In the dark winter nights leading up to the birth of my son, my second child, I was resting comfortably on the couch in front of the fire when I had an epiphany. I got out a large piece of paper and some ocean-hued markers and began to draw in swirls and waves, and wrote in definitive, bold, black letters.
When I had my first baby, my intentions for my birth were very outcome-centred. As a doula who had practiced for four years by that time, I had the knowledge I needed to make informed decisions, and I also had a healthy dose of skepticism of the medical system within which I would be birthing. Though perhaps I was somewhat blind to it then, my choices about my birth were heavily weighted with a desire to avoid being influenced by “the system.” They were also influenced immensely by fear. I was fearful of intervention in the same way I had always been fearful of needles, avoidant of medication, and inclined toward natural solutions to my health quandaries.
But what I feared the most – about birth and, for that matter, everything that came after – was never written in words, but between the lines of my stated preferences for a natural labour; skin-to-skin contact. More than anything with a sharp point or a numbing effect to the senses, I feared surrender.
I didn’t want to surrender control of my birth process to the medical system.
I feared surrendering my life and my identity to the needs of my new baby.
I had no idea what it meant to surrender to my body and its process.
I wanted control.
So I wrote a birth plan – one that read like a veritable menu of options: “I’ll have this, this and this.”
As I sat in the fire-lit darkness that night, feeling my son kick and twist inside me, I drew and wrote on my paper confident in the understanding that I had come to through the birth of my daughter:
Surrender is more powerful than control.
During her birth, I surrendered to my body’s processes, and I surrendered the ideals I had carefully constructed around my birth. I learned that righteous fist-shaking in the face of what is, undeniably, happening, is powerless. I learned that the deepest strength, courage, and empowerment comes from accepting what is, and making it mine.
In bold letters and in a stream of consciousness that had been ripe for revelation in the months of my son’s gestation, I articulated not a birth plan, but birth principles.
Because regardless of whether I birthed at home in a warm pool as I prepared to do or under some other unforeseeable circumstances, what I could control was how I wanted to be treated during my birthing process, how I wanted to feel, and what I believed about myself and my body.
And so I wrote:
I TRUST BIRTH. I KNOW MY BODY.
My decisions will be informed by my intuition, evidence, and the loving counsel of my support team.
I will do what feels right for my body and my baby, where it feels right, and when.
I WILL BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR.
I will be surrounded by positive thoughts, encouragement and support.
I trust those I’ve surrounded myself with my vulnerability and my raw, awesome power.
I WILL BIRTH STANDING FIRMLY IN MY POWER.
In loving arms with positive intention, I am ready for what this birth will bring. I own my decisions and my process. I accept the unknown; I am adaptable and prepared for my birth to unfold as it is intended.
I believe that everything is an option, and that I know I will make the best decision possible when I am informed and engaged in my own care.
This time, my declarations of intention were about me.
Not about the system, or its interventions, or anyone else.
This time, I commanded the respect, trust and reverence of my care team.
I asked for their positivity, and reminded them of their role in recognizing both my vulnerability and my power. I let go of defensive language and simply held the power that I knew I had, rather than grasping for the control which would always evade me.
A few short weeks later, as I laboured in a warm pool in my bedroom, I opened my eyes briefly, knowing that I was experiencing a brief reprieve in intensity before I brought my son into the world. To my right was my birth principles statement, coloured in ocean hues, hung on my wall in reverence by my midwife. To my left were the calm, expectant faces of my support team, ready, patient, and loving. Trusting my process, witnessing the power of my surrender.