Laura Shanley: Doctor’s Daughter To Unassisted Childbirth Advocate
Laura's family was entrenched in the medical community. Her father was a doctor, her mother was a medical researcher, and her sister was a labor and delivery nurse. That she would reject a modern approach to giving birth was almost unthinkable.
However, a chance encounter in college propelled Laura on a path that was in direct opposition to her family and the entire medical community. One that's put her in the forefront of a revolution in thinking.
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Shea Oliver: Hi, I'm Shea Oliver. Welcome to the priority paradigm. These are the stories of amazing people who have made radical changes in their life for something more important. Today I'm with Laura Shanley and she's got a fascinating store. I think that you're going to really enjoy. So without further ado, Laura, tell us your story.
Laura Shanley: Okay, well, thank you for inviting me. Well. My story I guess began in 1978 when I moved to Boulder, Colorado from Denver. I had grown up in Denver. I was a doctor's daughter, grew up in the suburbs, a little bit of a rebel but not ,you know, anything major, but then in college I met my husband to be David, who is now my ex and he was. I was my freshman year. He was fascinated by the concept of birth trauma and he was basically was interested in the evolution of consciousness of human consciousness and how we, what we're doing here and how our consciousness has evolved. And in this study he came across a book called Childbirth Without Fear, by Grantly Dick-Read, and it's basically about how most of us are traumatized at birth. And, our mothers are afraid, which I'll go into in a minute, what that does.
Laura Shanley: But, so were born basically in trauma. Most of us have difficult births. If you look at birth today, there's a 33 percent c-section rate. It's supposed to be a gentle, easy process. And it's not for most women as opposed to maybe in years past women or women in third world countries. Maybe we're giving birth in the field or whatever. Now it's major surgery. But even before the c-section rate went up, women were having traumatic births. And so what this man said is that actually, we're supposed to be born sort of in ecstasy. It's supposed to be a gentle, easy process and an ecstatic process just like, you know, sex feels good because we are meant to procreate. So why should birth be the most traumatic, horrible, excruciating, painful, dangerous thing we ever endure. So, and what the people that David was reading, what they're theorizing is that when we're born in a state of trauma, it sort of sets it, it makes us feel as if life is this dangerous, painful, horrible experience.
Laura Shanley: It sort of sets the tone for future experiences. So we see that this doesn't feel good, this is scary. And so we're traumatized. We end up really all of us having some sort of post partum depression or even babies. It's like it because you've been through this process that wasn't pleasant, that it sets the tone for future experiences. We come to look at the world as a dangerous place and so if but, but if we can understand what birth truly is, that it is meant to be this ecstatic experience and similar to sex actually for both the mother and the baby. This meant to be a transformative experience, empowering for them other. And if it is, it sort of sets the tone for the future in that life is exciting and fun and I want to be here. And we ended up embracing life more and we ended up having fewer physical and emotional problems.
Laura Shanley: So what Grantly Dick-Read, who wrote in the 1940's and 50's, he was an English physician and he wrote that birth is actually designed beautifully. There is a larger consciousness, whatever you choose to call it, God, Goddess, you know, all that is, it knows what it's doing. It's not stupid. It has designed the human body beautifully and really, you know, when we are pregnant, it's not like I have to decide, okay, this week I'm going to grow fingers and toes. How am I going to do this? There is an intelligence there. And this intelligence knows how to complete the process, if we get out of the way and basically let it happen. But most of us are so ego dominated. We think the ego is all there is and that we have to get in there and control everything. It's like you go to sleep at night and you think, how am I going to keep my heart beating? How am I going to keep myself breathing? Is an intelligence. So this intelligence knows how to get a baby out very easily. It knew how to grow the baby, knew how to grow all the internal organs. It will get that baby out, but there is something that is within each one of us that has to override that natural process. It's called the fight-flight response and fight-flight has to override everything basically because if we're in a dangerous situation, we need to be able to either fight or run, so to be attacked by a wild animal, you know, be able to get the hell out of there. So, what happens now our consciousness has evolved and, and we've become afraid of birth.
Laura Shanley: We don't really trust our natural instincts anymore. Like an animal. A cat goes off to the closet, it doesn't read a manual? It doesn't, it just knows how to give birth. Okay? In developing our self consciousness, we have sort of lost touch with that, which is okay. It's a temporary thing. We needed to develop a strong sense of self and which the animals have sort of a rudimentary self consciousness, but we needed to develop a stronger sense of self and an ego and that's great. But in the process we have lost touch with those natural instincts. So we've forgotten that we can just go off to the closet and give birth and everything will be fine. So what we've basically done is because we've become afraid, we trigger women trigger fight, flight in labor. They've been taught their whole life that this is this horrible, the worst thing you'll ever go through. There's a lot of myths about women and babies dying all the time throughout history, which I've studied and I'll get into that in a minute.
