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Focusing with the mother around birthgiving

Text on the 2nd International Conference ‘Children Focusing’, Hungary, October 2000

Julianna Novak, Budapest

I have worked as a 'dula', a helper around births, and as a course-leader preparing women and couples for birth and for the parental role for the last five years. I have been studying focusing for three years. In the past two years I have gathered many experiences about how this method can help to overcome physical and psychological obstacles that might block natural birth. I believe birth giving is a natura1 process. Its institutionalisation, the relieving army of technical gadgets at hand, and the society of doctors who have taken control and responsibility from the mother has impeded natural birth giving/birth. Thus in our country, during the last half a century, institutionalisation has lost touch with its primary aim, i.e. safety. This is now the third generation whose rituals and traditions around birth giving have been influenced by social institutions that stop the instinctive, innate commencement and process of birth giving. Women innately carry this instinct, but it bas been successfully suppressed to the extent that many have lost their wish or ability to give birth naturally. It is important to emphasise that natural birth is significant to the baby, too. An increasing amount of research work bas been carried out in the field and seems to verify the assumption that the experience of successful work around the birth can be a precondition fo further successes in tackling life's challenges.

Based on this I hypothesised that focusing can aid women in their return to their ancient, innate world of instincts and also in fully experiencing the pains and joys of giving birth.

I shall mention a few cases where focusing was of help, and shall elaborate on another case where the opportunity of focusing was missed although it became clear that it could have helped.

I assisted the first expectant mother in focusing over several months on several occasions, and a natural birth was the end result of our mutual work. At the outset she had found it necessary that all technical equipment be at her disposal during labour, however, after focusing practice and as she grew closer to her due date, she started to feel that her own body could actually cope with this task alone. Her doctor was a partner in this decision. She came out being very proud of herself for being able to bring her child to life without interference.

On two other occasions I succeeded in liberating energies in mothers who turned to me. Both instances happened through a longer discussion on the telephone, very close to the due dates, and they were able to give a natural vaginal birth to their babies who were lying with bottom down (breech), even though the medical prognosis was for caesarean. (Currently in Hungary it is a rare occasion when a doctor allows a woman to give vaginal birth with a breech child.)

My second hypothesis was that physical and psychological obstacles blocking natural birth can be cleared away most effectively during the expectant state and before the beginning of the birth giving process. For this reason I usually offer this opportunity to expectant couples who turn to me for help. The following case underpinned this concept.

The couple accepted the offer of focusing but it kept being postponed, when one day the birthing process began--a week earlier then expected. The birth was a very slow progress, and at one point it stopped, even though the exact opposite seemed apparent from the outside. The mother reached a state of exhaustion when I though it was perhaps a time to offer the opportunity for focusing again. She accepted it, and for about an hour, interspersed with very strong and frequent contractions, she went through a beautiful, for me rather touching process. Although she overcame one obstacle and that helped her for a while, it was perhaps too late and she too exhausted to tackle the others. She could no longer gather together enough energy, she was worn out and only medical interference could help (oxytocin drips and an epidural). A possible caesarean was also debated, but the doctor's patience, and the invaluable presence and active help of the father, and not least the baby' well being inside the womb helped the mother to overcome this 'dead' point. In the end this long labour that devoured vast energies ended in a beautiful birth, though with medical interference.

After this experience, I agreed with the next couple that asked me to be present as a dula during their labour, to meet up at least two weeks before their due date and to discuss their wishes and how I could be of help to them during the great event, e.g. with focusing, etc. During the preparation course for birth giving and parenthood that they attended, I became aware that the mother mentioned her father, a doctor whom she loved and respected, practically at every session: I found this unusual, because in my experience mothers during their pregnancy talk about their emotions and thoughts about their mothers. I hoped that a personal discussion could illuminate this. Nevertheless, no such discussion and no focusing look place before the birth as this baby decided to appear three weeks earlier than the expected date. Once, the mother hinted that she would have an earlier birth but I did not attend to this comment at the time.

The process of labour went on intensively for about ten hours but medical examination showed no progress, the entrance to the uterus was barely dilated. At this news the mother fell into despair and felt her energies draining. She was crying and suddenly entered into a monologue addressed to her father. This monologue went on for about four hours, with many childhood experiences coming up. In the meantime her contractions came every four or five minutes, very strong and painful. We could offer no other help than to hold her hands and stroke her. When she had finished this monologue she got in a warm bath where she remained for three hours. Then she got out of the bath, and not long after, within two hours, the baby was born in a completely natural way free of interference. The baby was hardly at the beginning of the 37th week of gestation, 3200 grams and absolutely healthy.

After this nearly twenty-hour labour I stayed with them for a few hours, and the secret was let out. The mother had been fighting against her father's forecast during her entire pregnancy and birth giving. The doctor father had made a diagnosis that his daughter's hips were so narrow that she would only be able to give birth through a caesarean. Moreover, he did not tell this to his daughter eye-to-eye, but it was passed on to her via other members of the family. She was unable to discuss this with her father during pregnancy and although she made same attempts to, her father avoided the topic. Thus being scared of the fulfilment of her father's prediction, the mother, as an instinctive self-protecting reaction, came to a decision that the baby would have to be born sooner in order to fit through her pelvis and to avoid the caesarean section. The baby understood and accepted her mother's fear and helped in accomplishing the plan. And I understood why the labour was so difficult and why it took so long, and why there was this need for the monologue, and why afterwards the process could progress so smoothly. My own felt sense had shown before the birth where a block might have been. Had there been time, during a focusing session, it might have been possible to trigger this monologue in the mother at the pre-birth stage and she might have been spared so much pain, distress and suffering, and the use of so much unnecessary energy during labour. It might have taken six to eight hours instead of twenty. There is still a place for one or more focusing sessions to resolve the physical emotions left behind, and the relieved positive emotions could help father and daughter in improving their relationship (Although their relationship has got better since the baby's birth, they still could not talk about the prob1em.)

I see enormous potential in the use of focusing around birth, especially in the realms of human relationships as a counter to the environment in hospitals where bodily processes are almost exclusively influenced through physical and chemical intrusion. It would be preferable instead to allow the parties (father, mother, child), giving due attention to their personalities, to overcome their own obstacles and to offer them appropriate psychological support and thus facilitate natural birth and birth giving. At the same time, I am aware that this would need considerably more time, energy and attention, and not least of all a different attitude.

15. 10. 2000. Budapest Julianna Novák