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Two places you can get stuck when preparing for labor

Jan 09, 2021

There are so many labor and delivery preparation tools, books, methods, and teachers out there. Over the course of two pregnancies I’ve done my fair share of exploring. After all of that, I found that we can often get stuck in two places as we prepare.

The first place we can get stranded is in our head (really this one is the more evil of the two in my opinion). 

You start reading a book on labor – my favorites are Marie Mongan’s Hypnobirthing, Grantly Dick-Read’s Childbirth Without Fear, and Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery. All that fantastic information enters your head. You might learn about the way the muscles of the uterus work to move your baby out of your body, you might learn that pain in childbirth is actually a result of fear and subsequent tension, or you might read about relaxation techniques. Now all of that super juicy information (that we of course cover in beyond birthing!) is in your head, and if you leave it there, if you do nothing else but read and/or listen to others you will be educated, but you will not be prepared.

Let’s consider thought. Take five minutes of your day, any five minutes, and notice how quickly your thoughts move. Notice how easy it is to lose the thread of your mind when interrupted. Now imagine you are doing something really important, and you are really focused, lots of mental concentration, and then suddenly your desk explodes into flames! In fact, you look around the room and the walls are on fire, the door, and even the windows. Smoke is filling the room. What is your mind doing right now? Are you panicking? Are you freaking out at least a little bit? Do you remember what you were working on before the inferno? What if someone told you that if you just keep concentrating on the thing you were working on, the inferno would stop or lessen? In fact, what you were thinking about so hard was that the room is not on fire, that you are safe, comfortable, and relaxed. So, the flames are not really threatening, you just think they are, but you can feel the heat singing the hair on the backs of your arms, and the smoke is burning your eyes and it sure does feel like you’re going to die in there! But hey lady, stay calm and focused and you’ll get through!

When labor starts, no matter how many times you’ve been through it, the foreignness and the intensity of the sensations can quickly overwhelm and override whatever you thought you knew or understood about labor.

Now that doesn’t mean that learning the stages of labor and how your body functions isn’t important. Understanding at a mental level is just the FIRST step to embodied knowledge. Embodied knowing is when the fires flare up and your body moves into action effortlessly, with the exact moves, focus, and trust that you need to navigate with confidence and grace. 

Okay, so the second place you can get stuck is in your body. Imagine someone, perhaps you, prepares for labor by practicing a whole bunch of relaxation techniques and other physical exercises and you get really experienced at using these tools. Perhaps you learn how to go into a hypnotic state, or you have a recording that turns your body to soft pliable squishiness every time you listen to it, or maybe you have a list of positions that can make it easier to move the baby down into position or relieve pressure. Mastering these body level techniques are really important (and of course covered in beyond birthing ;)) and now you’ve got this knowledge in your body… still not fully prepared.

Alright, so let’s imagine you’re out swimming in a big lake or in the ocean. You’ve trained and you’re a great swimmer. You’ve been training different strokes and your muscles are toned; your body is really ready for this big swim out into deep water. As you get out there a storm starts to brew and the waves get a little aggressive. The wind is blowing and splashing the water into your eyes and mouth. Every time you turn to breathe in your front crawl you get smacked upside the head by a choppy wave and it starts to get hard. Your mind starts to panic, but don’t worry, your body still knows what to do! You roll over onto your back and rest for a moment giving yourself the reprieve you need to catch your breathe. Here’s the thing, the waves are getting so big that when you try to float, you end up getting tossed around and splashed by the chop, and now it’s raining too and you’ve lost sight of land. Everything is just water everywhere, in your mouth, in your eyes, surrounding you. Your body is strong, you know the strokes, and yet your breathing becomes labored, your muscles are tired, and a creeping panic starts coming in that you might die out here. Your body goes into high alert despite your attempts to relax and maintain control, and before you know it you’re overwhelmed and calling in the coastguard to rescue you.

The stronger and more intense your waves (contractions) become during labor, the less effective these relaxation techniques can be, making it easier for your body to become overwhelmed and the practices to become lost.

Here’s another example that may be more relevant to your lived experience.

Imagine that you get into a fight with your spouse/partner about that same old thing that you always argue about. He/she is really coming at you, telling you that it’s all your fault and that you are wrong again. He/she doesn’t want to hear your perspective, they just keep berating you about how ridiculous this whole situation is. Then they elevate things to the next level, yelling at you about how angry they are, how this thing that you argue about is just the tip of the iceberg and your whole relationship is just broken, and in fact they are leaving you and worse than that they’ve already found someone else that they’ve fallen in love with. Now remember those relationship books that you’ve read and what your therapist said about keeping the balance of your mind – your partner is acting out of his/her childhood wounds, so slow everything down and listen to what they’re saying, repeat it back so that they feel heard, and find the empathy in their struggle within you. Oh, screw that! They just told you that you suck, they’re leaving, and they love someone else. Keep the balance of what mind, you’re totally out of your mind by that point! But wait, remember the physical practices you learned to stay calm, take a deep breathe, maybe do some square breathing, relax your shoulders, and come into a neutral position with your body. Like hell. You’re fists and jaw are clenched, your arms are perhaps raised as you scream back, you’re stomping and/or pacing back and get the picture.

Okay, so life’s full of opportunities for us to lose control of our emotions and go into a fear, anger, or some other constricted response. It’s the same with labor and delivery – perhaps one of the most intense, seemingly life threatening, terror inducing situations you may find yourself in. 

So, this is where that old adage comes from, “nothing is worse than childbirth”. Why? Because generally in the L&D prep department, everyone’s got a piece of the puzzle and we haven’t integrated all of the parts into the whole yet. Can you imagine though, if you learned a way to be physically, mentally, and emotionally calm through the most intense of storms, your labor and delivery, how prepared you would be not only for birth, but for motherhood and life in general?

This is the philosophy behind beyond birthing. We integrate your mental, physical, and emotional preparation within a three phase process: Release, Revision, and Radiate. You get to go deep, transform your labor (and your life), and have a blast doing it in community with other women like you!

Ready to learn more? Set up an exploratory call, it’s going to be an incredible journey!

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