The Power of Joy:

Interview With Candace Fields, C.N.M.

Interview by Steven Raymond

At the 3rd Congress in San Francisco, David Chamberlain introduced Candace Fields as one of the finest nurse midwives in the world, saying that "Candace makes use of all of the latest knowledge about the consciousness of the newborn, and brings that knowledge in a very natural way to her work with mothers ... not intimidating anyone, but drawing from women a feeling of power that comes from within themselves.

Candace gave a presentation that received a standing ovation and a request for a second presentation during the same weekend. For me, Candace's work exemplied the best of the spirit and science of pre-and peri-natal psychology as applied in a day to day birthing practice. What follows is a brief excerpt of a two hour phone conversation, edited only for clarity and brevity.

S: In a previous conversation you told me you were surprised that you had received such a warm reception at the San Francisco Conference. What did that reception mean to you in terms of PPPANA as an organization, and in terms of your own work?

C: My initial surprise centered around the fact that I was an unknown entity from a very smalI rural environment, with my credentials being only that I was a midwife who had been working in a certain way. So I was surprised when I received such an overwhelmingly positive response, and this caused me to reflect upon what it was in my presentation that people were responding to.

I've listened to the tape of my presentation many times, and my feeling is that I really didn't say anything very extraordinary. I was simply speaking from my experience with my daily practice. The wonderful response to things I take so for granted in my birthing practice made me realize that my experiences haven't been universally shared. It amazed my husband and I that people could be so inspired by such simplicity.

I see birth as an event that is life changing, and as an experience that women can get into with immeasurable pleasure. In my perception of birth as a joyful experience, and in my regard and respect for the transformational joy of that experience, I guess I approach labor and birth in a way that perhaps is not being done elsewhere.

S: The audience recognized a simple and practical truth in what you were saying.

C: Yes, I think there were voids, a lack of the experience of joy for many of the audience, either professionally or personally, and my talk spoke to those voids. I think at this particular conference, most of the people became connected to memories from their own births, or to the births of their children, or to the violence and trauma some of them see routinely in the environments where they deliver babies. And so for them to hear a message of joy, and to see slides of women looking almost rapturous, and to hear music that was so positive, brought up a lot of feelings for people, and they related to it on a very personal level.

I believe modem obstetrics is taking a dire turn for the worse for many reasons. Malpractice concerns are having a heavy impact on the way decisions about labor and birth are made. Many people have bought into decisions based upon caution and fear that really have nothing to do with the well being ofthe family. For many of these people, hearing an upbeat an practical talk was really inspiring.

Many professional people told me later that they walked away with some pretty concrete things that they could do in their practice or in hospitals, and that pleased me, be cause my intent was to speak of thing that they could change right now.

S: You mentioned that the conference attendees may have had their own birth memories stimulated, and I know from on previous conversations that you have found a great deal of personal relevance in reliving your birth memories throngh hypnosis. Have you found that your personal birth memories had any relevance to your professional life?

C: Oh yes, I really did. Reexperiencing my own birth tremendously increased my sensitivity to babies during birth, even though I was already very sensitive to them as conscious human beings, It reinforced for me the consciousness of the person making the journey, and made me even more aware of the things I do to help the young traveler through his birth journey.

S: Did you experience your own birth a a traumatic procedure, or was it an easy one?

C: It was a drugged one, it was very drugged, and it was full of sadness, at least that was my recall. It was very much full of sadness, and it didn't fee like it was my decision to leave. It felt very much out of my control.

S: And the bonding with your mother?

C: I don't remember any.

S: You didn't have that experience?

C: No, I felt very distant.

S: How did the experience of non-bonding affect you? You were already a nurse/ midwife at the time of your hypnotic birth recall, and had been for years. How did that realization of non-bonding affect your care of women and children afterwards?

C: I really beefed up my prenatal program after that. My recall of my birth experience was one of feeling really contained in a shell. I remember not feeling the presence of a person. It seemed my mother was out of the picture through the whole time. I remember having no relationship to anyone, feeling very alone and isolated, and feeling no love,

This made me feel that it is really important to help a mother work with her feelings about her pregnancy, especially the feelings of ambivalence. The ambivalence affects the mother's bonding with the child, but often, the mother feels she is harming the child if she thinks "bad" thoughts about the pregnancy. So I try to help mothers know that it's really best to deal with their ambivalent feelings as soon as possible, best for them and best for the baby.

