by Jess

In an attempt to ward off the terror, I’m reading Hypnobirthing by Marie F. Mongan, and it’s really fascinating.  It’s not as kooky as it sounds.  Hypnobirthing uses deep breathing and visualization techniques to put the laboring mother into a state of focused relaxation and allow the body to do most of the work without any forced pushing or medical intervention.  Sounds dreamy.  Literally — I tried some of the techniques last night and straight up fell asleep.

What fascinates me about the method is the psychological-physiological symbiosis it works to develop.  It plays on the Pygmalion Effect, wherein reality is influenced by expectation.  If I go into childbirth fearful and expecting pain, then that’s what I’ll get.  But, according to Mongan, if I enter the process confident in my body’s natural ability and purpose, fully relaxed, then I’ll have an altogether different experience.

Neither Hippocrates nor Aristotle wrote of pain during normal, uncomplicated birth, and in fact, Aristotle wrote of the mind-body connection and the deep relaxation that Mongan advocates.  It wasn’t until the Second Century AD, at the leading of a few “misguided early Christians,” that the concept of pain and suffering entered the cultural consciousness.  This is also when the “Curse of Eve” was essentially created, and it’s been haunting us ever since.  The Hebrew word etzev, used sixteen times in the KJV Bible, is usually translated to mean “labor, toil and work,” except when God is speaking to Eve, when the scholars suddenly decided to translate the term as “pain, sorrow, anguish or pangs.”  Yet, in non-Western cultures around the world, women continue to give birth naturally and (seemingly) effortlessly. Mongan tells of meeting a woman from Africa at a hotel, and she excitedly asked the woman about birthing practices in her village.  The woman at first said there wasn’t much to tell, but when Mongan pressed, she said a pregnant woman finds a structure to lean against for back support, then crouches with her hands open and says, “Baby come.”

I want desperately to buy into this (it’s a simple matter of laying aside all my natural cynicism).  I can see it now: I’ll be there in the hospital saying, “Baby, get the hell outta there.”  And out he’ll come, thereby precipitating both a beginning and an end.