Introducing the newest Amant Muse, Amber Hartnell
“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” – Genesis 3:16
Childbirth is one of the most incredible transitions a woman’s body can make, an act her body was quite literally designed for. And yet, isn’t it curious that the dominant narrative around birth focuses almost exclusively on pain and suffering? In fact, painful childbirth is so accepted that alternatives rarely enter mainstream conversations, and if they do, are often frowned upon.
But what if severely painful births were in large part a byproduct of cultural conditioning? What if, in changing the dominant dialogue around birth, women could open new possibilities of experiencing greater ease, connection, and Pleasure through the process of bringing another life into this world?
Every woman’s birth experience is uniquely hers; there’s no “right way” to do it. And yet new roles models can be very helpful in inspiring what’s possible.
Beginning to shift the dominant dialogue around bringing life into the world, are communities of incredible women (and the men who love them), coming together to reclaim a different experience of the birth process.
Amber Hartnell, Amant’s newest Muse, is one of these incredible women.
A vibrant and passionate guide, Amber helped spearhead the “ecstatic birth” movement by birthing two young sons without pain or medication. Her ecstatic birthing experience was even featured on ABC News 20/20, where the videos went viral, peaking the interest of millions of women who had never seen an alternative to traditional birth.
She embraces naturalness in all forms, and has supported thousands of women to have natural, less painful — even Pleasurable — and empowered births by listening to, and deeply trusting the intrinsic wisdom of their own bodies.
For Amber, the process of bringing her sons into the world, with total trust in her body, was a natural extension of how she chooses to live in all areas of her life.
“It was my experience that [during pregnancy] there was this inherent wisdom that began to activate and become very precise within me. For the entire pregnancy, I listened deeply to my body and trusted every impulse — I ate exactly what it wanted me to eat, and emptied out everything: all my preconceived notions, expectations, and even my intention for the birth. I didn’t intend to have an ecstatic birth experience. I had heard of it as a possibility, but I didn’t actually think, ‘oh that’s going to happen to me.’”
And yet that’s exactly what occurred. In letting go of the deeply ingrained idea that birth had to be painful, instead trusting the inherent wisdom of her body, Amber went on to have two ecstatic, painless childbirths.
“To me, birth is what’s occurring in the way the creative essence emerges into form moment by moment by moment; breath by breath. So whether we’re birthing a child into the world, or dancing, or making love, or cooking a meal, or creating anything, it’s the same exact energy that we’re interacting with.”Amber Hartnell
Moving through the potential of intense pain, into the ecstasy on the other side, requires a deep relaxation into whatever sensations the body is feeling. Rather than relating to intense physical feelings in the body as “pain,” it is helpful to simply relate to them as sensation, without tensing up or resisting.
“It really requires an unerring focus to continually move towards intensity. You can’t do it half-heartedly or with just part of your attention… And it’s not a forceful moving towards– simply turning to face it directly is where to start. As you face it and bring your full attention and breath into it, the intensity is able to soften and dissolve. It’s a continual, moment by moment, approach towards a center you never really reach, yet you’re continually moving towards and opening into the sensation.”
Amber describes that the trick lies in moving towards the sensation vs. resisting it… Turning the pain of tension into the gold of relaxed presence. Alchemy.
“A lot of women ask me, now that I’m in this position as a voice for ecstatic birth, ‘how can I too have an orgasmic birth?’ My general response to this is, ‘First of all, don’t expect and try to.’ I don’t recommend that anybody attempt to have an orgasmic birth. It’s just like an orgasm during sex — in the way that, if you’re reaching and grasping for it, you’re pushing it away. It happens through the dissolution of all expectation, and the ability to be completely present to EVERY sensation that’s there, moving into it, breathing it open and relaxing into the experience. It’s really the maintaining of a relaxed state of alertness. You’re simultaneously totally relaxed yet completely alert.”
In the years after giving birth her remarkable birthing experience was featured in two groundbreaking documentaries, Birth As We Know It, which has been translated in 15 languages and is available in 59 countries, and Orgasmic Birth. It struck a chord with women around the world seeking an alternative to the fearful births they’d been conditioned to expect.
“I’ve received countless letters from women around the world saying that seeing my birth not only changed the way they birthed — as many went on to have profound ecstatic and empowered births — but it also changed their life. Because what I’m offering in this is a fundamental life-transmission. It’s not just about birth — I simply showed up in birth the way I live the entirety of my life.”
“To me, birth is what’s occurring in the way the creative essence emerges into form moment by moment by moment; breath by breath. So whether we’re birthing a child into the world, or dancing, or making love, or cooking a meal, or creating anything, it’s the same exact energy that we’re interacting with. So what I’m most interested in is the dynamic of how we are interacting with that energy. Essentially, how much are we able to get out of our own way — to dissolve through our self-imposed limitations and allow that creative current to animate us, inform us, and to fully live through us?”
Rather than giving birth through the cultural confines of what’s expected in the Western world — fear and pain — Amber experienced the natural joy of fully trusting her body.
While most women received her empowering message with inspiration & gratitude, there were some who considered pain-free, Pleasurable childbirth to be both perverted and against the fundamental teachings of the Bible, noting painful birth as necessary to pay for Eve’s “original sin” (Genesis 3:16):
“The overwhelming response from my birthing footage… was positive, mostly from women who were so inspired that this possibility even existed. But then, there were … [other] people making pretty horrible comments, like, “That’s so disgusting and selfish of her to be thinking about her pleasure while giving birth!” and “that’s incestuous”. Or, “I would have been so embarrassed to have been born to her; can you imagine what that child’s going to grow up to be?” — All these very confused points of view, from people obviously operating from very limited constructs and intense sexual repression.”
For Amber, this awareness brought to light the importance of helping release the shame many women have around their natural bodies,
“I realized that one of the biggest things needing to shift in our society is sexual repression and the cultural conditioning around it. That such distortion could be projected upon this very pure and completely spontaneous event — and there was no part within the birth where I even intended to have an orgasmic experience, nor did I ever sexually stimulate myself.
It was all energetic. And such a deeply connected, wholly empowering, exquisite experience of alignment with life, soul, and purpose — I was astounded that it could be distorted through the lens of that perspective of repression and sexual shame. Truly, [people] were actually saying that women were made to suffer in childbirth to pay for Eve’s original sin. That was a prevalent belief I observed, which would express itself in a variety of different ways through the comments. Essentially, that’s the belief: that women need to suffer, because women are somehow inherently bad or wrong.”
These comments touched a deep chord for Amber, and helped further clarify and highlight her life-mission as an guide and muse for ecstatic living.
As long as there’s still something considered wrong with female Pleasure, whether through sex, birth, or simply living, sexual suppression on the planet will remain intact.
Yet as we embrace greater freedom in female sexuality, and a woman’s right to Pleasure (in all forms, from orgasm to childbirth), we create room for a new imprint in society: one where women can birth both children & visions into this world through a process of joy, rather than fear.
And this potential, to experience unapologetic aliveness in every moment, is what is available to all of us fortunate enough to make the choice.
© Amant, 2016
For more of Amber’s work, visit her Site.