Laura Shanley: So they are set up basically to believe this is gonna hurt and it's going to, it's an accident waiting to happen. You need to surround yourself with doctors and technology, and you need to brace yourself and you know, get ready with the drugs because this is really going to be something horrible. So what Grantly Dick-Read says is that okay, so women in labor and also during the pregnancy, but in labor they trigger fight-flight. It's just like they're, they're afraid of this process. And so it's just like when you're afraid and they say you turned as white as a ghost, what's happening? Why is your face turning white? It's turning white because you've told your body, you're in a dangerous situation. So all nonessential organs are drained of blood and oxygen. So your face turns white The blood and oxygen rushes into your arms and legs, so you can fight the danger of runaway from it. Well, it doesn't go to the uterus. So because you're telling your body, now's not the time to give birth. You're in danger. So the, what he says is that the uterus of a frightened woman in labor, which most women are, is literally white. It doesn't have the fuel that it needs, so it cannot function correctly. So babies get stuck. Women are in tremendous pain. You deprive any organ or muscle of blood and oxygen, you're gonna be in trouble. So now people think, oh, childbirth is excruciating.
Laura Shanley: Well, try and taking away the fear and see what happens. Try having sex when you're in a state of fear and see what happens. Blood and oxygen do not go to the sexual organs when you were in a state of anxiety and fear, it's a protective mechanism. Your body thinks it's doing you a favor. So women are, are experiencing the pain and problems and they think, okay, now if we can just have more intervention to help me, maybe I can get this baby out. So what he's saying is that if you can truly understand how beautifully this has been designed and you don't interfere physically or psychologically and you don't live in poverty, this is another piece of the picture. Because if you live in poverty, you, your life is going to be problematic. You're basically, you're going to be in a state of anxiety, but you're also not going to be healthy if you don't have access to clean water and proper housing. So, anyhow, he said, if you can understand how beautifully it's been designed and you don't trigger fight-flight and you don't have doctors and nurses or even midwives around you telling you this is what you need to do, this is the position you need to be in. This is how long this stage of labor is it, you know, and basically in the hospital they're saying you have so many hours in this stage flavor. It's really like if you said to somebody, okay, now you, we want you to have an orgasm and we're going to be right there checking you periodically to see how close you are. This won't interfere at all. It interferes. Just their presence in her feet. Another man who, who is also a physician, Michel Odent, who actually wrote the foreword to my book, and he says, imagine you're, you're having sex and everything's just going beautifully and you're just kind of in that zone and everything's flowing. And suddenly somebody taps you on the shoulder and says, excuse me, what's your social security number? So he says, what it does is it brings you out of that artistic, creative, intuitive state, and it brings you into your rational, critical mind.
Laura Shanley: And it basically turns off the flow of those birth hormones. Basically, you can either produce birth hormones or you can produce stress hormones. You can't do both. So you start producing adrenaline, noradrenaline, you turn off the flow of estrogen, oxytocin, the hormones for birth, so and and so on. Our bodies are very sensitive and birth is a sexual act, it involves all the same hormones and organs and, and so if you're in a hospital and you're being observed by people and you're being checked and they're telling you to push or don't push and, and everybody's expected to conform to this, you know, everybody has to be 10 centimeters dilated regardless of what size the mother is, regardless of what size the baby is. And then now you push and you count, you hold your breath and holding your breath, your blood and oxygen, you know, that's going to interfere too. So they're doing all these things and so yes, it's problematic. So he's saying, okay, remove now he maybe wasn't talking about doing exactly what I did because I just removed myself entirely. I didn't feel like I wanted to be in a hospital and have to explain to people what I'm doing. I wanted everybody to leave me alone, and I felt like even bringing in a midwife, a midwife in Colorado has a long list of things that she needs to adhere to that somebody who has studied something that said, okay, this is how long we think this stage should be and this stage and this is when your water breaks and all that. So I felt like, okay, and my husband agreed. He actually suggested we do it this way. We're going to have to educate whoever comes into this.
Laura Shanley: Now. Initially that. So the night that I met him to get back to my original, the night that I met him, he was reading this book, and he's like, this is reading the book. The night you met him. He was reading that book for the second time, fascinated by this. He was also a student at the University of Colorado, but he was on this other track on his own, learning about birth trauma and the evolution and self consciousness and all this. So he gave me this book, well, I'm 18. I actually had never really thought about having children. My mother had explained to me about the episiotomy when I was young, which is like the cutting of the perineum to enlarge that, you know, so that babies can come out, which they're not doing so much anymore. But back then they were, and it just sounded horrible to me.
Laura Shanley: So I really just didn't. I just didn't really think of myself as a maternal person. Well, he gave me that book and he, we stayed up all night talking and I was just really fascinated. So I read the book and I remember feeling as I read this book and how Grantly Dick-Read says childbirth can actually be, an ecstatic experience. It should. He said exaltation. It should give you a feeling of exaltation. So, I remember feeling like maternal feelings began to surface in me for the first time, like I think they had just been blocked because of my terror and now I'm reading, Hey, this could actually be a pretty cool experience. And I suddenly was like, I want a baby. So I ended up, a couple of years later, we had a baby. And so when I, during my pregnancy, I'm like, you know what, okay, we're gonna, we're just gonna do it ourselves.
