With all the different types of birthing classes available these days and the many methods that some offer, what is really at the heart of working through labor? What are the key elements for those women who are able to enter into what us birth professionals like to call "the labor haze"? How do these women find this space and move through it? Here are ten crucial insights into finding your labor haze.
1. Choose Wisely. The people with whom you surround yourself in labor can make all the difference in how easily you get into that primal zone. When the care provider you've chosen is someone you trust, someone who is aligned with your priorities and philosophies surrounding your birth, and is someone who is willing to work with you in obtaining a positive birth experience, you can let go of the need to control the outcome and allow yourself to let go into the moment.
2. Love Yourself. Take pride in your body that has grown and nourished your baby for the past ten months. Speak confidently about the strength in your legs that keep you moving, the curves in your hips that hold reserves for nursing, and the blooming of your belly as it houses your baby. Affirm to yourself that each stretch in your skin is the mark of the journey of growth and be proud to find yourself in a body that is capable, strong, and empowered.
3. Know Support. Explore what you anticipate needing in labor and how your birth support can best provide you with that. Have support present for partners, who are often expected to be experts in labor although their experience may be little to none. The best birth support are those who truly believe in the normal process of labor, the body's intuition, and the woman's ability to give birth. Put things in place so that you are able to labor as smoothly as possible, so that your partner has the support they need to best be there for you, and so that everyone surrounding you is listening, is believing, and is guiding.
4. Be Restful. In mind and in body, seek moments of solace, moments where your mind can just be. Take time in pregnancy to center your mind on the path ahead, to experience the quiet, and to connect with your baby. Seek out these moments and enjoy them. In labor, find yourself in these moments between every contraction. Every contraction throughout almost all of labor, is followed by a longer rest. You will spend more time in the rest between contractions than you will in contractions during labor. Use this rest to re-center, to breathe, to enjoy.
5. Let Go (of your expectations). Do not judge your labor - your sensations, your time, your needs - by the stories you've heard or the images you've seen. Although there are great universal elements to labor and much support can be found in feeling like another woman in a long line of women who have birthed their babies through the centuries, your labor is its own. The circumstances, the sensations, the movements are all part of your process and do not need to meet anyone else's standards.
6. Stay Present. Let go of the need to analyze your labor and guess at how long it will be. Think of each contraction as one less in front of you, one step closer to your baby. But don't focus on the time you have left in labor or the time that you've already spent. No one - not your doctor, not your doula, not your midwife - can tell you how much or how little is left in your labor.
7. Let Go (of your inhibitions). Allow yourself to be open to laboring naked, bottom in the air, moaning through your contractions. The more comfortable you are with your body's natural state, the easier it will be for those primal hormones to flow freely and allow you great rest in between contractions and immense power during contractions.
8. Face Fear. Work out your fear with a plan and with truth. Ask yourself, is this really happening or am I imagining this? If this fear is true, how can I handle this? What will the path be if this does come true? And then put it all behind you and allow the process to unfold as it will.
9. Move Freely. If it feels good, then it's a sign you should be doing it (in labor at least). We are ruled in labor by our most primal hormones, hormones we share with all laboring mammals. Change position, move your body, and you will find what is working and you will let go of what is not. Hike a leg up into a lunge, pace back and forth with your partner, pop a squat on the toilet. The more you move, the more space you change, the more you wiggle your baby into position. You can't expect a key to move straight into the lock, why would you expect a baby to do the same?
10. Accept Discomfort. You are moving a human being through your body and out into the world! In the words of Jillian Michaels, "Be comfortable with being uncomfortable." The sensation of labor is unlike anything else and labor does not benefit from fight or flight the way an injury does. Low adrenal, high oxytocin, and high endorphins make for a manageable sensation more intense and more invigorating than any other. The stronger the contractions, the greater their work. Allow yourself comfort with the reality of the process and you will begin to find the beauty in the quiet moments, in the power of your body opening for your baby, and in the complexity and simplicity of the journey.
As the Philadelphia birth world blooms bigger and brighter, I think it's time I start putting some of the insightful questions I've received and information I've research into a public journal. I hope you'll find this inspiring, empowering, and totally enjoyable.