I want to set the record straight on the journey a mother experiences during her labour and birth. There will, of course, be variations as every mother experiences this through her own history and belief system, but the basic journey is the same for all mothers. And it isn’t the same as what “they” tell you, or what you learn at your basic prenatal class.
It starts with some butterflies. You think “today’s the day” and feel excited and nervous all at the same time. Maybe you’re one of the 10% who’s water broke, or maybe you woke up with contractions, or maybe you noticed some regular tightenings during your afternoon walk. Take some time to relax and picture yourself holding your little one. Smile to yourself and know that you have the privilege of embarking on this amazing adventure of motherhood.
As you let your body “do it’s thing,” you’ll find that you eventually need to stop and focus during contractions. You may need to focus on breathing, you may be unable to speak while concentrating on the fact that your body is working to push your baby down. You don’t want people to interrupt you while you work and are very specific with how you want your labour support to assist you (don’t rub my back, rub my back, rub it up and down instead of circles, don’t touch me at all, etc). As you progress through this phase, you will be less and less able to speak between contractions. This is the part when having an intuitive birth support person can come in handy (can we say, “doula”?). You will be less able to communicate your needs, and that’s okay. You don’t need to talk if you don’t want to. Get into your own world as you prepare yourself for the final stages of this journey.
After you have been labouring for a while (“a while” could mean anything for an hour or less to 24+ hours, though, if you have been able to relax and feel safe in the journey, your body will be working much more efficiently), you will hit what may feel like a road-block. It is called the “self-doubt signpost” and happens to nearly every labouring mother. This is the moment when you start to wonder if you’ll actually be able to push this baby out. You become indecisive, confused, and may even say out loud that you “can’t do this anymore,” or that you “just want this baby to get out,” or “why do women do this?” This is the stage that can get misinterpreted as the mother giving up. It is a phase of vulnerability there are countless stories of mothers who, while in this stage, are offered interventions and choose to take them. Making your birth support aware of this phase means they can encourage you to keep going and remind you that you truly are working miracles with your body. This is often the toughest stage for a mother, not because of the physical part of the journey, but because of the inward emotions she is dealing with. The good news: You’re almost done!
Self-doubt means you’re in the home stretch. (Um, no pun intended.) It means that your body is about to kick into high gear and you’ll be meeting your baby before you know it. Move past the self-doubt and go back into your own world of allowing your body to work hard. You were designed for this and you know what to do. Get into a position that will open your pelvis and allow gravity to help out. Your body gives you an extra burst of adrenaline at this stage so, even if you are fatigued or have been labouring for a longer time, you will get a bit of enthusiasm and a renewed vigor for this final stage. Listen to your body and listen to the encouragement of your labour support but do what your body tells you to do instead of the well-meaning (but often not so helpful) advice you may receive at this stage. You have made it this far and, given enough time and support, you’ll be holding your newborn soon enough.