Laura Shanley: We were also reading books about the power of thoughts and feelings, which is, we were reading books called The Seth Material by Jane Roberts. It's about the concept, you create your own reality according to your desires, intentions, expectations, and just how powerful our thoughts and feelings really are. And so, with those things kind of together, we decided, okay, we're going to just do this ourselves. And I never got prenatal care. I just got fresh air and exercise. And then when I went into labor with him, we had a few friends over and just people that were interested in. It was actually my ex boyfriend and his new boyfriend and a friend of ours and a filmmaker who was a teacher at CU and he had heard about our story and he was interested so they all came over and we're all in our little apartment on a 17th and University across from the college.
Laura Shanley: And, and I'm, I'm just kind of going about my life, you know, and that what, what I knew was that I wanted absolutely no one touching me. There was not, it almost felt like there is a freight train going through me. Everybody stay out of the way. And what Michel Odent, the physician I talked about, what he says is that there is a fetus ejection reflex. It's like a kind of like the sperm reflex that will propel semen from the body. There is a force that will get your baby out if you don't, if you haven't triggered fight-flight. So babies can fly out and sometimes do, or you see babies being born in cabs. Certainly the mother isn't like, okay, now I'm going to push really hard. They're like, I can't stop this. If you don't trigger fight-flight, babies can come out really easily.
Laura Shanley: And, so we were all hanging out and I suddenly felt the baby coming and I walked. I didn't tell anybody. I just walked over to the bed and I was on my hands and knees and the filmmaker moved out of the way to let me through. He turned off the camera and I got on my hands and knees and I heard in an internal voice say to me very strongly, do not turn over because I was thinking I would give birth on my back. That's how I thought babies are born, you know, and I just felt do not turn over and suddenly John, my baby just came flying out of me as I was on my hands and knees and my husband caught him in midair.
Laura Shanley: So I went on to have my other babies also this way, and then I began to study it and went and I thought, are other people doing it this way other than throughout history, but I began to really look at history. There's a book, let's see. Judith Goldsmith, Childbirth Wisdom from the World's Oldest Societies, and she talks about how 500, she studied 500 tribal cultures and she said anthropologists who went into tribes and lived with these tribes at 100 years ago, 150 years ago, sometimes they could observe a tribe for years and never see a death or a complication. Now that was in tribes where they were healthy. They were well fed, they treated the women well. Now in tribes where they're starving or they have practices, a lot of these tribes do have superstitions. They take the baby away from the mother right after birth. They sometimes give the baby whale blubber. They don't let the baby nurse. So, in certainly in war torn countries, you see women and babies dying. But what Judas Goldsmith is says in these healthy cultures, women were not dying, babies were not dying. Now, if you look in the cities 100 or 150 years ago, first of all, the women were often, if they were poor, they were malnourished, they were working in these sweatshops. Women who were pregnant were the wealthier ones were basically told to stay home. It was shameful to be pregnant. So you didn't go out and get fresh air and exercise. You couldn't even say the word "leg" in mixed company. So there was a lot of shame which I write about. So all these things contribute to childbirth being dangerous and painful and, but if you truly can love your body except your sexuality, and not be afraid, then babies can you, you see women giving birth in the fields and, or you hear about that. And, and it's just like you have a beautiful field of flowers and you know, you don't give it sunshine or water and then the flowers all die. And you say, well, they must be inherently defective. Flowers were not designed properly. No, you just need the right conditions and the right conditions from what I have found are at home with privacy and in the right state of mind, like any creative process, you need to get into the zone, and you can't get into the zone where everything is flowing. If you either are afraid, you're in state of anxiety, you're pumping out adrenaline, or you're in a hospital environment where everybody around you is viewing it as this dangerous process.
Laura Shanley: So I decided, okay, I'm first of all, when we did this and I was just like, Oh my God, this is, this was life changing because for me these were transformative experiences. When I had my, my fourth baby, I was alone. My husband and I were fighting. He had gone off to Norlin Library on campus and as soon as he left, I'm like, I gave birth by myself. And I was in ecstasy. I was in bliss. I just, I looked down at her, she came out and we looked at each other and I just was like, it was. I was in another, I was somewhere else and I was hearing waves and wind chimes and I'm just blissful. And, then on my other kids woke up, they made me some chocolate milk. I took shower, we put the baby in the stroller and we went off campus to find David. So none of this lying around. I was none of this, you know, pushing, panting, struggling. It was just like, move out of the way, catch my baby. And so, and I felt fantastic and I floated over to the campus and I was like, okay, I want to write about this. Now, I'd always been somewhat of a writer. And so I began writing about this. But first of all, I began to see. I began to see when my first pregnancy that a lot of people thought you are insane.
