People generally look confused, sometimes surprised when I tell them I use my art therapy degree to help improve people’s chances of getting pregnant, the health of their pregnancies and their birth outcomes. Here are the reasons I think that’s true:
- The idea of creating “art” seems intimidating after the age of 8.
- Isn’t art therapy for children/people who can’t speak/ intensely traumatized people?
- It feels totally unrelated to our very medical idea of birth.
But the truth is, we need to be paying more attention to the mental health of mamas and babies just as much as the physical health. The New York Times posted a powerful article about prenatal depression last Sunday. Postpartum Depression affects an estimated 11-25% of mothers (depending on who you ask), higher for low-income families. This is about 1.3 million women compared to the 800,000 who will be diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes (something we screen everyone for.) We also know that when mamas are stressed out during pregnancy they have children with higher rates of anxiety disorders and other seemingly unrelated issues (like heart problems).
It’s a big deal. Why are we only worried about having mother and child breathing on the other side of the birth-day and nothing else? People are starting to understand what some midwives and wise women have known intuitively for decades and centuries: what we think is not separate from what our bodies do. They are one and the same. The Internationally renown midwife Ina May talks about the effect of safety and emotions on having a safe labor. Pam England talks about in Birthing From Within how creating art can help your labor and postpartum go smoothly.
Creating art during conception and pregnancy can help you:
- Reveal subconscious obstacles to getting pregnant or having an empowered birth.
- Bring relaxation.
- Find your voice – what you really need and express it.
- Visualize what birth or pregnancy will be like (visualizing helps you reach your goal -ask any athlete!)
- Get around your conscious thoughts of what you should think, feel or do and get to the root of what you really think, feel or want.
Here are a few examples of how art has helped me and clients understand ourselves, our bodies and our births much better.
I realized during my 40th week of pregnancy that I still hadn’t fully grieved my miscarriage. I was having ltos of prodromal labor or Braxton Hicks for blocks of 4 or 5 hours at a time and it was making me nuts! I carved out an hour of time to just “draw it”. Whatever that meant. I ended up with an image of a couple sitting, and a rainbow going from their lap to the heavens. I cried for an hour and felt so much relief. all my pre-labor stopped until I went into labor 5 days labor. It was hugely powerful for me to grieve that to be able to have the super smooth labor I did.
Amy was in my Holistic Pregnancy Retreat Day – the first one I did. I asked everyone to draw a mandala of what they wanted for their birth. (Mandalas are circular images lots of cultures use to represent the universe. You can fill them with whatever you like. Often they have repeating geometrically features.) She explained that she had a hard time not envisioning a clock while drawing her empowered birth. She in fact, had drawn a clock – with images at the edge of her circle at 12, 3, 6, and 9. When we asked her why she said “I guess I’m feeling like I have to have the perfect, short labor and birth. My friends are OBs and they think I’m crazy for wanting to have an unmedicated birth.” We were able to help her see that there is no such thing as a “perfect birth” and that no matter how her labor went, her friends were unlikely to change their minds. Even if it went “perfectly” they’d probably say she was a weird exception. This brought a lot of relief and she was able to feel much less pressure going into birth.
Nichole was getting ready for her 3rd un-medicated birth. She and I worked together for awhile during pregnancy and she confessed one day she had been doing lots and lots of unnecessary shopping. She was accumulating tons of stuff and didn’t know why. I asked her to do a drawing of herself as “the pregnant woman”. When we talked about how small her drawing was, what she didn’t like about it and what was missing from this woman (her hands for example), she was able to see that what she felt was missing was her grandmother (who had attended her previous 2 births before passing on a few years before.) She was trying to fill up that support gap with stuff. She was so relieved. We found a way to incorporate her grandmother into her birth preparation and labor and she went on to have an amazing and smooth labor and delivery.
Jen was trying to get pregnant and feeling like something was off emotionally. There was stress from her job, the pressure to get pregnant and also the weird knowledge that nothing was “technically wrong” with her that would prevent pregnancy. I asked her to draw “Conception as a landscape”. She sketched a neat little scene with a shining sun, blue sky and rolling green hills. When we talked about it she said the word that kept coming to mind was “cultivated” rather than organic or wild nature. This was a comfort to her as we talked about how she is cultivating the a fertile mindset as well as a fertile body. We also talked about her use of crayons and how it made her feel connected to “her 7 year old self”. When we talked about being a seven year old she told a story of talking to God on the school bus and hearing from him. Her mother had unknowingly told her that she was just hearing things. We realized together that what she is now cultivating is her connection to God and the spirit – being able to listen to her intuition and trust he is taking her down the right path.
Here’s how you can get started using art to get in touch with your emotional obstacles to conception or an empowered birth.
DIY isn’t for everyone – it takes a village to not only raise a child but raise a mama too. Schedule Your Blissful Mama Breakthrough Session and let me guide you.