Childbirth - the Complete Sadhana

Swami Hridayananda Saraswati

When I think about pain and suffering in relation to a mother I wonder how one can express on paper the inexpressible? The pain of childbirth is such an experience that only one who has gone through this can imagine what it entails. It is exactly like the patience of guru. Guru is prepared to wait lifetimes to lead his disciple from darkness, so the mother nurtures her young through any extremity of pain and guides him towards the light of joy and fulfilment.

Childbirth is a complete sadhana in itself which includes all yama and niyama. At the time of birth the mother is faced with the two extremities of pain and pleasure, which ultimately lead her to experience the greatest wonder of creation. And if she has any yogic background, it can bring the greatest fulfilment this empirical world has to offer.

All the yogis and saints have regarded pain as a blessing. Only a mother would be able to agree when she thinks of suffering at the time of giving birth, and remembers the experience of seeing the new born for the first time. The Gita and many other yogic scriptures talk about complete surrender to God as being one of the most vital accomplishments on the spiritual path. The moment a mother-to-be goes into labour, the first thing she has to put into practical application is surrender to the divine force which is directing the expulsion of her child, and movement with the spontaneous contractions. She never questions 'Why such suffering, why me?' She accepts. She does not try to change her lot. She has to give up the idea that she exists; her life is for the life of the child, and she is willing to go through any amount of pain out of love. This is the same experience the realised souls have passed through.

Yogic texts talk about austerities to help one reach the ultimate experience in life. This is a natural sadhana imposed on the mother-to-be for she has to endure strenuous physical, mental and emotional pain. Always she has to think first whether her actions are conducive to the child's well being, because her body no longer belongs to herself, it is the home of an innocent babe.

The experience of childbirth has such an impact on the conscious and subconscious mind that twenty years later I can still envisage and feel the whole process and transformation which takes place. After waiting many arduous months the day arrives when the child is ready to see the light of day. You feel such a surge of energy that you are compelled to clean the house from top to bottom. This is the full pranic movement of both mother and child called upon to exert every effort in pushing the child out of its obscurity into the big, wide world. If the force of kundalini is anything like this burst of energy, it is no wonder it raises the consciousness into the heavens.

After cleaning all the external surroundings, the internal cleaning also starts occurring. When the child begins its journey a feeling of restlessness overcomes the mother. Mothers who have practised yoga and yogic breathing will have an extra store of prana to help in the push and pull of the pelvic floor, as bones, tendons and ligaments are stretched beyond their normal capacity. Yogic breathing also helps to calm the feeling of restlessness. But more than this, it helps reduce fear. If there is any fear or tension in the mind, the muscles also tense, wasting essential energy by sending excessive nervous impulses.

In childbirth, fear is the greatest barrier, and learning to overcome fear takes more than nine months of training. Overcoming fear is actually a tantric practice. Tantra says- fear is the greatest obstacle of the mind in spiritual life. There are sadhakas who sit in the graveyard at midnight on a corpse and meditate- just to face and overcome any fear in the mind. No wonder such sadhanas were practised exclusively by men because they could never experience the fear a mother goes through for her child and herself. They could never experience the same physical/mental/emotional pain a mother endures to give life to another soul. In fact, it seems the whole nine months of pregnancy is like a 'crash training course' to prepare the mother to become a yogini.

Nevertheless, though this is nature's sadhana, it is more helpful if the mother has practised some yogic sadhana so that she can understand the workings of nature and endure them gracefully and gratefully. Because it is through yoga that awareness and understanding of the body and self can be developed.

Now as the child glides down the birth canal, the whole experience begins to come to a culmination with a searing pain like a hot and burning knife. It is called the crowning and it is as Christ was crowned with thorns so deep the blood flows. Strangely enough, the nurses brought me a mirror at this stage so I could see the head of the small child. It worked like autosuggestion, creating a diversion from the incredible pain, so I could not only experience but see the marvel of creation, the workings of the cosmos.

After birth, the joy that surmounts from seeing the child for the first time is so great the pain is left behind in a memory of dreams. A mother could go through the pain again just to experience that first moment of holding the child. If unity with the divine is anything comparable, I think this must be the second greatest experience.

Flowing in freedom is a grace that takes time and effort. Everything in life takes time. To have the patience to wait, accept, and flow is the clue to giving birth to your 'spiritual baby'. A baby takes time, guru also takes time to impart the divine power to his disciple because the creator has to mould the inner being. Mothering is cultivating experiences and combined with the spiritual awareness of yoga, it is a sadhana in the true sense.