01 Feb Mindset, birth and finding your power (oh, and dancing!)
Last Saturday evening I celebrated Chinese New Year at our friend’s house. There was wine, great food, great friends, music, impromptu Karaoke and (after more wine) dancing on the dining room table. Total fun, total hair-down-not-a-care-in-the-world fun, my kind of evening! It got me thinking about how the magic just happens with some people and in some places; it got also me thinking about why some people don’t feel they can let themselves go, or maybe just choose not to.
In the work I do with expectant couples preparing for birth, we discuss the effect of environment on the way our mind and body works. In birth, when a woman is lovingly supported, respected and is in a warm, private, comfortable space she is able to let go, to let her rational-thinking part of her brain quieten down and work with her instincts to birth her baby, she needs to feel uninhibited. Its the same with good sex – if we remain in our ‘rational-thinking’ part of the brain then the sparks don’t tend to fly, we need conditions which make us feel uninhibited – its no coincidence that the hormones governing labour are exactly the same ones as in sex.
It was this link between brain, body and conducive environment which saw me dancing and singing on Saturday evening (wine works on our inhibition!). However, for some people, even with these conditions they don’t feel able to let go and I’m interested in this. To let go is to render yourself vulnerable, so for some people they may only feel safe when there is no-one to observe, or potentially judge. But what if the judgement is from within? Then that requires some work with mindset to get out of one’s own way – to access the ability to be uninhibited; this is relevant for birth (and dancing!).
We all have perceptions, ideas, thoughts which may be self-limiting and shaped by experience. It is useful to consider our own thought patterns and how they impact our behaviour and choices, particularly in birth. A useful technique to use for birth preparation is positive thought statements or ‘affirmations’. This is exactly the technique high-performing sports people will use to achieve their goals. Strong affirmations start with the following:
I am… This is a statement of who you are
I can… This is a statement of your potential
I will… A statement of what you want to happen (the word ‘will’ can be removed to bring it to the present tense)
Examples for birth might be: I am strong; I can birth my baby; I will do this! Try creating your own affirmations, personal affirmations are most powerful as they will feel authentic to you – you own them. Affirmations need to be bold, clear and positive. Once you have the statements you wish to work with then repeat them several times every day, say them out loud, write them down, fix them in your head, draw pictures, have it flash up on your phone. If at first it feels awkward keep working with it, you are changing the way your brain thinks. A positive mindset will stand you in good stead for birth and shape your actions – this bit is key, mindset without action is a toothless tiger. Emboldened, you can then own how you birth your baby, however birth unfolds. Finding this inner resource and strength is why women will often describe giving birth as such an empowering experience. Amazing stuff!