I receive emails from time to time, plus on Skype and Zoom meetings, on the major challenge women face during pregnancy. Here is the essence of one typical email I received. The mother-to-be is an experienced meditator.
I am expecting a baby in a couple of weeks. I am fine in the daytime. At the same time every night, I wake up with heart palpitations and a headache.
I recognise them as just body sensations, I am able practice, settle down and fall asleep.
There is a strong fear of having to go through the birth. Despite the support I have around me I feel I have to manage it on my own.
The following has been helpful:
I recognise the emotion is coming together because of causes and conditions. I stay with the physical sensations and observe their changing nature, lack of continuity and solidity. This requires mindful attention. When I lose the attention, the emotion comes flooding back with intensity.
I am waking up exhausted. Could you offer any words of support? Waking up and having a bit of a cry helps as well.
I recognise I have a strong aversion to these unpleasant emotions. I don’t want to feed the fear. I have difficulty knowing if I am pushing away the emotion and building up pressure in in the name of not feeding the emotion.
If you have the time some words of support would be appreciated.
Here is my response with a little edit.
Congratulations on the time approaching to give birth. Babies and children are regular conversation in our household. Nshorna (my daughter), a midwife for years, has four kids. She is a single mum.
You wrote: The following has been helpful. If you had not written that, I would have replied in much the same words. Your approach, perceptions and practice shines through. A real credit to you. You have a deep sense of the core Dharma teachings.
I will make a few suggestions.
- Remember regularly the specific challenging times you have got through in your life. Giving birth is another.
- Stay present to the fullness of the day.
- Be dedicated to taking one day at a time.
- Be mindful of the breath. Breathe deep every time the fear arises. Take a single in-breath for five seconds and count five seconds for the out-breath. Sit tall in the chair or on the cushion. If fear is strong, then walk or talk so you do not buy into the fear. Holding back from fear builds up fear. Relax on the outbreath. Relaxed breathing slowly dissolves the fear.
- Engage in daily formal loving kindness (metta) meditations directed to the baby, yourself and all sentient beings. Write your metta meditation, read out-loud, read slowly.
- Employ body scan meditations, a few minutes or longer.
- Carrying a baby close to delivery is exhausting. You may not experience full renewal of energy overnight, even if you did not have a drop of fear. Practising to stay calm and clear also takes much energy. Fear saps energy.
- Remember the kind support around you. Write down and reflect upon why you are happy that such loved ones are around.
- Last but not least. Send me a message when you feel ready after the birth. I am curious.
You will be fine. All your breath/body practice will come together for the labour and delivery.
Here is contact info….
When Nshorna cried as a baby, rather than think something is wrong, I had a mantra: “Dogs bark, cats meow and babies cry.” It helped while holding her in my arms or going for a walk in the pram.
I hope this is helpful.
I received a message after the birth. Here is an edit of the mother’s message.
I am happy to say that the birth went well. The following are my reflections post-delivery:
The initial and end of giving birth I found dignity and grace in the management of the pain. The middle was the hardest. I recall looking into the eyes of all my loved ones present at the birth – extremely grounding and helpful.
When the physical pain exceeded my comprehension, it was comforting to know that there was no suffering on my part. The body took over. I notice that since giving birth fear has less of a place in my day to day to life than it did before giving birth.
I definitely have noticed that this leads to more energy in the day.
The suggestion to write why having my loved ones around would be supportive has really struck a chord within. It feels like a wonderful way to contemplate interdependence.
The last paragraph from the mother reminds all of us of the value of loved ones, friends and the support we receive from others in many ways.
The knowing of precious people offers a wonderful way to meditate on interdependence.