From the Root Up

How can you not think about birth in the spring? It’s everywhere. I mean, besides the obvious local wildlife frivolities that let you know everyone is feeling a little frisky, you’ve got early bulbs blooming and trees sprouting and plants that you haven’t seen since the end of summer unfurling from the dirt. It’s the hour of decorating before the summer party.

It makes me consider how plants, so perfect in their knowledge of what to do when, begin their spring actions from the knowledge somewhere hidden in their unseen root. The root pulls water and minerals from the ground and stores what the plant needs during its dormancy. It doesn’t sprout flowers or leaves itself, but is the base of support for the plant, sending its energy upward and reminding the plant what its job is and when for it to begin. This unseen thing is the power source; the thing that makes the plant what it is.

If we looked at how birth is viewed in our culture and strictly judge its health based on what we could see of the growth and flowering of women and their experiences, what would we see? How would we perceive it? Would we find a healthy root there? Does it allow the plant to effectively blossom? Or is the growth halting and unsure?

So many women I see in class are frightened. They are unfamiliar with birth because it’s a hidden occurrence in our culture now. They are conditioned by fear from the media, confusing research and TV that focuses on terrible outcomes. If they turn to find help in an advocacy group, most often they find ideas on birth for which they aren’t yet prepared and women who are entirely focus only on alternative concepts surrounding birth and parenting, and most often in an accusatory and condescending way. It’s tough for a plant to grow when its root is so confused about what minerals it should be collecting.

The particular yoga class I take focuses on building postures “from the root up.” It’s very meticulous and exacting, places each toe in a proper position, all the way to the soft palate and crown of the head. Sometimes my teacher says seemingly ridiculous things like “float your kidney band up to the ceiling, and then move your side ribs backward” which end up making sense in the context of the moment. And when I’m really paying attention and giving in to the process, I can actually feel my kidney band (whatever that is) floating upward and my side ribs sliding backward. If the posture felt OK before, once I get the root of the posture in place through these subtle and largely mental shifts, it becomes something wonderful.

I propose that our root in birth has to come not from extremes, but from a conscious decision to just be. The intricately built modern extremely medicalized version of birth we have now had its own roots in saving lives but leaves no room for choice. While the root of the culture of extreme birth advocacy grew as a way to find that choice, yet still doesn’t tap the source of nutrients we need to feed a healthy perception of birth. We have to make the subtle shifts in our own individual thoughts and actions that build the culture from the root up, allowing it to flower into the beautiful thing it was meant to be.

Tiny mental shifts, small changes, placing each thought carefully as we move up the body of what we teach about birth: those are the things that make for an effective stance. They are the things that build a healthy source. And before long, it will be spring again.

Ready, set… bloom.