As a midwife, I am often asked about how to help labor begin. Women get tired of being pregnant and look for all sorts of ways to get un-pregnant, some natural,
One of a midwife’s duties is to encourage women when they are struggling with the aches and pains of late pregnancy.
I wrote this piece for a client of mine who was really quite tired of carrying around a very pregnant belly. Of course, this article is for normal pregnancies and does not speak to medically difficult or very post-dates women. If you have questions about your own pregnancy, be sure to ask your care provider.
Imagine that you are a woman living in the jungle. You have no clocks; only
seasons. You know the stars and the tides, but they are a part of you more than a
Your baby grows within and you never even had to read a book about the different phases of your pregnancy. The baby has zero concept of time. Is it time to grow a toenail? Time for that thirtieth hair on her head? No study has to be done to calculate the correctness of her growth. It just happens.
In this jungle (or desert or forest), you live your life. You pay passing notice to the increased weight on your joints or the frequency of having to go to the bathroom, but it does not keep you from living your life. You harvest the food, or make the bowls, or clean the hut, or build the house, or skin the animals or clean the clothes in the river with your other sisters, pregnant and not. You do not have the luxury of sitting still and wondering about your body. No television jeopardizes your time. No refrigerator stands full a few feet from your resting place.
Pre-labor contractions touch your body, but things need to be done. You know from experience that when your labor is enough to slow you down it will be time to seclude yourself. No one in the tribe even has a word for “Braxton-Hicks Contractions” or “prodromal labor” because the women have too much to do to stop and think about twinges (strong or not). The elders steal quick glances as you lean over again and again while you hang the clothes to dry, but no one mentions anything. You have “enough” inside yourself to do this work. And they all believe.
Once labor begins, depending on the culture, you might labor alone or with another wo-man, or several women in attendance. Labor knows no time.
There is no watch. No clock ticking on the wall. No one says, “You have been four centimeters for six hours now, time for pitocin.” Labor is allowed to unfold in its own way. The women around you merely witness, remind you of your strength, press cold cloths to your face and hot ones to your lower back. And they all believe.
When it is time to push the baby out, it is the same thing... no clocks timing how long to push... none of that counting-to-ten three times for each push. It would seem absurd to our jungle woman! You push when you feel the need to do so. No one touches your cervix to feel if you are “complete.” You are complete. Without anyone checking anything. Your completeness is simply a part of your existence.
When I was a new mom nursing at night, I nearly went crazy because of how often
my son wanted (needed) to nurse.
I ground my teeth as I looked at the clock and saw he had “just nursed” forty-five minutes earlier and now I was awake for longer than I had been asleep. It bred so much anger and resentment.
When my second child was born, I learned to cover the clock, or better yet, remove it from the room. When she wanted to nurse, I was there, present, nursing my baby who, in the wilds of the world, would have clung to me for survival. It is the instinct with which she was born.
The same inner knowledge that caused her to grow to health and wholeness... that
did not trigger my labor until her lungs were fully ready to be born... that did
not know I was tired when she was ready to come out (and did not care)... knew
how to keep me going so I could tend to my child. In pregnancy and nursing, and
eventual continuous mothering,
I was there for her. She did not have to worry about any clocks or schedules. She needed me; I was there.
As a midwife, I encourage women to let go of time. Grow your babies. Feel those tightenings. Embrace the beauty of your heartburn, your frequent urinating, your insomnia, your separated pubic bones, your weight gain... and your baby’s movements under your flesh, your child’s inner hiccups, your 100% safe-from-the-difficulties-of-this-world child.
Time, as trite as it sounds, is so fleeting. I pine for those aches and pains. My youngest is now twenty-one years old! And I am sorry for wishing those moments of difficulty away. I speak so you might take a deep and grounding breath, say a prayer or incantation if that is your way, and stay in the moment with your child. It is the only time ever you two will be alone.
As your baby grows without guidance and conscious thought, so too, begins labor
And we all believe.
Barbara E. Herrera, LM, CPM has been working in the birth arena for 25 years and has assisted at over 900 births. She is the owner of Ama Mama Holistic Healthcare in Encinitas. You can reach her at AmaMama@cox.net or by calling (760) 944-3987.
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