Yes or No?

In talking about birth, we need to talk about boundaries.

Boundaries are not so much about “telling people what you need” or saying “no”. They are, first and foremost, an energetic decision. I mean that you have a base level of what you expect and allow in every area of your life. Boundaries are the edges of these expectations. Ultimately, boundaries are worthiness measures and tests. Boundaries define (to yourself and those around you) what you will or won’t allow.

An easy example is earning money. You know that you should receive a certain amount for the work that you do—whether it’s a per hour rate or price per project. If you have bargain pricing and don’t feel like you can charge much, you may get people coming and asking for even further discounts. However, if you’re comfortable with charging a bit more and genuinely feel they reflect the quality of your work, then you probably won’t deal with many discount-chasing hagglers. People just perceive that you’re worth it and pay accordingly. When a boundary is well established, you won’t even need to use words to communicate it. It’s an air that you walk in—a softness, assuredness and grace.

Job offers are another example. When I decided to focus on this birth business, I started getting job offers out of the blue. Twice I’ve been offered well-paid job working for a really incredible prior manager of mine. He offered me good money, flexible hours, a part-time load, and I could work from home sometimes. It was very everything...well almost everything!

This job also meant I’d have no time or energy to work on this business, my son would have needed to go into childcare and I wasn’t particularly passionate about the job’s subject matter.

I said no, twice. After you stretch and commit to a “new normal” you’ll often notice little tests come up. I didn’t know where this calling would lead me. I felt unsure, but I knew I needed to keep on. And I did—this is the result. But my boundaries were tested in the process.

It’s the same with pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Because of how BIG the transition is, and all of the unleveling that comes along with it, you’re shedding old stories and ways of doing things. You’re being reborn, in a way. Not in a salvation sense, but in an experiential way. It can be a very disorientating time, but it’s also extremely rich with opportunity.

So, back to boundaries. Boundaries are what we can put in place around those things we want or don’t want. Some of these boundaries are embedded in us since we were born. But we can also shift, change and improve our limits to, for example, to become less worried about what others think and make choices inline with our desires.

We are whole. That’s what God wants us to experience. 

What I’ve noticed often happens in pregnancy, as I’ve mentioned, is that it’s a very expansive time for women. They are up-levelling and about to come into such a flow, happiness and blessing. Yet, pregnancy is often a trying time. I think it’s less physical than we think. One of the hardest parts of pregnancy are the tests.

St Paul says that, “…we rejoice in [pressure*], knowing that [pressure*] produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5) *The word here is translated from thlibo meaning pressure.

We come into tests in pregnancy. This is a good thing. Our life will keep giving us tests in any areas where we are settling for less than abundance because of a lack mindset.

Tests may be triggers, where we get emotionally activated into strong negative emotions like frustration, anger, sadness, grief, overwhelm etc, and it’s usually a stronger reaction than the situation itself warrants. That’s a clue. Or it might be a compromise test where a person (or people) want you to compromise your boundary to accommodate them and make them feel more comfortable.

In business, it’s giving someone a discount when you don’t really want to. In pregnancy, it might be getting an ultrasound that you don’t want to get because a doctor said it was the “only safe way” or telling someone the gender of your baby because they “really need to know”, even though you wanted to keep it a secret. 

It’s basically going against your God-given conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit, into a direction that feels contracted or like you’re making yourself small in some way.

I was tested a lot in my first pregnancy when I told my mum and dad that I wanted to give birth at home. And rightly so, I guess. I welcome those challenges, because they invited me to become more convicted, not less. It was never about the safety of my birth location…I wasn’t sure if I was truly worthy of the birth I authentically desired. I was still figuring it out with the Lord. So, what did I do? I politely stopped talking to them about how I was going to give birth. I focused my attention on reading, watching and listening to birth stories. At the same time, we started putting about $150 a week into our birth account. Guess who I turned to when I was ready to start labour? God. Guess who I reached out to when I felt frustrated and stuck in labour? God, and he showed me what to do next. The result? I had a “textbook perfect birth” my midwife said. Now, for subsequent pregnancies, guess who never questions my birth choices? My mum and dad.