S: My experiences have been that it's far better for the mother to resolve her feelings rather than just staying stuck and repressed. I've seen a couple of specific cases where the infants' failure to thrive seemed to come right out of the unresolved hopelessness and ambivalence that characterized the mothers' pregnancies. It seems far more destructive for those feelings to stay repressed.

C: I think it is. When I was realizing what I had felt as a prenate, and when I looked at the emotional patterns of my life, I could see that removing myself from pain was one of my first lessons in life. I remember vividly the numb sensations from the obstetric anesthesia, and how as an adult, when I would be under emotional stress, I could feel myself putting a wall of fog around me and really retreating. Rather than dealing with my reality, such as hurt or anger, I would just pull away, and that's a very self-destructive thing to do. I never did this through drugs, but rather, it seemed to be an automatic emotional pattern.

S: That's a very common pattern, And I haven't seen that it's necessarily true that people that had drugs in their own birth turn to drugs in their later lives, although many of the people who do turn to drugs, did have drugs at birth. But if they did have narcotics or gas anesthesia, it certainly creates a pattern of the kind of automatic emotional numbness that you described, while twilight steep produces a tendency towards confusion under stress, rather than numbness. The pattern of stress during labor and birth seems to create the formula for coping with stress in later life. I see that very clearly in experiential therapy.

C: I find that really fascinating. So, the original question, as to how my birth recall influenced me professionally, I really felt that I became much stronger, and gained a stronger understanding and a clearer sense of very concrete ways to help the mother to bond with her unborn child. I became greatly sensitized to the emotional needs of both the mother and the child. This emotional relationship became much more real for me in my day to day experience, and I always looked for very positive ways to help that relationship become more real for the mother. I never want to make it feet heavy. I always make it very playful and exciting and easy and fun. I never was very interested in having people create geniuses in the womb. I think it's a horrible thing we're doing in our society, this business of creating "superbabies" reading at a year of age and stuff.

I try to have mothers learn about their baby's character during the pregnancy. I continually talk to them in ways that cause them to relate to the baby inside of them as a real person. I spend a lot of time with mothers doing this because it's what I consider to be the most essential aspect of prenatal care. A typical prenatal exam for me is possibly five minutes of clinical examination, and the rest of the time was a lot of playing and a lot of laughing. I cluck over mothers, and do everything I can to create the feeling that this is a natural process, that they have the inner knowing of how to birth, and I always seek to foster the emotional relationship between the mother and her prenate, That's my idea of prenatal care.

S: Let me ask you, in your experience, and I know that your emphasis is always on the positive, when you do meet people that have come from difficult backgrounds, such as child abuse or neglect, are there times when you find that your very positive approach doesn't work, or that it's difficult to make that happen.

C: Sure.

S: How do you deal with that?

C: Many women have only been exposed to really primitive options for how they perceive their pregnancies and how they can see themselves birthing their baby. Many times social leaming has eliminated the sense that they intuitively know how to birth. Some women are not emotionally ready for a child, and sometimes her background may have been very traumatic. I give them kindness and support and mothering, and try to show them that they have the option of not parenting their child the way that they were patented.

S: Have you had experiences where you're finding during the prenatal care that everything seems to be going well and during even the initial labor everything seems to be going well and it's all been positively focused, but that something not easily medically explained seems to happen that makes the labor more complicated? Have you ever had that experience?

C: Oh, yes.

S: Have you ever had the feeling that birthing mothers were somehow being stimulated to unconscious patterns from their own birth, and that this may have been the cause of that kind of unexplainable complication?

C: I think that I began to realize that after the 1985 San Diego conference. Now I can look back and see that laboring mothers can become stimulated by their own unconscious. Sometimes I think that a woman has really done a lot of emotional work during her pregnancy, and things are fine, and then during labor things begin to turn in ways that seem incomprehensible. "Gosh, hov did I miss this?" I never could figure it out. It would be the most frustrating type of thing. I often wondered after that, and believe that in many of those cases that there were alot of personal birth memories coming up. I think when a woman's own birth has been relatively easy, she will tend to repeat that herself. I'm not so positive that if she experienced a difficult birth that she would definitely have a difficult labor with her own child, though I am sure that it sometimes does occur that way.

