by Tracey Anderson Askew
The power of suggestion and how the mind can influence the way the body responds was highlighted recently while talking with a couple during the break at a Calmbirth® course.
He was a medical student and one of the DVD’s we’d watched before the break had reminded him of women he’d observed labouring while he was on a medical placement in Vanuatu.
He said, “they just got on with it – no fuss and very little noise.” One day a young inexperienced woman had come in and started screaming during her labour. The other more experienced labouring women, who were all in the same room, told her to shut up because it would make her labour harder. She stopped her screaming, and her labour progressed more easily! The power of suggestion!
The couple shared another experience highlighting the power of suggestion. They had been athletes competing in endurance events and had made an agreement with each other that no matter what happened, they would support each other to finish the event, come what may.
Around three quarters of the way through one particular event, the woman was coming into a check point and started vomiting. She felt totally spent and like she had nothing left. Both her parents had been cheering her on and were at the check point, but completely unaware of the deal the couple had made with each other. While giving her daughter water, the mother whispered in her ear, “why are you putting yourself through this? You don’t have to you know.” While hearing her mother’s words, the woman recalled the agreement she had made. After a short break and without explanation, she set off again.
She went on to recall; “the hour that followed was the hardest hour of the whole race.” Her mother’s words repeating over and over in her mind as if keeping pace with every step that became more and more difficult. She started to doubt herself, questioned why she was doing this when it hurt so much, felt so hard, and she found herself resisting every step. Eventually, she recognized her thinking was getting in the way; she had to snap out of it. In that moment of realisation and making the decision to change the story in her mind, things got easier. She finished the race feeling so much better than she had imagined possible after what she’d gone through.
The power of suggestion can work both ways and sometimes empathic and well-meaning comments make things harder.
I have often been with women during their labour, who have felt totally spent and barely able to utter the words, “I can’t do this anymore.” I gently remind them that I know how they feel, that they are doing it, and doing it beautifully. I never doubt any labouring woman – and of course in due time her baby is born. The power of suggestion is a powerful activator.
The Calmbirth® relaxations use these same gentle and profoundly powerful suggestions, ‘I have everything I need within me, ‘my body can do this, ‘I can trust my body.’ Such suggestions practiced over and over, continue the process of building the neural super highways not only in the sub conscious but also throughout a woman’s body thereby changing the way she labours.
Such is the power of suggestion.