I don't like giving advice. In fact, in my massage therapy school (and even in college when I was studying the psychology of Personal Growth!) we were taught: Don't give advice.
Listening is what we were taught. With my clients, I practice listening, and then I try reflecting back what I think I am hearing you say you want for yourself. I can make a statement about what I think I am hearing from you, and then you can respond to that and tell me I'm wrong, or you can respond to that and tell me I'm right, "and furthermore..."
This practice helps you to further clarify what it is you want, which also helps me get to know you—and help you figure out how to get what you want.
It can be tricky. Things can change, desires can change. It's even possible to lie to yourself about what you want, without even realizing that you're lying to yourself. That's why this practice—of saying out loud what you want, and listening for the stillness—is a practice.
How to find the stillness
The stillness is that quiet, undisturbed place inside you. (Yes, you have a stillness in you, I promise!) It might feel very calm, or it might have a low buzzing energy to it, the warmth of firm resolve.
Noticing this stillness is how you know you're speaking your own words, and not just re-packaging someone else's desires and expectations.
The stillness is a feeling of ease. It doesn't have the same clench to it that you feel in your body when you're trying to fit into a mold, when you're just saying what you think you "should" say.
Maybe you're early in your pregnancy, or maybe you're further along, maybe you don't have anything resembling a birth plan, or maybe you've got everything written out and arranged. It doesn't matter. Try this.
Sit somewhere alone, or somewhere you feel like you can completely zone out (maybe for you that's the park, or your favorite table in a bustling coffee place). Take a few breaths and feel the chair underneath you or the floor or the grass underneath you. Notice the warm places where your hands connect to whatever it is you're touching. This is what it means to get inside your body—it's that easy.
Once you're there, try out a couple of "I want" statements.
I want to have my baby at St. Luke's.
I really want Dr. Barry to attend my birth.
I want to have my baby at home.
I want to make sure we are at a hospital that has a NICU.
You can be very general: I want to go to a birth center. Or be specific: I want to hire the most experienced doula in the region and take the time to get to know her really well before the birth so she can hold my hand at St. Luke's.
Say a few things or say lots of things. The important part is to notice how it feels to have the words coming out of your mouth. Does it feel like you're telling the truth? Do you feel a stillness behind the words?
When you are speaking from the stillness, it's easy to breathe, and you don't accidentally hold your breath or start breathing shallowly. The stillness is the easy, natural place to be.
If you want to know what the stillness is *not* supposed to feel like, try speaking aloud an "I want" statement that you know to be untrue. Say something you don't want. Feel what it feels like.
This is simple, but it's not "easy"
This practice will be a bit of a struggle for you if
- you're out of practice listening to yourself (many of us are)
- you don't have any idea what you truly want
- you think you know what you want, but you don't feel like it's OK for you to want it. (This is super super common. My husband is going to think I'm weak if I ask for an epidural. My mother will freak out if I tell her I want a homebirth.
The possibilities for stress here are limitless. But only one person can birth this baby, and that's you. When you're starting out as a Mom (the first time around or the fifth), there's no greater gift you can give yourself and your family than knowing what you value, and having the courage to stand in the power of that knowledge.
Start your listening practice right away. Check in with yourself for a couple minutes every day and see if you can feel the stillness, the reassuring quiet that lets you know that the path you're on is the one you actually want.
Read various birth stories on the internet and see how different women from different backgrounds are choosing to have their babies. In this way you can educate yourself about all the different ways women are birthing out there in the world, and start learning what your own values are. Use these stories. Pluck out some of the choices you see women making in these stories, and try them on for yourself by turning them into an "I want" statement and seeing how it feels to speak it.
Do you know what you want? Is the "stillness" hard for you to find?