The reason why I’m standing here today is because of my experience I had when my first son was born and now I am honoured to be part of this wonderful exhibition which Clair initiated and Mr Loughton has generously sponsored. Thank you very much 🙂 But first I want to share with you the reason why his birth inspired me so much and the message behind my sculpture.
My sculpture here ‘Life Before Birth’ reminds us that there is a Human Being developing, taking shape, creating it’s identity and uniqueness, behind the belly of a pregnant woman.The heart starts to beat in the first few weeks after conception, the brain is building its neuropathways and the cellular memory is storing data while the silent, invisible story forms within us. Creating a harmonious ‘womb environment’ in pregnancy is desirable to enable the best outcome for the infant. Preparing for the Birth, the transition from womb to world, which is a defining right of passage, not only for the mother but it is the infants first experience of life. Therefore, I think pregnancy and birth need be treated with the sanctity it deserves.
Every Human Being starts life inside a woman’s body and birth invites us to cross the Rubicon. Our experience has an impact that stays with us throughout life, creating our first ‘blueprint’. This is why I am particularly interested in the way we support pregnant women from conception to after the baby is born. During this time, we tend to put pregnant women under a microscope and give them the message that the medical profession and technology know best. We are not really empowering women to trust their own bodies and engage with this natural process but rather creating fear by presenting all the ‘possible’ dangers. The NHS have plenty of statistics showing certain preventable outcomes to support this and yet we are not learning from these facts.
Our psychology around the time of pregnancy and birth is rarely acknowledged as having an influence on foetal development and the woman’s ability to let go and give birth without the aid of technology. The messages we give pregnant women, their environment and relationships during pregnancy, previous birth stories, pregnancy loss, all have an impact on her emotional wellbeing. The journey from conception to motherhood is the perfect time to begin to heal these emotional experiences especially from childhood and help reduce difficult life circumstances like domestic violence, poverty, malnutrition and family disfunction… the fear of giving birth and unnecessary interventions during labour, that can all inhibit the natural flow of birth. I believe birth trauma is an inevitable cause of post natal depression creating a domino effect of further problems. If women are supported in the right way, much of this could be prevented. Reducing maternal stress, so eloquently expressed by Vivette (the Professor I was paired with – Vivette Glover – for the exhibition who’s work is in this area), would enable the foetus to develop in a healthy way and be more likely to facilitate a straightforward birth experience for both women and babies. I also think fathers need support as they have their own journey and experience which is seldom validated.
Pregnancy and birth is a deeply instinctual experience and part of nature spanning millions of years, an art with which we are rapidly losing touch. How do we reconnect back to the ancient natural life cycles of the human being and translate them, in a positive way, to our time? There needs to be adequate support for women to get back in touch with their intuitive side, which can be achieved by exploring their non verbal and unconscious psyche. There are many different perspectives to each woman’s life, her circumstances and her past, so one can never generalise or portray a ‘one glove fits all’ picture.
However, if we re-establish a relationship with ones deeper self, nature, the spiritual or mystical and not just the physical and medical side of pregnancy, then birth might be less stressful for the mother and baby. Perhaps it is about finding a balance between science, technology, intuition and nature? I make parallel comparisons between the creative expression of art and birth; art being the physical representation of our unconscious world and birth providing the bridge between the invisible to the visible. This is why I think art is a really compatible intervention during pregnancy because it enables self exploration and healing.
As an art psychotherapist, I have worked with pregnant women over the years, using art making as a form of self expression that facilitates deep transformation. Everywhere I go women tell me their birth stories when I mention my area of interest, and sometimes when I don’t, clearly indicating that they carry this undigested experience around with them waiting for it to be acknowledged. We also carry our own personal birth experience with us in our unconscious and cellular memory. Witnessing a woman’s story in a safe, nurturing space that promotes the potential to heal, is one way, I believe, we can regenerate the current paradigm.
My own journey towards this work was the result of living in Bali where I conceived my son. I was pregnant there for the first 6 months and then my husband and I moved back to Brighton in England where I gave birth. If it hadn’t been for that experience, I wouldn’t be standing here today.
Bali gave me the clear message that birth is easy, natural and motherhood and the Feminine is revered. Back in the UK I was met with a very different picture; fear, danger and a medical procedure for every eventuality. I was never given the message that, as a woman, my body might know what to do and my job was to ‘get out of my way’. I had to find a solution, another way, so my quest for the truth began. I was lucky to attend a conference on birth from an holistic perspective including plenty of science and people with lived experience, imparting amazing information; like Dr Michel Odent amongst others. They all gave the message that birth is normal and getting into agreement with it, not fearing the energy, would help you through the experience.
This encouraged me to start my own inner healing journey. I had to navigate various hurdles to get the desired outcome as people were not very receptive, around that time, to the idea of me doing things differently particularly wanting a home birth. But on the 15th January 2000 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, by candlelight, in my living room, without any pain relief, cutting, tearing or trauma. We had instant skin to skin contact and when he woke up immediately breast fed. A secure attachment and bond was created from the first moment of life (well actually from conception but that’s another story!)… and I am convinced it was all down to healing my fears and limiting beliefs in a creative, supportive, nurturing way so I could deeply trust my Self and my body. I got into agreement with the process and I surrendered to the unknown, the chaos, the powerful, full spectrum, energetic experience of birthing another human being!
So this is the result of a young man who entered the world in a peaceful, gentle, loving way and whatever experiences came thereafter, his first moments of life gave him the strong message that: Life is Safe and that He was very Welcome and utterly Loved.
I want every women to have this possibility but we have to change the current paradigm that integrates science/technology and the holistic mind, body approach to bring about much needed balance. A more holistic gentle approach to pregnancy and birth and with the right support, can gradually create global change. One could even go one step further and say that, in a wider context, by healing the human being, this will inevitably help heal the earth, leading to a brighter future for tomorrow’s children.