Most people in our society believe childbirth to be inherently painful. Many enlightened and spiritually evolved teachers still teach that the inevitable pain of labor is a metaphor for spiritual growth—at the end is a reward so beautiful that it makes the suffering worth it, or that while the pain is unavoidable, suffering is an unnecessary result of resisting the pain.
But what if that message isn’t true? What if childbirth can actually feel GOOD? I’m here to tell you that it can, that I experienced it myself firsthand. The process of labor can be fun and feel almost as good as the end result of holding your precious newborn. I’ll share with you the five steps I followed to reach this blissful conclusion.
But first let me make it clear that, while I am a positive person, I am not a superwoman with a sky-high pain tolerance or a naturally peaceful temperament. The charming animal grunt-screams I released during my first birth left my throat shredded for a week afterward.
In order to avoid a repeat performance, I conducted a lot of research while pregnant with my second child. Most of the reading I’d done the first time around (and I’d done quite a bit, believe it or not) was of the “yes, you can do this without drugs” variety and based on “pain management”—in other words, there’s definitely going to be pain, but if you handle it right, it won’t be so bad. You can even hypnotize yourself into not feeling the pain.
The second time around, I came across “Birth as Sheer Pleasure” by Ingrid Bauer, whose book Diaper Free had helped me potty train my firstborn. In this article, Ingrid told of her own birthing experience, which she described as being so pleasurable that to call it “pain-free” would be like calling the most exquisite sunset “ugly-free.” Interesting. Ingrid also suggested that we use the word “SENSATION” instead of “pain” or “contraction.” This little change in perspective was nothing short of a miracle for me.
Next I discovered Elena Tonetti’s documentary Birth As We Know It. Elena was one of the pioneers of water birth in Russia. The film includes footage of several peaceful births, including one woman actually experiencing a genuine orgasm (just laughter and waves of pleasure, nothing pervy) as her baby passes through the birth canal. My then-toddler son called her “the happy girl” and wanted to watch that segment over and over.
I also read Childbirth without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read, a British obstetrician who observed women from other cultures experiencing peaceful, easy, pain-free labors. This inspired Dick-Read to study exactly what was causing the trauma and pain in Western births. His conclusion was that the FEAR of pain physically tenses the muscles that must relax in order to let the baby emerge naturally.
In other words, fear closes the womb, which is important in the wild. When a mother in labor senses danger, her body closes the uterus, and labor stops. Once the mother is in a safe place again, her relaxed body signals the womb that it’s safe to let the baby out now. The problem is that Western women aren’t in any actual danger—there’s no tiger prowling nearby, no enemy tribe attacking. Only the mental bogeymen of “what could go wrong” or how much “this is going to hurt,” based on the expectations we’ve developed as a normal part of living in our society. So learning to relax and change my mind about birth would be essential.
I also learned about the Fetal Ejection Reflex, which, as the name implies, actually ejects the baby from the uterus the moment he or she is ready, like iTunes automatically pops a CD out once the burn is complete (for those of us who haven’t completely graduated to mp3 technology). After all the pushing I’d had to do the first time around, I was skeptical—but hopeful.
One final item helped me put together my “birth plan”: a DVD I ordered from Amazon called Amira’s Belly Dancing & Yoga for Pregnancy, which includes specific belly dancing moves for various parts of labor—dips to use during “contractions,” wide hip circles to use for turning a breach baby, etc. Knowing that I was doing moves that women have used during labor for thousands of years also contributed to my feel spiritually connected and grounded.
Armed with this information and a positive attitude, I began the process of getting ready for a magical birth experience. The following roughly outlines my path:
- Step 1: Believe it’s possible, and possible for YOU.
This is the irreplaceable first step in accomplishing just about anything in life, especially something considered unattainable. If you don’t believe it’s possible, you won’t even try, so your chances of getting there are pretty much non-existent.
While intellectually I believed it was possible to have a pain-free, pleasurable birth, I wasn’t sure it was possible for me. I had lingering doubts, particularly about whether or not I could really relax, having been a fearful person since childhood. Could I get out of my own way and let my body do its thing, or would I sabotage the process and end up with another living nightmare like my first birth? What helped me stay sane was following steps two and three.
- Step 2: Do your research. Learn the science.
Thanks to the Internet, there is no end to the research you can do. I read countless articles online and checked out several books from the library to learn the TECHNICAL side of it all. Is a pain-free birth physically possible? How does it work biologically? What needs to happen emotionally? What’s the spiritual component? I kept searching until I found the answers to convince me, and that’s what matters: convincing yourself.
