December 5, 2011

Integrating Yoga and Lamaze: How the Ethical Practice of the Yamas and Niyamas Relate to Pregnancy and Childbirth. Part 2 – Satya.

Satya – Truthfulness

“Honesty is the best policy.”  We teach our children not to lie, but as adults we do it all the time.  “Oh yeah, I’m OK…”  “Of course I have time to help with that.”  “No, no.  It’s not your fault, really.”  Sometimes we lie to protect others.  Sometimes we lie to protect ourselves.  However, dishonesty leaves a mark on us.  It starts a pattern, and deepens the samskara associated with lying.

Mandala used with permission. "Labyrinth" by Amy Swagman

Intent is also important.  Even if the words coming out of our mouths are true, if our meaning is to deceive the other person, then we should not be making that statement.  We see this often from people when they are seeking information that they are not due to have.  Deception will also come back and bite you.

Satya doesn’t mean being honest at all costs.  We must take Ahimsa into account.  So, we need to take a moment, breathe, and figure out the most appropriate way to phrase things before speaking.  We want to not only be kind to the person to whom we are speaking, but to also be kind to ourselves.  Taking an extra pause before allowing the words to flow will be protective for both the speaker and the listener.

Drawing the concept of Satya now into pregnancy and childbirth; as with Ahimsa, Satya goes both ways; truthfulness from mom and truthfulness from her care provider.

I was reading on an online birth board recently and saw one mom tell others that “to avoid induction for being ‘late’ they should fudge the date of conception, so it seems like they are a week earlier than they actually are.”  She got a lot of “great idea!” and “Oooo, I’m going to do that!”.  My response – “Lying to your care provider is never a good idea.”  Then I went on to expound on the reasons why an induction for post-dates would be medically necessary and by lying you are putting your baby at risk.  The distinct silence from the moms on this board, after my comment, was deafening.

Trying to sneak around the rules, no matter how arbitrary they feel, is detrimental to a respectful relationship with your care provider.  Respect goes both ways, if you want them to respect you, you must respect them.  If we talk to our care providers, honestly, about our wishes, needs and concerns, we may find there is a middle path to walk, and our provider will willingly join us there.  If, on the other hand, we hide information from our provider, with the intent to deceive them, we not only put the relationship at risk, but we put the safety of ourselves and our babies at risk.

This is not to say that some ‘rules’ aren’t outdated, or have no medical benefit.  The no-food-for-laboring-mothers policy in hospitals is the prime example of that.  So, our choice is either to sneak food in, say it’s for dad, and eat after the nurse leaves; or it’s to talk to our care providers before we go into labor, get their feelings on eating and drinking, and if we desire to eat and drink during labor to inform them, graciously, that it is our intent to do so.  You may be surprised to find that many care providers will support you in your desire to eat and drink!

Let’s look at Satya from the other perspective; how our care providers interact with us.  This is where Informed Consent comes in.  Informed Consent is Satya.  It is how our care providers are legally obligated to interact with their patients.  It works on multiple levels.

It starts in our prenatal visits.  Our care providers must give us enough time to ask all the questions we have.  They must provide us will full, complete answers, in plain English so that we may have total comprehension.  We need to have the details of the risks, benefits and side effects of any treatment or procedure.  We need to know that we can refuse any treatment or procedure, and that our care provider will not think less of us for doing so because we have made an informed choice.

This follows into our labor, birth and postpartum hospital stay.  Even though, in the midst of a contraction, mom may not be able to focus enough on the explanation, the explanation must be given.  The care provider needs to wait until the contraction is over, and explain to both mom and dad (assuming dad is there) the risks and benefits.  Sometimes it may be appropriate to give the family a printout of the risks and benefits so that it can be digested and discussed over a period of time (assuming, of course it’s not an emergency).  It is also practicing Satya to inform mom of the risks and benefits during her prenatal visits, rather than waiting till labor.

Remember the other component to Satya?  Just because it’s true, doesn’t mean it’s kind or helpful to say it.  Watching every blip on a fetal monitor does give you a (more or less) true picture of your contractions and baby’s heart rate.  However, it can also give us (or our care providers) unnecessary, unwarranted concern about the baby.  It can make us crazy, watching those blips.  It can cause our support people (dad, nurses, etc.) to spend more time watching the monitor and less time watching mom.  So, the truth of the monitor slips away because we are not present in the full situation.

Satya – truthfulness is a multi-level, fully conscious practice.  To develop solid relationships with our care providers we must be truthful with them, and they with us.  Having a solid, respectful, honest relationship with our care providers will not only give us a physical birth that is safe and appropriate, but will also provide us with the emotional support and confidence that we need.

Sat Nam (Truth is my Identity)

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