“Birth” in Boston, Massachusetts, 2007
If you’re a mom with young kids any mention of bodily parts and their sounds – butt farts, mouth burps – has the potential to produce roars of laughter that could be heard on a boat off the Swahili coast of Lamu. In 2005 when I wrote my play “Birth”, a portrait of how low-risk mothers are giving birth in America today, the cesarean rate was 25% and rising. Not hugely uplifting material to present to an audience. I needed a laugh desperately. And that’s when I met a mother who gave me playwright mana-from-heaven: butt humor. If it could work on my kids surely it could work on audiences. And it has.
Women always say, “you’ll forget the pain.” Trust me, even with an epidural, you don’t forget about the pain of a baby coming out of you. How could I forget a sensation that felt like the baby was coming out of my butt? Nobody tells women this. Believe me, you never forget a baby coming out of your butt.
The irony is that for all the belly laughs Vanessa gets from the audience there is a deep truth in her message: mothers are scared out of their butts to give birth. Of course a baby is not going to come out of a woman’s butt, but how it’s going to get out is the source of endless worry for many pregnant moms.
As a result, moms are running to epidurals and other interventions. Roughly 50-70% of mothers today have an epidural for pain relief. (Midwifery Today, Issue 95, Autumn 2010). Among the over one hundred mothers I interviewed before writing my play “Birth” most told me they decided to have an epidural simply because everyone else was having one. Nearly one hundred percent of my interview subjects had not researched the risks/benefits of epidurals. As Judy Slome Cohain, a midwife, points out in her Midwifery Today piece: “Women get epidurals for one of the main reasons so many women smoked pot in the 1970s – their friends are doing it.”
Wait – you mean that a woman who has a PhD in physics and flies all over the world impressing audiences with her knowledge had no idea that epidurals can cause a fever in mother and baby? Probably.
A growing number of doctors tell us pregnant moms are asking for more intervention and that’s why the cesarean rate is now over 30 percent. This may be partly true. But regardless I think the deeper question we must ask is what then is it about our culture that feeds a pregnant mom’s blind rush to grab an intervention? What is the baggage holding women down from having powerful births?
One word: Fear
GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL!!!! I thought I was going to die. Yes. Honestly, I don’t know how women go natural. You don’t get a medal for doing it natural so why do it?
That’s true; women don’t get a medal for giving birth naturally. There is no powerful birth award. So why do it?
One word: Connection.
The clear antidote to counter fear is connection. The more we connect to our bodies – that inner knowing women have that giving birth is normal – then fear dissipates. Try it. Every time you feel fear connect to your body (dance, laugh, take a nap) and what happens? Less fear.
A woman without fear knows how to give birth to a baby. She knows in her bones that she is deeply intuitive. This is why it is imperative for pregnant women to take an intentional moment every day to stop and listen to their intuition.
Once pregnant women are connected to their bodies then the gates open to something even more delicious: truth.
Here’s the first truth most pregnant mothers tell me they find after connecting to their bodies: birth is normal. Or, as Ina May Gaskin the mother of midwifery so eloquently put it to pregnant moms:
Your Body is Not A Lemon.
Once we unlock this secret – that our body was meant to push a 6 or 7 or for some mothers a 10-pound baby out of us – the joke of giving birth is on society. Mothers – community by community – can show their friends and family that babies don’t come out of butts, that mothers bodies are perfectly made to give birth and that fear is wasted energy.
Sure, some mothers are high-risk pregnancies. Absolutely. Some pregnant women need high-risk intervention. But let’s be bold and face the fact that the current 30 percent cesarean rate in the United States – over 15 percent higher than the World Health Organization 5-15% as an optimal cesarean rate for industrialized countries – is not only unnecessary it’s a human rights violation and feeds more fear into pregnant mothers.
Instead of feeding fear, I vote for pregnant mothers feeding connection and embracing truth. Here are three suggestions of how to connect to your intuition when you’re pregnant.
1. Movement. Spend at least 10-15 minutes every day doing some form of movement even if it’s just to close your bedroom door when you get home and dance around the room with your eyes closed. Look for CDs/DVDs that specifically help you connect to your body, like Toni Bergen’s Journey Dance.
2. Yoga nidra (otherwise known as: sleep!). Every pregnant woman needs sleep! Yoga nidra is a powerful, guided meditative practice that gives you quality sleep and allows your body to welcome emotions and beliefs for “tea and conversation”. It has helped many people overcome trauma, stress, and connect to their inner knowing. Commit to 10-20 minutes every day. You can purchase CD’s online. Robin Carnes’ CDs are great for the beginner.
3. Journal. Free-write for 10-15 minutes every day. Just put your pen down on the paper, no topic, and let your hand write away! You will be surprised where you go. (thank you, Natalie Goldberg!).
Want a transformational challenge? Do one of these three suggestions for 40 consecutive days. Then ask yourself what kind of birth you want.
Back to Vanessa:
Thank God that baby didn’t come out of my butt! The baby was fine when he came out. Totally healthy. Not me…Forth degree tear. They were sewing me up for a long time after the birth. I just wanted to close my legs for one freaking minute. I just wanted to be finished. To be alone with my baby. You know, my body ached to hold him.
Oh, where was my family? They were all in the room with me. Watching football.
Women have key moments in their lives that offer opportunities to seize our authentic selves – to connect. Pregnancy is one of them. Don’t let a good butt joke allow you to miss the moment.
Karen Brody is a writer and founder of BOLD and The My Body Rocks Project. In March she’s offering an online My Body Rocks Pregnancy class and a 40-Day online Yoga Nidra Challenge for Moms (of all ages and stages) around the world who are ready for transformation. www.boldaction.org and www.mybodyrocksproject.com.
About Karen Brody