DIY Birth Affirmations, Mantras, Meditations

Meditation helps you get into the right “head space” for labor, but it takes practice.

If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer, you will LOVE writing your own birth mantras for meditation.  What could be more tailor-made for your birth than mantras that resonate with the very soul who composed them?

When we are in labor, the goal is to get through each contraction and rest in between them.  But, if we let our fear get the best of us, we end up suffering during the contraction as well as in between contractions, because we get caught up in anticipating the pain.  “Mantras are sacred words that have spiritual qualities when uttered. They are used to connect with the Divine and protect the mind from sources of suffering,” writes Jillian Babcock in an article for Yogapedia titled, “The Sacred Meaning of Mantras”.

The goal of repeating mantras (or affirmations) and centering your meditation on a mantra is to get into a part of your brain that is very primal.  This part of the brain called the “mammalian brain”, when accessed during birth, can most easily be done when the birthing person feels safe, supported and loved.  When you are in your mammalian brain, your birth experience is more likely to unfold just the way nature has designed.  The cascade of hormones that helps your body relax and open is unleashed from that place inside of us that is pure animal instinct.  To let go of rational thinking and submit to the will of your body and baby; that is the goal.

But how do you get there?  Seems like a strange place to be for someone who tends to overthink things, who overprepares for everything . . . who is a perfectionist.  You can start by journaling your thoughts and fears.  This is followed by looking over your journaling after a week with ‘girlfriend eyes’ and determine what negative beliefs need to be replaced with positive ones.  Those positive thoughts become your mantras and the script for your guided meditation.  Give yourself time, though.  The process of writing your mantras and changing your negative beliefs into positive ones takes around 6 weeks.

According to Nikki Novo, writing for Miami Racked, “The idea is that if we continue to repeat a positive mantra over and over again, eventually it will override a negative belief our mind has grown accustomed to.”  She goes on to give a step-by-step guide to write your own mantra.  You can tweak this to use in your labor.  Click here to access the guide.

#MeToo and How Kesha Woke Me Up

Kesha._MMVA
By Jeff Denberg (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I am writing this as my child interrupts me for snacks, potty breaks, passwords, and snuggles. Kid TV shows are playing in the background while I flesh out these words to convey my thoughts. This is my life, and it is good. It’s a far cry from where I was 20 years ago, trying to make it in the music industry as a singer/songwriter. I was happy then, too … but in the background of my songwriting season was a different kind of noise: the sexual harassment kind. The majority of men I encountered during my music career were trying to “make it,” just like me. All but a handful were incredibly kind and respectful of me as a human being. I don’t want to paint all men in the music industry with the broad brush of “sexual harassment perpetrator,” because that is not at all true. But there were some who were overly kind or generous—and I knew they were the ones who expected something more.

Last night I sat down to watch Kesha’s performance of “Praying” on the Grammys. It was late for our family, and my 3 year old was begging me to put her to bed, exhausted from having spent the day playing outside. But, knowing how that song affected me—always bringing a tear to my eye—I told baby girl, “Just a few more minutes. I really want to see Kesha perform.” She curled up on my lap, asking to nurse, and I obliged. I nurtured and fed my daughter as I watched someone else’s grown daughter rise up with fire in her eyes and thunder in her voice to confront her abuser. Again. She did it with her sisters around her this time. She spent her voice as they sang with her, lifting her up with their voices any time she fell back a little. I don’t know how she felt when she was done, but to me, she looked relieved and exhausted. The performance ended with her sisters shrouding her with their arms and catching her in hugs as if to say, “Me, too, sister. Me, too.” Then my feelings about my past life as an aspiring songwriter came bubbling up, and the tears flowed freely down my cheeks.

Back in the ’90s, things were different. I doubt that any amount of #metoo would have mattered. In fact, after seeing how the victims of a sports doctor were repeatedly ignored when they complained about his sexual abuse, I know it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d said something back then. The problem was cultural, systemic, and widespread. It was like a chronic disease that our world had learned to live with. Women were habitually not heard.

Now that I have this girl-child to raise, along with her older sister who is much more aware, my soul is assuaged with the hope that they might be protected from the harsh reality that I endured. Sexual harassment was a normal part of life. It was a fact not just in my efforts to get my music recognized and published, but in my non-musician life as a food service worker, as a marketing director, and as a woman walking to and from work in downtown Chicago. Knowing that there is a movement—in every realm of life—to bring equality to women, to protect my daughters, OUR daughters, from this type of abuse—buoys my heart. I want to keep them safe from the Dr. Lukes, the Larry Nassars, and the Donald Trumps of the world. The ones who make us think that we owe them access to our bodies; the ones who make us think that because they take care of us, we should believe them when they say that they aren’t doing anything wrong; the ones who will take what they want from us, whenever and wherever they want.

The culmination of Kesha’s performance, Nassar’s conviction, the #metoo and #timesup movements … it’s all so overwhelming. Couple that with the abuse I know still happens in the maternity care system, and I am almost frozen with shock at times. But I can’t be shocked anymore. We have these girls to raise until they spread their wings and fly. It’s heart-wrenching to think they could possibly venture into a world like the one I experienced, or worse. Seeing how pervasive the abuse is angers me, but it also emboldens me. Abuse survivors deserve change, and we all deserve to NEVER BE HARASSED OR ABUSED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Last night, seeing Kesha supported by her sisters while I felt her pain as I simultaneously held and nursed my girl was a significant moment for me, and I woke with fresh eyes today. My work for mothers and children continues with a new and wider lens. I see more clearly the interconnections between human rights activism and my work in maternity care. My new lens now sees allies in places where I previously thought there were very few. It sees into the future, when my children might never know what it’s like to feel obligated to please anyone out of fear or intimidation. May it be so.

Birth Is My Jam

Call me a ‘birth nerd’ or a ‘birth junkie’, but I have letters after my name so that makes me legit 😉  YASSS, birth is my jam.  It totally rocks my socks off.  Not because I am into the ooey, gooey messiness, or because of the rush of oxytocin that fills the room when babies are born (the ‘birth high’), or because I might get to hold a baby . . . but because I have seen women at their most vulnerable and most powerful.  I have seen their strength and fragility.  I have been that woman; I have lived it and swam in it.  It’s just the most beautiful thing to see a woman who KNOWS her power.  It feels AMAZING to be that woman, and I WANT that for every woman.  I think it could change the world.