A couple of years back, my downstairs neighbour was expecting her first child, and I was inspired to write 10 Pain Management Techniques for Natural Childbirth as I watched her preparing for her first home birth. Two years later, she’s expecting her second baby and thousands of people have read and shared my original post on Pinterest. All this has reminded me that having a baby is a Big Deal. It’s also inspired me to reflect again and share what has worked to help me (and others) through natural childbirth.
When I look back at that original list and think about my birth experiences, there’s one thing that stands out, one common thread that weaves it all together.
Allow it to happen.
Allow it to unfold in its own way, at its own pace.
Allow yourself to feel what you feel, and then allow those feelings to pass.
Allow yourself to be transformed by the experience.
Allow the pain, the altered state of consciousness, the restlessness and hot flashes to be present.
Allow the opening, the intensity, the transition.
Allow the fact that things might not go exactly as you had hoped and planned for.
But how do I allow birth to happen?
My original 10 Pain Management Techniques for Natural Childbirth are all different ways of creating the conditions that make it easier to allow natural childbirth. Anything you can do to quiet your analytical mind will help, such as focusing on the breath, zoning out and using positive visualizations. Likewise, anything you can do to relax your body and bring the baby down will help too, such as bouncing on a birthing ball, rotating your hips in a wide circle and staying upright.
What does it mean to allow it to happen?
Birth is a bodily function like any other, and nothing shuts down normal bodily functions like anxiety, resistance, stress and shame. These negative emotions create tension in the body, effectively disallowing the normal course of events. So do what you can to work through those things before the birth, and do what you can to put yourself in a birthing environment that doesn’t add any negativity to your experience.
The rest is up to your baby, your body and your mind. Allow your baby to come down, allow your body to accommodate her, allow your mind to be quiet. Some births will require medical intervention even after you’ve done a lot of preparation and hard work. That’s OK too. Not everything is within our control.
Allowing birth is the prelude to allowing motherhood
Motherhood is a daring, uncertain thing. When you’re a mom, you don’t always get to have your way. It’s hard work, physically and emotionally. You’re not really in control as much as you think you are, although you will be expected to be prepared and responsible. Your child will continue to ask you to stretch, grow and accommodate her needs throughout the rest of your life. Birth is the initiation rite.
Should I allow everything?
Part of me hesitates to give advice that says the best thing a woman can do in labour is to allow it to happen. Because the truth is that sometimes a woman will find people suggesting she do or allow things that may not actually help her give birth to her baby naturally. Things like induction, augmentation, epidurals and cesareans.
These medical procedures can and do save lives and help labours proceed when they are used appropriately, but unfortunately they are often offered (or pushed) at times when it’s better and safer to let labour progress on it’s own. A woman in that situation may need to actively defend her wishes to allow her labour to proceed naturally instead of allowing it to become a medical procedure, and she may need to have a doula or supportive partner help her defend that choice. Allowing isn’t necessarily passive. However, it is far easier to settle into allowing and surrendering to the force of birth when you are somewhere that is private, safe and supported.
As modern humans we live very much in our heads, intellectually evaluating everything and trying to be in control of things. Natural childbirth asks us to come back into our bodies for a time, to leave aside the analytical mind and let our spirits, emotions, instincts and reflexes do the work. So let someone else time your contractions. Hire a doula to mediate with the doctor. Sink down into the pain and dissolve it with your breath. Imagine a little baby in your arms. Allow it to happen.