She knows the time is nearing, she can sense that these twinges of pain are different from the ones she has experienced over the last few months. With every sensation she tenses and concentrates, waiting for the moment she will begin to experience “it”. She knows “it’s” coming, she’s heard all about “it” from her friends and family and she knows she can’t stop “it”. She returns to thoughts of what comes after, momentarily comforted by these thoughts until another twinge, this one doubles her over for a moment, pain stretching like fingers from her lower abdomen down into her thighs. She braces herself for more, she has heard so much about “it”, she’s terrified of “it” and wants to avoid ‘It” at all costs…”it”…this unknown predator that is stalking her, the one she knows she cannot outrun, she knows she cannot elude. She can fight it, yes, but the futility of that makes fighting a fleeting thought. No, she needs to find a way to bear “it”, to get through “it”, to make it to the other side where she can hold the baby that is the end result.
Sadly, this is how many women experience childbirth. They feel like victims to this event that must happen to them in order for them to have a baby. This feeling makes labor into an outside force that a woman has no power over, that she is at the mercy of, she begs “it” to stop, for someone to free her from “it”. Her logical mind knows that labor is a natural process, the culmination of months of growing her beautiful child inside of her, but fear is a strong motivator and irrational processor and has the ability to turn what could be a magical, beautiful experience into a nightmarish event.
Labor is not some”thing” that happens TO you
So what makes the difference? How can some people have the experience described above while others experience bliss and joy from the same event?
It is important to know that labor is not some”thing” that happens TO you. If you are in this mind set you are a victim to every sensation happening in your body. Many women get caught in this mentality before and during childbirth and then throw themselves into the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle. The woman starts to feel a sensation in her body, she tenses up and that sensation is automatically felt as pain so she becomes more afraid, her body tenses up more, the pain increases and she gets MORE afraid, followed by MORE tension and this is why women scream in labor. So fear is absolutely one of the reasons that women experience childbirth as a trauma or negative experience, but fear is only the result of a conditioned way of thinking that is the real culprit. Women are taught by our society to be afraid of childbirth that it is the most painful thing that ever happens to you. This is reinforced by the media AND many in the medical community.
Hi body, it’s nice to meet you
When women learn to connect to their own bodies and the processes in their bodies as well as connecting to the baby inside of them they are able to redefine the sensations they are feeling and completely change their experience. A woman who is connected to her body understands the energy she is feeling during childbirth is a powerful and dynamic force that she is creating from deep within herself so that she can birth her baby. There is no outside force exerting pain upon her, even when labor is augmented it is her own body, her own self creating an incredible amount of energy to give birth, to assist her baby into the world. Women have the ability to tap into this force and work with it instead of fighting against it. Redefining sensations is only the beginning; women must learn to communicate with their bodies in a different way. They must first LISTEN to their bodies and learn how to follow and interpret the signals they receive. Being aware of this need for connection is not enough, however, to make it happen.
It takes practice. It is like learning another language, one you are vaguely familiar with, and you can pick out only a few words at first but the more you immerse yourself in the language the more fluent you become. Practicing this can take different forms for different people. Yoga is a fantastic way to learn to communicate with your body on a deeper level, connecting your breath to your movements and observing the way your body responds to different poses or positions can be invaluable. Making these practices part of your everyday life and bringing awareness into every sensation in your body is very helpful. We tend to only focus on the sensations we feel that we don’t like or are uncomfortable for us, to get us back to a state of “normal”. We don’t walk around thinking about how comfortable our neck feels but when it hurts it absolutely gets our attention.
So what can the beginning of childbirth feel like to someone who is connected to their body and not caught in the fear-tension-pain cycle?
She feels a twinge and takes a deep breath, as she exhales she feels her body begin to rock back and forth, slowly as though she were under water being guided by the currant of the ocean. She knows she is instigating this movement but it feels so natural that she can’t imagine not moving. She knows this is her body getting ready to birth her baby she closes her eyes and brings her attention inward. As she feels another wave beginning to build she instinctively begins to move again, allowing the force of the wave to build and breathing with it to assist it in it’s work. As the wave starts to release she experiences an expanding relief and rush of what can only be described as bliss. She rides this blissful wave into a deep state of relaxation. As the waves get stronger she stays present in the moment, she breathes in strength and breathes out tension, she imagines she can see her baby moving down and her body opening up.
Here are some things you can do to increase your connection with your body and help you become fluent in it’s language:
- Observe yourself for one minute while eating a meal. Notice how the flavors in your mouth mix together and how your body responds to different flavors and textures.
- Take a walk and starting at your feet notice the sensations of your feet touching the ground, the rhythm of your steps, the feeling of the air on your skin and in your hair, focus on your breath and how it propels you forward. Exhale and feel your body relax. Notice how it feels after a block or two to have the muscles in your legs working, it can feel so good to use your muscles. After a few blocks stop and lean against a tree or just stand or sit still and close your eyes, connect with your heart pumping blood to every part of your body. Connect to your breath moving oxygen, feeding your body. Take a sip of water and enjoy the thirst being quenched.
- Take a piece of ice and hold it in your hand. Without using the word “pain” analyze the sensations you are experiencing, notice them as if they were new and interesting, resist the temptation to put the ice down and instead take a few deep breaths and see how relaxing as you exhale changes the sensations you are feeling.
- Lean against the wall with your feet 2 feet away from the wall. Bring your arms up so they are parallel to the ground. Relax the shoulders and slide your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground and hold this position for three breaths. Each breath emphasize the exhale by relaxing another part of your body that does not need to be tense. Now take 3 more breaths before coming out of the pose.
Practicing these things once or twice is a good start but anything that you actually make part of your life on a permanent basis takes practice (think about riding a bike) so you must first make these practices part of your life before they will help in childbirth.