Sharon Moloney, PhD

Miraculous Moments

Holistic Fertility Therapy, Birth Preparation and Hypnotherapy



My Philosophy

 
 

Birth is sacred.  Like death it is the portal of life.  There is something awesome and mysterious about our transition from spirit into substance and back again.  In past ages and still today in some cultures, people have honoured these transitions as profound spiritual mysteries.  In our modern Western civilisation, however, we have largely forgotten this ancient wisdom and we need to remember it again.


For many women and men, the birth of their babies is something of enormous spiritual significance.  It is usually a life-changing experience. Yet in Western culture, birth is commonly seen as a medical event in hospital, with no recognition of its spiritual dimensions.  Many midwives and caregivers intuitively know about birth spirituality but their training does little to prepare them to engage with it confidently. 
 
There are historical reasons dating back to the Enlightenment that help to explain medicine's discomfort with spirituality.  During the 17th century, Renée Descartes, commonly regarded as the founder of modern science, formulated his philosophy of science amidst the turmoil of the Reformation.  To avoid the theological disputes that were raging at the time, Descartes based his description of reality on the separate entities of: God - the World - the human person (1).  (It is believed that he struck a deal with the Pope of the day.  In order to obtain cadavers for dissection, he would speak only on matters pertaining to the body/physical reality, while matters of the soul and spirit belonged exclusively to the church [2]) .

The philosophy of science that developed out of this era thus separated body and spirit into two mutually exclusive domains (3).  Scientists came to regard the material world, including the human body, as a multitude of different objects assembled into a huge machine (4).  This mechanistic worldview (which became known as 'positivism') underpinned Newtonian physics and the Enlightenment project of exploring and conquering the natural world. Positivism depicted an objectively observable reality based on fixed universal laws of cause and effect that existed independently of human consciousness.  Knowledge was derived solely from the senses and human beings were seen as rational individuals governed by social laws.  This paradigm allowed scientists to treat the material world as inert and completely separate from themselves. The disastrous consequences of this view are evident today in the industrial exploitation of the Earth's natural resources, pollution, species extinction, deforestation and most notably, climate change.
 
The notion of the mechanical universe (and human being) has carried over into most current scientific disciplines, as well as into public perceptions.  Over the centuries, the Cartesian dualism of body/spirit became institutionalised, for example in universities, hospitals and churches.  As a result, the model of birth which is now the norm in most Western hospitals does not appreciate or know how to work with the delicate spirituality of childbirth.  During my research, I explored the cultural and historical reasons for this discrepancy and I now work with clients and health professionals to dismantle that dualism and bridge the knowledge gap. 

The discipline of science itself has moved literally a quantum leap away from the old mechanical universe.  Around the turn of the 20th century, the discovery of electro-magnetic fields required new theories to account for the nature of reality (1, 3).  The scientific revolution which followed depicted the Earth as a living organism and the universe as a complicated web of energy fields and wave-like patterns of interconnection. This 'new science' inverted the mechanical worldview by asserting a fundamental underlying unity in the universe, in which everything was inter-related and interdependent (3).  Quantum science redefined the world as teeming with probabilities rather than certainties; it was much more unpredictable and mysterious than previously realised and - most radical of all - it was a participatory universe, where the act of observation could change what was being observed (5). The birth of the quantum paradigm paved the way for new ways of thinking (for example, chaos theory, complexity studies and general systems theory) and began to correct some of the more destructive aspects of the old modernist worldview. 

Quantum theory gave science a new metaphor, a new way of understanding what it means to be human.  Now the body began to be conceptualised as a condensation of consciousness.  Scientists discovered that cells vibrate in specific frequencies and that our patterns of thinking can alter those frequencies in ways that contribute to dis-ease or wellbeing (2).  It was discovered that the genes in our chromosomes are switched on not by some automatic process in the cell nucleus but in response to the environment, by what is happening in the cell membrane (6).  Neuroscience research discovered that our brains are extraordinarily plastic and that we develop brain 'maps' which can be modified and rewired to activate healing (7).  New, enriching life experiences and physical exercise can activate neurogenesis even in advanced old age, and we are constantly creating and modifying the molecular structure of our body/brain from the cellular level up (8).  Brain research suggests that the brain's deep structure is holographic and that it abstracts from the universe in ways that transcend time and space, accounting for phenomena like intuition or spiritual experiences of oneness that occur outside the space/time continuum (9).  All these advances have opened up opportunities for co-creating our own health and wellbeing in ways that could not have been imagined in the mechanical model of the universe. 