Laura Shanley: So, starting with my family, my dad was a physician and my mother did medical research and my sister was a labor and delivery nurse. So they literally thought I was insane and told me so and they were scared and I understand their concern, but, you know, we had very different views on life and you know, it wasn't only that we weren't going that we weren't going to go to the hospital or have a midwife. We then also didn't choose to vaccinate. We didn't choose to circumcise. And my family's Jewish, we tried, we did homeschooling, we were, you know, that now a lot of these things are very common, especially in boulder. But back then they weren't so common.
Laura Shanley: And so we really kind of felt like we were social outcasts, and I didn't end up speaking to my family for 14 years, which was very difficult. But I just felt like every time we saw them, you know, there were, I mean, we also were doing longterm breastfeeding, which was I nursed my kids for three years, and just were sort of out of sorts with society. So, you know, we had a very kind of isolated life for many years and then I decided to, I want to write about this, I want to help other people have these kinds of births. And so I began writing about it, and I finally managed to get a magazine article published in the early nineties, and then I wrote to an academic press who published in childbirth books and that seemed to be leaning in this direction, not quite to the point that I was, but I wrote to them and they said, yes, we would love to publish your book, please send us as much completed material as possible. And I had nothing on paper, I was just, it was all in my head.
Laura Shanley: So I wrote my book and it came out in 1994 and initially it was picked up by all the bookstores and, but nobody bought it and they named it Unassisted Childbirth. And people still thought it was just very weird. And so, it. So it really took awhile, and then finally in the late nineties I put up a website and then I'm really started connecting with other people and then eventually the media got interested and so, the New York Times did a story. I've been on 20/20. I did a show called the doctors if it's still, it didn't, didn't really help book sales, but there definitely has been interested in and now there really is a worldwide movement, which I don't feel like, you know, I don't claim to have started this. I just feel like I am one of the people that helped to popularize this and now a lot of women, you, you look at women who feel like, okay, this is, you know, reproductive rights, I have the right to my own body. But when they don't really, they stopped short of the birth and people don't really extend that to the birth. And so people, the same people that will defend my right to have an abortion. And I do believe that people have the right to do what they want with their own body. They will tell me I'm crazy and stupid and really shouldn't have the right to give birth this way. So, but it is legal and so, but I would say, you know, yes, it is. It's a challenge to go against society. To me, that's the biggest challenge of unassisted birth is to me the birth itself is easy. It's giving birth in a culture that views birth is inherently dangerous and painful and saying, you know, I have the right, this is my body and why should it be a so blasphemous to say I trust myself, I trust my body, I, this is how I want to do it. I feel like this is the safest for me, for my baby, with the correct knowledge. I have a right to do this if I want to. So, you know, I get, I've gotten horrible letters from people around the world and there are still people that, you know, definitely think I'm crazy and stupid. But, it was a life changing experience for me and it did give me confidence then in other areas of my life. So that I was able to start businesses, and sort of, you know, be on the outskirts of society and yet still be a part of it. So let me give you a chance.
Shea Oliver: I'm enjoying listening to the story. It is very different than what the mainstream it is. So let me actually take you back there a little bit. Around the time where you decided it was time to have kids. What was it like, I mean, you've come from a medical family. What were those points of decision as you kinda headed down the path of now I'm pregnant, I'm going to go a different path. How did you make that decision and go with it?
Laura Shanley: Well, in some ways now I look at it. Maybe I was fortunate. I really felt traumatized growing up, by doctors, I did not take comfort in going, to me. I was, I was a very healthy child. I did get strep throat periodically and they would take me into the doctor and give me a penicillin shot. I had all the vaccines. I was, needles terrified me. And so to me, doctors were not a source of comfort. They were sort of a source of terror. I had a pediatrician that I went to that did like rectal exams. There was nothing wrong with me and I'm like 6-7 years old. And I had nightmares about that for years. Like, why is this, why is this person doing this to me? Now I look at it as abusive, you know? And so, but now that I can, I kind of look at things in larger terms I think, okay, well it did sort of pushed me in this direction.
