Three Kinds of Knowing

By Pam England and Virginia Bobro

We used to say that women needed two kinds of “knowing” to give birth: primordial and modern knowing. Today, we believe holistic preparation for birth and parenting requires three kinds of knowingprimordial knowing, modern knowing and knowing thyself.

The first kind of knowing is primordial knowing: the innate maternal instinct. Women have this knowing in their bones! And they are in this knowing when they are not in their thinking mind!

However, social conditioning has taught us not to trust or act on our gut knowing--until we have “thought it through,” researched it, second guessed it, or checked with others about what they think or would do. One of women’s modern tasks of pregnancy is to first learn to feel their gut instinct and to distinguish this feeling from fleeting fear (or the contagious fear of others). Another task is to awaken the fierce protective mother within and boldly act on their gut instinct. Instead of trying to “get it right” (which is impossible!), mothers need to learn (or remember) to arise in love, doing what needs to be done in the moment, without attachment to outcome.


The second kind of knowing is modern knowing: being savvy about what’s happening in the hospital. Like it or not, and whether parents are planning to birth at home or in a hospital, one of the modern tasks of birth preparation for all parents is to learn about the hospital birth culture in their community. Modern knowing includes holistic preparation for all kinds of possibilities, including inductions, cesarean birth and navigating through postpartum. This kind of knowing may actually help parents decide where they want to labor. Even if they are planning to labor and birth at home, knowing about the hospital they would transfer to if needed will help them to be resourceful in a crisis.   

The third kind of knowingknowing thyself, is the most important. It should be mother’s first priority during her preparation for birth as a rite of passage--and the priority of your classes and sessions. Before she can know where she is going, she need to know from where she came and where she stands now. The reason is this: We inevitably “choose” books, classes and birth companions that are in alignment with our assumptions about birth. We rarely “choose” based on what is happening Now, and what we are learning NOW. Usually we just do what feels right or familiar. What feels right is usually what fits with what we learned to trust as a child. You will learn in this workshop some ways to help parents make an inventory of their beliefs, assumptions, and agreements.

Before learning what is “out there” (in the birth world) and before “choosing,” deciding or planning anything… begin within.

Parents: be aware of what is motivating you to: research or control, choose or avoid, act or freeze.  Ask yourself:

•  What do you believe or assume to be true about [birth, pain, babies, mothering, hospitals, etc.]?

•  From where does this [specific preference] come? (It didn't come from our own mind. We are conditioned as children to believe that our preference means we are responsible, brings us approval, or is safer in some way.)

•  From where does this emotion (e.g. fear, shame, guilt) arise? How do you know to feel this way? How does it help you to feel this way? (This is also a learned pattern.)

•  What assumption is motivating you to go toward this decision, or away from it?

•  What motivates you to read one book, and to avoid another? What is motivating you to avoid reading certain chapters? Are you choosing to read material that matches familiar assumptions?

There are three kinds of knowing.
Cultivate all three during your childbearing year.
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1 Comment


May 17, 2015

I like it. Thank you

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