A guide to pregnancy and childbirth
To the children of humanity, whose innocent hands hold the future of our world
A Conscious Pregnancy
The creative impulse of life is the most powerful force in the universe. Mysterious and inexplicable, it is more substantial than matter, subtler than thought, and more enduring than time. Since the beginning of humanity we have sought explanations of how life emerges from inanimate elements. Despite the unraveling of the genetic code, life remains as much a mystery now as in ancient times.
The perennial wisdom traditions tell us that archetypal gods and goddesses brought us forth in their image so that we could re-create and honor them in our image. Science ponders the organizing principles that seduce atoms into molecules, molecules into complex biochemicals, and biochemicals into self-replicating systems. Do life-forms exist to reproduce DNA molecules or do DNA molecules exist to reproduce life-forms? Whether you see the universe as personal or impersonal, from a spiritual or a scientific perspective, you have to marvel at the animating vital force that orchestrates the creation of all living beings.
The universe is re-created in every individual life. Birth and death are merely parentheses in the never-ending story of creation. Each human birth holds the promise of adventure, drama, love, and loss. In the process of creation, the universal ocean of love temporarily flows in rivers of individuality seeking their return to the source. Your baby’s conception and birth are the first pages of a new tale—the first steps on her path through this world of infinite possibilities.
Our book, Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives, is a celebration of birth—an exultation of each flower of individuality that blooms on the tree of life. The magic and the mystery of life’s creative process enable each individual and each new generation to recapitulate the entire history of life while seeking ever-new expressions. As your baby takes her first breath and the umbilical cord is cut, she becomes an individual. She separates from your body and formally begins her journey of self-discovery. Intuition and research clearly show us that long before your baby is launched through the birth canal, she has begun exploring her own personhood.
Your baby’s sense of self-awareness dawns early as she grows inside your watery womb. As soon as her sensory awareness develops, she perceives and responds to subtle sounds, sensations, sights, tastes, and smells from inside your body. Your interpretations of the world filter through your body to your unborn baby. She readily learns to associate her experiences with feelings and emotions and has pleasures and discomforts of her own. For nine months while your baby is linked to you as her mother ship, she is continually tapping into your database of the world. Your baby learns to associate sensory impulses with feelings and identifies those that bring nourishment and those that feel toxic. Life learning clearly begins before birth.
This book is designed for pregnant women, their partners, women who wish to become pregnant, and for anyone who wants to participate in the wondrous process of bringing new life into this world. We have also sought to include information for people whose work addresses the common childhood problems of modern life—teachers, counselors, therapists, and health providers will find this book invaluable. This is not simply a book about fetal health, for we believe that the knowledge provided can improve the health of society at large. The suffering, depression, and crime that surround us each day are strong statements about a loss of balance between body, mind, and spirit. This loss often starts at the very beginning of a life before birth. The tendency toward a balanced state of health and wholeness and the tendency to lose this intrinsic but delicate balance are both present in seed form at the moment of conception.
The book has been incubating in our hearts and minds for many years. In caring for people at the Chopra Center with a wide range of imbalances and illnesses, we have learned that experiences are metabolized into biology. We can heal our bodies by making different choices. Many of our patients and guests express the wish that they had received guidance on living a balanced life as children. Through extensive research we became aware that developing human beings learn about life and the world even while in the womb, and the choices made by their parents have lasting effects. To put this knowledge into practice, we developed the Magical Beginnings birth education program and have trained prenatal educators around the world. Our experience in teaching Magical Beginnings to pregnant couples at the Chopra Center has convinced us that the principles and practices presented in this book can profoundly enhance the experience of pregnancy and birth for both the parents and the baby.
Experiences long before birth affect and mold personality. A baby can show the signs of stress even before he or she is born. Feelings and desires are shaped by our intrauterine experiences. Science has demonstrated that every wisp of experience is metabolized into the substance of our minds and bodies, both before and after we are born into this world. Nourishing experiences from conception through life are transformed into healthy bodies and healthy minds, while toxic experiences create unhealthy ones.
Health is not the mere absence of disease; it is a state of physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being. We can even go further and define health as a higher state of consciousness, in which we recognize that the same field of intelligence that underlies our life underlies every living being. In a true state of health, we become incapable of hurting others or ourselves. To achieve this state it is important that we feel loved, nourished, secure, contented, and happy, right from the beginning. From the moment of conception, the unborn baby experiences the thoughts and actions of her mother. This is because mind and body are inseparably one. Wherever a thought goes, a molecule follows. The impulses in our minds are instantly translated into a palette of neurochemicals. These chemicals communicate with cells and tissues throughout our body. The unborn baby is a part of her mother’s body. Therefore, a mother’s thoughts, emotions, and feelings translate into molecules that enter into the body of her fetus.
