A common thing to tell women ahead of giving birth is that they should 'let go' which can seem like a frightening concept when there's nothing more challenging for women when they feel 'lost'. So what's the difference between 'losing yourself in labour' and being lost?
When I was induced with my first son at almost 42 weeks gestation I had no idea what was coming at me. I was determined to work with my body, I wanted to feel the sensations of labour and I felt hubby was fully on board and to support me in that. I wanted to 'go with the flow' (these days I can't listen to that phrase without cringing!). Once the syntocinon drip got going to start my contractions things ramped up quite quickly for me and I remember trying my hardest to stay on top of the sensations by changing positions, moving around and nothing quite seemed to work. My yoga breathing that I had practiced for 7 months had to the surprise of me left my brain and I kept thinking this is not going how I expected it to be. Me and my husband were alone for most of the time at that point and I could see that he was running out of helpful things to say or do quickly. My midwife then came in to check on me and suggested I'd go on all fours on the floor for which she provided a mat but the contractions at that point hardly stopped and I began noticing a feeling of panic creeping up in me. No one talked to me, no one touched me, I was on my own and I remember feeling as lonely as I had never done in my whole life. My midwife sat in a corner 4 metres away from me and took notes, sometimes looking up but not saying a word whilst I felt unable to express any kind of need or ask for support. Half an hour later I asked for an epidural, it seemed like the only thing to save me from losing my mind. I was lost.
What I experienced is not an uncommon scenario, that much I know today after having been a doula for almost 5 years. Women, often first time mothers, approaching labour with the best intentions and then it all unfolds so very differently, especially when birth is medically managed such as during an induction of labour. Often women end up being unprepared for the intensity, don't know what to do to cope and partners end up feeling overwhelmed, just wanting their women to be 'out of pain'. It's the recipe for more intervention. So what does 'letting go' during labour look like?
When women 'let go' during labour they have given up the idea that they must 'stay on top' of what they're feeling or in control. They are not afraid to lose control, be wild, surrender to the work their body needs to do and what that may look like. They are intuitive, internal, instinctual, have stepped out of their thinking brain, allowing the oxytocin that drives labour to overflow. They are moving right into where things feel most intense and embrace the power of what their bodies are doing. They are one with their body, accepting that this is a process they cannot control but can only work with. Sounds powerful, hey?
Now, there are a few things that women need to enter the oh so helpful space of letting go during labour:
1. Women are able to 'let go' during labour when they have prepared themselves for the intensity of labour emotionally by looking at their fears and giving these emotions some space in the lead up to giving birth. They know that giving birth will take them to new, unknown shores and that they are free to express themselves in the process. They know that coping does not equal being calm and quiet.
2. They have equipped themselves in the lead up with a big basket of coping techniques that address the mind but also the physical needs during birth. Visualisation, breath work, affirmations, movement, vocalisation, tapping, pulling, hanging, massage, acupressure, aromatherapy, water...just to name some. Having a variety of coping tools means that you can add or change something as labour progresses and you're not immediately left with no cards in your hand.
3. They feel fully supported. Women can be intuitive, fully immersed in labourland if they feel looked after, supported and not alone. When they have a partner close by their side who is confident in holding and carrying the intensity of labour and what the woman has to work with to give birth to their baby.
4. They feel safe. Low lights, soft music, their senses activated through essential oils, feeling the touch of a warm hand that cares for them physically and emotionally. Tons of positive encouragement and having their needs anticipated rather than needing to express them. They feel safe to express themselves freely and reassured in the process.
5. They have options and feel respected. Birth almost always involves unexpected roadblocks and it's important for women to know they have options or have someone by their side who can make suggestions when things get tough or decisions need to be made. Sometimes it's as simple as a change in positions which can be tricky to think of when you're left on your own for quite some time and you've never done this before!
And this is where the benefits of continuous support come into play. All of the above are SO much easier when you have continuous support by your side, in the lead up, during and also after birth. A person you know, trust, who understands what is important to you during this birth, is experienced in the many pathways that birth has and can help your partner to be the best support to you they can be. And take a massive weight off their shoulders! Someone who doesn't leave you, has no shift change and has the sole purpose to be addressing your physical and emotional needs as you give birth. To help you to 'let go', work with your body and experience the power of labour. THIS is what I do for families on the Central Coast as a birth & postnatal doula...and I love giving my energy, strength and knowledge to couples who deserve to feel not lost but fully supported and held as they welcome their new baby.
To find out more about my support get in touch to arrange a FREE meet & greet or check out what I have to offer on my website. I'd love to meet you!