Since most people around you won’t be willing to read all that information, they will remain unconvinced and believe it’s impossible. This is where your conviction has to run deeper than their skepticism, and in order to achieve that place of unshakable faith (okay, mostly unshakable—you may still have your private doubts, and that’s okay), I highly recommend the next step.
- Step 3: SATURATE your mind with an IMMERSION in the truth.
I watched Birth As We Know It and/or listened to the director’s commentary almost every day during my pregnancy, and I read and re-read stories of other women’s pleasurable births. I went on forums and posted questions and read all the other moms’ replies.
As much as was possible, I also turned away from anything that seemed to negate this new reality. Even within Birth As We Know It there are several births that, while “natural” and drug-free and semi-peaceful (compared to the usually horrific portrayals of childbirth in the media), still weren’t entirely blissful. So I skipped past those births to concentrate on the ones that were closer to exactly how I wanted my birth to go.
I watched “the happy girl” a lot, and one of the mantras I developed, besides “this is an intense sensation,” was “don’t get through it, get INTO it.” One of the most important things is to EXPECT it to feel good—slow it down and ENJOY the whole process. In fear, most women hurry through the birth to get it over with as soon as possible. In order to experience the pleasure that birthing can be, we need to take our time and savor it, just like with a delicious meal. Hearing these happy birth stories over and over, they started to seem normal.
- Step 4: Do whatever it takes.
Once you’ve done your research and saturated your mind until you truly believe a blissful birth is possible for you, the next step is to do absolutely whatever it takes to make it happen. No one else can take this step for you or even tell you what it entails. For me, it meant filling my mind with positive birth images, getting in impeccable physical shape through yoga and belly dancing, eating exactly what my body asked for, and training my mind to be calm, alert, and in good rapport with my body and spirit through daily meditation practice.
Less than two months before the birth, I also took a road trip to attend Elena Tonetti’s “Birth into Being” weekend workshop, in the hopes that the woman who made that amazing film would be able to speak wisdom into my life that would be well worth the time, energy, and money spent on the trip. At the end of the spiritual exploration weekend, during which Elena had heard all my deepest darkest mess, I took her aside and asked for her honest opinion—could I really do this, or was I too much of an emotional basket-case to have anything other than a fear-filled scream session for my upcoming birth?
Elena’s response (among other wise words): “Every cat knows how to birth her kittens.” Yes, I countered, but what if I’m too up in my head and get in my own way?
But my self-doubting fears were no match for this woman, whom I considered to be not only a birthing expert, but practically the embodiment of Mother Earth. Elena was able to speak peace into my soul with simple words and her endearing Russian accent. She knew me and knew I could do it. That was what I needed. For every person “whatever it takes” will be different, and to find out exactly what it will take for you, one final step remains.
- Step 5: Listen to and follow your heart.
Since each birth process is completely unique, it’s essential to tune into what your body, your heart, and your intuition are asking you to do. This requires patience, effort, and taking the time to get quiet, get alone, pray, meditate, and listen. It also means trusting a Higher Power to guide you, whether for you that’s God, your Higher Self, the universe, or the very process of Life itself.
You will definitely need to create a trusting relationship with your body—trusting that your body knows what to do and what it needs, and your body trusting that you will respond to its requests. This doesn’t happen overnight and can feel like a lot of hard work, but it is time and effort well spent. You will never regret a moment of this process.
These were the steps I followed on my path to a beautiful birth. My labor was actually pleasurable. Whenever a “contraction” began, I simply stood up and did the belly dips I’d learned from Amira. NO pain whatsoever. Totally fun.
The only discomfort I experienced was during one contraction that came during the night, and, feeling tired, I decided to just lie there and “breathe through it” as I’d learned with my first pregnancy. Ouch!!! That was not fun. So when the next one started coming on, I was up on my feet bouncing happily away.
When the contractions grew more intense, I knew from my research that the vertical ribbon-like muscles on the outside of the uterus were simply pulling up to open the horizontal rubber-band muscles that hold the womb tightly closed until the baby is ready to be born. I kept dancing and enjoying the process all through my short labor, and at one point, I could feel Nature take over. Suddenly I knew that a power much greater than my own was in charge.
With three big intense “waves” (I even involuntarily yelled “Whooooa!” like a surfer), the fetal ejection reflex brought the baby’s head out without any pushing. One final wave, and my daughter was in my arms. I never had to push or try to do anything but simply let nature do her thing. It was a beautiful, magical childbirth, something I would love for every woman to experience.
p.s. I put together a free printable checklist with 30+ tips on how to LOVE birthing, including the exact steps I took to have the funnest, easiest labors I’ve ever heard of. Click here to get your copy! 🙂
Amanda Grace is eternally grateful for playful parenting, unconditionality, human potential, and dark chocolate. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her incredible husband + amazing munchkins and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.