact on me as a human being and woman was becoming a Birth into Being Facilitator, through which I was able to heal my own limiting formative imprints (including my own conception, birth and early years) as well as my trauma of giving birth, allowing me now to hold sacred and safe space for women from all walks of life towards healing and empowerment in life and birth. After healing I could fully own my experience, appreciate the gifts it did bring me without blaming the medical system.
As for my daughters, I now know that prenatal bonding, baby massage, sensitive, gentle and responsive parenting, early somatic therapies (like osteopathy), clean & microbiome boosting nutrition from the go, working with them on their own births with the Birth into Being Method once they were articulate and ready as well as my own healing helped them thrive emotionally and physically despite their difficult entry to life. And I don’t blame myself for what I didn’t know back then. I spend my energy more constructive in educating those that want to learn how have an empowered birth and standing up to a less-than-perfect maternity care system and birth culture.
I now know how to work with my puppy, my mind. One of my wise meditation teachers taught me this valuable metaphor. And I am careful to not let it run away with me. I understand the shift between mind and awareness and that it’s a muscle to train, to constantly and patiently shift out of the mind, back into awareness into the present moment. And it is deeply satisfying for me to help expecting families through the beautiful Calm Birth® meditation method, train their puppies with love and patience so they can access our greater potential in birth. It is never too early in pregnancy to start training your puppy and learn to get your calm on.
In 4 x 1.5h sessions during pregnancy you can learn the method yourself and access a greater potential in birth as well as bond with your baby prenatally as a positive start to your parenting journey. Calm Birth® birth prep classes, a recognised and evidence-based meditation & breathing program for pregnancy, birth and postpartum are currently available in group sessions via Luxmama here and are for any type of birth desired.
And I promise that no animals or puppies are harmed in the making of a calm you 😉
What others say:
Christiane Northrup, MD says “Calm Birth is a sublime gift to all of us. It contains the blueprint for reconnecting with birth wisdom on all levels…. Doing the practices will transform the birth process and imprint a peaceful beginning in both mother and child. The positive impact of this on society can’t be overestimated.”
Thomas Verny, MD, co-founder of APPPAH, sees Calm Birth as, “an empowering alternative to the medicalization of birth,” and feels that the techniques “liberate women to channel their innate wisdom into welcoming their newborn child in a truly life affirming way.”
David Chamberlain, PhD, co-founder of APPPAH, states, “Calm Birth is arriving at the opportune time in the early years of the 21st century. Calm Birth works with both physical anatomy, energy body anatomy and meditation science to access energies that are invisible but very much present. The prospect of reducing complications while increasing maternal feelings of dignity and triumph should warm the hearts of all birth attendants
Jeannine Parvati-Baker, author of Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth and Conscious Conception, “Calm Birth is the childbirth method that society and I have waited for…. It heals the Earth by healing birth.”
More about the author:
Mother of 2 children born in Lux, Preconception, Prenatal & Parenthood Doula, Marise Hyman provides worldwide coaching, healing and education in preparing for an empowered conception, pregnancy, birth, life and parenthood journey. She is an IMPI Perinatal Coach/Educator, IMPI Holistic Pregnancy & Child Sleep Practitioner, Happiest Baby on the Block Educator, “Becoming Us” Facilitator, Dancing for Birth™ Instructor, Holistic Childbirth Educator, Reiki Practitioner, Head-trash Clearance + Fearless Birthing Professional, “Birth into Being” Facilitator (level 1-3) and Calm Birth® Teacher.
She understands that we need to “heal birth to heal the earth” and is therefore also a passionate Birth Advocate and founder of Luxmama.