Laura Shanley: And I think having a father for having my father be a doctor, I think I didn't idolize doctors the way some people did. Like people would come to me. My father was a wonderful man, but people would come to me, your dad, you know, and people were like, he was like, this is God-like figure to people. And I think he's my dad. And I just didn't idolize doctors the way some people did. And when I really began reading about how the mind effects the body and, and sort of getting, discovering my spirituality, discovering that there is something beyond the physical and something that will help us, I tune into, I believe in dreams. Not that all dreams come true or you know, but I think I have gotten guidance in my dreams. I had practice giving birth in my dreams. The more I was able to tap into my inner wisdom, the less I look to the authority figures, and my inner wisdom was telling me that birth is a normal healthy process. It's not a disease. So I threw up one day when I was pregnant with my first child, and I asked myself what's going on here because I don't believe that there have to be, you know, here's the pregnancy, you have these symptoms, you vomit, you get swollen ankles and these are all the things that come along with it. Like, no, I felt great. And so. But I did get, I did throw up one day and so I send to myself, okay, what, why is this happening? I don't, I feel like it's a fear reaction. Food is meant to go in and come out and not come back up, you know, I thought, okay, I'm not afraid of birth, so what's going on? And what hit me is that I was afraid of motherhood, and actually when they've done study, they did a study in the 1950's and what is the number one fear during pregnancy? It's not having enough money to support the child. And so I think a lot of people don't realize all the different things that go through your head when you're pregnant and how that you're triggering fight-flight over and over again. So I was like, okay, I'm going to be a good mother. I'm going to be able to do this. And I'm big on beliefs, suggestions or affirmations. So I said, my belief suggestions, I never vomited again with that pregnancy or any of my other pregnancies. And actually 50 percent of women in the world do not vomit in pregnancy, but people in this culture just assumed this is what happens. So I didn't have any other symptoms. I felt great. I didn't feel that I wanted to go to, you know, as I, as this inner reality, as the larger consciousness became more real to me, as my own inner strength, became more real to me and I could feel it. Then the less I wanted to go and I remember seeing my dad years later. I went to his office after we maybe sometime during our separation that maybe 10 years or so, and he was there with his white coat, and it almost look to me as much as I respected him. It almost felt like a Halloween costume, like the idea of the doctor being this godlike figure and when I compared this to that inner consciousness that I was feeling then that the intelligence of the medical community just didn't wow me anymore. You know? Yes, there is intelligence required and modern medicine is great, especially emergency medicine is great. Obstetrics. No, they are totally off base. I think they are. I think we will look back on this time as a barbaric time in history when it comes to the obstetrics. Thirty three percent of women should not be being cut open. It's major surgery. It's a number one reason. Usually people go to the hospital. And so I, I just felt like I'm going to listen to myself and what felt right to me was to just take care of myself. The vaccine thing. I began looking at that and finding a lot of myths about that. Long-term breastfeeding coasts, sleeping attachment, parenting a where you basically keep the baby with you as much as possible, wear the baby, these are all things that just felt right to me. And later I would read about them and see, Oh yes, these are the more peaceful tribes practice these kinds of things. So, you know, I just felt that know what society, you know, and for awhile I didn't want to be, I wanted to really separate myself from society. Eventually I'm like, okay, I do want to be a part of this world and modern medicine, you know, like I said, it's not horrible or anything. I mean, I'm thankful for many things, but, so that's, you know, I. So each time I had to make a decision, I just sort of tuned within, but basically it's a matter of using my rational, critical mind and my intuitive mind. I don't believe in just, I'm just going to go with my intuition and know I do my research and my research has confirmed to me that the choices that I made are the correct ones.
Shea Oliver: So how do you, interesting you say that you balance that between the rational mind and your intuitive mind? So I think if you kind of look up the medical world, we definitely are double-blind-study, This is how it has to be to even get a good sense of what is medically valid or invalid or true or not. How do you go from... How do you explain to somebody who is living that world that is all rational, all bought into that to get in touch with their own, you know, be God, be it internal wisdom bill, whatever they believe it is. How does, how does somebody go from this world we live in today to getting in touch with that?
Laura Shanley: Well, I think first of all there is so much information, of course, on the Internet and not everything is, you know, there's also a lot of not so good stuff on the Internet, but for me it was just a matter of researching, and, you know, to me like to believe that life just appeared. It's like you look at a beautiful painting and you say, yeah, that just showed up. It just appeared. Nobody painted it. So to me it isn't rational to really think that there isn't a mind behind them within life. It just, if you really think about it, but there is obviously much thought put into this and this is our bodies are very complex process, and yet we can just, you know, we don't have to keep our hearts beating, we don't have to keep ourselves breathing. So, some of it was just, it's basically just thinking about this, giving it more thought.
Laura Shanley: And as far as like birth specifically, you know, reading birth stories of women who have given birth this way, seeing videos. There's so much on the Internet now, seeing, like people used to say to me, I'm glad you posted pictures online of your kids because people can see that they survived, like they, you know, they're alive, and so I think, okay, so how, how does one go from it? I can basically just tell you how I did it. I just really sort of began giving it, giving it more thought, reading books. It just, that way, the medical approach to life, it didn't feel right to me. It didn't make sense to my, didn't make sense to my rational, critical mind. I mean that's. Some people sort of come into this from a spiritual angle. I came into it from the rational, critical, like Grantly Dick-Read, explained how fight flight works.
