My name is Nekole Shapiro and I am the Creatrix of Embodied BIRTH. Embodied BIRTH brings people into their birthing bodies. For some this helps them have more empowered birthing experiences. For some it helps them recover power they lost in past birthing experiences. For still others it allows them to reclaim their passion for birth work. For many, it does all of the above and more.

I teach birth embodiment because vibrating in every cell in my body is a deep desire for women to have empowered birthing experiences. I desire empowered birthing experiences not only because I know how great they feel and want more people to feel great, but also because empowered births create empowered mothers. I would love to see a society of fully empowered mothers raising fully empowered children!

When I say power, it is not just a word coming from my lips; I actually feel it in my body. We all know the adage knowledge is power and many of you reading this article have way more birth knowledge than I do. My somewhat provocative question is this: can you feel this knowledge? I’m guessing you can tell me all about the uterus, but can you feel yours in your body while you tell me about it? Can you connect with how it changes from day to day? Can you feel when your uterus swells just a bit in response to the basal temperature increase that comes with the luteal phase of your cycle? Can you feel if it tightens or pulsates or quivers a bit while you orgasm? Can you simply close your eyes and bring your attention to your uterus inside your body and have a conversation with it? The moment you do any of these things, you are embodied!  When you can connect what you learn with what you feel, you have embodied knowledge and that is some serious power! When we have embodied knowledge we are much better prepared to let a care provider know what is working for us. We feel empowered to say, “That hurts, don’t do it again!” or “No, I don’t think I need Pitocin, my body is doing great on it’s own.” Or in one story relayed to me by a very educated and embodied mama, she pushed her baby’s head out and then instinctively jumped out of her birth tub, contorted her body in just the right way, felt her baby’s shoulder dislodge and her baby slid right out.

The above are examples of embodying our birthing parts and of how beneficial doing so can be. Let’s go further shall we? Let’s bring our focus to the birth canal. You do not need to be a birth worker to know that when most people think of a baby passing through a birth canal they think of it as this huge thing squeezing through this tiny hole. As many of us know, it is not at all that simple. This is an example of some greatly misguided education that sadly continues to propagate itself every day. In fact, the birth canal was made to open up and supportively guide a new life as it enters into the world. I can share this knowledge with you if I show you a picture of vaginal wall tissue and point out that it folds upon itself much like intestinal tissue so as to allow for a great deal of spreading.  But there is nothing like embodied knowledge to really understand.  And how do we get embodied knowledge of this? (Oh yes!) Put your own finger inside your own birth canal and feel around. You cannot miss the squish! (Yes!  I did go there!)  The walls of our birth canals are extremely pliable. Feel the squish, the give and the shocking amount of tissue there?  A tiny little finger could really get lost in there. This is because it was not designed only to accommodate a finger, or a penis for that matter. It was designed to accommodate a baby!

Part of Embodied Birth’s online curriculum is a class entitled: Clitoral Revelations: The Secret Structures of the Birth Canal. If just the mucosa of the birth canal is misunderstood by most, you can image that the tissue underlying that mucosa is even more misunderstood. Ironically, this is the tissue that truly can make the difference between pain and pleasure. Many refer to it as the clitoral complex. I refer to it as tissue rich with sensational opportunity!  I am referring to an elaborate network of nervous and erectile tissue that makes its way around most of the circumference and depth of the birth canal. The more engorged this network gets, the more of the birth canal it will encase and the plumper the tissue, the greater our access to pleasure.

In a bit I will be taking you on a tour of all this beautiful tissue. But first I want to give you an idea of why this material is particularly important for birth workers. I will explain by telling my story. In my first birth I did not have comprehensive knowledge let alone comprehensive embodied knowledge of my birth canal at all. Not to say that I knew nothing, but far from what I know now! When I inquired with my Obstetrician about the possibility of gaining some embodied knowledge by doing perineal massage she told me, “the literature shows [perineal massage] doesn’t actually help in birth.” Thinking of course that my doctor knew more than I did about how my body worked, I just ended it there. I can say with great sadness and a hint of rage that I did not enjoy the passing of my first baby through my birth canal at all! I was barely embodied and most certainly did not feel empowered. The experience was frightening and I placed all my decisions in the hands of my doctor. On the other hand, by my second birth I knew the material so well I was teaching it. I worked both on my book knowledge and my embodied knowledge. By time I got to my birth I felt fully embodied and empowered in my birth canal! And as my second baby passed through me, the sensations were beyond any bliss I could have ever imagined. It opened me up to a pallet of sensations that I am more than happy to re-experience on a regular basis. I truly believe a big part of what made this possible started with simply (but not always easily) having the courage to really get to know my birthing parts. This is one of the many reasons I have created Embodied Birth. Bliss is our birthright and I want to help more people experience it!

