Monday, June 11, 2012

Guest Post by Robyn Allgood: Spirituality and Childbearing

Last month I wrote a guest post for The Gift of Giving Life, and now we are reciprocating.  Robyn Allgood is one of the authors of a beautiful new book titled "The Gift of Giving Life:  Rediscovering the Diving Nature of Pregnancy and Birth" exploring spirituality, pregnancy, and birth.  It's full of birth stories, including an article Robyn wrote titled "Mother-Centered Baby Showers" full of creative, fresh, and spiritual ideas for the new mother's journey.  Birth Boot Camp training is keeping me super busy, so I haven't had a chance to dive into the book yet, but I am excited to do so.  I may have to wait in line, however, as Allison was ready to rip it from my hands this week when she found out I have a copy!

Thank you, Robyn -- and all the co-authors -- for putting this sacred book together.  It is a treasure.  Banned From Baby Showers readers, there is a coupon code for you at the bottom of Robyn's post.  Don't postpone ordering -- it expires on Father's Day, which is this Sunday!  Yikes!

Spirituality and Childbearing by Robyn Allgood

A little about me: 

I am a mother to five children, doula, childbirth educator, ICAN Chapter Leader, and more recently, coauthor of The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth. I will come back to that later but to give you an idea of my journey in childbearing I thought I would share a bit of my story.

In approaching my first birth I was very naive about it all. In my mind, the doctor and hospital would take care of everything and I would take my baby home happy. Right? Well, I took a crash course childbirth class at the hospital in which I remember the nurse/instructor saying that one-third of the women in our class would have a cesarean. I was sure I would not be one of them.

However, after a cascade of interventions, I gave birth by cesarean to a beautiful girl. We struggled to establish breastfeeding. Physical recovery was tough but making sense of what I had experienced emotionally and spiritually was what left me hungering for peace. I knew I wanted more children but I could not imagine doing it that way again. (I have a lot of respect for those women who have had multiple cesarean births.) I read and read and read. I was determined to VBAC.

Long story short, my second birth went so quickly that we did not make it to the hospital. My son was born unassisted at home. It was marvelous. I felt as if heaven had opened and handed me a priceless gift. I have since had three more babies in my home assisted by my loving husband and midwives.

Thus began my journey. Each birth has taught me precious lessons written by the whisperings of the Holy Spirit in the chambers of my heart. I am a changed woman every time I give life.

While physical and mental preparations are key elements for birth, the spiritual aspect should not be overlooked. This study co-authored by Lynn Callister and Inaam Khalaf, “Spirituality in Childbearing Women,” offers important insights into what we experience on a spiritual level as we give life. (Lynn Callister also wrote the forward for our book.) Within the study “the following themes emerged from the data: childbirth as a time to grow closer to God, the use of religious beliefs and rituals as powerful coping mechanisms, childbirth as a time to make religiosity more meaningful, the significance of a Higher Power in influencing birth outcomes, and childbirth as a spiritually transforming experience.”

The Gift of Giving Life includes numerous birth stories in which mothers (and a few fathers) share their spiritual experiences as they have engaged in the process of conception, pregnancy, birth and parenting.  The stories and essays within the book reaffirm childbirth to be a “spiritually transforming experience.”  Rebecca Overson shared on page 253 of our book, “It is in birth, my mother taught me, that a woman must show her trust in herself, her trust in God, and be consciously involved in a deliberate act of creation by giving her heart, might, mind, and strength to what is before her.”

The study by Callister and Khalaf emphasizes the importance of allowing women to share their birth stories with each other, including the spiritual dimensions of them, and not just the facts. In addition, health care providers are encouraged to ask, “Do you have any spiritual beliefs [or religious practices] that will help us provide better care for you during your pregnancy and birth?”

So I am curious, have you ever discussed your religion or spiritual beliefs with your caregiver and shared with them how they can better provide care for you during your pregnancy or birth?

How do you think it would impact the way they care for women, babies and families if we did discuss religious and spiritual beliefs surrounding birth?

Have you ever included religious or spiritual preferences on your birth plan? How was it received?