Getting clear on what you want, is as much about picturing what you desire and it is about deciding what you don’t want. We all know people who say, “yeah I’m totally okay with how my birth went” and you just know they’re in denial about it. They’re not convinced and therefore not convincing. They may want to be convinced (probably why they’re telling you and others) but they’re truly not yet. If they were, they wouldn’t need to say they are. It would just be a pleasant inner knowing that gently shines out of them like a heart-secret. It would be so deeply in, that you wouldn’t question it. This is where you need to aim for your birth. 

I’m not talking about defensively sketching up a birth plan, slapping it on a hospital door or in a midwife’s lap and insisting everything goes to plan. This may seem like a “natural birth approach” but it’s a sheep in wolves clothing. The plan says “natural”, and maybe it says all the “right things” but this is really a form of fear-control. We actually need to feel in control in labour. But it’s not fear-control, it’s love-control. Self control! This makes us feel like we’re reigning over our feelings (a good thing) and that we can reorganise them to make them meaningful. This is an important skill if labour starts to feel intense. 

It’s not that birth plans are useless either. They can be useful, absolutely. But it has to be done last. Do the deeper work first. 

You know you’re getting into boundaries if a choice feels vulnerable, challenging, painful to make, then immediately afterwards you get relief, weight lifted off feeling, and a buzz of pride in yourself. 

Practically it could look like:

— Not speaking about your birth plan to family members who are unsupportive or who triggers you
— Choosing not to tell someone information about your baby out of pity for them 
— Having a conversation with your manager and being transparent about your desire to not return after birth or your desire to take X months off
— Not allowing people to share negative birth experiences with you, “I’m sorry, I want to be respectful, but I’m not willing to hear about challenging or painful birth experiences at the moment”

I can’t tell you what you want for your birth or on your birth plan. That’s part of the tricky thing. That’s not my place. For me, discovering what I want is about launching myself wholeheartedly in the direction that turns me on and lights me up. There’s a dance between letting go and holding on. The Holy Spirit guides you. 

Women give birth well everyday, it’s just not seen or shared because it doesn’t fit the overarching narrative that birth is an emergency waiting to happen. It’s really not. 

Do you know that countries that trust big, have the biggest GDP? Where the value of trust is highest, economic blessing follows suit. I believe this is because we’re made to trust. Belief & hope and faith & trust are the emotional states that our body works best within. When we unblock unbelief, pockets of hopelessness, fear, or mistrust, then all that remains is trust. Well, and love, hope, peace… all those good things. When those learnt limits move out of the way, all that remains is what’s real, true and good. 

We need to know our desires to put boundaries in place. How do we uncover our desires? Well, usually it’s easier to start with the opposite—what we don’t want. A friend of mine recently made a controversial decision to not attend her family’s traditional Christmas celebration. She and her husband had felt drained for the last three years after Christmas. And after an unexpected pregnancy in the prior year, they decided that this year’s catchup wasn’t a good fit for them. So, they booked a beach holiday in one of their favourite parts of the world. Whether or not you agree with this life choice, I want you to see what’s going on here with boundaries. She decided what she didn’t want first—another emotionally and physically draining Christmas—then sought what she did want. She checked in with herself to make sure she wasn’t trying to hide, run away or disengage from life. Her conscious was clear. So she booked it. Her extended family did push back (a test), but she didn’t apologise or change their plans.

It’s always your right to decide what you will and won’t do in pregnancy and birth. You don’t owe anyone a traditional birth experience. You don’t need to say yes to anything that goes against your conscious, inner knowing or beliefs. Boundaries are not about shutting out the world, never making ourselves available to people, or avoiding hard things. They are about deciding what you won’t settle for anymore. “No” is one of the most magnetic words. 

Even in labour, if you decide to surround yourself with others, you have to be willing to decide what you want them to do and don’t want them to do.

As I said above, the core of boundaries is worthiness. When I was pregnant with my first child and planning a home birth, I was met with resistance from my mum and dad. “But safety Steph? Medical help? Pain? You live in a great country with medical help…why not use it? You might need it.”

