With the impending birth of my new babe, I thought it best to pull out my Calmbirth CD’s and reacquaint myself with the meditation technique that I used for D Man’s labour.
This is actually quite a good form of meditation as they firmly believe, and indeed encourage the thought, that your conscious mind doesn’t need to be paying too much attention to the guided meditation banging on about ‘opening like a flower’ as your unconscious mind is deeply interested in what they’re saying…..so I’ve been known to use this ‘homework’ opportunity to have a little nap. Multi-tasking at it’s absolute finest.
Naturally, using meditation as a form of pain relief during labour draws raised eyebrows and looks of disbelief from many, and I smile an enigmatic, Earth Mother (if she had lips) type smile and lower my gaze. However, if I’m asked an outright question like ‘Does it work?’, I really can’t lie. Although many will testify that their ‘surges’ were like waves bringing their baby closer to them, or their tightenings were merely like the muscle spasms of an orgasm (I’ll have what she’s having instead of passing this watermelon, thanks!) I have to say that no, I didn’t zen out for 20 hours of deep breathing and rouse to find a bonny bairn in my arms. It ain’t called labour for nothing.
My history with meditation is sketchy at best. Having read ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and devouring Elizabeth Gilbert’s enlightening experience in India, I fancied myself as somewhat of a zen goddess and check myself into Vipassana (sounds like rehab but without the entertainment!) for a dose of Kundalini. For the uninitiated, Vipassana is a 10 day, silent, meditation retreat. There are many around the world but I went to the coldest place in NSW in the middle of winter to live like a monk, deprive myself of comfort, live on only two meals per day and meditate for 16 hours a day whilst never uttering a word to another soul, nor making eye contact. That sounds enticing, right? I thought it did. I’ve since had a stern word with myself. A few of my friends had been and they ALL said what an amazing, empowering, enlightening experience it was, and they can’t wait to get back……well, if my friends like it, then it must be awesome.
Perhaps I was expecting Gwingana Health Retreat, or perhaps I anticipated myself being a tad more ethno bongo then I truly am, but I did not reach enlightenment. No, no, I did not. Why is it that enlightenment must come from such extreme circumstances? Hasn’t anyone ever attained enlightenment at a degustation meal with a skin full of wine? I reckon I could get a darn sight closer.
Upon arrival at Vispassana, they take your phone and wallet claiming it’s for safe keeping as the rooms (read : cells) are unlocked. Now, in hindsight, I realise it’s so that you don’t try to sneak off in the night, and drive your car like a maniac down the mountain side, straight home via the nearest MacDonalds. Perhaps the fact that I’d only ever really meditated once a week for an hour at a lovely little, warm, oil scented studio in North Sydney had something to do with it? Suddenly getting up at 4 am to trudge through the freezing dark to sit cross legged for 16 hours (ok, I exaggerate, they do have a meal breaks that you don’t have to be cross legged at, but food only at breakfast and lunch – salad and lentils). The most entertainment I received, aside from the yogi’s nightly discourse was listening to tortured lentil farts from bodies quite unused to this style of diet in the dark, quiet, and audibly sensing people’s relief that everyone’s eyes were closed. For the record I didn’t fart. No more than usual at least, my body is pretty down with a lentil…ok, maybe the occasional fart but they were only little ones. But I made it through, and felt a sense of achievement (The truth? I was too damn proud to leave, but man, I wanted to every day) and I couldn’t recommend it more highly if you think it’s your bag.
Needless to say, after this experience, I was sceptical about Calmbirth but I needed a plan. I wouldn’t try to run the New York Marathon without training and this seemed as good as anything.
So, does it help? Sure. Breathing is really important, at the best of times, and deep, rhythmic breathing definitely helps focus the mind and keep you relaxed. It certainly helped me to have the kind of labour I wanted for D Man, and I hope I have the same experience this time around. One of the most sage things anyone ever said to me about childbirth was ‘Don’t be a hero. No-one ever got a medal for having a drug free labour.’ So, we do what we have to under such primal conditions, but as for orgasmic spasms? I’d like my money back, please.