What the yoga of non-attachment can teach us about birth

Aparigraha “non-attachment”

Aparigraha is the 5th Yama (restraint/control) in the Ashtanga (eight-fold) path of Yoga. The concept of Aparigraha has several meanings, the most literal translation is non-possessiveness in reference to belongings or people.

I also believe it to mean a non-attachment to outcomes, releasing our attachment to the way we think things are supposed to go.

It’s letting go of not just physical possessions, but negative energy, limiting beliefs, painful memories, fears and insecurities.

There is a glorious freedom that comes with letting go, but it isn’t always easy. If we’re talking about something intangible, it first requires that we bring these thoughts or feelings to the surface. We have to sit with them first, feel all that negative shit before we can truly release the painful memories, energy and fears.

What does all this have to do with birth?

Frequently we cling to an idea of what our birth needs to look like as if our womanhood depends on it.

When it doesn’t happen the way we intended or planned, we’re disappointed and often heartbroken.

Then we might go on with our “busyness” of new mama life and we don’t think about it very much until months or years later. Sometimes it might not hit us until we’re in a subsequent pregnancy or thinking about birth for a second or third time.

Sometimes the pain emerges in a moment of sleep-deprivation, or it comes to the surface in the form of an overwhelming wave of anxiety or depression.

I’ve seen this happen after my own experience with my first birth and then with many of my students.

I obsessed over every single detail of my first birth, pouring over birth plans and reading natural birth stories. I became so attached to this concept of a dream hypnobirth. I practiced the self-hypnosis, I meditated, and fell asleep to the sound of hypnotracks. I walked my dog and listened to the affirmations over and over again.

I ended up being completely let-down when I had an emergency c-section after 36 hours of unmedicated labor. I felt powerless and betrayed by my body.

After 3 ½ years, I understand that the reason I was trying to fiercely control my birth was because I felt like I didn’t have control of anything else!

At the time, I had no clue if my now-husband and I  would eventually get married, move in together or if our relationship would even make it.

Wanting complete control over my birth was how I coped with my surprise pregnancy and the uncertainty of everything in my life.


Each birth is unique

There are different reasons for every woman why she desires a certain birth, and they are intensely personal.

Some of my students have adopted a very laid back attitude of birth and the only commitment they make is to go with the flow and birth a healthy baby.

Admittedly, I envy these women. I want so bad to be the laid back mama with the attitude of flexibility and agility!

This is not me though. I’m predisposed and vulnerable to anxiety and it takes constant work at my meditation practice to not let my anxious mind takeover.

All births are different - some are extremely quick and intense, some are long and agonizing and some women have described their births as blissful or even orgasmic. It’s important that we emphasize the variation and very personal experiences of each birth to each woman.


Thoughts on the Natural Birth Community

Despite my experience, I am still a HUGE fan of a woman’s right to choose to birth her baby how she feels intuitively called to.

I love the natural birth movement and the amazing women who who have led the way. I coach my students through labor preparation, breath, movement and meditation so that they can possibly experience a natural birth if that’s what they want!

However, I also recognize that medical intervention is sometimes necessary and I am so incredibly grateful for my OB and the team of nurses and anesthesiologists who kept me and my babies safe.

How we move forward

I believe there is a way to educate yourself and to prepare, while knowing that no matter how much you will something to happen, no matter how much you want to control the outcome, that there are bigger forces at play.

Know that you will still be a bad-ass GODDESS even if your birth doesn't go as you planned or hoped. 

We need to be talking about birth with women in a more realistic way.

We need to encourage them to embrace the unknown and know that they may experience fear and pain instead of only “pure bliss.” And all of these are OK!!

Finally, I want to remind you, lovely mama...do not let anyone ever tell you that you shouldn’t speak about your birth if it was traumatic or if you feel let down or if you feel your body failed you.

You are allowed to feel, you are allowed to speak and you should be heard.

Allow yourself to feel. If grief is what you’re feeling or a loss for what could have been, feel that. Let it pour out of you.

It is only then that you’ll be able to truly let go.

Do not suffer alone Mama! If you have experienced birth trauma, I strongly encourage you to talk to a Licensed Counselor who specializes in Prenatal and Postnatal birth trauma and Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. If you need help finding resources, please email me at lauren@laurengibbonsyoga.com.

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