I chose to birth at home because:
— I knew birth was inherently safe.
— I trusted the midwives I chose to be with me.
— I felt safer in my space than in a location with people I didn’t know and systems I didn’t trust.
— I wanted to!

Remember: Interventions can work against or slow down the natural flow of labour. Be aware of your boundaries in pregnancy, and decide what you want and don’t want. Then, expect them to be tested, and expect to win.

Journal Prompts

Whenever I’ve spoken to women with regrets about their birth, they always regret giving their power away. Always. In other words, they let someone slip past one of their boundaries, instead of staying true to their inner knowing. It’s never truly about the medical intervention. Yes, it’s not ideal to have a caesarean if you planned a natural birth, for example. But it’s giving our power away that it what really makes us feel bad. It’s that self-betrayal that really hurts.

So, we’re going to dig into some of these boundary issues now and see what we uncover. Then, in the next section we’ll used a Guided Imagining to get clarity and clear out any debris.

Questions:

  • Can you think of a time during this pregnancy when someone crossed a boundary you had? (If you can’t locate one, find a time when you felt angry by someone’s actions. Anger can be the alarm your body sends when a boundary is crossed).
  • Do you have any examples of people wanting to make your pregnancy or birth process as predictable as possible? Insisting on ultrasounds? Advising you that certain ways of birthing are or aren’t safe? Anything else?
  • 1 John 4 says “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God”. Do those you surround yourself with in pregnancy operate primarily from a spirit of love and faith? Are there any people you feel to make some space from in this time, so you can recenter and refocus on what is right for you?

Guided Imagining

There’s nothing for me to do and no where for me to go.
Remember the first thing that you did when you came onto the planet was take a breath.
Let go. Take a breath, and let it go. 

Find a comfortable rhythm.

As you begin scanning your body, allow any areas of your body where you’ve been feeling stress to melt into the ground beneath you.

Bringing the focus to your body, relaxing deeper. And scanning your body one more time. Now taking note of any emotional tension you’ve been feeling this week or lately. Allowing it to collect like little particles in your heart space, and then picture Holy Spirit as a vacuum. These particles are sucked completely out, leaving you feeling even more relaxed and yourself than ever before. 

Now, picture yourself on a beach. You feel the air on your face. And you notice how wonderful it feels to have the warmth of the sun gently soaking into the hairs on your head, back and into your heart space. There’s no one around so you decide to go for a dip. You take your things off, step in and notice that the stones along the bottom of the creek are smooth. The water is warm, like a bath, soaked by the beautiful sun rays.

You feel invigorated.

After you step out, and are miraculously dry, you see a door that says “movie theatre” and walk towards it. It’s like you stepped back in time to a 1950s movie theatre in black and white. You take a seat on the comfy theatre seats. You feel calm and at ease. They’re showing pictures of you from happy memories through your life, and into the future, of you playing with your baby. And they are beautiful. You have a remote control in your hand, and can choose which ones you look at.

Now, we’re going to go back to a moment in your pregnancy when someone crossed a boundary of yours and it made you feel hurt and angry. It may have been a small or big thing. They said something, or I want you to picture a few moments before this moment happened. Where were you? What were you wearing? Who was there? Pause the film, before anything has happened.

As you’re sitting in the movie theatre, watching the paused screen, you see a striking, confident version of yourself walk into the paused moment. It’s you after you’ve give birth. She goes over to the pregnant version of you that’s paused in the movie, and tell her that she’s got it from here. And helps the pregnant version of yourself to a safe place in another room and says she’ll be right back.

You see your older wiser self walking back into the paused moment.
And from your seat, holding the remote, you press play.

Now, like a lioness protecting her cubs, you press play on this moment and watch as this striking, confident version of yourself that’s already given birth roars. She fiercely roars in their face. She will not stand for this! It’s not right and it’s not okay.

You rewind the movie, and see the roaring happen in reverse motion.

It’s over. It’s done. You’re safe now.

Then your older wiser self goes back to the room, gets your younger pregnant self and they embrace. She says to her: It’s over. It’s done. You’re safe now.