Have you had the opportunity to share the spiritual side of your birth stories?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Visit The Gift of Giving Life site to sign up for their newsletter and to receive a free Meditation MP3 as well as tips to help increase spirituality in your pregnancy and birth.

For my readers here is a coupon code for 10% off a copy of The Gift of Giving Life. Click here and after you add the book to your cart use this coupon code: GWFWXR3F.  This code is good until Father’s Day 2012. 


Kathryn Ramirez said...

It has been many years since my last birth (my "baby" is 21) but as far as I can recall I was never asked about my religious beliefs except on my intake forms at the hospital. I have recently begun my journey into becoming a midwife. I am starting with my training as a doula. I will use this information in every interview, “Do you have any spiritual beliefs [or religious practices] that will help me provide better care for you during your pregnancy and birth?” Thank you for sharing this valuable insight. I love your book!

Enjoy Birth said...

I never discussed this topic with my care provider. It didn't come up at all. I have had the chance to discuss the spirituality of my births. I love too! I also love asking moms about it.

Samantha said...

I LOVE that there is actually a community of people who embrace birth as more than a physical experience. It is so much more than the hard, physical work we see on TV, etc. I would say that more than half of the birthing experience is spiritual/emotional in nature and is being inertly ignored and trash-talked. I wish, oh how I wish that I could convey the incredible spiritual embrace that I felt when I delivered my son without medication, it was so much more than a baby coming out of my body, it was a complete spiritual awakening to the portion of birth and life that I never knew existed. And that knowledge has given me a very deep eternal appreciation for the sanctity of life and my very beloved role as a mother. Thank you for having a blog where I can feel validated in my experiences and empowered to share.

Robyn said...

Samantha, I love how you have put into words the transcendent nature of birth. Birth is an awakening. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Megan said...

My midwife is amazing at that. In birth class she talks about all the different religious experiences and faiths that she has experienced as a midwife and she talks about each so respectfully that we really felt like she would respect whatever we wanted and what we felt was important in our spiritual beliefs.
this is a MUST when interviewing care providers if you are a spiritual person in my opinion.

Em said...

I am a strong Christian and as a Doula I have supported several women who are also of Faith. I believe that opening that door of communication with your support people is very important. Of course, it was hard to hide from my Midwife, when in my 1st appointment with her, she asked about what my Husband did for work. He's a minister. We are Youth Leaders and our church family is important to us.

As a Doula to moms who are of faith, it has allowed me to offer prayer during difficult times, even praying with them at our last prenatal meeting as they prepare for the journey ahead. Some want me to put together scriptures for them to meditate on during labor. I also feel that by me letting them know that I am also a Christian (if I sense they may be of Faith)gives them permission to "be themselves" and to open up.
Birth IS spiritual. I know women who came to know God through their birth experience. It is a time when we realize that we were CREATED for greatness and that our bodies were designed to give life.
I remember back to a client who is a dear friend, she had an amazing, empowering 3rd birth, the 1st without medication. As her baby was born, her heart was full of praise - she could not stop thanking God for helping her do what she had once thought was impossible. It was a reflection too, on a revelation she had received during the course of her pregnancy. In the beginning, she didn't want things to be different than her other births, but as she began to pray over her pregnancy, God began to show her that she was living in fear and that fear was dictating to her what kind of birth she was planning for. Dealing with that fear by faith and through prayer enabled her to have her best birth experience ever. Even her husband was amazed at how much better it was - and FAST!
I have found that not often will someone turn down a prayer. Praying with clients before they go in for a c-section or to help them deal with emotional issues before birth has been wonderful, even if they wouldn't class themselves as "spiritual" people. It gives them peace and calms their fears.

Naomi said...

Wow! This book sounds great and it's premise is so true! I pushed my son (my first) for 3 hours (no joke), and the only thing I remember thinking the whole time (at first) was, "I can't do this on my own, I can't do this on my own..." and then I began almost 'chanting,' "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!" in my head every single time I pushed. I went into my son's birth so incredibly exhausted and worn out, that I KNOW, deep in my heart - that God was giving me supernatural strength to get through those tough moments. Talk about needing my faith. I could not have gotten through his birth sans cesarean w/o the Lord.

jessica margon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jessica margon said...

I love this book its very nice & informative....