Katie reimagines the fairytale of the Princess and the Pea. A lonely prince is looking for his perfect bride to be his princess. When a disheveled looking woman shows up on their doorstep, the Queen comes up with a brilliant plan to determine if she is truly a princess or not. She stacks many mattresses on top of one another and places a single pea in between two of them. She concludes that if this woman is truly worthy of her son’s hand then she will notice the pea. And, of course, when she awakens and is asked how she slept, the woman complains about the uncomfortable lump in her bed. This impresses the Queen and the Prince and Princess marry.
The moral is supposed to be: you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. But it seems to more readily speak to our expectations of an ideal woman and what that means. What are some of the peas in our lives? The bars and standards by which we judge ourselves? What does a pea in the mattresses have anything to do with her character? Why such an arbitrary test?
One message is that you cannot be worthy of love or be considered a princess if you’re disheveled. You have to look the part. Think about how much our bodies change during pregnancy and birth. We feel unlovable if we gain weight, change shape, acquire stretch marks, or lose our firm breasts and tummy.
Another message is about our demeanor and being nice, calm, accommodating, pleasant, cooperative, and helpful. Birth often takes us out of these stereotypes and asks us to embody a more wild and unpredictable state of being. So many women may perceive their births to be “bad” if they acted like a “bad girl”—yelling, swearing, roaring, screaming, etc.
People pleasing is something women have been conditioned for. This has led Katie to give her clients a “get out of jail free” card that gets them off the hook for being the peacemaker in the birth space. She tries to give them upfront permission to not people please when they’re in labor. They are not responsible for everyone else’s experience. There is no behavior that will send them to “bad person jail.” Everything goes during birth: animal sounds, primal sounds, sexual sounds, body sounds…there’s room for all of it.
Stephanie shares an experience with one of her doula clients who roared through her contractions in a powerful and impressive way. Though it was entirely normal for Stephanie, it was very off-putting to the client. In between contractions the client would express embarrassment and shame over the sounds she was making, to the point that she almost didn’t want her birth videographer to record her labor. She was so caught off guard by her own bigness.
Sometimes in the natural birth community there is an undercurrent that says if you’re prepared for birth, and fully educated, then your birth will be calm. And peaceful. And quiet. It’s fundamentally not okay to tell women that they’re effectiveness in preparation will be determined by how loud or quiet they are. This culture is not helpful. And if you’re expecting to have that big, euphoric, blissful moment when delivering your baby, consider that euphoria is typically a result of intensity. What if in those moments when you “lost control” and your quiet birth turned loud and wild is part of the process of effective birth?
We yearn to give you all permission, for those of you preparing to give birth, to hold no judgement for your own bigness. Allow birth to deepen your relationship with yourself, to level up, and to shift your mindset. There’s a reclamation that has to happen, albeit gradually. We have to practice it over and over again. It takes patience. Every birth brings a new awakening. We can always ask “Is this belief serving me? What do I want? What are my desires and preferences?” These can help us move out of people pleaser mode and into self-actualization. Too often it’s us women that move first to give or to compromise. But the wild woman heightens our needs and teaches us to put ourselves first in birth.
Katie tells about a client that was very educated and logical. She had had a smooth and fast first birth. Katie urged her not to be in denial when labor begins since she had a history of fast birth. So when labor began Katie came right away and sensed a lot of momentum. Katie encouraged them to call the midwife, and she came immediately when they called her. At one point the client started crawling to the bathroom clued Katie into this sense that baby was very close. The midwife arrived, she got in the tub, and had the baby! Sometimes the body knows things that the mind doesn’t.
Our brains are only one part of who we are. Our hearts are brains all their own, as is the gut. There is actual cognition within the gut that informs and impels us. They have their own connection to memory, emotions, and the nervous system. We can learn to tune into all three of these and take action based upon their aligned signals. There are always three different ways we can connect with ourselves and prepare for birth. Preparing mentally, alone, is not enough. How are we preparing emotionally and intuitively? We are likely least connected to our guts. Evidence based birth facts are helpful, and its good to understand the general trends, but it’s more important to know what’s best for you and your situation even if it goes against that evidence or trend. This is where gut-wisdom trumps all. It has its own evidence—it is evident to me how to move forward.
In Stephanie’s birth classes they frame this conversation in the context of brainwaves (Western) and consciousness (Eastern). There are ways that we can prepare on each level, and you’ll find that each level plays an important role in your birth. Beta brainwaves are typically helpful in early labor—they help us get the checklist done and feel prepared. We just don’t want to stay in Beta brainwaves as labor progresses—we want to get out of heads and into our bodies.
To learn more about Katie’s work, please visit freyabirth.com