Heather Brooke’s article: Art and Movement as Preparation for Birth appeared in Colorado Doulas Association June 2012 newsletter.

Art and Movement as Preparation for Birth, by Heather Brooke, MA-R-DMT

When I asked my doula client how she was last week, she responded with overwhelm, “I have so much to keep in my head about this birth.” My first thought was, “Hm, that WOULD be scary, thinking that a healthy birth depended on keeping all the facts straight.” My next thought was, “Wow, what a relief that she can relax, because her body already knows the answers.”While I’m a big believer in the power of our thoughts, I also know from experience that memorized facts are not trustworthy companions through the journey of birth. The body, however, can be trusted. This article describes how process-oriented art and movement enhance both awareness and trust in the body and, thus, are useful practices in preparing a women to both trust and listen to her body during pregnancy and labor.I am a doula, birth counselor, visual artist and dancer.  In my body-centered birth classes, mamas engage in process-oriented art and movement, where the experienceof painting and moving is paramount, and no emphasis is placed on creating a finished product. Clients are supported to identify body-centered states of being (sensations and feelings), then asked to respond to what they notice using paint and movement. The process cultivates not only body awareness, but also the confidence to allow a body-based response without needing to analyze or explain it. Listen and respond without judgement. The formula is that simple.Most people have an experience of listening and responding to body cues on some level. This dialogue with body is evident in cases such as responding to hunger, or having a “gut feeling” to call a friend and following through. It’s the unfettered, “Yes, I want that,” or “No, I don’t want this,” that can be traced to a body knowing, without cognitive explanation.

Listening and responding, using the mediums of art and movement, is empowering for a pregnant woman. Regardless of how it looks or what it means, her artistic creation represents that she has taken a stand for her own body-centered truth by giving it a voice. If I could hear a client’s thoughts in a session, I might hear something like, “Yes, I want that blue, and I want it spread in a bold arch across my paper from left to right, and I can’t tell you why.” Or I might hear, “My body just wants to walk and walk and walk as I shake my hands, and there’s no explaining it.” By reinforcing the listen-respond loop, my clients are in the habit of intuitively responding to body impulse in the heat of labor, rather than putting undue attention on the fetal monitor or other external measures of “progress” that may even detract from her efforts

This month, I am offering a 2-hour workshop for pregnant mamas at Dancing the Soul, where I will share the process-art principles I have described here. In July, I will offer a more in-depth, 4-week workshop at The Mother’Hood. See the “For Your Clients” section of this newsletter for more information. These workshops will be a valuable and supportive experience for any pregnant woman wanting to be present and prepared to give birth.

Heather Brooke, MA, R-DMT, is a Somatic Psychotherapist, Birth Educator, Doula, Mother and owner of Dancing Art Project. Heather offers prenatal and birth counseling to expectant mothers using somatic, experiential and creative arts modalities. Visit for more information on upcoming workshops and information on private sessions.