By: Lisa Murray-Doran B.Sc., N.D.
Open. I am 35 weeks pregnant with my third child and I am beginning to phase into that “place” – you know it – where pregnant ladies go when their baby is close. We daydream a lot. We don’t sleep as much at one time. We become forgetful. We sing in the shower. We dance to music naked in our living rooms and enjoy how our bodies feel. We cry easily. Strange things are very important to us – like the baseboards being clean, or having 14 meals made and frozen and ready or hand sewing a nightie for this little one (because you did it for the other two and how could you possibly NOT do it for this one?) Or getting unreasonably upset when the neighbours are not recycling – after all if everyone did this what kind of world would it be? We’d be up to our eyeballs with pop cans in our landfills!
This morning I dragged up from our dungeon of a basement a huge canvas that I bought at an art store years ago – always meaning to paint something, someday. It’s a huge white vast canvas, and today it’s wanting to be painted. I’ve never painted anything before – but today, suddenly I want to put an image on that canvas – an image in my head that I can see vividly today. So I will. As I sit here three large crows land in the tree above me, quietly resting for a moment. I wonder who is watching me – I’ve always believed crows to be my protectors and seeing three at once is unusual. I feel lucky. Something is at work in the universe. I am opening.
My mind is filled with revelation, wonder and understanding. This is the third time I’ve entered the third stage or the “ripe” stage of pregnancy. I am understanding with my own personal and professional (as a Naturopathic Doctor and a Doula) experiences, as well as those of my friends and clients, that women ripe with pregnancy begin to open their minds and their hearts to this new soul they will be welcoming into their homes much before they begin the work of opening their bodies.
Women who are willing to recognize that this is happening to them seem to be more open to many things that normally they might not be. We are vulnerable and raw. We act a lot on instinct. We nest. We start to shed cultural habits that would actually inhibit us from dancing naked in our living room, or labouring like an animal. We remember our dreams and can write about them and talk about them and feel they mean something. We find meaning in three crows landing in a tree as we sip red raspberry leaf tea on our balcony on a Tuesday afternoon. We want to paint and sing and cry and dance because it feels good and connects us more closely somehow with our spirits – with our baby – and with life.
I appreciate the blue sky today and marvel at the trueness of the colour. I adore the fact that my bed looks out my picture window directly into a giant 100 year old maple tree and how the sunlight filters through the leaves in the morning. Breathing seems more important and the dishes and laundry just don’t. My senses seem to be heightened: my skin more sensitive to touch or to breezes, my ears more sensitive to harsh sounds, my eyes avoiding harsh neon and seeking gentle lights, candles and filtered sun or moonlight. Taste is different and my body desires different foods that it normally does – I want fruit and I want fresh strawberries and I want an entire bag of carrots for lunch, (which makes me laugh because my youngest exclaimed the other day that our baby was sure going to have good eyes because I’ve been eating so many carrots).
Meditation is easier for me. Being so open to the world makes opening my mind in meditation easier and more fulfilling. Quiet, still time is important, mostly because I feel I need to listen – that there are lessons in the way the leaves are rustling and the birds are singing today that I need to learn. It’s time to know again that my body and mind are deeply connected with the rhythms of the day and the moon and the seasons and that, as I labour, those rhythms are reflected in my contractions, in the way my body will slowly open for my babe. Just as my mind and heart are opening today and will keep opening for the next months as I approach labour and then cocoon with my little one afterward.
Professionally, (and personally), I have always been aware that the conciousness of pregnant women shifts either before labour begins or often during labour if they are willing to allow the shift in perception to happen. Some professionals talk about the almost trance-like state that many labouring women are able to enter into and how that state of mind allows women to give up control of their bodies - allowing their bodies to do the work that they need to do. A difficult transition, as so many women today are trained to retain control of their bodies and their emotions, to deny many of their instincts, to be more analytical and competitive. However difficult it is, it’s always a delight to see women get there – how strong our birthing instincts are to listen to our bodies - to trust in the process. How powerful our connection to the world when we can trust that ancient instinct and give up our control.