Strengthen Your Relationship With “No”

In talking about birth, we need to talk about boundaries.

Boundaries are not so much about “telling people what you need” or saying “no”. They are, first and foremost, an energetic decision. I mean that you have a base level of what you expect and allow in every area of your life. Boundaries are the edges of these expectations. Ultimately, boundaries are worthiness measures and tests. Boundaries define (to yourself and those around you) what you will or won’t allow.

An easy example is earning money. You know that you should receive a certain amount for the work that you do—whether it’s a per hour rate or price per project. If you have bargain pricing and don’t feel like you can charge much, you may get people coming and asking for even further discounts. However, if you’re comfortable with charging a bit more and genuinely feel they reflect the quality of your work, then you probably won’t deal with many discount-chasing hagglers. People just perceive that you’re worth it and pay accordingly. When a boundary is well established, you won’t even need to use words to communicate it. It’s an air that you walk in—a softness, assuredness and grace.

Job offers are another example. When I decided to focus on this birth business, I started getting job offers out of the blue. Twice I’ve been offered well-paid job working for a really incredible prior manager of mine. He offered me good money, flexible hours, a part-time load, and I could work from home sometimes. It was very everything...well almost everything!

This job also meant I’d have no time or energy to work on this business, my son would have needed to go into childcare and I wasn’t particularly passionate about the job’s subject matter.

I said no, twice. After you stretch and commit to a “new normal” you’ll often notice little tests come up. I didn’t know where this calling would lead me. I felt unsure, but I knew I needed to keep on. And I did—this is the result. But my boundaries were tested in the process.

It’s the same with pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Because of how BIG the transition is, and all of the unleveling that comes along with it, you’re shedding old stories and ways of doing things. You’re being reborn, in a way. Not in a salvation sense, but in an experiential way. It can be a very disorientating time, but it’s also extremely rich with opportunity.

So, back to boundaries. Boundaries are what we can put in place around those things we want or don’t want. Some of these boundaries are embedded in us since we were born. But we can also shift, change and improve our limits to, for example, to become less worried about what others think and make choices inline with our desires.

We are whole. That’s what God wants us to experience. 

What I’ve noticed often happens in pregnancy, as I’ve mentioned, is that it’s a very expansive time for women. They are up-levelling and about to come into such a flow, happiness and blessing. Yet, pregnancy is often a trying time. I think it’s less physical than we think. One of the hardest parts of pregnancy are the tests.

St Paul says that, “…we rejoice in [pressure*], knowing that [pressure*] produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5) *The word here is translated from thlibo meaning pressure.

We come into tests in pregnancy. This is a good thing. Our life will keep giving us tests in any areas where we are settling for less than abundance because of a lack mindset.

Tests may be triggers, where we get emotionally activated into strong negative emotions like frustration, anger, sadness, grief, overwhelm etc, and it’s usually a stronger reaction than the situation itself warrants. That’s a clue. Or it might be a compromise test where a person (or people) want you to compromise your boundary to accommodate them and make them feel more comfortable.

In business, it’s giving someone a discount when you don’t really want to. In pregnancy, it might be getting an ultrasound that you don’t want to get because a doctor said it was the “only safe way” or telling someone the gender of your baby because they “really need to know”, even though you wanted to keep it a secret. 

It’s basically going against your God-given conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit, into a direction that feels contracted or like you’re making yourself small in some way.

I was tested a lot in my first pregnancy when I told my mum and dad that I wanted to give birth at home. And rightly so, I guess. I welcome those challenges, because they invited me to become more convicted, not less. It was never about the safety of my birth location…I wasn’t sure if I was truly worthy of the birth I authentically desired. I was still figuring it out with the Lord. So, what did I do? I politely stopped talking to them about how I was going to give birth. I focused my attention on reading, watching and listening to birth stories. At the same time, we started putting about $150 a week into our birth account. Guess who I turned to when I was ready to start labour? God. Guess who I reached out to when I felt frustrated and stuck in labour? God, and he showed me what to do next. The result? I had a “textbook perfect birth” my midwife said. Now, for subsequent pregnancies, guess who never questions my birth choices? My mum and dad.

