“One kind of learning comes from books. But the learning necessary for you to participate completely in your birth must come from you” Pam England
Birth Art is a very useful addition to any antenatal class or works well on its own. For postpartum it can be useful for helping you move into your new role as mum or to help deal with a birth trauma. As time goes on Birth Art can be a very useful for working through issues you may be dealing with as a mother and importantly enables you to realise the strengths you bring to your mothering journey.
Many antenatal classes deal with preparation for birth in a more left brained way looking at positions for labour, breathing, understanding the phases of labour and learning skills and techniques to cope with each stage. I loved my antenatal classes – I attended Daisy Birthing classes and Hypnobirthing (Mongan method).
These gave me lots of understanding about how my body would work during labour, muscles, hormones, breathing. Helped me work on ways to keep myself focussed during labour and some lovely massages and holding techniques for my partner to use if needed (it was needed in the first birth!)
However, I realised with my first birth that it didn’t prepare me for when my wanted home birth turned into a rush to hospital for a failed ventuse, which in the end turned into a forceps delivery. It left me very traumatised and on a mission to find out what had ‘gone wrong’.
With my second birth – which ended up being an induced hospital birth – something that terrified me to my core and also needed to consider the possibility it could turn into a cesarean section. I needed something more, I needed to find out how to find my inner strengths and I needed to grieve for my home birth I had so dreamed of.
As part of my healing I came across the book Birthing from Within by Pam England and in it she talks about Birth Art and how it can be used in birth preparation.
“An active, gentle exploration process not only brings overlooked resources and strengths to conscious awareness, but identifies obstacles and inhibitions that might prevent you from using them” Pam England
By sitting looking at a blank piece of paper you can explore your thoughts about taking a step into the unknown whether that be labour, birth, becoming a parent for the first time or adding to your family. For those dealing with birth trauma it can be the stepping into allowing those thoughts and feelings and memories to come to the forefront of your mind in a safe environment.
Where do you feel it in your body?
Realizing where your feelings manifest in your body can show you the physical effects of emotions. Understanding how emotions can cause muscle tensions is a way of seeing how fears and worries could have a negative effect on helping your body through labour or allowing your baby to turn into an optimum position. Tensions and tightness, which can cause shallow breathing and stop the flow of oxytocin can also have a detrimental effect on the length of your labour, slowing it down or even stopping it.
Birth Art can give you the opportunity to work through those fears and worries well before labour. Enabling you to think of ways you might cope if your birth plan deviates from your ideal. It can help you come to terms with a different kind of birth from one you had expected – if you need to have a planned cesarean, or if you will need to have a hospital birth or if your planned hospital birth ends up being a home birth you will be confident that you have the inner strength to make it a positive experience.
“In making birth art…just bringing an image to light can be surprisingly revealing (and sometimes healing). Listening to it speak to you can tell you even more” Pam England
How would it be if you were to take a risk?
The painting is not the important thing in Birth art (although all the paintings are beautiful) it is the feelings, emotions, fears and realisations of your own inner strengths that arise during the creation of your art that are.
Putting paint on paper, how you choose your colours, whether you worry about spoiling it by doing too much or fear of using darker colours, even where you start to paint or how much paper you cover, all can give you an insight into how you approach problems, what risks you fear to take or how you want to show yourself to the world.
Having this insight can better help you to prepare for your birth – if you realise you fear to take risks or fear to take that first step with new situations, it could be indicative of how you approach birth, maybe the first contractions could leave you in a flight or fight response which would prevent a good oxytocin flow. This in turn could slow down or inhibit the effectiveness of your contractions.
Or maybe you are frightened about losing control (making your picture perfect, not wanting to ruin it, being very precise about where you put each colour) In birth you do need to surrender, to allow your primal instincts to take over but this won’t happen if you feel inhibited in any way.
Once you realise and challenge these fears it allows you to discover your inner strengths and find ways to help you overcome them.
Pam England states in Birthing from Within that ‘For some women, making birth art may be a reassuring affirmation of their readiness to give birth’
Whatever you need to explore taking time to sit and spend time reflecting on being pregnant, giving birth, becoming a mother of one or increasing your family is a welcome reprieve in a busy world.
At Birth Art Cafe sessions we explore many aspects of labour, birth and motherhood.
LL ” Making art during pregnancy helped me documnent who I was and how I felt; what I was excited about;what I looked like – it was a way of holding that precious experience”
JR (an art therapist) ‘For pregnant women, making art can help them find the power and support they’ll need to carry them through their pregnancy, the delivery and the learning to mother’
(The above quotes are from the book Birthing from Within by Pam England)