How do you make birth education enriching and funny? Karen Brody, playwright of BIRTH and founder of BOLD – a global movement to make maternity care mother-friendly — talks about “butt humor!” Through the genius combination of truth and laughter, Karen’s message of facing fears and connecting to your intuition is loud and clear.
If you’re a mom with young kids, any mention of bodily parts and their sounds (butt farts and mouth burps for example) has the potential to produce roars of laughter that could be heard on a boat off the Swahili coast of Lamu. In 2005, when I wrote my play “Birth”, a portrait of how low-risk mothers are giving birth in America today, the cesarean rate was 25% and rising. Not hugely uplifting material to present to an audience. I needed a laugh desperately. And that’s when I met a mother who gave me playwright mana-from-heaven: butt humor. If it could work on my kids surely it could work on audiences. And it has.
Meet Vanessa: “Women always say, ‘you’ll forget the pain’. Trust me, even with an epidural, you don’t forget about the pain of a baby coming out of you. How could I forget a sensation that felt like the baby was coming out of my butt? Nobody tells women this. Believe me, you never forget a baby coming out of your butt.”
The irony is, that for all the belly laughs Vanessa gets from the audience, there is a deep truth in her message: mothers are scared out of their butts to give birth. Of course a baby is not going to come out of a woman’s butt, but how the baby will navigate through the birth passage is a source of endless worry for many pregnant moms.
As a result, moms are running to epidurals and other interventions. Roughly 50-70% of mothers today have an epidural for pain relief. (Midwifery Today, Issue 95, Autumn 2010). Among the 100+ mothers that I interviewed before writing my play “Birth”, most told me they chose an epidural simply because everyone else was having one.
Nearly 100% of my interview subjects had not researched the risks/benefits of epidurals. As Judy Slome Cohain, a midwife, points out: “Women get epidurals for one of the main reasons so many women smoked pot in the 1970s – their friends are doing it”. (Midwifery Today, Issue 95, Autumn 2010).
Wait – you mean that a woman who has a PhD in physics and flies all over the world impressing audiences with her knowledge had no idea that epidurals can cause a fever in mother and baby? Probably.
A growing number of doctors tell us pregnant moms are asking for more intervention and that’s why the cesarean rate is now over 30 percent. This may be partly true. But the deeper questions we must explore are these: What is it about our culture that feeds a pregnant mom’s blind rush to grab an intervention? What is the baggage that prevents women in the United States from having powerful births?
One word: Fear
Again, Vanessa: “GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL!!!! I thought I was going to die. Yes. Honestly, I don’t know how women go natural. You don’t get a medal for doing it natural so why do it?”
It’s true. Women don’t get a medal for giving birth naturally. There is no powerful birth award. So why do it?
One word: Faith.
The clear antidote to counter fear is faith. The more faith we have in our bodies – the more we connect to our inner knowing that birth is normal process – the quicker our fear subsides. Try it. Every time you feel fear connect to your body (dance, laugh, take a nap) and what happens? Less fear.
Instead of feeding fear, I vote for pregnant mothers feeding connection and embracing truth. Here are three suggestions to help pregnant mothers connect to the truth that pregnancy is a normal process:
1. Movement. Spend at least 10-15 minutes every day doing some form of movement even if it’s just to close your bedroom door when you get home and dance around the room with your eyes closed. Look for CDs/DVDs that specifically help you connect to your body, like Toni Bergen’s Journey Dance.
2. Yoga Nidra (otherwise known as: sleep!). Every pregnant woman needs sleep! Yoga nidra is a powerful, guided meditative practice that gives you quality sleep and allows your body to welcome emotions and beliefs for “tea and conversation”. It has helped many people overcome trauma, stress, and connect to their inner knowing. Commit to 10-20 minutes every day. You can purchase CD’s online. Robin Carnes’ CDs are great for the beginner.
3. Journal. Free-write for 10-15 minutes every day. Just put your pen down on the paper, no topic, and let your hand write away! You will be surprised where you go. (thank you, Natalie Goldberg!).
Want a transformational challenge? Do one of these three suggestions for 40 consecutive days. Then ask yourself what kind of birth you want.
Karen Brody is the playwright of BIRTH and founder of BOLD, a global movement to make maternity care mother-friendly. She also runs The My Body Rocks Project where she teaches workshops, gives talks on “How to Creatively Empower Birthing Women”, and trains doulas, childbirth educators and activist in her My Body Rocks method for having a mother-centered birth. She is also a passionate napper and has written about the importance of sleep for mothers in the Huffington Post and Mothering Magazine. She is currently registering mothers for her two online courses: My Body Rocks Pregnancy class and a 40-Day Nap Challenge for Moms and in April will offer a teleseminar outlining her new new mother-centered birth trainings. For more information visit: www.boldaction.org and www.mybodyrocksproject.com.