Without doubt these are the 3 most common fears of pregnant women.
- What does it feel like? (expectation based)
- How long it will take?(time based)
- What will happen? (outcome based)
But there is one thing we know for sure. Every labor is unique, individual and variable.
In other words – the facts and the physiology will always be the same but how you experience them (your expectations) will always be different. How long it takes (time expectations) will always be different and how your birth unfolds (outcome based) will always be different. A bit like Josie who attended my birth preparation classes and called me after her baby was born to update me. “I never had any early labor” she said, “it seemed to go from 1 to 100 in moments and before I knew it I was in active labor and 3 hours later Marlow was born.”
Physiologically all the things that happen in early labor, must happen in order for labor to progress. However, the way we experience them on a physical level is unique, individual and variable. In Josie’s case, she never experienced anything physical until she was in active labor at which time she made her way to the hospital to find that she was already 7cm dilated. She expected to feel something in early labor so this surprised her. Her time expectation was that it would take hours because it was her first. But her body had been making physiological changes for hours (possibly days) before that – without her being aware of it. She was so chilled and relaxed that she never took much notice of it and so labor progressed smoothly; and in her case pretty quickly.
The goal of preparing for birth effectively is understanding the facts and physiology so that you can let go of expectations and be in labor. It does not require that you do anything. Giving birth is about being not doing. Being present in the moment so that time does not matter. Letting go of expectations of how it should be and just accepting how it is. Sometimes it is loud and sweaty and hard. Sometimes it is slow and intense and exhausting. Be present with whatever it is for you. Your body and your baby know how to do this. Let go of your resistance and allow it to happen.
Preparing for birth is both a left brain and a right brain activity. The facts are learned with our left analytical brain but it is our right emotional brain that interprets them and takes us to a place of deep understanding and trust that is essential for a safe and gentle birth.
In order to allow labor to unfold in its own unique, individual and variable way we need to trust
- The process of labor
- Our bodies
- Our partner
- Our midwife/doula/doctor
- Our place of birth
Trust cannot be felt when we are in fear. This is why it is so important to prepare yourself mentally, emotionally and physically for labor and birth. It is only when you understand what to expect that you can let go of any ideas of what should happen and just allow whatever is happening to happen whilst understanding that the physiological changes are accompanied by changes in your behavior, your attitude, your breathing and your activity.
By listening, trusting and responding to these changes you will instinctively know what to do, time will not matter and the only outcome we are focused on is a safe and gentle birth for mom and baby.