We are happy to bring you this powerful article by Barbara Harper. She shares about her journey as a midwife and her experiences with waterbirth. To learn more go to http://www.waterbirth.org
Embracing the Miracle
by Barbara Harper
The most important work anyone can do is to support and nurture a pregnant woman towards a conscious, gentle and empowering birth experience! Midwives and doctors, doulas and childbirth educators hold the future in their hands, as well as in their hearts and minds, each and every day. Everyone connected with birth influences the treads of our society while participating in the most creative, powerful and mystical of all human experiences.
Birth is our “source” experience in the body. When we were born we were conscious participants in our own birth. We learned and made decisions in utero and the birth affects our subsequent mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The perinatal experience, especially the immediate time after birth, is the origin of our emotional (stress) response to every situation we encounter. The decisions we make at birth are the foundation or source for the beliefs we live by each and every day.
My personal journey working with pregnancy and birth started over thirty years ago when I worked as a labor and delivery nurse in hospitals. My epiphany began when I met and was deeply influenced by two people. The first was Dr. Tom Verney, a psychiatrist from Toronto, Canada, who came to teach a workshop in Santa Barbara, after writing “The Secret Life of the Unborn Child.” His full day workshop convinced me that babies remember everything about their birth experience, then repress those implicit memories and the material surfaces when the stress of life experiences triggers a response. The other person was a birth activist, healer, designer and educator, Binnie Dansby. Binnie helped me prepare for the birth of my second child, 25 years ago. We prepared for a gentle waterbirth and in doing so I learned about fear and how it affected women in labor.
Fear of birth is reinforced by the conditioning we receive in all forms of communication from our parents, our teachers, the images on television and movies. Fear always creates conflict. Love and fear are both right brain responses and cannot co-exist. One must leave for the other to be present. Fear often translates into anger, resentment, critical judgment or criticism. Fear stops the flow of life energy, stops the flow of Love… stops action. .. stops birth! When we feel safe and protected we see a different result.
“A thought planted in the mind and nourished by the breath, takes root in the heart of every cell in the body,” Binnie informed me. There is so much research today on the biology of the mind. Before sounding too new age about this information, know that the Judaic and Christian sacred literature is also full of example after example of intention, thought and consciousness – connecting with God and allowing spirit to move through and do the work. And there is so much information on how to break strongholds (negative thoughts and patterns of action) and reform that way of thinking.
Healing begins the very moment a life-enhancing thought (an affirmation) is chosen to replace a life-diminishing thought, no matter how you may be feeling or experiencing energy moving or not moving in the body. We may not always be able to choose how we feel, yet in every moment, we have the power to choose what to think and speak.
This lesson is most clearly illustrated with women in labor. When contractions begin to intensify and the woman begins to shout, “No,” her body tenses and everything slows down. By asking her to say, “Yes”, even through the energy surge, encouraging her to look into the eyes of her partner, doula, midwife…to open her throat and moan and sing and allowing herself to be supported, in a short time, perhaps even with the next contraction, she will experience a visible transformation. The same woman, same body, same energy will open and in a few ‘energy surges’ she will be saying, “Thank You’ to her body and opening and letting go. Personal power is the ability to choose. All of our choices make a difference.
My first waterbirth was a transformative experience on every level – from saying, “yes,” to my body, my baby and the energy; to birthing in water and experiencing an orgasm as he was born. I realized that we can, through intention, always and in all ways, create a safe, supportive and nurturing environment in which we can listen to the voice of God – to the divine. No one unveils their inner most being fully to anyone, especially themselves, until they know that it is safe and that there is someone who completely accepts them exactly as they are. Once you experience this completely and have integrated that experience into your life you can provide a loving atmosphere for others. That is when we become “be-las” instead of “do-las.”
My life turned upside down that night and the weeks following. I gave my first waterbirth class in my living room just a few weeks later. I tried to impress upon the midwives who came that by creating a scared space for birth we can honor the whole, complete, forgiving, powerful, creative consciousness within ourselves and for those around us and especially for those coming into this world. It is never too late to express and except our original design – God’s perfect design for our lives – that which we came into life to fulfill. My plan was to teach midwives, doctors and parents about the miracle of waterbirth and to expect that we could affect an immediate change in how we welcome babies into the world. It may have been a pretty grandiose plan to think that we could change entire healthcare systems in entire countries, but it is now working.
By developing acceptance, compassion, and patience and gentleness in our care for ourselves, we can take conscious evolutionary steps together, open and learn together, acknowledge new possibilities for growth, and change our minds together. We can break generational patterns and change here and now.
Ask yourself, “How would you approach birth if you were convinced that the baby is making decisions? “ I have asked this question of doctors and midwives in over 40 countries around the world. In mainland China, no one actually believed that a baby could possibly know, sense and hear what was being said during a birth. I continue to share startling revelations about prenatal and perinatal consciousness everywhere I am asked to teach waterbirth. My next stop is Vietnam, where I will ask the same questions and teach about the miracle of waterbirth, as well as the amazing truth about God’s original design for our lives.
Water magnifies our thoughts and intensifies the birth experience. Do I think that everyone should birth in water? No, absolutely not. But water is an amazing miraculous tool for support and consciousness.
To learn more go to http://www.waterbirth.org
Barbara Harper is a former OB nurse, a midwife, Doula, childbirth educator and the author of Gentle Birth Choices, book and DVD and Birth Into Being, DVD. She is the founder and director of Waterbirth International, an organization dedicated to making waterbirth an available option for all women. She is also the mother of three grown children and one grandson. She lives and works from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.