In the medical model, the whole emphasis is on the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy. Rarely is there any attention given to the woman’s other needs of a mental, emotional or, heaven forbid, spiritual nature. In the yogic approach to pregnancy, we focus on each of these things as well as integrating them all into the woman as a whole being. Wherever appropriate, I will be recommending general and specific yoga practices at each of the various stages of pregnancy and beyond, and for particular conditions which may arise.
Let me assure you, that being on a spiritual path in no way exempts any of us from the challenging experiences of motherhood! Yoga, as a means to help manage things, is not meant to be a way of sweeping problems under the carpet, but a way of focussing our hearts and minds to effectively deal with, and learn from, what is happening within and around us.
During pregnancy, finding a stable perspective on one’s life can be hard at times. As pregnancy develops, the call of nature is to focus more and more inwardly on the baby, and this should, this must, this will, become the primary focus of one’s life – and rightly so. This can sometimes cause the bigger picture to fade out whilst you become more intently aware of immediate details. But pregnancy is just one phase in the cycle of “having a baby”, which is just one phase of “being a mother”, which are both only passing phases in “having a life”. Finding time for regular relaxation and self reflection (meditation) is important here, so as to be able to “go in” and “go out” with your awareness. Those times will help you to integrate the dualistic perspectives you will be having – that is the inner world of pregnancy and the outer world in which everybody else exists.
The term “model of care” is usually consid-ered as a “stream” a woman enters into and then follows through to the birth. The medical model of pregnancy care may appear (to the novice) to be a thorough and well-integrated one. But in reality, much of the advice and care a woman encounters along the way will actually come from many disparate sources. This has happened as a direct result of greater specialisation of knowledge and expertise – and is very much to the detriment of what women really need.
Whilst many women may regularly visit their family GP, or engage an
obstetrician for high level personal consultations, elsewhere they will encounter many other medical personnel on an irregular basis – such as the clinic midwives she will visit for her pre-natal check-ups, the physiotherapists who teach childbirth education classes, the medical technicians who perform her tests, the midwives who assist her labour, the hospital’s medical residents, different lactation consultants, community midwives, early childhood nurses, and so on. All over, this makes for very disjointed care as well as weak relationships.
During the intensely personal and emotional times of pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood, familiarity and trust is very important. If you have a team – or even just one person who has been with you all along – that closeness of support can really help in times of need, and will also help to make the occasion more enjoyable, more memorable. There are many times when what a woman needs most is someone who understands her, where she has come from and how she is travelling, more than just understanding what is happening to her. This is a subtle but significant difference for many women.
A new concept is emerging nowadays (well, actually an old one revisited) which views the three-phase journey of pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal life as needing more consistency, more continuity of relationship between the birthing mother and her birthing advisors and assistants. From out of this will come more reliable advice, closer friendship, intimacy and trust. The professionals most likely to provide the greatest continuity of care are independent midwifes, team midwifery services (either within Birth Centres or as independents), and doulas.
In hospital Birth Centres and amongst inde-pendent midwives, ”team midwifery” is now being offered, and this service is quickly growing in popularity. For those who plan to birth at home, or even in a hospital, engaging a doula is also a good option. (See “Advocates and Doulas” page 275“.
In Chapter 5, the different birthing venues and birthing support options are discussed, but it is well prior to that, in the early stages of pregnancy, that you really need to start thinking about how, where and with whom you want to give birth. The ideal is to choose early on, the professional or combination of professionals with which you would like to build an ongoing relationship – a relationship which can fulfil as much of your mothering needs as you can foresee.