Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Letter to My Daughter


This is a beautifully written letter by a HypnoBirthing mother to her daughter about her birth experience. Please share it with your friends who are expecting a baby & those that are thinking about having a baby. I think women need to know that they can have an empowering, wonderful, peaceful birth!

A Letter to My Daughter by Flavia Goncalves

Praising and mirroring the actions of women who are rupturing tradition, transforming taboos, or just simply excelling in their fields, helps us lay a foundation for a better, more respectful world for our daughters. The problem is that on the individual level, many women don't believe they possess what it takes to be a role model. I, for one, was one of them.

Unique women are unique because they believe in what they stand for. If I can get this message across to my daughter alone, I will consider my job done.

Dear baby girl,

Your name is Luma. It comes from the Latin word lumen, and it means light, illuminated, sparkle of life. Where I am from, to give birth ("dar a luz") means to give life. However, in our case, I believe it happened the other way around. In the miraculous moment of your birth, I was truly born. I learned that you were growing inside me a few days before Christmas. Although I do not observe any particular religious faith, I believe that you were sent to me as a gift. The motherly instincts I didn't imagine I had surfaced immediately; you became my reason to be. The first time I heard your heart beat, I shivered with emotion. When I saw you on the first sonogram, I cried. I was in a constant state of joy. My belly grew bigger as you grew inside me. I remember one particular night, when I was lying in bed reading; you suddenly slid your little foot across my belly. I placed my hand where I had felt you and you kicked again. We had discovered a game which we played quite often, for you were a very active baby. The more my belly grew the happier and prettier I felt.

Other than being very sleepy in the beginning and at the final months, the pregnancy itself was an easy one. Given that I was feeling good and everything seemed to be going well, your father and I asked the doctor about our chances of having a natural birth. The doctor was very supportive. He agreed that I was having a normal and healthy pregnancy and our chances of a successful natural birth were high.

Labor pain? Yes, I did think about it. I guess this issue crosses the mind of every single pregnant woman. It will probably cross yours too someday. Fear of pain. There was nothing I could do about the pain, but there was something I could do about fear and so I did. I found a HypnoBirthing coach and I followed her instructions diligently, every day, many times a day. I knew she could help me. HypnoBirthing, or Hypnosis, is nothing more than a deep state of concentration. I practiced meditation and relaxation. I repeated my affirmations (a long list of beliefs) morning, afternoon and evening. I worked on slow long deep breaths. My confidence grew stronger every single day and the fear vanished.

I was met with skepticism and disapproval from several friends and family. First, several people didn't know what hypnosis was all about and were skeptical of me trying it. Second, my birth choice caused alarm; after all, c-sections in Miami are expected by most. Miami's c-section rates are among the highest in the USA and the developed countries. Friends and family from Sao Paulo also were puzzled. C-section rates there are the highest in the world! To my disappointment, some people tried to discourage me by describing horrible birth stories; others would just say that I would never be able to withstand the pain, that I just would not be able to do it. The truth is, Luma, that I did not know. I couldn't know what the outcome would be. But I didn't get discouraged.

At this point, you must be thinking how brave and courageous your mommy is, but I wasn't. This is where you come in. During my entire life, I rarely took credit for my successes, or believed in my capabilities, and worse yet, several times I didn't stand up for myself when I should have. But in this case, I was doing it for you. Without blinking, I would do it a thousand times for you. The new me had been conceived. A world of possibilities opened up to me.

While my doctor was genuinely supportive of my birth choice, I found out too late that his practice colleagues were not as agreeable. Therefore, I decided to change doctors. Because the pregnancy was very advanced, no other practice risked taking me in. I was disappointed, of course, but still determined. So I took a leap of faith. You were already thirty-six weeks old when I left the practice.

I put you and myself into the care of Miriam, our midwife. I felt an immediate relief the minute I stepped in the Maternity Center. Miriam was nurturing, calm, and never condescending. She empathized with my situation and was willing to help me, even if that meant finding another doctor. Miriam just felt right and I stuck with her. To make matters even better, Miriam offered water births, an option that was very attractive to me. You were forty and a half weeks old, in position and very low, but still pretty comfortable inside.

To help you, I went on long walks, scrubbed the bath tub, and swam every day. Until one day my laps in the pool were interrupted by this tightening on my belly, that wouldn't stop. Calmly, I told your dad, who was swimming next lane over, that time had arrived. We went home, I took a long shower, your grandma gathered things we needed to take, and after Miriam checked my progress we all went to the Maternity Center. The ambiance of our room at the Birthing Center was perfect: it was calm, soothing music played, the lights were dimmed, and there were few candles flickering. I sat in bed and concentrated on slow long breaths and pretty soon I fell asleep. Yes, I fell asleep. When I finally woke up, the contractions were almost back to back and very intense. It was time to get into the water and just as I did I felt a difference. I was really aware of my body and you and the changes that were quickly taking place. Nonetheless, I lost notion of time. During the breaks between contractions, I relaxed so much that I would fall into a deep sleep and even have dreams. Grandma held my head while I drifted off. Your father was my link to a regular state of consciousness; he kept me hydrated; he caressed my belly. I never felt pain, except for a couple of times when I had to pipi, first, because the power of gravity outside of the water was tremendous, second, because, I couldn't concentrate on the surges and do pipi at the same time. Otherwise, things were happening as I pictured they would.

When I felt it was time I asked your dad to fetch Miriam. Your grandma had already positioned herself, my back towards her; she held my head and caressed my hair. Now your dad plunged into the water in front of me. He described the evolution of your birth, his voice trembled with ecstasy. Sometimes emotion took over him and all he could say was, "Oh, my God, Oh my God!" His happiness and pride strengthened me. Miriam was also a key person, as a HypnoBirthing coach herself, she knew when I was losing concentration and would bring me right back. We all worked together. When you were ready to come out, your dad's hands were there to hold you. Then he placed you on my chest. I never knew I could love so much. While I was holding and looking at you mesmerized, your grandma whispered in my ear, "You and your daughter were born at exactly the same hour: 4:10am." I smiled at the coincidence and thought to myself that you had given me a second chance to actually live. I was proud!

I was so proud and happy. If I had to put in just a few words what your birth experience felt like, I would say that it was the most intense physical and spiritual experience I have ever lived. Such an empowering experience still resonates. I am a different person. I live life to the fullest. I invite challenge, I face my fears, and I take advantage of opportunities. I am still human, though. Sometimes I am scared, sometimes I fail, and sometimes I make mistakes. So forgive me, because I will fail you. I will make mistakes, but I promise to always love you. I promise that I will work everyday to be a better and stronger person than I was yesterday. I promise to be a role model to you, so you can grow up as a strong, confident woman. I promise to live my dreams, because I want you to live yours.

Love always, Mom.

My story is an account of what we can do or what we can become if we truly believe in ourselves. It describes what happens when we free ourselves from outside judgment and pre-conceived beliefs. In my case, believing in me has caused a chain-reaction of self accomplishments. After birthing my daughter naturally, in the water and without pain, when many around me considered it impossible, I engaged in many other challenging activities. I started running and became a marathon runner and a triathlete. Currently I am training for a half ironman (a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 run event). I also went back to school and took up art classes. I plan to flourish in the art world. Lastly, after twenty years I started writing again.

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