You and your baby are continuously sharing each other’s molecules and experiences. This dynamic exchange of information and these chemical messengers are the codes of communication between your heart and mind and the heart and mind of your unborn baby. The start of a rich emotional life begins as early as conception. The choices that you make as a mother are key to providing the best beginning, and your expanded awareness is the key to making the best choices. In this book, we hope to bring into the awareness of all parents the understanding that their choices, interpretations, and experiences before, during, and after pregnancy play an essential role in the development of healthy and happy children. By making nourishing choices, you can ensure that your baby is receiving the basic elements to create a healthy body, mind, and spirit.
In this book we regularly refer to the profound insights of the ancient wisdom sciences of Ayurveda. This five-thousand-year-old system of natural medicine with its origins in ancient India reminds us that human beings are, in essence, spiritual. Acknowledging this, we can begin to grasp the sacred responsibility of conceiving, carrying, and caring for our children. We also bring to light remarkable information from modern science that clearly tells us that experience and learning begin well before we take our first breath. The integration of these two different perspectives gives us the tools to ensure that our children are nourished by our thoughts, words, and actions. We are spiritual beings who have learned to manufacture physical forms. Although for the span of a lifetime we disguise ourselves as individual people, our essential nature remains that of unbounded consciousness . . . of pure potentiality . . . of Spirit. When you invite a soul into your life by conceiving a baby, you are assuming a sacred trust to love and nourish a divine impulse that is manifesting humanity. We are all expressions of that same unified field of existence, so creating a child is ultimately creating another statement of ourselves. The love and caring that we give to our children is an extension of the nurturing we give to ourselves. If we aim to create a nonviolent world, we must begin with love and nourishment in the womb.
Our world is complex and dynamic. At any one moment, we can point to situations and circumstance that give rise to great hope or great despair. There are regions on this planet where creativity, abundance, and spirituality are blooming and other spots where poverty, violence, and suffering are pervasive. Whatever the situation, we can be certain that all hope for the future resides in how we nurture our children. We have inherited everything we know from those who have preceded us and we have a choice as to what we pass along to the next generation. If we unconsciously perpetuate in our children the conflicts and misunderstandings that we inherited, we will have missed an opportunity to change the world. If, on the other hand, we expand our awareness to embrace compassion, unity, and love, we can genuinely reshape this world. The latter will ensure that our children will know themselves as the glorious, spiritual beings they are.
As loving parents, we all have one essential desire for our children: we wish for them to be happy. Recognizing this, we offer this guide to conscious parenting. We invite you to share our hope that all children will be blessed with enchanted lives—and we bring you this book in hopes of helping to create a healthier, more loving world.
Personalizing This Book
Every journey has the potential to take you beyond the limits of your mind to a deep place within your heart. As you travel through this book you will encounter many exercises designed to support your personal growth. Chapters include journaling, drawing, and visualization exercises designed to be playful opportunities for self-discovery. We believe that pregnancy can be a time of profound spiritual awakening as you listen deeply to the intuitive wisdom available in both your mind and body.
Journaling Your Pregnancy
When the mind is clear
You can see all the way
To the heart.
We suggest that you take some time every day of your pregnancy to jot down a few paragraphs about how you feel. Even on days when you believe you have nothing to say, take a few moments to write down your thoughts. Some women create a specific time each day to write, while others carry a journal with them, writing when they feel inspired. Let your journal be a truthful expression of your experiences. You might be inspired to draw pictures or doodle in your journal. Remain open to what comes to you.
Journaling will help you gain insights into your thoughts and feelings. Listening to your inner dialogue, you will connect to your baby and to deeper places inside you. Journaling can aid you in becoming more present in life. Far too often people look outside themselves to discover who they are, seeking out teachers, lectures, and workshops for the answers to the questions about how they are supposed to feel. Through journaling, you can tap into the flow of inner wisdom, insights, and answers that are accessible deep in your own being. As you attend to yourself in this way, you will be more conscious of your unborn baby’s development and witness yourself blossoming as a parent.
