Sheila Kamara Hay Shares her Ecstatic Birth Experience
by Sheila Kamara Hay
If you have the choice, would you choose a birth that is full of pleasure- physical, spiritual, and emotional? Would you choose to birth in a way that leaves you feeling ecstatic? Or even orgasmic?
The idea of a pleasurable birth is intriguing because it is the complete opposite of what we culturally understand childbirth to be- an excruciating and potentially dangerous experience. Most women, if asked the above questions, would be quick to say yes. The same women, if asked, “Would you like to experience natural childbirth?” may hesitate. Why? Because most have us have been programmed our whole lives to understand childbirth as painful.
In order to create a pleasurable birth experience, we must first being by reprogramming our cultural conception of birth, filling our senses with positive images and information that restore our confidence in our body’s ability to give birth with joy and with pleasure. We are living during an exciting time, as more books, films, teachers,
workshops are emerging to make this information accessible and more women are coming forward to share their own experiences than ever before.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I desired a birth that would leave me breathless and marveling at my body’s strength, wisdom, and capacity to bring forth life – but I had no idea how to create that. I took a natural childbirth class, wished upon a star, and ended up with a birth that was closer to traumatic than ecstatic. In retrospect, I had overlooked the single most critical ingredient in preparing for a pleasurable birth- choosing the setting and care providers that would support my desire. In aiming to please and appease the fears of those closest to me I had agreed to providers that I knew didn’t support my vision for a natural birth. The biggest mistake I made was to believe that I could overcome that with my desire and will. A laboring woman should set herself up to be thoroughly supported so that she can focus on her primary task- sinking deep into her connection with her body and heeding its wisdom as she births. She should not have to overcome any external obstacles during her labor. Given our negative cultural conditioning and current birthing conditions, a woman who desires an ecstatic or orgasmic birth must consciously create an alternative structure to support her desire.
When I got pregnant with my second child, I knew things had to be different. I found a midwife that I adored, hired a doula, and began to prepare for her birth with my body, mind, and soul. I set out to reprogram my cultural messages and only watched, listened, and read positive and inspiring birth stories. I paid attention to my body, making sure I felt strong, healthy, and beautiful. I explored all my fears around birth until I felt at peace. My second birth was the most empowering experience of my life. With my third, I knew I could do it. I wanted to see if I could ENJOY it and that is where I placed my attention for the next nine months.
Pleasure in birth can be sourced from two places- outside and within. The first is relatively straightforward- how can you prepare your birth environment so that it pleases all of your senses? I encourage women to plan their births so that every detail, large and small, thrills and delights. The birth of your child is one of the most sacred events of your life. Honor it by placing your loving attention on every last detail- What will the room look like? What music will be playing? What will you wear? What role would you like your husband to play? How would you like to be touched? What scents do you love? Take your own breath away with the exquisiteness of what you create for this extraordinary experience.
Given that birth and sexuality share the same physiology, often the conditions that make for great sensual experiences make for great births too, conditions such as dim lighting, privacy, intimacy, and LOVE. The opposite is also true- conditions that can shut down the flow of sexual energy can often stall births too. Examples include- time pressure, being handled roughly, underlying anxiety or fear. A great practice for women is to begin to notice the conditions that turn them on and to find ways to integrate these into their births, while consciously avoiding the conditions that turn them off. Sourcing pleasure from within is much trickier for most women, but it is also where the deepest power and pleasure reside in birth and in life. I contend that the way a woman gives birth is intimately intertwined with her approach to life and sensuality. How a woman moves through the world plays an integral role in how she experiences birth. To what degree is she able to empower herself to live an authentic life, a life in line with her dreams and values? How does she overcome resistance — her own or others — to her desires? How does she process fear? These are all important components of personal growth, the fruits of which permeate a person’s quality of life. Introspection and self-growth and are powerful birth preparation tools. Stuff comes up in birth as in life and how you handle it can often make the difference between ecstatic and traumatic.
The core essence of a pleasurable birth is a woman’s connection with her body, her inner wisdom, and her sensual self. A pleasurable birth is a primal experience which is only possible when we shut the mind off and allow the wisdom of the body to take over. The physical experience of birth can be intense because of the massive amounts of energy flowing through the body. Fear of this flow can cause a woman to tense up, thereby causing the sensation of pain in her body. The best way to counter this and prepare for pleasurable childbirth, is through sensual expansion. Any qualified practice of sensual expansion will teach a woman how to stay present with the sensations in her body and how to remain relaxed through increasing flows of sexual energy. The more a woman’s body is accustomed to massive flows of energy, the better she will be able to relax through it during birth, and the more likely it will be that she has an ecstatic or orgasmic experience. Sensual expansion is a continuous practice. The sooner a woman starts on this conscious return to herself and her relationship with her body, the better off she will be when her time comes to give birth.
My labor was pokey during my third birth starting and stalling often. I was encouraged to walk to put some momentum behind my contractions. It helped, but reaching for more pleasure, I turned on my music and began to move, my body spontaneously shaping spirals in the air. The dancing slipped me into a zone where there was only me, my body, and the movement. I felt like I was dancing with the contractions. I could sense their approach from afar, like eyes wandering over my body as each came forward to claim me, a gentle embrace escalating into a passionate twirl around the dance floor, only to then slip away and quietly disappear. I birthed my third child in this zone of ecstasy grateful for what I had uncovered within myself and thrilled by the possibilities that lay ahead for women in birth.
Sheila Kamara Hay is a writer, Ecstatic Birth advocate and board member at Choices in Childbirth. Her own childbirth journeys left her exclaiming, “Why didn’t I know it can be this good? People need to know!”. She can be found screaming it from the rooftops at