Opening as a pregnant or birthing women encourages others to open up as well. Connections with partners and children and friends strengthen and intensify, allowing the expression of emotions in words like “I love you” or “I am fearful”. Opening is a time of great intuition and connection with our subconcious. It’s a wonderful time to address and resolve gently issues within ourselves or within our relationships. Often times, issues that need to be addressed and worked through surrounding past births or past sexual experiences will come to the forefront of a woman’s mind. Often she will acknowledge a fear or a feeling that she was unable to before her pregnancy; or have insight into self destructive behaviours and be able to seek help or make healthier decisions. Knowing and truly acknowledging this openness requires that partners and friends trust our instincts, respect our vulnerability and provide us with the nurturing acceptance that we need, allowing us to develop this instinctual trust and to unfurl and expose ourselves in a safe way. This issue of trust is so vital that it’s very important to discuss the issue of a safe birthing place and how to create an environment where a woman can feel safe enough to open during labour especially if she hasn’t been able to open up during her pregnancy, hasn’t been able to listen to her instincts.
The professionals that surround us during this time need to be able to honour and protect this openess, to allow it to happen, to speak gently and dim the lights. To acknowledge that we hear and sense everything happening around us and within us while we are pregnant and birthing. Perhaps even deeper feelings such as fear or distrust in the process that we would not normally be able to intuit. We need to be nurtured and touched gently – this is not a medical process, it is a spiritual and physical process – it is instinctual, and every woman does it differently. This encompasses our prenatal exams, our labours, our births, and our immediate and longer-term postpartum period. This is gentle birthing and respect for a process, this opening, that is a normal, although not widely discussed, function of our body and spirit.
The use of art and music during the last part of pregnancy can be a catalyst for opening or a continuation of it, as these creative forces directly address the spiritual connection to our bodies, our babies and our births and do not require a spoken, analytical account of fears or issues. Watercolours and clay can be most useful, especially the use of the Watercolour technique called veiling – where only light veils of watercolour are applied to wet paper and the experience of the colour and the texture of the colours is important. The movement of the watercolour on the paper can be very much like the movement of the breath or the spirit. Working with clay is a useful technique to get in touch with the body, to ground ourselves on the earth, to reconnect with our bodies rhythms and experience a “creation” or an incarnation of a physical object. Music, any type we are called to or have a connection with, is important as well, helping our bodies to move and sway in instictual ways; opening us up to feelings and emotions that we may not be able to fully express verbally; allowing us to experience these feelings and emotions in our bodies in a gentle way.
So I stare now at this canvas, the underpainting complete, the first strokes of the great, red tulip started. It’s lips are still physically tightly closed, but its face is pointed to the sky; open to the universe. I suspect that it’s looking forward to the first warm rays of the spring sunshine to open up. Cycles of nature, cycles of time, cycles of our bodies. Open.
Epilogue: My son Eli was born gently at home on August 7th, 2001 and as I have been enjoying an extended “babymoon” period I am reflecting on how open we remain for the first 6-8 weeks or the traditional 40 days. I keep my curtains drawn and let the light filter in, my house is quiet, noises jar me, make me feel uncomfortable. My family surrounds me and cares for me as if I, too, am new to this world. And so I am. Raw emotion, vulnerability, and great amounts of love and joy eminate from my entire being. I carry Eli with me wherever I go. I sleep with him. I bathe with him. I nourish him from my own body. We are still connected in a physical and spiritual way. His presence is already so very familiar to me. We indeed remain open well into our postpartum period to welcome this fresh new soul with love into our daily lives, to stare into their eyes and feel utterly completed, to feel we would protect them from harm with our lives. Instinctual still – mothering is a true opening.
] Mother to three beautifully homebirthed boys, Jacob (7), Alden (4) and Eli (newborn)
] Partner to Tim
] Live in downtown Toronto, Ontario
] Practice Naturopathic Medicine part time at my private practice “The Barefoot Doctor Naturopathic Clinic” in Whitby, Ontario (suburb of Toronto) where I specialize in pregnancy, birth and general women’s health issues.
] Past instructor of Obstetrics at The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.
] Speaker at various conferences on the use of natural remedies for pregnancy, labour and postpartum
Word count: approximately 1700 excluding the end summary
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