Eight Emotional Needs in Childbirth
and the essences that helped me nurture them
The years working as a Vibrational Essence Practitioner supporting pregnant and puerperal women emphasized what I already sensed: that each birth is unique, and although there is much that we can plan, there is always a large amount of uncertainty – where we have no choice but to surrender and trust. Here in this article, I share my experience of giving birth naturally and how I helped myself with Patagonia Essences.
There is no right way to be born. I am convinced that every birth is sacred, no matter what type of birth we choose or end up having; we are all sacred portals for the mystery of life.
When the time came for preparing my own child’s birth, I was lucky in having an amazing midwife who offered us a home birth from the very first appointment. If she hadn’t been so confident about it, I think it would have never crossed my mind to give birth at home without anaesthesia, simply because I thought it was reserved for others, for women who are stronger, maybe more connected, than I feel myself to be. We made the decision to try a home birth, and then we did research by doing lots of reading and watching documentaries – even one of orgasmic delivery. I did yoga and went swimming, and even ate a lot of dates, but, even so, we were still faced with the same uncertainties: what if my waters broke early? what if there needed to be an induction? what if…?! So many things were beyond
our control. Yet along the way, I discovered that I could cultivate my inner world by nurturing eight particular qualities that would be useful in any context.
The 8 Emotional Needs
1. Confidence to Face the Unknown
No matter how much we prepare, visualize and set expectations, there are always lots of doubts about how the experience will go. If we cling to the idea of being in control, the situation can become terrifying and even paralyzing, which also makes us more vulnerable to the fears that others project on us. But, if we build a sense of trust within us, this uncertainty becomes part of the adventure, adding flavour to those last weeks. We have the option to enter into a more receptive state, perceiving each message our body gives us and waiting – if that is the decision we’ve made – for our baby to signal that the time has come. A wonderful flower essence to work with at this time is Orquidea Amarilla (Chloraea sp.). The essence of this orchid native from Chile facilitates a state of pronoia, the belief that the universe conspires in our favour. Having confidence in the unknown feels a bit like that; fears may visit us but we know they are simply ‘ideas’ and the feeling that develops then is more like playfully waiting for a surprise. Orquidea Amarilla fills us with faith, opening the throat chakra to receive with openness what the Universe has for us.
Instinct for me is the voice of the body, and our body knows how to give birth. It knows exactly what needs to be done at each given moment; we just have to remember how to listen to it. In energetic terms, instinct is associated with the lower chakras: it is the wisdom that 'comes from below'. Essences reinforce our ability to hear the body clearly, to facilitate us in clearing layers of fear, unnecessary information, trauma or beliefs that may be keeping us from trusting our inner voice. The first chakra helps us stay present in the body, and I’ve seen that it also helps our little ones in their transition, guiding their incarnation. A wonderful essence for this is Crysoprase.
Another essence that I felt very strongly during labour was Green-Backed Firecrown (Sephanoides sephaniodes), a tiny hummingbird which connects us with the body in a very powerful way, bringing awareness of each and every muscle. For me, not having any anaesthetics apart from the natural chemicals that the body produces – because yes, there’s plenty of those! – was like having a clear image of every bit of my body, and of my little one´s, to know exactly what had to be done at every given moment. Even if using an epidural, keeping this connection going helps guide our baby on their route, and keeps our bodies updated about the transitions that happen with childbirth. Finally, the essence of Tepual (Tepualia stipularis), a small tree that grows in northern Patagonia, helps to maintain a sense of security and integrity in our intimate space. Tepual is very important before, during, and also after childbirth, especially if it was traumatic at some level or for those who have experienced some kind of sexual abuse in their lives, helping to restore a sense of safety and protection.
Intuition, on the other hand, is linked to the higher chakras. It’s about those certainties that we ‘receive from above’, those things we simply know even if we can’t explain them. But to do this we must firstly strengthen our third chakra, and in that realm I love Pico de Loro (Chloraea bletioides), a native orchid from Chile with mysterious black and white petals, which helps us filter energetic messages from others, leaving their anxieties out of our field. This makes emotional room for our inner voice to be heard. Another must-have for me is Persicaria (Plygonum persicaria), a wild weed which helps to awaken our ancestral wisdom. Persicaria sparks that subtle intuition within our body that links us to our ancestors, to the entire human race. While giving birth I am all women giving birth; I am Earth Mother giving birth to humanity and we are governed by the certainty of not being alone in this. We participate in the creative heart of the Universe, and we know what has to be done and we let that voice lead the way.
No matter what type of delivery you end up having, a dose of both physical and emotional strength never hurts. To take some pressure off, I imagined during labour that if I completely lost control, the medical team would still manage to get the little one out and keep us both safe. Of course, it is certainly fortunate to have so much medical support available. But isn’t it much better to feel that we are fully present and empowered? The Guayacan tree has one of the hardest woods in the central area of Chile and it’s that feeling of firmness that this essence awakens in us. Guayacan (Porliera chilensis) helps us find support for looking at discomfort with integrity, bringing us perspective to prevent getting overwhelmed by the circumstances. Another great strength is the one that manates from the heart, which keeps us aligned in the purpose during labour. Emerald essence keeps us connected with this fundamental love, awakening a strong hope and optimism that keeps us going.