S: I don't think a rough labor for your birth necessarily means you'll have a rough labor for your child, but generally speaking, if you have a rough labor when birthing your child, there's a strong probability that your mother had a rough labor when you were bom, which would serve as the primary source of your unconscious beliefs about birth. Sometimes the character and events of a mother's labor will be very similar to the pattern of her own birth, and in therapy work I've done with mothers and daughters from the same family, I've seen that the unconscious patterns and actual circumstances of labor can mimic each other very closely.

C: That sounds really interesting. It certainly makes me think about those labors that did seem to turn in such unexplainable ways.

S: When I listen to you talk about the way you speak to mothers, and the specific things you say to them, it strikes me that you seem to have very naturally developed therapeutic semantic skills that many people spend a lot of time training themselves to achieve. You've told me you have had no hypnotherapy or semantic training, but I've heard you refer to the "Language of Birth." Could you talk about that?

C: I've observed that whenever two people come together in any kind of relationship, there's always this little dance that they do to fit in with each other. When people come to a healthcare professional, sometimes they really go out of their way to fit in and be a good patient, and I've always wanted to make it so they didn't have to do that. I make it a point to enter into the dance with them by relating to them initially in the way they relate to me. If they are quiet people, I relate to them quietly.

If they are upbeat and fun, I'll have fun with them. Sometimes I even find myself subtly using their accents and mannerisms, and I've found that these things bring me into a feeling of deep connection with them. I have a glimpse of their reality, and they in turn feel totally accepted for who they are, and come to feel that they can feel free to express themselves completely, always knowing they will be accepted.

Later on, during labor and delivery, we have this great relationship already well established, and maybe things are getting more intense, a wild side of their emotions needs expression through sound or movement, and I just smile and maybe flash them an "OK" sign, go for it mama, and they know they can do it. It's joyful and powerful to share birthing with people in this way. I see that the total acceptance they feel allows them to soar like a bird, and I soar with them.

S: It sounds like you try to provide an intrauterine-like environment for the mother.

C: Absolutely!

S: Well, I have to tell you, Candace, and I know all the therapists and NLP people would agree, you are definitely using well defined and very sound semantic principles in your work. When you draw on mothers' abdomens you are getting them to visualize, the music you play gets them auditority involved, and your words and actions get them involved in their own bodies and emotions.

The "dance" you described before is referred to as pacing and leading in semantic terms. From my view as a therapist, it seems you have naturally evolved a way of being with pregnant women that helps them to create a positive vision and feeling for their pregnancies, which causes them to create that outcome.

C: Well, thanks for that compliment. It's certainly my intention to do that, and that also addresses a lot of what I think is wrong with the fear and caution approach to birthing education. We don't tell marathon runners at the beginning of the race that they might not make it, or that they may not be able to stand the pain. We prepare for the best, not the worst, and we should do that with pregnancies as well.

S: So, it you were able to influence the direction that PPPANA as an organization would take (over the next 5 - 10 years, what is it that you would like to see occur.

C: We absolutely must intercede in the obstetrical atrocities that are occuring. The dissemination of our knowledge of fetal consciousness is extremely critical. Society and obstetrics operates without that knowledge, and when you do have the awareness of prenatal consciousness, and of how mothers' consciousness influences birth outcomes and the later emotional health of the child, and when you see the iatrogenic traumas of birth that are so easily avoidable, then you can't help but feel that the current state of obstetrics is almost barbaric in its disregard for the knowledge that we already have. This is why it is absolutely crucial that we get this information out to the places where it matters, to the people who are delivering babies.

We have to translate all of this incredible medical and consciousness research into practical applications for treating families, mothers, and unborn and newborn children. I find it impossible to believe that obstetrics could continue its perpetuation of birth violence if they knew they were doing that to a perceiving, feeling and intelligent human being. The research and documentation that has been done was a crucial first step, but there are still too many people in the world that see the newborn in completely limited ways that have nothing to do with the reality of infant consciousness and perception. I want to see PPPANA devote tremendous energy and resources into impacting the delivery of care. We need to expand our membership, our publications, our seminars and speaking engagements, develop university programs; we must get this information out, and for those of us who are aware, we have to assume the personal responsibility to do our part in spreading the word: Babies are conscious, perceiving human beings, and the things we do during pregnancy and birth definitely impacts their emotions and later physical and emotional health and well-being.


Steven Raymond's interview with Candace Fields is from the Fall, 1987 issue of Pre- and Peri-Natal Psychology Newsletter

Return to the the The Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health Articles Listing

Return to the Primal Psychotherapy Homepage