Learning NOT to Count…

It’s been A G E S since I posted…and give the topic of this post, I will NOT count the days!  Suffice to say, I’ve been gestating some ideas, my new birth website (to be announced soon!), and a few birth-related projects that are in the embryonic stage…in the meantime, here’s a line of thought that’s been niggling at me for awhile…

As a former personal trainer/fitness instructor, I was taught to have my clients do 2 sets of 8-12 repetitions of 10-12 exercises 2-3 times a week, walk for 30-45 minutes a day, eat 1200-1600 calories to lose weight, etc…See a pattern?  I was also taught to teach my clients how to tune into their body sensations– to “feel the burn and to move out of their “comfort zone, ” but for the most part we were focused on the numbers and whether or not we “measured up” to some external ideal of how we should move our bodies.

My movement and body-centered coaching training helped me to re-orient myself to feeling into what was going on in my body.  How am I feeling?  What’s happening with my breath?  Am I holding tension in my muscles?   I invited myself (and those willing of my clients) to chuck the scale and the counting and start paying attention to how they felt in their bodies as a guide to how much weight to lift, how often and for how long.

Learning how NOT to count while lifting weights is still a challenge, but I am appreciating how quickly I am getting back in shape now that I have a better understanding of the physiology of weight loss and am listening to my body to tell me what to eat and when, along with a more tai-chi approach to weight-lifting.  Using my breath and focusing on my inner experience makes working out a spiritual practice and a joyful embrace of my body–rather than something I need to get through so I can start my day.

I see this fixation on counting played out in pregnancy and birth (not to mention most areas of Western Culture!) and I am convinced that women need to unlearn this counting habit if we are to truly connect with our bodies’ truth and reclaim birth.

The lovely Claire Hall has written a blog post entitled “Birth and the Male Mindset” that describe the effects of keeping our focus on the numbers and measuring against some external ideal of how women should labor and birth.

Whether it be number of weeks, weight gain, iron & glucose levels, blood pressure, length of pregnancy, centimeters of dilation, hours of labor, stages of labor, timing of contractions, Apgar scores, weight and length of baby, etc….the American mainstream experience of pregnancy and birth is ruled by numbers.   At a time when a woman should be able to celebrate and enjoy her pregnancy and focus on the life inside her, she is told she has to measure up, or else (no homebirth, no VBAC, required C-section, etc)  Not exactly designed to be a nurturing, low-stress experience, is it?

Wouldn’t it be more fun to be pregnant if women were supported in joyfully embracing their pregnancies, rather than poked, prodded and tested to see if they “measure up” to some external ideal? (often not evidence-based)  What if birth professionals taught moms-to-be about good nutrition and pregnancy/birth physiology and how to tune into their intuition and connect with their baby, instead of scaring them into unnecessary tests, inductions and other interventions that only happen because we keep focusing on the numbers and not on the woman in front of us?

Michel Odent writes eloquently about the “nocebo” effect and the importance of maternal emotional states on the health of the mother and the fetus.  During pre-natal visits we could ask them: How do they feel?  What foods are their bodies craving?  Are they carrying some fear or tension that needs relief?  How do their bodies want to move?  What are their dreams for their birth?  How can we support you in feeling good during your pregnancy?

I’m inspired to co-create a pregnancy and birth education course that helps mamas to feel nurtured, educated and supported to listen more within and let go of needing to do their pregnancies and births “by the numbers.”  Stay tuned for more as this journey unfolds!

2 Responses to “Learning NOT to Count…”

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  1. Roxana says:

    It’s so great to read your article on this! I mean it! After the first visit I had at my midwife, every other visit was a source of stress for me. First visit I had high blood pressure. Without any info she told me I had to go to the hospital to get checked. Turns out I just get really stressed around unknown people and it shows in my BP. Figure that! After that, all of my visits were a source of stress. It’s like you mentioned, instead of focusing on me, they were focusing on the numbers. I was stressed out for a week (during which I obviously did a lot of research) because they insisted on extra growth echo’s because I’m overweight (haven’t managed to lose all the weight eating healthy the last 2 years). Numbers again. I wish I didn’t stress at all, eventually with all their testing and probing I seem to be a healthy 39 weeks preggo, ready to have her home-water-birth. Shouldn’t tests be for people who aren’t feeling well?

    • Sondra Rose says:

      Sorry you had that experience. Unfortunately, it is all too common.

      I wish you an easy and peaceful birth, Roxana!