Preparing Inside for Birth and Motherhood

What’s the best way to prepare inside for giving birth and being a mother? Strengthen your connection with Hashem – and yourself. While everyone knows that it’s important to have a strong connection with Hashem, it may come as more of a surprise that a strong connection with yourself is also important. Yet so many women who have taken the time to come more fully into their bodies and into caring relationship with themselves before giving birth, report that their birth experiences were transformed. They felt present, strong, clear, calm, close to Hashem, and part of something so much bigger than themselves. They also report that their babies are calmer and happier.

So what does it mean to connect with yourself? On the physical level it means coming into your body – that magnificent container Hashem gave us to house our souls in this lifetime. With the simple tool of awareness, you can learn how to truly inhabit your body, to feel yourself inside your breath, your torso, your limbs, and your face. You can feel the solidity of your existence, the strength G-d gave you as a woman whose essence is pnimius (inner), and know that your body contains the wisdom it needs to give birth beyond anything you can imagine. This knowing becomes something tangible and real that you feel in your very cells, that carries you through the birthing process. It also helps you take good care of yourself physically during your pregnancy.

On the emotional level, connecting means coming into relationship with yourself, taking the time to get to know your vulnerabilities and help yourself, with assistance if needed, to deal with them. If for example, you’ve previously had a difficult birth experience, it means recognizing that the younger you who went through that experience may need help moving beyond it, letting go of the fear, pain, and other feelings that may still be lodged in your body from it. Or if, for example, you are ambivalent, or fearful about motherhood, it means getting to know the parts of yourself who feel that way, and rather than trying to push them away and pretend they don’t exist, actually engaging with them from a caring, concerned place and, in that way, helping to free yourself from their grip.

On an intellectual level, connecting means identifying the beliefs and ideas you carry about giving birth and mothering, recognizing where they come from, and deciding whether, as the meaningful adult in your life today, you agree or disagree. In other words, it means getting to know your preconceptions and how they influence you, and then taking responsibility for determining whether you want to perpetuate or change these messages. Here too awareness is the key. Most women don’t realize what programming they have unconsciously internalized about giving birth and mothering. Only by inviting yourself to actually name your beliefs and ideas do you even become aware of their influence on you. Once there is awareness, it’s a matter of realizing that now you are the adult in your life, you are the one who must form her own views, get expert advice as needed, and otherwise determine where you stand on these, and many other, subjects.

Connecting with yourself in all these ways is the work of a lifetime. It’s not that you’ll accomplish it all now. This is something we all need to do step by step at each stage and age of life. Giving birth and motherhood are opportunities, like everything else in our lives, to know and grow ourselves and come closer to and serve Hashem. Remember, any little step you take in the direction of connecting with yourself – and Hashem — in the context of preparing to give birth, will serve you well not only in birthing your baby, but also in birthing the holy soul Hashem entrusted to you to shepherd through this lifetime.

“Start from wherever you are.”

It sounds so obvious and easy.   Of course, where else could anyone start from.   Yet one of the biggest mistakes people make when looking to grow is starting from an idea about where they should be, where they want to be, where they’d like to think they are, and all sorts of other places other than the simple truth of where they genuinely are, no matter how far that may be from their desired goal.

Michal very much wanted to do Inner Torah work.  Yet each time she tried to work with the process she would get distracted and end up not getting very far.  “What’s going here,” she asked herself.   “Why can’t I do the inner work I’d like to do?”   Michal realized that the feelings she was having weren’t new.  She recognized that she didn’t have much patience, focus, interest, or even desire to hear much about what was going on in the lives of her children, husband, sisters, or friends.  And now, here she was, feeling the same way about herself.

It was hard for her to admit this.  She felt selfish for not wanting, or being able, to focus on and get into other people’s worlds.   And now, not being able to get into her own world when she wanted to, she felt incompetent as well.   Yet this was her true starting point.   She understood that it was only from here that she would be able to move in a way that would enable her to grow and develop the way she hoped.  Rather than judging herself, she needed to find out when and how this mechanism of shutting down in the way she now noticed, was set up inside of her.  She needed to trust that something in her life circumstances must have led a younger vulnerable part of her to close down in this way in relation to people.

Sure enough, as she went in, it didn’t take long to identify the overwhelming quality of her parents’ relationship – their intense fights and the fallout from them – that was too much for her throughout her childhood and adolescence.  She developed a way to tune them out and retreat into her own world.  And that tune out was still operating today with people she actually wanted to be able to take in.

Her willingness to admit her lack of interest in others, and even in herself, was the key here.  That determined her starting place.  Had she tried to fake it and start anywhere else, it wouldn’t work.  She had to start by getting to know the part of her that was not interested in herself or anyone else.