Now, before you read any further, I would like to help get you into your body. Get yourself in a comfortable position. Ideally, you want your spine straight, your sits bones planted well on your chair and your feet rooted into the ground. Do not however, stay static in this position if it is causing you any distracting discomfort. The idea is to find a neutral position that allows you to bring your attention to the parts of your body you will be reading about. (Even if you do not have a birth canal, we all have tissue rich with sensational opportunity. Follow along in an embodied way.) Once you are in a comfortable posture, shake your hips back and forth and tilt them forward and backwards. Do this a few times until you get a sense of the parameters of your pelvic bowl.  Now bring your attention to your sits bones. Feel them pressing against your seat and your seat pressing against them. The area this article is about to focus on resides between your sits bones. Try and keep your awareness here as you read. Take your time, be gentle with yourself and take deep breaths. If at anytime you need a break, take one. If you realize you cannot bring your attention to the area or get confused as you are trying to follow along, just take note that more research maybe needed later.

And so we begin:

The first medical journal publication “The Anatomy of the Clitoris” was not published until 2005[i]. An astute female urologist in Australia wrote this article. Dr. Helen O’Connell wondered why it was she was not being taught the same level of specificity and precision when learning to operate on women as on men. She took it upon herself to go back to the literature and look for answers. What she found was specific information about women’s urogenital anatomy simply did not exist. So, she set upon doing the research herself. It is her work that allows me to give you the details I am about to share with you and which allows us to provide you with the images presented here.

Body check in: That was somewhat unsettling information.  Check in, if your attention has left your pelvic floor, bring it back. We are about to get into the juicy details.

The clitoral complex is an elaborate network of erectile tissue mostly sandwiched between the superficial and deep muscles of the pelvic floor. Much like a penis, this tissue swells in response to relaxation, stimulation and hormonal levels. As the tissue fills with blood the potential for pleasure increases.

Let’s start our tour at the bottom.

Bring your attention to the fourchette or the delicate skin right at the bottom of the vaginal opening where your lips meet. Now, imagine you touch your pointer and middle fingers to the fourchette with your fingertips pointing up. Slowly open your fingers into a “V” shape as you draw them up along the sides of the vaginal opening. Now place your “V” flat to the surface of the vulva. Press your fingers slightly deep to the body and release. Do this a few times. Under your fingers are the clitoral bulbs. These bulbs are made of a pliable erectile tissue that still has a bit of give to them even when they are fully engorged.  They generally take on a fat wishbone shape that comes to meet at the more ridged shaft. The shaft is the area just behind the glans of the clitoral complex. The glans is what most people think of as the “clit” and is covered by the hood.  The tip of the glans has 8,000 nerve endings on it!  Talk about tissue rich with sensational opportunity!

Now take a breath. Deep to this nervous tip is the more ridged erectile tissue of the shaft that then branches itself into a thinner wishbone shape that dives deep into the body; this wishbone creates the legs or the crura. If we think of the birth canal as a clock, with the glans at 12:00 and the fourchette at 6:00, the crura run at approximately 10/11:00 and 1/2:00.  Embedded between these two legs and along the 12:00 position from superficial to deep with the urethra running through it is the urethral sponge. Embedded in the urethral sponge is the female prostate, a tissue so controversial the Federative International Committee of Anatomical Terminology did not accept its existence until 2001[ii]! It is from this tissue that female ejaculate is produced.  Often, if a pushing urge is accommodated once the area is plumped up; ejaculate will squirt or dribble out the urethra and/or the vulvo-vaginal glands. The more plump the erectile tissue of the clitoral complex, the more fluid build up there will be and the more ejaculate will be produced. Remember, a pregnant mama can have a 40% increase in blood volume.

Finally, bring yourself back to where you started at the 6:00 position. Here you will find the perineal sponge, making its way from superficial to deep. This too is filled with erectile tissue that will plump up and provide sensational opportunity. In all, these parts aggregate to create a cuff of erectile tissue that encompasses the majority of the circumference and depth of the birth canal. The plumper it all gets the more area it will cover and the more pleasure available to mama.

A Final Body Check in – Is your attention still in your pelvic floor? Were you able to follow along and feel these parts of your body as you read about them?

If you had trouble staying in your body while you read this you are far from alone. Most people who have attended my classes or whom I have worked with need time and practice embodying their tissue rich with sensational opportunity. I know I did and I grew up practicing embodiment! Keep researching your birthing parts. Keep working towards embodying what you learn. Soon you will be able to access your own comprehensive embodied knowledge of this material and help others do the same! If you were able to stay in your body while you read this, it is time for you to teach others to do the same! Teach other birth workers and your clients. Let’s help us all reclaim our pleasure and reclaim our power!

[i] Helen E. O’Connell, Kalavampara, V, Sanjeevan, and John M. Hutson. “Anatomy of the Clitoris”. The Journal of Urology, Volume 174,  October, 2005, pp. 1189-1195.

[ii] Flam, Faye (2006-03-15). The Seattle Times: Health: Gee, women have ... a prostate?. Retrieved 2009-04-28.

About the author

Community.Relationship.Intimacy.Sex.Birth and so much more. Do you know how to find yourself and the space between you and another? Nekole can help you find your way. One small warning....Nekole has been known to change lives!