Laura Shanley: And actually I, it's to me, it's so fascinating. There's a man who wrote a book called Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers and he's a scientist, Robert Sapolsky, and he basically says, all of our health problems just about everything can be traced back to we are triggering fight-flight on a regular basis. And it is, he says, it's like there's a tornado that's about to hit the house. Now's not the time to paint the kitchen. So what your body does is you're telling it, there's always a tornado out there, and it's all everything that would naturally happen, like digestion and producing growth hormone to rebuild your bones and muscles. All that shut off. So after years and years of all of it being shut off, digestion shuts down. You have to give a speech and your mouth gets dry. Why? Because you've triggered fight-flight, saliva production is the first step in the digestive process. So saliva production shuts down. That's why your mouth is dry. So basically, if we could understand that many of us are in a state of low grade fight flight, most of the time, if we could stop being in that state, our bodies could live a lot longer, and we could have a lot fewer problems. So I approached it as like, this makes total sense to me. And then when I sort of began reading about spirituality and I think whatever that is to people, even, you know, I, and I have this in my book, I wrote a book called Unassisted Childbirth, and you know, if you look in the Bible, you'll see a whatsoever you believe that will come to pass. If you look in Buddhism a, you see that a Buddhist talked about this, about how our thoughts and what we imagined becomes real.
Laura Shanley: And, so I would say to people too, so look to whatever spiritual practices you found, find helpful and, and truly apply those to your life. To me it doesn't really make sense that people can say, you know, that they, their spirituality is such a big part of their life. But then you get pregnant and like, oh, I'm going to go to the doctor. Like why can't you apply those spiritual practices and these concepts? Why can't you apply them to every aspect of your life? So I think it's a matter of reading, finding things that are meaningful to you and, and being willing to... I tell people when I give talks sometimes, be willing to accept that maybe everything you believe much of what you believe isn't true. If you could even temporarily let go of that and then sort of notice the internal prompting, like I feel like, you know, we're always in the Seth Material that talks about this psychological lifeline that we are always connected to sort of this umbilical cord that we're connected to our inner self, to the higher self. And it isn't some God in the sky or something out there. It's something within us, but it is, it is constantly giving us information. And so we need to kind of tune into that and sort of relax,. I do meditation, I meditate every day, and I do a guided meditation. I'm not really good at just sitting there and I do a guided meditation, and I think just I'm listening to those inner promptings. And then of course, you know, you don't act on every impulse you might have. You have to kind of see where it's coming from. And, you know, or am I, is what my, what I'm feeling, just fear, if I or is it something, you know, it, should I really pay attention to what's going on here. You kind of. Because some people say, well, I just thought something was wrong. So I went to the hospital like in labor and then in the hospital. Oh yes. The cord was wrapped around the neck. Well, cords around the neck about 25 percent of the time. Usually it's no big deal, you know, you unwrap, it happened with one of my babies. It happens to a lot of babies. So you have to kind of ask yourself, okay, is this, is this just my fear or is this something real? And then, you know, but I think anybody that does anything creative, you have to be willing to let go of what does society expect of you? And you know what, we don't have to follow what everybody says. We have a right to do what we want to do and I think there is some risk involved because, you know, you may fail, but you get, you pull yourself back up, but, and you may have a lot of people that tell you, "you're stupid and crazy," and you have to be willing to not be afraid of that.
Laura Shanley: It's like, you know, do how's it gonna feel to live your life knowing that you did what everybody else thought you should do. And everybody, there is a voice within you that knows better than what everybody around you is telling you. And certainly, you know, my parents thought that that was not the route for me to go. And, you know, so I had to be willing to say, you know, I have to do what feels good to me, what feels right to me. And as I said, I used my rational, critical mind and I use my intuitive mind and this just felt right. So did I make mistakes along the way? I certainly did. And I ended up, I was with my first husband for 33 years. And it, you know, and that, that didn't work, and I've had businesses that I started and that eventually failed.
Laura Shanley: So, but, you know, I'm here and I'm happy and, and for me, I guess, you know, like with the, because the birth was sort of the first place where I really sort of applied these concepts of the power of the mind and all that, then that's still been a big focus in my life. But, but I've applied these concepts, concepts to other areas of my life, and it just feels good and it's fun, you know, to tap into your creativity and to recognize there is a larger part of you, and you know, what can we and our songs written and how our plays written and how can we tap into that. I'm just fascinated by creativity and how can we change our lives. But I think a big part of it is being willing to let go of what everybody else thinks you should do.
Shea Oliver: Absolutely agree. So jumping back to around that first time,where you started reading books and kind of starting to get this picture of you are today, was there ever a point you went, oh my God, this isn't saying what am I doing? I have to go follow the path that my, my parents, my family, you know, the, the medical community says I should, if I'm going to have a child. Did you ever have like periods of significant doubt of the direction you were headed?
