I have been asked to share my work in training classes for Prepared Childbirth. I do this with the awareness that some of you may not have a special interest in the expectant mother, but that you do have an interest in posture, muscles, awareness, structure and the like.
My work is divided into two general areas.
1. The actual physical application of Structural Integration to create the type of body balance taught by Dr. Rolf.
2. Application of the principles of Structural Integration to create what I call Movement Patterns and Exercise Forms that encourage and promote structural awareness in the body.
I wish to cover the latter area in this paper and relate how some of these ideas implement a program in the preparation of expectant mothers for pregnancy and childbirth.
The program consists of a series of ten classes for the mother and six meetings with both husband and wife. It is an emotional and physical preparation of both parents for the birth of their child. For the mother this involves:
Body toning and conditioning exercises
Comfort during pregnancy and labor
Methods of relaxation
Awareness techniques to assist the mother to cooperate with her body during labor
The anatomy and physiology of labor and delivery
Body mechanics and posture
Post partum exercises to promote involution
Since it would be impossible for re to do justice to the whole program I will concern myself with the awareness techniques, and show how they work together with breathing technique to promote relaxation.
Throughout all practical work sessions the addition of viewpoints from the basic premises of Structural Integration are a constant source of improvement upon what would otherwise be just another exercise class. The point of the awareness techniques is to help the mother cooperate with her body during pregnancy and labor. Structural awareness is an easy and natural process to promote in the pregnant woman, but it often comes about the hard way. It is easy and natural because her structural awareness grows as her baby grows. It comes about the hard way since, over a period of nine months she must adapt to several shifts in her center of gravity in order to compensate for the changes taking place in her structure. During the last trimester of pregnancy she must carry around a fifteen pound weight twenty-four hours a day.
The expectant mother is often acutely aware of the changes in her dimensions. She can be troubled by them both physically and emotionally. The non-pregnant usually have an escape hatch. They can “shut off”, “pretend”, “forget” and use any number of devices to go out of communication with their structure. Not so with the expectant. Nature requires that she adapt or pay the consequences of further discomfort. If a confrontation with the nearest mirror isn’t convincing enough, the onset of labor should make the reality clear. She is indeed well motivated to assume a more responsible role during her pregnancy and later during her confinement.
When she can be encouraged to sense and feel and willingly experience her changing body she is better able to live with the challenges these changes will bring. As one young mother put it, “I am much more aware of being pregnant now, but in a good way. I’m more with it. I know about what to expect now, and what I can do to help. I guess what I am trying to say is I am really going to have my baby)” Somehow to me this sounds like, “Giving birth is going to be my experience, not just something that happens to me.
“Getting acquainted with her pregnant self is one of the first steps that the mother must take to promote her structural awareness. I am continually amazed at the number of women who are afraid to touch their growing abdomens) “I’m afraid I’ll hurt the baby,” is a common remark.
Early in our work both parents are encouraged to touch and feel the wife’s abdomen, and for her to experience the sensations of tightness, firmness and pressure on the abdominal wall. Throughout this we are simply suggesting that she “feel the feelings.” Move into them rather than away from them.
Most students report that prior to this exercise in awareness they had interpreted these sensations as uncomfortable, and had tended to withdraw from them. Now they could see that this had contributed to their discomfort. By this time they are beginning to entertain the notion that resistance is capable of producing discomfort.
As pregnancy advances, what we call the “practice contractions” of the uterus can be more readily felt by the mother. Once again, she is asked to “feel the feelings”, to feel the differences between the movements of the baby and the more subtle movement of the uterus itself.