Here’s an example of a journal entry of a woman five months pregnant with her first child:
My Dear Angel,
You have been kicking and playing all day today inside my belly. Each kick brings my awareness to you. Throughout the day I close my eyes and give you all of my attention. I feel deeply connected to you already—it is hard to describe exactly how. It feels like I am thinking, imagining, feeling, connecting, and experiencing telepathy with you all in one. It is really an amazing feeling.
My belly is getting bigger each day. I love it when I look at my naked body in the mirror. Your dad looks at me in complete delight, which makes me feel sensual and womanly.
Your father is going to be such a great dad. You are going to love him. He drew a picture of you, himself, and me yesterday. We all have the biggest smiles and you are in the middle. Around us he wrote words describing all the different feelings we have had over the past few months. It describes the excitement of you coming and our worries about such a big change. It is a great picture. I am going to frame it and hang it in your room.
I love you,
Listening is a form of accepting.
—STELLA TERRILL MANN
Close your eyes and pay attention to how it feels to have a baby growing in your body. Become aware of your joys, concerns, and fears. Write them down without holding back. Don’t worry about your spelling or grammar. Enjoy yourself! Light some incense or diffuse an aroma. Put on some favorite music. You may discover feelings that you haven’t acknowledged before. Some of these feelings may even surprise you. Be open to and write about whatever comes to you.
Insight Through Drawing
Creating images and drawings to express your feelings and experiences can also be a powerful way to access your inner self. Pictures can bypass verbal language to directly reveal inner thoughts and emotions about your pregnancy, birth, and unborn baby. Although it is not uncommon for people to resist engaging in drawing, we encourage you simply to try the process. As a child you may have shut down drawing as a means for creative expression because you weren’t as talented as you may have wanted to be, but drawing is an amazing avenue for personal growth. Give yourself permission not to be perfect. Allow your creativity to be expressed through your hands. Let yourself be wild and free. Find the childlike space inside you that loves to color and draw. Take out your crayons, chalk, paints, and clay. Release your inner critic and let yourself play. Obtain a journal or notebook to write and draw in. Find one that will allow you to be free and spontaneous. Keep some pens, colored pencils, and markers handy. As insights emerge and your creative forces flow, jot down the thoughts and images that come to mind.
When people’s eyes are open
They see landscapes in the outer world.
When people’s eyes are closed,
They see landscapes with their mind’s eye.
People spend hours looking at outer landscapes,
But there is just as much to see
In inner landscapes.
—MICHAEL AND NANCY SAMUELS
Creative imagination is the process of invoking sensory experiences on the screen of your consciousness. Creative-imagination exercises offered throughout this book will enable you to connect deeply with your own body and your unborn baby. They can also help reduce stress during your pregnancy.
Each of us has inner experiences that are not visible from the outside; images, thoughts, and memories float through our awareness throughout the day. Although we usually refer to this process as visualization, any of the five senses may be involved. You may conjure up sounds, sensations, tastes, and smells in addition to visual images. When asked to remember your childhood home, for example, you might recall the shape of your piano, the soft texture of your favorite pillow, or the delicious flavors and fragrances of your mother’s cooking. Entire scenes may come to life as you recall a particular circumstance or event. Your body and mind react to internal experiences much the way they react to external ones. Abundant psychological research demonstrates that your autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating involuntary physiological functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, hormone levels, and immune function, reacts to imaginary or recalled events just as if they were occurring in the actual world of forms and phenomena. If you vividly imagine relaxing at the beach, your body releases the same chemical messengers that are produced when you are actually enjoying a day at the shore. If you intensely recall an upsetting event, your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and metabolic processes respond as if you were encountering that stressful circumstance in real time. Using creative imagination, you can choose the happier event, accessing your inherent creative power to invoke healing, centering, and relaxation.
We believe in the power of imagination. Throughout this book we will invite you to exercise that talent, and like any skill, it will improve as you practice it. We may invite you to envision your baby growing inside your body or have you generate an image of how you’d like to see yourself in labor. Through creative imagination you will enhance your connection with your unborn baby long before she is in your arms. As you use your imagination, you will discover that you have the ability to create just about anything you want.
Pregnancy is a path that will take you beyond your mind and body. It will enliven your compassion and reveal the most intimate truths of your soul. This book is about discovering your heart and finding your path. Each step along the way is unique to you. Enjoy the journey.
We’ll begin at the beginning of life—when two cells fuse and the spark that’s generated ignites the fire of a new being.