Laura Shanley: No. I don't know? Those early experiences were so powerful that I just was like, I just knew that I was on the right path. Now I did, like I said, I have made mistakes and I do think about, you know, my relationship and how long I stayed in that because that part of that was like, if I just have enough faith I can make this work. And it's like, no, no, I can't. you know, knowing when to let go. And, so do I have regrets? I guess I do have some, some regrets about my life. And I haven't always made the right choices, but as far as the, my belief in the power of thoughts and feelings, I've seen so many dramatic things in my life. Even just, you know, I went to the dentist, I used to have like six to eight cavities every time I went to the dentist and it was a real trauma for me. And eventually I started looking at, I went to the dentist and he said, okay, you need, hadn't been in a few years. He said you need about a thousand dollars worth of dental work, you've got a eight cavities. And so I decided I am going to wait and I'm gonna, visualize the holes filling back in and I'm also going to look at why might it be attacking my teeth. I felt like I was attacking my teeth in the same way. Some people get like ulcers, you know, holes. So I realized that I'd always struggled with my weight growing up and I think I was sort of angry with myself for eating. And somehow I was like attacking my teeth. So I spent the next year doing some visualization, not a lot, but some visualization on the holes filling back in and not being angry with myself. I'm really big on forgiveness both towards ourselves and towards others. And so then I decided to go back in a year. I'm like, I got to face the music and I went in and he took x-rays and he said, what did you do? The holes have filled back in. Your tooth has remineralized. And so I feel like it wasn't, you know, and I'm, I suppose I'm a little bit on the outskirts of the Boulder-type person in that I always ate what I wanted. So I ate sugar, I ate meat and I put it. I put this in my book and this woman once said to me, she's like, Oh, you're the woman that ate M and M's like that stood out, you know, the whole book. I'm the woman that ate M and M's. I ate what I wanted. Like I didn't go crazy with food, but I personally don't give food as much power as some people do. I try. I do eat healthy, but I have my sugar because I like it. I have it every day.
Shea Oliver: And M and M's are good!
Laura Shanley: Right! So anyhow, but the dentist, so it's not like I quit sugar and my teeth heal, you know, I just, I changed my beliefs, I changed my attitude and my body was able to heal itself. So I have seen this so many times in my life. I've seen so much evidence of the power of our thoughts and attracting things into our life, and attracting people into our life at the time that we need them. That I do not doubt these concepts. Now sometimes I do doubt myself and my ability to create what I want. There are things I've struggled with, you know, there are says in the Seth Material that we all have our battle grounds. You know, some people might be fabulously healthy but they never have enough money or they're loaded, they have money, but their health is always bad. And so I have my areas where I've struggled, but I know I do not doubt these concepts. And now I think more people are... the concept that you create your own reality and the power of thoughts and feelings. Certainly that's much more prominent now than it was 40 years ago when I was coming across this stuff. I don't feel as alone now.
Shea Oliver: So how did you get through that period of, you know, we're talking the late seventies, to years later. How did you survive those years of ostracism, not being with your family?
Laura Shanley: Well, first of all, my children were just wonderful and I loved being a mother and so they were a great comfort to me, and I sort of gotten to this little world with my husband and my children and then I did see... David's stepmother was around, and then eventually I think 93, 94 I did reconcile with my family. And then after that, you know, I tried to be more tolerant, more understanding of them. I didn't feel like I had to convince anybody of anything, and they also, I think were more, they were thankful to have me back. And so we were able to heal a lot of what had happened, but I guess during that time I kind of just got more into myself, my spirituality and my family and, you know, had a few friends here and there. But I guess, you know, that inner reality just was sort of, I got into my dreams a lot and I read a lot of books. And so, you know, I think I kind of needed to withdraw. I think some people just sort of need to withdraw from society for a little while and that's, you know, I finally felt like, okay, at some point I was like, okay, I can rejoin society. But I did feel like I was so impressionable, in the early years that it was very difficult for me to be around people that didn't agree with me. I would, even though I felt like, "no, this is real when I'm talking, I'm not crazy." But there was, there was, you said, did it, you asked me that question. I was like, I never doubted this, but I know that there was a little voice that, that still was like critical of myself and still, and that's probably why I had to isolate myself because I couldn't deal with everybody telling me that.
Laura Shanley: So my way of dealing with it was to go within myself and to cut myself off from a lot of people and then eventually I'm like, you know, okay, I'm strong enough that I can, I can be around people that don't agree with me and I don't have to convince them of this. It's not my job to save the world, you know? Now I do feel like I want to spread my message. I want to spread the message of self-empowerment, and not just in the birth world, but in all aspects of life, and in tapping into these other parts of ourselves that can make our lives better and more interesting. So I definitely want to do that, but I don't feel like I don't feel that the world is in dire straits. I'm really not as worried about the world is a lot of people are. I think that what, what is within us is so strong and so powerful, and what we've gone through, what we're going through is just part of our process, and we'll come out and been in the world, will survive, I believe.
Shea Oliver: I hope so. For all of our sakes. So as you kind of went through this process, through the years, obviously there were a lot of changes. I mean, so you went from being very inwardly focused and now you're very outwardly focused in many ways. I mean you, you actually are outreaching to people trying to change the world and in many ways, what would today's you want to tell that, you know, early eighties, you that was hiding, to maybe get her through the process of the changes she needed to go through, maybe I don't want to say hustle or through so you can get where you are today?