During labour, there are many things that we´ll need and not-need. The hormones of childbirth, anaesthesia if any, and all the intensity of the moment will definitely lead us to some level of altered state of consciousness where words and specific concepts can be difficult to access (in fact, I highly recommend hiding the clocks and giving another the task of counting the time between contractions or reading documents to facilitate this process). We turn more to our emotional side and this is beautiful because it allows us to act as a portal to help this soul that has chosen us in their transition. This ‘emotional’ thinking will, in fact, be our ally during the first months (or years) after birth, helping us decipher the messages from our little one. However, asking for a glass of water or getting someone to put our socks on because we’re cold can be quite a challenge! House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) was, for me, an essential essence in my blend. Not only does it help you to quickly find the precise words to get the message across, but it also allows you to find the humour in things, which is especially important if you are having a vaginal delivery since the sphincters open better when we are relaxed. I also recommend it for birth partners, so that they don’t take things personally if you’re not exactly being an example of politeness when asking them to call the midwife quickly!
6. Peace of Mind
Something key that I learned whilst preparing for childbirth is to differentiate between pain and suffering. Pain is physical, and inevitable to some extent. Suffering, on the other hand, is more mental; it refers to when we feel scared, lonely, disrespected, and so on. With internal work and good support, suffering during labour is avoidable. ‘Peace of mind’ doesn’t mean that nothing affects us and we are completely free of fears, although I think this is also possible. We all have a primitive brain that, from very ancient times, tends to anticipate and look for what could go wrong, and does so to keep us safe. So instead of getting upset when your mind starts telling you horror stories, my invitation is to acknowledge that it’s doing part of its job, give it a big thank you for that, and leave those thoughts symbolically in a safe place to attend them later if necessary. Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata) essence gives us this mental clarity. Its effect is similar to the practice of meditation, waking our inner observer and allowing us to take some distance from our thoughts and emotions to so as to select which ones we want to nurture and which ones we’d do better to release. In my case, I needed Torrent Duck very strongly when I had the first painful contraction and a shadow of doubt approached: ‘Is it better to go to the hospital? Maybe I won’t be able to cope’. I was terrified about what could happen if I allowed that negativity to take over, so I took a step back and said to myself: "Well, let's wait for a couple more contractions to see how I feel then", and the thought left just the way it came. All contractions after that one were far more tolerable; yes, with pain, but without suffering.
Childbirth is sexual and perhaps the greatest expression of our power as women, the original creative act. To some, the process of labour can seem all but sexy and that’s exactly why we couldn’t leave this point out of the list. One of the reasons why home birth is so recommended is that it makes it easier for women to feel comfortable and relaxed in their environment (just as there are women who feel much more relaxed in a hospital, this is very personal). The cervix is a sphincter, such as the anal and urethral sphincters, and like them, we need to feel comfortable in a private safe space, with low lights and with the minimum observation and intervention for it to open (Just imagine how would it feel to try to open your bowels whilst surrounded by strangers yelling at you: push!). It is very similar to when we make love, as the same parts are stimulated and for this reason many women experience some level of pleasure while giving birth. Why not aspire to this? Whether or not we have the luck of an orgasmic birth (in my case it was not, although there were pleasant moments), nurturing this sensual connection with our body is key during the whole process. Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) is the essence of sensuality and it’s a great ally during childbirth because it helps us understand that sensuality comes from within, from the pleasure of being in this body just as it is. It invites us to marvel and enjoy without guilt. Whatever type of birth you end up having, it is key to reserve a space to delight in the wonder that our body has created and exalted our senses. This is also a key factor for bonding.
"When you feel the smell of your baby’s head, you’ll immediately fall in love", a colleague told me while I was pregnant. The truth is both yes, and no. So many times in my practice I saw new moms who confessed that they were not so in love, that they wanted to run away, that they had to look at their young at night to remember that it was true. Birth is a massive change that we experience at many levels, all at the same time; it should not surprise us that it takes us a while to integrate all this new information. My invitation is to embrace ourselves with deep love and honour those processes, that there is no right way to transition into motherhood, nor a universal way to love our new-born. I have seen that by working on our internal capacity to accept ourselves, we inevitably end up overflowing with love and care for our baby. It helps to focus on the present, in small things, rather than on the big fantasies to which we aspire as a result. I felt particularly nervous about this, not because I doubted my love but rather because of a fear of the deep commitment that becoming a mother means. Capachito Andino (Calceolaria andina) is the essence of motherhood par excellence in the Patagonia Essences range; it helps us to take care of ourselves so we can then take better care of others. During childbirth it connects us with our maternal instinct at its best, with that irrational mammalian love that helps us stay on track in times of pain, fear or uncertainty, knowing that we are in charge of another life and that we would give everything for it. Another must-have for me was Violeta de Magallanes (Viola magellanica), which activates our sense of touch, the most basic element of bonding. It invites us to feel via focusing our attention back on the body whilst simultaneously calming the mind. This connection invites us to then put everything aside and focus on those precious first moments of skin to skin contact with our little one.
In sessions with my clients, I always emphasize that essences remind us of our true nature. They don’t add or change anything, but instead help us to access our capacities that lie forgotten about behind layers of fear, beliefs or traumatic experiences. During labour, essences help us to reconnect with what we already know. And by connecting us to our innate ancient feminine wisdom, they help us to reclaim childbirth as a natural, deep and empowering creative act. My dream is that more women have access to such a simple and profound therapy, one that I believe can certainly help reduce other more invasive interventions as I’m sure they helped me and my son during this profound life transition. I hope you enjoy them!