“It is in giving that we receive.”
-St. Francis of Assisi
The first time I fully realized the truth of St. Francis’s words was soon after I gave birth. As much yoga and meditation as I have done in my life, I had never felt so high as I did the moments and days following Mila’s birth. The high vibration imbued with the bliss and love that I felt was extraordinary.
After a woman gives birth naturally, her body secretes high levels of oxytocin from the pituitary gland (same location as the third eye). Breastfeeding induces further oxytocin surges. Often called "the love hormone," oxytocin relaxes the mother and induces feelings of love and nurturing.
To experience a love and joy like this was far greater than anything I had experienced before. Ironically, Yoga is the Path to Bliss. And Love is the road to get there. In a world where everything is transitory, the bliss that yogis speak of is a happiness that is stable and reliable. It can only be found inside, and it is only available in the present moment.
Due to the release of oxytocin, I receive a wave of love and relaxation each time I breastfeed Mila. Granted, I do not always feel this in moments of absolute exhaustion. Relaxation and Love are the foundations of yoga and healing. When we are relaxed, we can be present and aware. When we are in a state of love, mental anxieties that cloud our mind dissolve.
When practicing yoga, whether engaged in a sequence of postures, a style of meditation, or singing a chant, the goal has always been the same: to relax, be present and open my mind, body and heart to experience love and wisdom directly. This is empowering and liberating. Motherhood has the potential to lay a foundation within for the same experience. The trick is in our approach.
Giving birth was a scary idea to me when I first found out that I was pregnant. I knew nothing then about the process of birthing. When I was seven weeks pregnant, I mentioned to my doctor that I was scared to give birth. “Oh, we can schedule you a c-section,” she said casually.
I ended up spending a lot of time during my pregnancy preparing for childbirth. In my birthing classes I learned that it is often the mind that makes birthing difficult when it brings fear into the experience as this coincides with tightness in the body. If a woman can stay relaxed and not resist what is happening in the moment, she allows her body to open. Sounds like a yoga class: “Relax, go with the flow. Any limitation you feel is only in your mind. You are strong and capable beyond measure…”
In the birthing classes, I learned how to relax and trust my body so that at the moment of birthing, my mind would allow my body to do what it perfectly knows how to do. Birthing became a meditation where I let my thoughts, anxieties and fears go, and connected to my power; my shakti residing at the core of my being.
The Bliss and Love that followed is a yogi’s dream.
I chose to do a home birth with only Ryan and my midwife present. After the preparation we had done in the previous months, by the time I went into labor, I was happy and excited. I felt safe and relaxed. In case of an emergency there was a major hospital ten minutes away from home. With Ryan calm and steady by my side, I went deep inside myself and after nine hours Mila was born. She crawled up my belly and began to nurse immediately. I held her close and fell sound asleep. The very first day of motherhood gave me the opportunity to overcome my mind and intimately feel the potential of my body.
If I would have gone with that first doctor’s advise to schedule a c-section, it would have been a way of breaking asteya, a Sanskrit word that means “to not obstruct someone's experience in a physical, spiritual or emotional sense.” Asteya, like Satya mentioned in the previous blog, is part of the Yamas or inner disciplines which comprise the first limb of the eight-limb path of Ashtanga Yoga. For doctors to encourage c-sections when there is no need or for women to let fear come in the way of experiencing natural childbirth – like I almost did - is taking away a profound experience.
I am grateful we have the medical technology today that is saving women’s and baby’s lives when intervention is needed during birth. My own friend’s lives and baby’s lives have been saved thanks to modern medicine. I have no idea if I will be able to give birth again naturally. I am grateful that I had a pregnancy and birth free of complications.
Just like yoga - one day you do a pose with ease and the next day the same pose feels excruciatingly difficult. We never know what the moment will bring. "Watch things appear, watch them disappear and watch them reappear," said one of my yoga teachers, Larry Schultz.
I am proud of each of my friends whose births have all been completely different. We cannot compare ourselves to each other as each of us has been in a unique situation in our lives and in our bodies.
I hope that all of us women take the time to educate ourselves on how the body births so that we can then make an informed choice based on our particular situation without letting fear or social pressures come in the way.
Questions that come to mind:
- When we deviate from our body’s natural path, how does this affect our physical and emotional connection with our feminine roots, our babies, families and world?
- How do we stay true to our natural inner rhythms that alternate between expansive creation and restorative retreat?
As the Celtics say, “To be spiritual is to be in rhythm.”
Thank you for joining me.
Homebirth, 3:30am, 5 cm dilated