Perception is Everything!
Perception is everything. Perception drives your biology. Your perceptions are what cause you to make the choices and decisions you make, and they are also the source of physical, hormonal, energetic, and chemical reactions and changes in your body.
What are your personal perceptions of pregnancy, your upcoming labor and birth, and your impending transition into motherhood? During labor, negative perceptions cause unfavorable physical consequences. The thoughts we think and the emotions we feel create a particular perception, and based on this perception, and the corresponding label we assign, we and our physical body react accordingly. Negativity, fear, anxiety, resistance, can cause pregnancy and birth complications. We know that negative emotions can cause ill health, manifesting as things like heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic fatigue, depression, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, digestive or cardiovascular diseases. In labor, negative or fearful thoughts also create on a physical level, and can result in more painful and ineffective contractions, less oxygen to our uterus, and to our baby, stalled or stopped labor, various labor complications, and the need for medical interventions.
Fearful, negative, and anxious perceptions of childbirth can keep our labor from starting on time, which may lead to the need for labor induction. During our birth, negative perceptions can cause longer, more painful, and complicated labor. After birth, they can lead to extended and difficult postpartum healing, breastfeeding and bonding difficulties, and postpartum depression.
If you are approaching your labor fearfully and you reach the labor room in a state of total anxiety lock down, as if metaphorically turning your back with fingers in your ears, and chanting “lalalalalalala I can’t hear you!” , or curled up in a corner with your knees pulled to your chest, arms wrapped tightly about your knees, your face buried and hidden between your legs, this is not an attitude or stance conducive to movement or growth. This is a rigid stance that turns movement to stone, and shuts down the development, progress and flowering of new life. Approaching birth with the intention to control it and make it all take place exactly as you want it to, will do the same thing, as this leaves no room for natural progress to occur. Birth and life are both dynamic, moving, ever evolving, changing, renewing and growing processes. If you clamp down and restrict movement, change and growth, you shut down and negate life itself. In birth if you don’t allow the life force within to follow its imperative course of movement and change, by refusing to surrender and open to the process, moving with the natural rhythms as they occur, you are effectively saying no to life, no to labor, and no to the birth of your baby. Your body will then respond to your fearful perceptions and desire to stand still by causing ineffective and more painful contractions, and even stalling, stopping and lengthening your labor. It is only when you change your perception from one of fear and resistance, to that of joyful welcome and surrender, that life and birth can flow naturally and follow a healthy and productive course of becoming, and realization of full potential and actuality.
Perception is a form of becoming awake or aware, via sensory processing of a particular stimulus or object. Once we perceive something through our senses and our consciousness, we become aware of and assign it a value in our lives, and a label. Once valued and labeled, we then react to the label. We might assign either a positive or a negative label, one that is supportive of life, or threatening to life. A supportive value and label leads to nurturance, growth, and the ability to thrive and prosper. If our perception is one of being supported, then we will be open, allowing, accepting, and able to surrender to, and let life be, and unfold as it needs to. The opposite perception and value, one that is threatening, or causes us to feel unsafe, will see us backing away, shutting ourselves off, and closing down. It takes a great deal more energy to protect ourselves from a threat, than it does to surrender to something that is good and supportive. Closing down tight and resisting takes needed energy away from openness, growth and life, and during birth, will cause our labor to stall, or shut down completely. The greater our perception of threat, the less strength and energy we will have available for the fully functioning and effective actions needed to bring forth life.
In cellular biology you hear scientists talk about genes for different diseases, like cancer genes, epilepsy genes, Multiple Sclerosis genes, etc. Genes do not in and of themselves cause disease, something needs to activate, or turn the gene on. It is your environment, (and your perception of your environment, which comes to you via your senses and your conscious mind), which turn particular genes on or off. Just as a disease in the body is a manifestation of the turning on of certain genes, which were activated by your perception of a hostile environment and your reaction to it, things that go wrong and impede the start of your labor, or that complicate your labor itself, are symptoms of your perceptions of an unsafe and unsupportive environment. Negative perceptions in labor can turn on a whole cavalcade of physical reactions and corresponding disadvantageous outcomes.