The human body is really a community of more than 50 trillion cells, all of which are living entities that adjust themselves to the environment.  That cellular community is governed by our mind, shaped by our thoughts and beliefs.  As highly intelligent entities, our cells refer to our thoughts and perceptions as their source for interpreting the world (10).  We now know that for every thought or feeling, there is a corresponding chemical and physiological reaction in our bodies that either affirms or denies the vital life in our cells (2).  Cancerous growths and other disease patterns are cells that opt out of the community of healthy cells.  What is more, the quantum paradigm also tells us that the field of energy in which we have our being acts as a conduit from inside our bodies to the outside world.  The feelings and beliefs which begin in our bodies extend beyond our skin, projected into our surroundings, so that our world mirrors our collective consciousness.  Our minds, especially our thoughts and beliefs, are the key to living in harmony both with our cells and with the world around us (6).  When we find our deep inner peace, our bodies are flooded with life-affirming chemicals that facilitate healing within ourselves and in our world.

The assumptions of the ‘new science’ are not just abstract theorems; they can be applied in very practical ways. For example, labouring women need to have the right environment for the cells in their bodies to switch on and function optimally, and caregivers are intrinsic to that environment.  They play a key role in creating a conducive atmosphere by their words, tone, looks and gestures.  When they express faith in the woman and in the natural process of labour and birth, they can facilitate the complex cascade of hormones that are integral to birthing.  


The quantum framework provides caregivers with a new conception of the human person and their professional scope of practice.  This paradigm affirms that we exist in a web of relationships, that observation changes what is observed, that wholeness is the fundamental principle of the universe and that human beings – especially birthing women – can access this underlying wholeness in a special and trustworthy way during labour and birth.  Such a framework is much more dynamic, reciprocal and empowering than the 'faulty machine' model.

In the West, we tend to think of spirituality as an abstract, airy-fairy thing - a thought process or something that occurs mentally during meditation or prayer.  The body is often seen as non-spiritual, even profane. Women's bodies in particular are highly sexualised  and commodified.  In Western religious traditions, there is no female deity and no association of the female body with the sacred.  And yet, when women labour and give birth, they are engaged in an ultimate participation in the creative power of the universe.  They are performing a sacred act - bringing a new human being into the world.

The spirituality of birth is not just an intellectual concept; it is grounded in the body, particularly in the hormones and the brain.  Hormones are physical, measurable substances that act in clearly identifiable ways.  Birth spirituality is mediated by hormones.  If you take the hormones away or replace them with synthetic hormones, birth can be (and often is) drained of its spirituality.  Syntocinon, for example, can replicate the hormone oxytocin to stimulate muscular contractions of the uterus, but it does not cross the blood-brain barrier, so it cannot engender the changes in consciousness associated with oxytocin, the love hormone (11).  

When the hormones of labour - oxytocin, beta-endorphins, prolactin and catecholamines - are at their maximum levels, they enable a labouring woman to enter an altered state of consciousness (12) in which her doors of perception are wide open to spiritual realities that are not normally accessible. This spiritual opening means that women are acutely vulnerable during labour and birth.  As a result, when they are treated respectfully, gently, with kindness and consideration, they can experience birth as a spiritual initiation, in which their very identity is transformed (13).  Women who undergo such an experience speak of how it gave them a confident foundation for mothering. They know they can trust their bodies, they breastfeed easily; they trust their authority as mothers; they know how to meet their babies' needs. 

By contrast, when women in this heightened state of vulnerability are treated disrespectfully, carelessly, aggressively or violently, the effects penetrate deep into their psyche with long-lasting consequences (14).  I have worked with clients sometimes years after a traumatic birth experience and the depth of their feelings of violation has been as fresh as when the events first occurred.  Unfortunately, the caregivers concerned often don't get to hear about the painful sequelae of their actions, either because there is no opportunity for mothers to provide them with feedback or because the woman feels unable to articulate her experience or believes she has failed.  As a result, the damaging patterns get repeated.

A large part of my professional practice has involved working with clients to debrief from traumatic birth experiences.  Sometimes the trauma has involved a genuine medical complication.  But most often, it has been the attitude and behaviour of birth attendants which has adversely affected them.  Frequently the behaviours clients describe are a form of bullying.  A traumatic birth can make it very difficult for a mother to bond with her baby because the baby reminds her of the trauma.  Over the years, I have developed  a process to enable clients to detach from the emotional trauma of their experience.  The factual memory remains but there is no longer pain at the memory.  When the trauma is resolved, a mother is then free to lovingly connect with her baby because the obstacles have been cleared out of the way.  Restoring mothers and babies to their rightful connection with each other is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

Another rewarding dimension of my work is supporting clients with fertility concerns to become pregnant.  Subfertility rates are rising, partly because of the damaging consequences of the old worldview.  Pesticides and other chemicals in our food chain enter our bodies, damaging our sensitive internal eco-systems and compromising fertility.  Toxic substances not only create an unhealthy environment within the body (remember that genes are switched on by cues from the cell membrane); they also mimic hormones like oestrogen, adversely affecting male fertility and interfering with women's delicate hormonal balance.  High stress levels can further inhibit the healthy processes of fertility.  Obvious stressors include lifestyle factors like long working hours, work pressures, poor diet and inadequate relaxation.  More hidden is the chronic stress caused by unconscious beliefs and unresolved emotional conflicts, which, as we have seen, create chemical responses at the cellular level.  