Getting clear on what you want, is as much about picturing what you desire and it is about deciding what you don’t want. We all know people who say, “yeah I’m totally okay with how my birth went” and you just know they’re in denial about it. They’re not convinced and therefore not convincing. They may want to be convinced (probably why they’re telling you and others) but they’re truly not yet. If they were, they wouldn’t need to say they are. It would just be a pleasant inner knowing that gently shines out of them like a heart-secret. It would be so deeply in, that you wouldn’t question it. This is where you need to aim for your birth. 

I’m not talking about defensively sketching up a birth plan, slapping it on a hospital door or in a midwife’s lap and insisting everything goes to plan. This may seem like a “natural birth approach” but it’s a sheep in wolves clothing. The plan says “natural”, and maybe it says all the “right things” but this is really a form of fear-control. We actually need to feel in control in labour. But it’s not fear-control, it’s love-control. Self control! This makes us feel like we’re reigning over our feelings (a good thing) and that we can reorganise them to make them meaningful. This is an important skill if labour starts to feel intense. 

It’s not that birth plans are useless either. They can be useful, absolutely. But it has to be done last. Do the deeper work first. 

You know you’re getting into boundaries if a choice feels vulnerable, challenging, painful to make, then immediately afterwards you get relief, weight lifted off feeling, and a buzz of pride in yourself. 

Practically it could look like:

— Not speaking about your birth plan to family members who are unsupportive or who triggers you
— Choosing not to tell someone information about your baby out of pity for them 
— Having a conversation with your manager and being transparent about your desire to not return after birth or your desire to take X months off
— Not allowing people to share negative birth experiences with you, “I’m sorry, I want to be respectful, but I’m not willing to hear about challenging or painful birth experiences at the moment”

I can’t tell you what you want for your birth or on your birth plan. That’s part of the tricky thing. That’s not my place. For me, discovering what I want is about launching myself wholeheartedly in the direction that turns me on and lights me up. There’s a dance between letting go and holding on. The Holy Spirit guides you. 

Women give birth well everyday, it’s just not seen or shared because it doesn’t fit the overarching narrative that birth is an emergency waiting to happen. It’s really not. 

Do you know that countries that trust big, have the biggest GDP? Where the value of trust is highest, economic blessing follows suit. I believe this is because we’re made to trust. Belief & hope and faith & trust are the emotional states that our body works best within. When we unblock unbelief, pockets of hopelessness, fear, or mistrust, then all that remains is trust. Well, and love, hope, peace… all those good things. When those learnt limits move out of the way, all that remains is what’s real, true and good. 

We need to know our desires to put boundaries in place. How do we uncover our desires? Well, usually it’s easier to start with the opposite—what we don’t want. A friend of mine recently made a controversial decision to not attend her family’s traditional Christmas celebration. She and her husband had felt drained for the last three years after Christmas. And after an unexpected pregnancy in the prior year, they decided that this year’s catchup wasn’t a good fit for them. So, they booked a beach holiday in one of their favourite parts of the world. Whether or not you agree with this life choice, I want you to see what’s going on here with boundaries. She decided what she didn’t want first—another emotionally and physically draining Christmas—then sought what she did want. She checked in with herself to make sure she wasn’t trying to hide, run away or disengage from life. Her conscious was clear. So she booked it. Her extended family did push back (a test), but she didn’t apologise or change their plans.

It’s always your right to decide what you will and won’t do in pregnancy and birth. You don’t owe anyone a traditional birth experience. You don’t need to say yes to anything that goes against your conscious, inner knowing or beliefs. Boundaries are not about shutting out the world, never making ourselves available to people, or avoiding hard things. They are about deciding what you won’t settle for anymore. “No” is one of the most magnetic words. 

Even in labour, if you decide to surround yourself with others, you have to be willing to decide what you want them to do and don’t want them to do.

As I said above, the core of boundaries is worthiness. When I was pregnant with my first child and planning a home birth, I was met with resistance from my mum and dad. “But safety Steph? Medical help? Pain? You live in a great country with medical help…why not use it? You might need it.”