The science of epigenetics looks at how the environment regulates DNA and gene activity. Signals from the environment and your reactions and perceptions to them can have profound effects on DNA, causing certain regulatory proteins to change shape, which alters the blueprint of the gene, and causes a change in its expression. If perception of signals from the environment, signals coming in via the senses and consciousness, can change the very shape and expression of the genes in your body, does it not follow that the perception you hold of your pregnancy, labor, and motherhood, will likewise cause physical reactions, changes, and outcomes?
The way you view the world controls the genes in your body. Your thoughts, emotions, and perceptions, affect and change the form and function of your physical body. Uninformed, skewed, or negative/fearful/anxious/resistant perceptions of your labor and birth can lead to inappropriate choices and decisions for course of action, support, and self- protection, as well as negative manifestations in your physical body and labor, and a potentially overall negative birth experience.
Tending to and working toward the embrace of a positive and joyful perception of birth then, would seem tantamount to its achievement. Just “going with the flow”, without thought or action toward preparation, will not lead to a peaceful, gentle birth. Taking time to educate yourself, reading, taking classes, spending time learning and practicing supportive techniques, caring properly for your pregnant body, mind and spirit, and learning some form of thought and breathe control, ( such as mindfulness meditation, guided imagery, hypnobirthing, and affirmations or mantras) are not simply interesting available options, they are necessities if you wish to have a successful and joyful birth experience.
Biologically speaking, interactions with the environment determine how genes in the body are programmed. A supportive and nurturing environment will lead to an expression of a system that is functioning well and allows for enhanced growth and life. A toxic environment, one that is angry, fearful, judgmental, or negative, or that conflicts with your life and expectations, will cause different gene selection and negative effects on growth, health, and life. Perception controls our biology, so creating the conditions to allow the laboring mother to have a positive perception of her labor and birth will result in effective functioning of her bodily systems, and an all around easier, and more enjoyable birth.
Creating a conducive labor environment which supports the laboring mother’s perception of feeling safe, supported, loved, and free to do whatever she feels is necessary to bring her baby into life is of utmost importance. Choosing supportive, nonjudgmental, caregivers and birth support companions is essential. We put more effort into researching and buying a new car than we do preparing to bring a new human life safely , successfully, and joyously into the world. Why? We must put forth effort to create conditions which will result in positive perceptions of labor and birth, if we want to realize our goal of a loving, gentle, peaceful birth, which we all know is best for both mother and baby.
When we think about labor preparation and the creation of conditions and environment which will support the mother’s positive perceptions, we can look at the old nature vs. nurture debate. Nature and DNA we can equate to the realm of readying ourselves for birth, reading, learning, and researching. All of this is good and necessary, but in and of itself, knowledge alone won’t cause the childbirth experience of our dreams. We need to add a measure of nurturance and environmental signals, which we can equate to active preparation and practice, loving and supportive caregivers, and the mother’s positive perception of her birthing environment. In life, if the environment is nurturing, beneficial, and positive, we will see health and successful bodily functioning. If the environment is negative, and nurturance is poor, abusive, unpredictable, or absent altogether, we see dis-ease of the body, in the forms of illness and lack of proper bodily function.
The exact same model applies to birth.
Positive nature and environment, in the form of active birth preparation and practice, plus warm, safe, uplifting environment,
nurture in the form of all the mothers physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs being met by loving caregivers,
leads to positive perceptions of labor and birth for mom, resulting in a more effective, easier, faster, peaceful, gentle, overall childbirth experience.
The opposite can lead to impeded labor and increased incidence of complications and the need for interventions.
Lack of the following: education, active birth preparation and practice, confidence in and support of nonjudgmental and loving caregivers, safe and comforting environment, and her physical, emotional, and psychosocial need fulfillment , will lead to feeling threatened and closing down, rather than relaxing, opening, and surrendering to the process of labor and bringing forth new life. In essence, taking a perception into the labor room of negativity, anxiety, fear, and resistance will result in wasted and exhausting efforts toward self- protection, which negates movement toward the realization of an easy, gentle, peaceful, and satisfying birth experience.