Reclaiming Our Instinct: The Power of Birth Stories

birthFollowing having her birth photo banned from Facebook, Kristen Avonti began to speak up about the importance of reclaiming our birth instinct through positive birth stories and imagery. In this piece, she provides us with the tools we need to dive deep into the sacred journey and inner transformation that’s available through sharing and listening to how other women birth.

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There is a powerful transformation that happens every time a woman enters into the portal of pregnancy. She opens herself to the miracle of creation and through it, she is inevitably transformed. Childbirth is the journey of consciousness. It is an open door into the very depths of who we are. It is, perhaps, our deepest initiation.
There is an instinctual wisdom buried deep within the belly and soul of a woman. A force so powerful it can distill a new human spirit into form. Our bodies, through the miracle of their design, construct these imperfectly perfect human beings through an act not controlled by intellect, will or cognitive planning. We arrive here through the life generating force of instinct and biology.

But too often our culture forgets to acknowledge this. And most often our upbringing failed to teach us this. We’ve become conditioned to birth as a medical event, a linear process at the hands of those who manage our care. As a result, we’ve become largely disconnected from the raw truth of childbirth, and it’s begun to impact what we believe we know to be true.
In 2014 I gave birth to my fourth child, an unassisted VBAC at home surrounded by my partner and two best friends. Six months later I posted an ultimately controversial photo of the birth on Facebook. After a heated debate and comments that ran the gamut from loving and supportive to outright nasty, my photo, along with another woman’s photo, were banned from Facebook. Milli Hill, of Positive Birth Movement, wrote an article for the Guardian about the incident. In it she says,
“In both of the banned images, it is the women who are delivering their babies; birth is something they are actively and powerfully doing themselves. They challenge everything many people wrongly assume to be true about childbirth and show the female body naked, shameless, real, capable, useful, active, empowered. This is why women need to see these images; and this is why they are censored.”

We need to see these images because as a culture of people we’ve forgotten what it looks like to allow birth to naturally unfold. We’ve developed such a narrowly defined scope of normal that images like these rock our world and open us to something we never gave ourselves permission to believe was possible.

We need to see these images because we no longer grow up seeing birth as normal. We’ve lost our village of grandmothers and we aren’t in the room when our mother or our sister gives birth. And most often, what we see in the media is aimed more at glamour than at truth.

Our conscious mind no longer contains the imprint of what birth looks like, undisturbed. So while our bones and our blood and our womb know how to give birth, our mind has such a narrow definition of what that can mean.

But somewhere, deep within us, that instinct still exists. That ancestral knowing and human biology still pulses in our blood and ebbs and flows with every cycle of our moon.

Reclaiming our birth instinct is an invitation access our innate inner knowing and take a stand for the massively transformative nature of childbirth. If we want to invite women to remember the instinctual wisdom of their womb, we need to begin by getting real about pregnancy, birth and the power of transformation found within both.

Reclaiming our birth instinct is about owning and claiming our stories, our inquires and the depth of all we discover within. It’s about normalizing the full spectrum of birth. It’s about honoring what’s real and raw and vulnerable. It’s about coming home to ourselves and being witnessed in our transformation.

In so many ways we’ve set up an unhealthy and unattainable expectation of birth that leaves many unsure of how to integrate their experience. We’ve defined our expectation of normal so narrowly that it silences and alienates countless women.

The truth is, they’re all valid. They’re all perfect. Every single story of a woman giving birth contains the ancestral wisdom inherent to this sacred journey. And our model, our framework of understanding this everyday miracle of life, needs to hold the complexity of it all. And it needs to do so with the fiercest compassion.

Because our women need us. And our mothers need us. And our daughters need us. We all need us, to open our hearts to the stories of how we give birth, and in the words of Hafiz, ask ourselves, “How can I be more loving? How can I be more kind?”

How can we hold our mothers in reverence and advocate for their health with the utmost integrity and care? How can we walk with women and honor their journeys of pregnancy and of birth? How do we foster their inner knowing? Their inherent Birth Instinct?

What does it take to cultivate the space where our inner knowing can naturally arise?

In all honesty it begins simply, with an open heart and open ears and the willingness to dive deep into the sacred journey and inner transformation. The thing about inherent wisdom is that it already exists, we simply need to create a space where it feels safe enough to emerge.

Here are some simple ways you can begin.

1. Ask her the tough questions. And the simple ones.

Carve out a space of stillness with her, at the end of a prenatal, right at the beginning, out on a walk or having tea. Find a space of inner stillness and invite her to share on her inner experience.

Ask her questions that provoke her inner explorations. What’s rising to the surface? What’s really alive for you right now? What’s changing, growing or transforming within you?

Invite her to get reacquainted with herself. Support her in looking at the pieces that might feel daunting to explore alone. There is a unique magic that happens when we are witnessed in loving support. Often, the parts of us that struggle to find their voice rise up to the surface only when they know they will be met with love, acceptance and compassion.

2. Lean in to her inquiry, her discoveries and her answers.

Follow her lead. Her instinctual soul knows where her doorway to transformation lies. Follow her there. Acknowledge the wisdom she discovers and explores.

When she comes up against her resistance or her fear, be curious. Find out what’s possible. Invite her to ask her belly instead of her head. Trust her instinct. Remind her to trust it as well.

3. Ask her for her stories. Give her some homework

Ask her to collect a few birth stories from women she knows and loves and trusts. What was it like when they gave birth? What is the story of her birth? Who has she seen give birth (in real life, on TV, human or animal)? What does she remember or what did she notice? What was it like last time she gave birth? What is a typical birth in her mind?

4. Meditate with her.

Meditation can take so many forms. For many it’s a few moments of silence and tuning inwards. For others it’s a walk in the woods or a guided visualization. Its intent is to cultivate an inner stillness.

The instinctual parts of ourselves tend to nestle deep down beneath the hurried thoughts of our mind. We can’t always access it, because much of our life fails to carve out the space for stillness. So invite her into it. Create a space where she can settle a little more deeply into her inner knowing and begin to listen to the wisdom present within.

5. Hold a birth story circle. Tell YOUR story.

Our birth stories shape our personal and collective understanding of how we come into the world, and ultimately into ourselves. In all of their messy complexities and seeming imperfections, our birth stories matter in the collective consciousness of how we hold birth.

The number one most powerful thing you can do to strengthen our collective ability to access our inner birth wisdom is to tell your story and invite others to do the same.

What did you experience? What in you transformed? What did you learn? How are you now a different woman?

Build a safe space where women can come and share their raw truth about pregnancy and childbirth. Start a monthly Birth Story circle. Gather up some women who are passionate about birth. Invite those who are pregnant or may be inspired. And each take turns (set a time limit if that helps) sharing your stories about birth and the wisdom you gained from the experience.

There is so much wisdom to be found in our stories! Cultivate the space for it to surface and emerge. Value it. Honor it. Reclaim it!

Kristen Avonti is a homesteading mama, practical visionary and wise woman herbalist who is passionately committed to cultivating our collective light. Kristen is the Founder and Director of Tree of Dreams, a holistic school and sanctuary for wholeness. Embedded in the fabric of a spiritually oriented eco-village, Tree of Dreams weaves together a rhythm of workshops, courses and apprenticeship programs with a rich culture of ceremonial events, transformational healing and compassionate community. Join Kristen for a 6-week exploration of sacred women’s health, plant based healing, nature attunement and community building in her Sacred Women’s Immersion!

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