In the fall of 2013 Debra’s dear friend and colleague, Dr. Eve Agee, joined us for the From Pain to Pleasure: Empowered, Natural Birth Webinar, where Dr. Agee led expectant mother, Elizabeth (name changed for privacy), through an empowering birth exercise, with incredible grace and precision we might add. Elizabeth went from feeling like “I am bad” to “I am a powerful woman.” It was so incredible to witness because, sadly, many women have a similar Circle of Learned Beliefs approaching birth and Dr. Agee showed us in this webinar how our our belief cycles can be transformed by working “to release our cultural conditioning to help us reconnect to our truth.” Dr. Agee says, “Your beliefs have a powerful affect on what you think. Your thoughts have a very powerful affect on your feelings. Those feelings have a very powerful affect on your actions. And your actions impact your results.” The empowering birth exercise we share here is a modified version of the full exercise you can find in Dr. Agee’s book, The Uterine Health Companion.
To start the webinar exercise, Dr. Eve asks participants including expectant parents and birthworkers: “What are your unconscious beliefs about birth?” “How can you help your own clients explore their own unconscious beliefs about birth?” Noting that some common thoughts about birth are, “What if my body betrays me?” and “What if I cannot survive the pain?” Dr. Agee asks Elizabeth to draw two big circles on paper. One is the Circle of Learned Beliefs and the other is our Circle of Truth.
Words and expressions related to your fears about birth populate the circle, this circle can also include positive beliefs. Dr. Eve ask “What are some of the messages you received about birth growing up?” and gets to work uncovering Elizabeth’s cultural conditioning.
Elizabeth shares some of her beliefs about birth, which Dr. Agee reminds us are not the truth but are what she believes. Some of the beliefs are: Birth is the most painful thing you could ever experience. Just excruciating. It is responsible to schedule a cesarean. There is something wrong with waiting to let the baby come (on its own). Dr. Eve helps unpack Elizabeth’s beliefs with questions such as, “If it’s responsible to schedule a Cesarian then are you not responsible if you let your baby come on its own?”
Elizabeth had also heard messages from her family and society that it is not responsible to have a midwife or a natural birth, and felt the need to defend these choices. She had also received messages that natural birth “seems really dangerous” and “natural birth will hurt my baby.” Dr. Eve reminds us, and Elizabeth, that these messages are not true but are conditioned beliefs we receive from society and that we feel at some level. Dr. Eve then sets to work on seeing if these Beliefs are in fact Elizabeth’s Truths.
Dr. Eve ask, “If you went along with this belief thinking/logic then what does that say about you?” Elizabeth response includes: If I want to go this route then I’m irresponsible. I’m inferior as a woman. I am bad. I’m doing something wrong. In unpacking these feelings, Elizabeth is able to identify many of her feelings about birth (again, not true but feeding her cycle of belief) expressed as: I’m not a good mom. Dread and anxiety. I feel pathetic. I don’t feel worthy. Depressed. Shame, weak. Undiscerning. Powerless.
Dr. Eve informs Elizabeth that there is good news up ahead and starts by asking, “How do those particular feelings support you in having the kind of birth you want?”
Elizabeth realizes they do not support positive thinking about a natural birth and that they contradict what she wants.
“Your beliefs have a powerful affect on what you think. Your thoughts have a very powerful affect on your feelings. Those feelings have a very powerful affect on your actions. And your actions impact your results.”
Dr. Eve invites Elizabeth to “choose right now if this is what she wants to continue to believe about birth and if this is how she wants to continue how to feel about birth.”
Elizabeth responds “No,” because this Circle of Learned Beliefs doesn’t serve Elizabeth. And the same can be applied to birthworkers- oftentimes one’s Circle of Learned Beliefs doesn’t serve our clients.
Dr. Eve has Elizabeth write in the circle to the right: Circle of Truth. Write Birth is _______. What would you like as your new Truth to natural birth? In the Circle of Truth, you only want to write the truth that really resonates with you.
Elizabeth writes: Safe and healthy. Empowering.
Dr. Eve adds: Responsible. Pleasurable. How would that be for you to believe natural birth is pleasurable? Elizabeth shares she would need to work on the belief of Birth being Pleasurable. “How about fun, beautiful, exciting, joyful, sacred?” And Dr. Eve reminds us that in many parts of the world, traditionally, that is how birth was approached. It was approached as this Amazing Process that women were totally empowered for…. A sacred, amazing miracle.
By the end of the webinar exercise, Elizabeth feels excited and hopeful. She feels happy, empowered, and was able to transform from believing “I am bad” to “I am a powerful woman.” Following the webinar, Elizabeth wrote in response,
“I feel so blessed to have gone through the process of recognizing and dispelling cultural lies that were infecting my thought, feelings and actions despite my convictions for a natural spontaneous birth. I really feel like this was the missing piece for me in moving forward with a joyous, healthy and pleasurable birth experience. I was surprised just how much I was still being affected by false beliefs despite my convictions and knowledge of the natural birth process. I think it goes to show how deeply entrenched our culture is in birthing misconceptions.”
It was amazing and incredibly moving to witness an expectant mother’s belief cycle be shifted so dramatically. It is inspiring to know that many other women can experience the same shift thru Dr. Agee’s exercise, designed to release our cultural conditioning and reconnect us to the truth. Here at O Birth we feel grateful to Dr. Eve Agee who has helped thousands and thousands of women to feel more empowered and sensual and are grateful for this exercise, which brings so much awareness.
Anyone who would like to more help to feel empowered can consult Dr. Eve Agee’s book The Uterine Health Companion.