“You can either shy away from these sensations, or you can meet them right where they are…”
Every labour and birth is different – some labours are long, some are shorter, some are intense, some are passionate, some are calm and peaceful… however, there comes a point in every labour where the birthing mother must connect deep within herself and find the strength to meet the powerful energy of birth. In birth speak, this time is known as ‘transition’, it’s a stage of labour not recognised in all medical manuals. The classic medical stages of labour being – 1st (Active Labour – the cervix dilating), 2nd (Pushing the baby down the birth canal) and 3rd (Delivering the placenta). The stage of transition can actually occur at different times before or during labour, it can vary greatly in intensity and some women may not even notice it!
For some the transition phase occurs before labour even becomes ‘active’, during the ‘pre-labour’ stage when the body is warming up and may be showing signs that labour will begin soon. These signs can include losing the mucus plug, feeling emotional, nausea or diarrhea, waters breaking, a burst of ‘nesting’ energy – all positive indications that baby will be on the way soon to encourage the pregnant mother to draw her energy inwards and focus in preparation for birth. Fears of labour may arise in this period just before it becomes more active, these fears are most effectively released by verbalising and expressing them with a trusted partner or caregiver to ‘clear the way’ for birth.
The more classic transition occurs later in the labour, around the 8 – 10cm dilation mark, this is often the time when the mother is feeling most vulnerable and open. On a physical level, the mother’s cervix is dilating ready to begin the act of bringing her baby earth-side, this new sensation of openess can be confronting and frightening. On an emotional level, the birthing woman is getting closer to meeting her baby, the time when she must let go of her role as a ‘maiden’ and ‘lover’ to become a mother herself – this transition takes enormous courage to embrace. If she is already a mother and about to welcome her next child, she may have fears of not having enough love to go round for her expanding family. With sensitive and skilled support the birthing mother can be guided to face her fears and move to the next stage of labour easily.
In this inspiring birth story, mother of three, doula and massage therapist, Melanie, shares her experience of meeting transition and the powerful sensations of labour with enormous courage.
“I want to tell you the story of my second baby, Astrid, because I don’t tell this story enough and she’s a big, beautiful girl. I knew what I wanted for that experience of birth, I really wanted to feel what birth feels like in my body. I wanted to have a very physical experience. My first birth was a very spiritual experience, she birthed herself with her spirit through my body. So this time my birth prep was more yoga and I danced, I felt inspired to move to music. And the pregnancy progressed uneventfully.
My first birth was very quick, so I’d invited the midwife when I first went into pre-labour with Astrid, but she wasn’t coming quickly. Lots of things came up during that time. I wondered whether there was enough space in my life for another baby, and I feel that was something that kept me in the first stage of labour longer. Once I’d moved through that I still felt a bit stuck. I’d been into the birthing pool, but it made me feel like I was on holidays, which just didn’t feel like the kind of energy that I needed to be in to birth my baby, so I got out and called the midwife into my bedroom. We were talking and I needed to yawn, so I had a huge, huge yawn, and I had this huge pain under my chin in my jaw area, it was really intense. I felt like I could try to escape this experience, or I could meet it where it was and really go there. And when I went there it was this incredible release in my jaw, and that’s when the second stage of labour kicked in.
At that point I really felt like I needed guidance which was a surprise to me because I had this idea that a woman’s body is instinctive and that I would know just what to do. So the midwife recommended squatting, and I did some really deep squats with my partner very close and my body started opening. In that position my waters broke and the sensations were so intense! I felt so in my body, I was really experiencing the Earth Mumma, growling kind of birthing woman. Strong and anchored, I needed to be strong. And from the time I had that jaw experience, to the time my baby was born, was no more than two hours. And what was clear to me was this consciousness that I had “You’ve got a choice here, you can either shy away, and move away from these sensations, or you can meet them. You can go right to where they are. And it took so much courage. It took courage and I knew it was the choice I had to make to birth my baby.
And my body opened, I ended up squatting, on one leg with my other leg on the bed, and in the end when the space was there she came through with ease. I had space in my body and space in my mind. Knowing that I wouldn’t break if I met the sensations where they were. And she popped out – 10lbs 3oz, or 4.6kg. She popped out in the same bedroom where whe was conceived, with a lot of support from her daddy. And I looked at her and I said, “Hello baby, hello Astrid”. It turns out Astrid means ‘divine strength’ and that was what I needed to birth her. It was so physical and embodied, and it opened up a new realisation that I can experience my spirit through my body and that was exciting.”
Even with intensive birth preparation, embracing the power of transition may not be something a birthing mother can mentally prepare for beforehand. Gaining understanding of the stages of labour and being open to diving deeper into to the natural process of birth, as she trusts herself and her body to guide her, can give her the courage to meet her labour right where it is in the present moment.
Anna Watts is a Sacred Birth Educator, Doula Trainer, Counsellor and Spiritual Healer. She offers regular Sacred Birth & Doula Trainings for both new and practising Doulas to explore birth as a journey of transformation and healing. www.celebrationofbirth.com