As we approach labour, there can be so many things on our mind….when will baby come…will I need to be induced….will I go overdue…will it be painful….will I be able to cope…will I be able to use the pool…will baby be okay….will it be a caesarean….when will it start….is this really labour…will I be able to have a home birth…will we get to hospital in time…or too early…will my labour progress…In our class today we explored a visualisation to let go of these anxieties and to connect more deeply to a place of peace within.
What is going on here is our desire for certainty, our desire to know and control the process, the timing, of what will happen, of how things will unfold. Yet the forces of labour and birth, like so much of our mothering journey to follow, are things which lie beyond our control.
Labour is a physiological process which lies beyond our conscious control, and whilst we can certainly nurture the process and learn about our needs as women in labour, the process pays no heed to our intellectual reasoning. Rather it unfolds in its own way, governed by hormonal intelligence, our baby and influenced by our environment and experience of our nervous system.
Labour and birth are journeys of surrender…and this surrender is different for each of us, and at different points during our labour. Sure we must let go, but we are not letting to into nothing, rather we are letting go into discovery of greater strength, truth, power and support. For in all of its intensity, indeed thanks to this intensity, labour and birth can be a rite of passage, a time of immense transformation and initiation in our life as a woman; as our babies are born, we are re-born as mothers…and it is this great journey of change, learning and transformation through mothering which my book Milestones of Motherhood explores.
Labour may call us to let go of what we are holding on to…. to what may be limiting us, and preventing us becoming more of who we truly are. And as we let go, we grow into more of who we are becoming, we widen, deepen, expand and grow in power, experience, truth, strength and wisdom.
Labour may call us to let go of our need to be in control…for we cannot control when our baby will signal readiness for contractions to begin…we must deepen into trust…a trust of our baby and our body to know, and to work together.
Deepening into Trust
As pregnancy with my third baby continued past 41 weeks and beyond, I began to feel anxious, worried about the talk of induction and sweeps and the option of home birth being taken away. Every day I tuned into my breathing, connected to my baby and practiced many of the teachings I share in our pregnancy yoga classes to soften my body and encourage baby into the most favourable position. And when I asked in meditation when labour would begin, each day I received the message ‘have faith’…so I continued to trust the process alongside feeling the anxiety, and, sure enough in the coming days, the familiar feeling of contractions began and 10 days past his due date, our beautiful son was born at home, a whole 3 lbs heavier than his sister. And he taught me deeply about trust in the unfolding process, as well as trust in the physiology of labour and instinctual movement and breathing.
Letting go of Fear
Labour may call us to let go of some of our fear, of fear we cannot do it, of fear we are not enough, that we are not strong enough, not good enough, that we may fail. As the waves of intensity grow stronger, crashing through our mind and body in immense sensation, labour teaches us of our own immense strength. As we breathe deeper than what we are feeling, as we let the intense energy flow through us, creating space for our baby to descend, we feel glimpses of just how powerful, strong and immense we really are. As we let go of fear and self doubt, labour shows us how incredibly strong we can be. And once we have felt this primordial strength, the experience never really leaves us. We have glimpsed how strong we truly can be, and can call upon such strength in times of challenge.
Labour calls to us to let go of tension, resistance and the need to stay in control. For if we try to fight the sensations, to manage them, we can enter the cycle of pain, greater resistance and tension, and greater pain. Yet when we breathe deeper than what we are experiencing, and then let the intensity flow through us and from us, inviting relaxation and further softening, we begin to flow with the process, rather than resisting and fighting against it. We start to welcome the surges, to respond instinctively with sound from deep down in our bodies, and to move in a way that accommodates our baby’s downward journey.
Sometimes our labour challenges us in different ways, prompting different growth, perhaps our baby’s need for help and support during birth means we require the intervention and expertise of experienced professionals. And as we welcome the support in guiding our baby’s journey, we are asked to let go of control and the need to do things ourselves, and welcome support. Labour whispers to us to let ourselves be helped, for us to receive, and let go into the trust of others. We do not have to struggle on alone.
However our babies are born, labour, in all its intensity, changes us. After passing through its, oft times, stormy waters, we are not the women we were previously. Indeed we may take with us feelings of trauma and pain as well as power and triumph, and it takes time for us to assimilate this intense journey as we ourselves are reborn as mothers.
Be gentle with yourself during this incredible time, you are emerging, as tender and new to the world of mothering as your baby is to the world. Give yourself time, and hold yourself with the same love and tenderness with which you hold your baby.
These journeys of learning to love, mother, birth, feed and nurture our children through infancy, childhood and beyond and the transformation this evokes are the subject of my long awaited book Milestones of Motherhood which will be available to buy from Mother’s Milk Books in December 2019.
My weekly Pregnancy Yoga and Birth Preparation classes explore how Yoga can provide support through pregnancy and labour. Suitable from 16 weeks of pregnancy onwards, please get in touch for more details and to book, I look forward to sharing your pregnancy journey.