I chose to birth at home because:
— I knew birth was inherently safe.
— I trusted the midwives I chose to be with me.
— I felt safer in my space than in a location with people I didn’t know and systems I didn’t trust.
— I wanted to!

Remember: Interventions can work against or slow down the natural flow of labour. Be aware of your boundaries in pregnancy, and decide what you want and don’t want. Then, expect them to be tested, and expect to win.

Journal Prompts

Whenever I’ve spoken to women with regrets about their birth, they always regret giving their power away. Always. In other words, they let someone slip past one of their boundaries, instead of staying true to their inner knowing. It’s never truly about the medical intervention. Yes, it’s not ideal to have a caesarean if you planned a natural birth, for example. But it’s giving our power away that it what really makes us feel bad. It’s that self-betrayal that really hurts.

So, we’re going to dig into some of these boundary issues now and see what we uncover. Then, in the next section we’ll used a Guided Imagining to get clarity and clear out any debris.

Questions:

  • Can you think of a time during this pregnancy when someone crossed a boundary you had? (If you can’t locate one, find a time when you felt angry by someone’s actions. Anger can be the alarm your body sends when a boundary is crossed).
  • Do you have any examples of people wanting to make your pregnancy or birth process as predictable as possible? Insisting on ultrasounds? Advising you that certain ways of birthing are or aren’t safe? Anything else?
  • 1 John 4 says “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God”. Do those you surround yourself with in pregnancy operate primarily from a spirit of love and faith? Are there any people you feel to make some space from in this time, so you can recenter and refocus on what is right for you?

Guided Imagining

There’s nothing for me to do and no where for me to go.
Remember the first thing that you did when you came onto the planet was take a breath.
Let go. Take a breath, and let it go. 

Find a comfortable rhythm.

As you begin scanning your body, allow any areas of your body where you’ve been feeling stress to melt into the ground beneath you.

Bringing the focus to your body, relaxing deeper. And scanning your body one more time. Now taking note of any emotional tension you’ve been feeling this week or lately. Allowing it to collect like little particles in your heart space, and then picture Holy Spirit as a vacuum. These particles are sucked completely out, leaving you feeling even more relaxed and yourself than ever before. 

Now, picture yourself on a beach. You feel the air on your face. And you notice how wonderful it feels to have the warmth of the sun gently soaking into the hairs on your head, back and into your heart space. There’s no one around so you decide to go for a dip. You take your things off, step in and notice that the stones along the bottom of the creek are smooth. The water is warm, like a bath, soaked by the beautiful sun rays.

You feel invigorated.

After you step out, and are miraculously dry, you see a door that says “movie theatre” and walk towards it. It’s like you stepped back in time to a 1950s movie theatre in black and white. You take a seat on the comfy theatre seats. You feel calm and at ease. They’re showing pictures of you from happy memories through your life, and into the future, of you playing with your baby. And they are beautiful. You have a remote control in your hand, and can choose which ones you look at.

Now, we’re going to go back to a moment in your pregnancy when someone crossed a boundary of yours and it made you feel hurt and angry. It may have been a small or big thing. They said something, or I want you to picture a few moments before this moment happened. Where were you? What were you wearing? Who was there? Pause the film, before anything has happened.

As you’re sitting in the movie theatre, watching the paused screen, you see a striking, confident version of yourself walk into the paused moment. It’s you after you’ve give birth. She goes over to the pregnant version of you that’s paused in the movie, and tell her that she’s got it from here. And helps the pregnant version of yourself to a safe place in another room and says she’ll be right back.

You see your older wiser self walking back into the paused moment.
And from your seat, holding the remote, you press play.

Now, like a lioness protecting her cubs, you press play on this moment and watch as this striking, confident version of yourself that’s already given birth roars. She fiercely roars in their face. She will not stand for this! It’s not right and it’s not okay.

You rewind the movie, and see the roaring happen in reverse motion.

It’s over. It’s done. You’re safe now.

Then your older wiser self goes back to the room, gets your younger pregnant self and they embrace. She says to her: It’s over. It’s done. You’re safe now.