Thursday, March 24, 2011

Surrender and the power of words.

This morning I got my daily digest from my e-groups and, one of the things I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about working in this field is that no one is afraid to question things and debate things in relation to birth.

A question arose on the use of the word "surrender" when working with our birthing mothers and fathers.

Surrender isn't actually a word I can confess to having actively used myself, I may have, but it's not on my vocabulary of thought out words that I have immediately thought, emit power. However, I am beginning to re think this one.

Surrender has two entirely different conotations, one stemming from the giving up of oneself to another, the other of giving oneself up to..well, oneself!

Language during pregnancy and birth is a very powerful tool. Andrea Robertson talks about it in great depth as do many gurus such as Ina May Gaskin and Sheila Kitzinger.

I feel language today plays a far more important role than it did in the days before wireless, mobile communication. Words today are taken at 2D value, what you see on the page in your in box is then interpreted by you, you are not given any hint as to the definition of a word's meaning by the intonation of your fellow communicant. Words lose the 4D they have when their giver is able to add intonation, context and background to the recipient in the spoken word.
Thus, it is highly important that words we use are not easily misconstrued and convey the meaning we intend from the offset.

So, moving back to "Surrender".

Surrender is a word that can suggest that women should "give up", "be passive", "do as others suggest", but of course, this is not what we want them to interpret at all. We talk a lot about "being in control" of our births, but I wonder, is this also what we want to convey? We don't want women to just lie on their backs and surrender to others, surrender to technology, but neither do we really want them to "control" birth. Birth isn't something that can be controlled. Nature is as nature does and controlling it, perversely, is what technology does and again, we're not wanting women to do that either. So we're back to surrender.

Surrender can also mean to give in to oneself. Penny Armstrong, a midwife in Pennsylvania working with Amish women, talks in her book "A midwife's story" about a young girl birthing for the first time. She presents herself in labour in her bed, white, pressed sheets, white nightgown complete with bonnett. She doesn't want to come across as loud, messy or noisy. Labour is long, progress is very slow. Eventually the young woman "surrenders" to herself, throws off her clothes, makes noise, gets out of bed and moves around. She listens to her body, she listens to the need to squat and move, she surrenders to her body's birthing animal and not long after, her baby is born.

Ina May Gaskin talks in "Spiritual Midwifery" about "letting your monkey do it". This often raises a laugh in classes when I bring it up as there'll often be a dad who'll joke about him not being a monkey! But of course, this isn't what she means at all.

This young woman in Penny's book, is not giving over to anyone except her birthing nature, equally, she is not controlling her birth, ultimately her birth is controlling her and she is letting it, so if she is surrendering to anyone/thing, she's surrendering to her birth, she is saying "okay, I accept, it may be loud, it may be messy and I may get naked". Heck, one presumes she got naked in the first place - or pretty darn close to - so why is there this inability to connect with this same urge when birthing after nine months?

Surrendering, to me, in this context, is like relinquishing to the depths of a really good meditation - the ones where you know you've been meditating, but you can't quite remember what happened. Surrendering in this context is like really amazing sex when the hormones take over. Birth is exactly the same.

"Surrender can be likened to making the leap and just letting go
with a sense of calm resolve that you will safely land as intended"

So, will I consciously use the word surrender in classes from now on, yes, I will. I will use it in the context of feeling safe and secure, ensuring that the environment is such that hormones are free to flow and that trusting in our body to tell us what to do, will enable birth.

"When we know love matters more than anything, and we know that nothing else REALLY matters, we move into the state of surrender. Surrender does not diminish our power, it enhances it". -Sara Paddison

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