Laura Shanley: Yeah, I would. And I do kind of, because I read about that, about how you can sort of tap into your future self and get messages from your future self and the time is not what we think it is and the past and the future are existing now. So I do think about that and I do try to reach back to my former self and just, I think the main thing would be to tell her to lighten up, both on herself and on other people, and not feel, first of all not be so critical of herself that it's okay to make mistakes and that the world isn't as scary as she thought it was. That everybody doesn't have to agree with her. She doesn't have to go out there and tell people things that they may not be ready to hear. And to have a little more faith and, and to, you know, you have to love herself and forgive herself and not expect perfection of herself. And to not put herself in situations that, you know, to say to not be with somebody who frightened her. Because I felt like my husband was a brilliant, troubled man, and I'm thankful to him for what he taught me, but, you know, nobody should live with someone that, that frightens them and frightens her children. So I think I would tell her maybe the, there were other options available to her and... but basically, yeah, lighten up and, and, and have fun and enjoy the present because I think, you know, we were always thinking, okay, success is right around the corner and something big is coming and when you get in that mindset, you know, it's kind of like an enjoy the journey more like, no, this was her life and there were so many things to enjoy about it. If I could have gotten beyond that fear, you know, trusting that okay, it's going to be okay. I mean, we, you know, we tried homeschooling and then we get a letter, you know, you have to put your kids in school. Like we were. Everything was, I dunno. And then it turned out okay, like we put our kids in school, now you can. Homeschooling is a lot more accepted. But back then it was like another fight that I just couldn't endure back then. It's like, okay, I got to pick my battles and I can't, I can't battle this one. But, we put our kids in school and it was okay. So, but to not really, I think I've always, I've always been somewhat afraid of the world and I still have those fears and I really work on a daily basis just saying, I do think this isn't good place. And then there's, and focus on the positive, you know, I always, you get what you focus on, that sort of the teachings that I followed to say you get what you focus on. So you get what you concentrate on. So focus on the positive. I once had a dream that I could see the world was kind of dark, but there were these rays of sunshine coming down illuminating various parts of the world. And, and I could hear a voice say, focus on the rays of sunshine. So I think that's always know that there is a lot of positive and focus on the positive and everybody that there are good things and everybody, and everybody struggles and to be more accepting of that.
Shea Oliver: Hmm. Beautiful. That's awesome. I love that. Thank you. So just out of personal curiosity, has your family, the medical world that they're in, have they moved in your direction at all?
Laura Shanley: Uh... No. My Dad, my dad just died about five weeks ago, but he was 88 and towards the end of his life,, he started to have a lot of spiritual friends. He was an atheist and asked him so when you more spiritual and he was like, "no." B,ut I do think that he really kind of started to think I'm sure I had an effect on, on him. My mother once said to me when my dad was going into surgery years ago, she said, you know, "he's going to be fine. I create my own reality and he's going to be fine." And so I could hear them sort of saying these things. I think my little sister, Janet, she has told me she's been affected, by me and I've been affected by her, and, but she told me like her births, she felt she gave birth in a birth center, and she felt that that really had an effect on her and, that my teaching, you know, had an effect on her. My older sister has never really said she, as I said, she was a labor and delivery nurse, and then she became a librarian, and I know she said part of the reason she got out of the, out of nursing, she did, she wasn't too thrilled with what was going on in obstetrics, but we don't really talk about it. And so, you know, but I think, I know on some level that I think it, it, it helped them in some way, and certainly, you know, what they gave me has helped and shaped me. And, and so I look, you know, there are many positive things they gave me.
Shea Oliver: Say more about that. What, what did, what did they give you?
Laura Shanley: Let's see, well, I think creativity that was always really emphasized when I was growing up, they always, my parents always felt like I was a really good writer, so they really encouraged that. My parents were adventurers they went to, they went hiking and in Nepal with Sherpas, and they went to Tierra del Fuego, and they were sailors, and skiers and a mountain. They went mountain biking and they, they took 80 overseas trips, and so they really were getting out there and exploring the world, which I've done more in the past few years. I've really traveled around the world. And so I think that spirit of adventure, and they're thinkers, I think they sort of helped me to, you know, certainly the, the rational, critical mind and it was very developed in them. I think they didn't really value the intuitive mind as much as I did. But, I look at them as they were thinkers, and this to me is I was a thinker and that's why I did what I did. Even though other people don't really see it that way.
Shea Oliver: Sure. Interesting. So I always wrap up with one final question, which is what question did I forget to ask you?
Laura Shanley: What did you forget to ask me? Well, if people want to learn more about me, my work, they could go to my website which Unassistedchildbirth.com or freebirth.com will also get you there. So I have articles and stories you know, more about my personal birth stories and I'm certainly they can contact me through my site if they are interested. I'm always eager to meet like minded people.
Shea Oliver: Sure. Great. What a fascinating story. Thank you for sharing that with us. It's really, really an interesting to see and talk to somebody who's a, you know, I'm not so I'm right next to Boulder and certainly there is a whole lot of more openness than when we were younger. Different ways of thinking, and it's interesting for me to talk with somebody that actually was kind of there in the beginning. We really started saying, okay, there are different ways to think about things. There are Different ways to live your life. So it's been fascinating. So thank you very much for spending this time with me today.
Laura Shanley: Thank you, it was fun.