The neuro-chemicals associated with the 'fight or flight' response affect every cell in our bodies (2), for example, by creating muscular spasm in the uterine tubes, speeding up the cardiovascular system, suppressing the immune response, inhibiting sperm production and directing energy away from the reproductive system.  One of the most powerful corrections of hormonal and other imbalances in our bodies is the Relaxation Response, first described by Dr Herbert Benson in the 1970s (15).  


An innate ability, the Relaxation Response is characterised by a slowed heart rate and breathing pattern, alpha brain waves, endorphin production, the release of muscular tension and feelings of calmness and ease.  There is now a well-documented body of scientific evidence to confirm the effectiveness of the Relaxation Response in healing a range of conditions (16) including subfertility (17).  When people learn the art of deep relaxation, they create a much more conducive environment for conception.  They also lower their stress levels, harmonise their physiology and build a sense of safety which is essential for reproduction.

Our minds are the most powerful shapers of our lived reality, including our health and wellbeing (18).  Our conscious mind, which is associated with our sense of identity, our thinking and our personality, comprises just a small fraction of our total consciousness.  In the scientific assessment of the physical apparatus of the brain, the 'consciousness' material (prefrontal cortex) is estimated at only 10%, while more than 90% comes from the subconscious (19).  This means that the subconscious mind, which houses every experience of our entire lives (all of our deep beliefs, unresolved emotions and body knowledge), is much more powerful than our conscious mind.  It is estimated that for 95% of our everyday lives, we operate out of our subconscious. 


The language of the subconscious is imagery, metaphor, music, imagination, feeling and emotion.  By accessing the Relaxation Response and then speaking with the subconscious in its own language, we can dismantle the mistaken beliefs and old emotional patterns that tie us down, and learn how to stretch our wings and fly.  It is within our human power to set our spirits free.  That is our ultimate destiny and our reason for being here.


"Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with birth!" (20)

 


References:

1. Heisenberg, Werner. (1989). Physics and Philosophy.  London: Penguin.
2. Pert, Candace. (1997). Molecules of Emotion: The science behind mind-body medicine. New York: Touchstone.
3. Bohm, David. (1980). Wholeness and the Implicate Order. London: Ark.
4. Capra, Fritjof. (2000). The Tao of Physics: An exploration of the parallels between modern physics and eastern mysticism, 4th Ed. Boston: Shambhala Publications.
5. Pearce, Joseph Chilton. (1992). Evolution’s End: Claiming the potential of our intelligence. San Francisco: Harper.
6. Lipton, Bruce. (2005). The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the power of consciousness, matter and miracles.  Santa Rosa, California: Mountain of Love/Elite Books.
7. Doidge, Norman. (2008). The Brain That Changes Itself. Melbourne: Scribe Publications.
8. Rossi, Ernest. (2002). The Psychobiology of Gene Expression. New York: Norton Professional Books
9. Pribram, Karl. (1998). The holographic brain.  In Thinking Allowed: Conversations on the leading edge of knowledge and discoveryhttp://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~sai/pribram.htm.  Retrieved 23 June, 2008.
10. Braden, Gregg. (2007). The Divine Matrix: Bridging time, space, miracles and belief.Carlsbad, California: Hay House.
11. Odent, Michel. (2001). The Scientification of Love. London: Free Association Books.
12. Buckley, Sarah. (2003). Undisturbed birth: Nature’s blueprint for ease and ecstasy. Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, 17 (4): 261-288.
13. Moloney, Sharon. (2009). Birth as a Spiritual Initiation: Australian women’s experiences of transformation.  Australian Religion Studies Review, 22 (2), Special Supplement: 190-213. 
14. Beck, Cheryl. (2004). Birth trauma – in the eye of the beholder. Nursing Research, 53 (1): 28-35.
15. Benson, Herbert. (1975). The Relaxation Response. New York: Avon Books.
16. Esch, Tobias, Fricchione, Gregory and Stefano, George. (2003). The therapeutic use of the relaxation response in stress-related diseases. Med. Sci. Monit. 9 (2), RA 23-34.
17. Deckro, John, Domar, Alice and Deckro, Ruth. (1993). Clinical applications of the Relaxation Response in women's health. Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, Clinical Issues, 4 (2):311-319.
18. Wolinski, Stephen.  (1993). Quantum Consciousness. Las Vegas: Bramble Books.
19.Lipton, Bruce. (2007). ‘Sacred Science’.  ABC Radio National, The Spirit of Things, Dr Rachel Kohn, 29 April, 2007. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/spiritofthings/default.htm  Retrieved 30 April, 2007.
20. Mongan, Marie. (2005). HypnoBirthing: The Mongan method, 3rd Edition. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications Inc.