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Birth art is a wonderful way to explore some of our deeper beliefs and feelings around pregnancy, birth and parenting. The mind-body connection is so powerful and the things we think really can have an impact on our physical body and its well-being. During labour we hope to feel calm, relaxed and as free of tension as possible, so exploring and attending to our emotions and fears during pregnancy will be beneficial when it is our time to cross the threshold of birth.

By putting pen (pencils, paints, chalks) to paper or even by modelling clay, we can unlock and access a part of ourselves that we may not be able to in our day-to-day often very cerebral lives. We are so used to preparing for birth by consuming huge amounts of external information that we almost forget that there is an important inner journey to make too. Birth art is a great way to balance out our inner and external ways of ‘knowing’.

Pregnant woman drawing with pastels

It is one of the hall marks of the Birthing From Within method for preparing for birth and as a Birthing From Within Childbirth Educator, I love to weave this in to the work I do with families as they prepare for the birth of their baby.

We may worry that we are not artistic enough or feel self-conscious about the process, but it is a useful exercise in ‘letting go’ of our inhibitions and perhaps getting messy, or feeling out of control (which is also helpful preparation for the journey we are about to make). The process we go through to create our art is important, not just the end result. The aim isn’t to create a beautiful or ‘good’ piece of art, but to communicate our innermost thoughts and feelings and express ourselves without using words. We don’t need to be a ‘good’ artist for this process to work.

How does it work?

When we make art, our brain waves slow down. It is a calming and meditative practice that helps us to come out of our thinking brain and drop into a more creative, intuitive space where we can access deeper insights and beliefs. The art process helps us find the space we want to be when we are in labour-land.

It is also a great way to help us to bring our expectations of birth to light and access parts of ourselves that we did not know where there – perhaps we can uncover strengths and coping skills that have long been buried. We may find answers to questions within us that we didn’t realise were there. We are the experts and this can be a powerful realization!

Pregnant woman drawing birth art

My experiences

What I have learned through leading birth art activities during my pregnancy circles and workshops is that the process is often just as revealing than the image on the paper. The way we navigate the unknown and the feelings we may have when things don’t go to plan can be enlightening. Perhaps we found ourselves in a place where we weren’t sure how to proceed and had to find a new direction. We can see when we are tempted to peek at the creations of others to give us inspiration for our own, when actually we just need to find our own path.

I love how revealing this process is for those I work with and how they all get stuck in and often find themselves surprised at what they have learned. It is interesting to see that even with the same brief, their interpretations are so unique and thoughtful. And I love how some people decide to go off the brief and do something entirely different – and that is OK too!

Pregnant women drawing a labyrinth

If we are used to writing our thoughts and feelings down then drawing, painting or using clay might reach deeper parts of ourselves. If we are more inclined to paint or draw then perhaps the written word might be more revealing. There is no right or wrong.

Why not try some ‘birth’ art yourself?

Find some paper, some pens, chalk pastels, paints or pencils and a quiet uninterrupted space and close your eyes for a few moments. Perhaps you would like to consider what ‘being pregnant’ means to you? Then take up your materials and just draw. If you get stuck and don’t know where to start, just make a mark and see where it takes you. Just keep going.

When you have finished you can ask yourself a few questions about what you have created. What did you notice about the process of making the art? What does your image say to you? Did anything surprise you?

Go create!

Jo Kidman doula holding a shamanic drum

Jo Kidman is a birth and post-natal doula and Birthing from Within Childbirth Educator. She lives in Cornwall with her husband and three children. Jo loves help families prepare for the birth of their babies and blends birth art, journaling and drum journeys with traditional forms of antenatal education. She also holds pregnancy and postnatal circles, workshops and classes from her home in Wadebridge.

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