Winter '01 Issue 16
Christina's House: Earthship and Straw Bale in Taos, New Mexico
Fear, Intention & Gratitude: Facing a Cancer Diagnosis
It's My Happy Heart You See
Physicians' Perspective: Looking to the Future of Health Care in America
My Father's Clouds: Classroom Charlatans
Finding Your Question
Dreams of Kindness, Love and Grace
A Contemplation on the Spirituality of Veganism
On The Path
Touch Them All
Finding Your Question by Carol Gray
"Although I teach Finding Your Question in birth preparation classes, it can be used by anyone to successfully navigate life. By following this procedure you can find your own question about a challenge you may be facing."
I help expectant parents prepare for birth. They obviously wonder about the future. They know they are facing a big change and are concerned about how it will affect them. While we can't know the future, we can deal with the uncertainty that accompanies it. Asking a well-chosen daily question can help transitions feel less threatening, more normal.
In my classes I don't lecture about the anatomy and physiology of labor. I know that the intellect is not what controls the birth process. People already know how to give birth, anyway. My job is to help them access the place inside where their birth knowledge is stored.
I guide these parents to find meaningful questions to ask themselves every day. Although I teach Finding Your Question in birth preparation classes, it can be used by anyone to successfully navigate life. By following this procedure you can find your own question about a challenge you may be facing.
Guidelines for Finding Your Question
How It Works in the Classroom
I tell them I know that each person has a significant or compelling question about pregnancy, birth, becoming parents, or raising a child. It may be something they have been afraid to ask out loud.
I ask my students to take a minute and allow their questions to come to mind. Some of them begin to write. I don't tell them all the rules for question-writing in advance. Most people will have editing to do. This is rarely a tidy process. It can take some guidance to pinpoint the core of one's concern. Yet, the question is usually not far below the surface. I ask anyone who has a question to speak up.
A Painful Question
"Why is that a problem?" I ask.
She hesitates and says, "I'm afraid Jeff will get scared and won't be able to help."
I stand up and walk across the room. Breathing heavily, I clutch my belly, scream and grab Jeff's hand. I wail, "You must help me! It hurts too much! I can't do it! Ohhhh, it hurts so baaaad!" Between gasps and moans I pull him to his feet and into the center of the room. I beg him to press a certain spot on my back in a particular way. He does it just right. A minute later, Labor Theater is over. Everyone is now sitting up straight and paying attention.
"Now, what concerns you about the pain?" I ask.
Her eyes tear up; "I'm afraid that if it hurts too much I'll take pain medication and feel bad about it later." I ask whether her question is about not wanting pain medication or about not wanting to feel bad about her birth.
Sarah answers, "It's about not wanting to feel bad about my birth." She thinks about it some more. "That's it!" she says. "My question is, will I feel good about my birth?" As I reach for the 8-Ball again, I remind her about the yes-or-no-question rule. I mention that the question must be stated in the present tense. If we write and ask our questions in the future tense we can procrastinate. It will always be about tomorrow. If we ask ourselves how we are acting or responding now we are in the place where we can make change. It's a way of coming face to face with ourselves to practice our inner work.
Sarah thinks about her question, then offers, "How am I feeling good about my birth?" She got it! I ask her to write it big on a 5X7 card so I can hang it on the wall. Sarah can work on living the answer to this question every day. I tell her to make a take-home copy to put on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror.
At this point I could deliver a lecture about the mechanics and pros and cons of pain medication for childbirth. Or perhaps I could teach students a bunch of medication avoidance strategies, but what's the point? The part of the brain that worries about medication is not the part of the brain that gives birth. Teaching avoidance strategies leaves people out in the cold if the thing they wish to avoid happens anyway.
Coping In the Moment
Sarah's partner, Jeff, has a question that needs no editing. It's one of the benefits of not being first. You get to hear all the rules for Finding Your Question before it's your turn. His question is, "How am I supporting Sarah in birth?" Sarah and Jeff are now ready to work together. I am always touched by the willingness and ability of my students to go deep inside themselves and discover a heartfelt and meaningful question.
We move around the room as students read and revise their questions. At the end of the process we have cards on the wall that say: How is having a baby changing my life? What is my role? How am I helping my child be his own person? What am I giving up to be a good parent? How am I protecting my child? How am I knowing what needs to be done? How am I preparing for a long labor? How am I finding enough love for two children? How am I coping with unwished-for events? How am I nurturing myself?
Questions for Rites of Passage
It's unreasonable to expect that some brand-new, highly effective coping style will spontaneously appear in the middle of a challenging experience. When we are faced with something that's hard we fall back on trusted, practiced strategies regardless of their effectiveness. When we wonder how we will feel or act in the future, the answer already exists in the present.
As a teacher my practice is to keep my own question in mind as I teach. I can't expect to take students to a place I haven't been myself. My teaching question is: how am I guiding my students to learn what they already know? If I ever fully answer it, I'll have to find a new question.
Carol Gray, LMT, CD, CBE, is a bodyworker, birth doula and childbirth educator. She teaches her Birthing From Within-style childbirth preparation classes at The Inanna Center, a resource center for expectant and new parents in Portland, Oregon. Carol is the founder and director of The Inanna Center. For more information about Carol's classes or the January 19-21 weekend-retreat version of her class at Breitenbush Hot Springs call 503-242-0700.
Site updated Spring 2010