Unassisted Birth – Part Four

You can read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three first 🙂

This is a continuance of the post from yesterday, and the next post will be the second to last installment before the final post and the finale.  And I apologize beforehand, this will probably be the longest post of the series as there is quite a bit to cover before the next two posts.  I wish I had known there was this much to type and I would have written the series in a more intense way with more spacing and known it would be about six posts long :).

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Fear, and especially unrecognized life stress, can constrict the life breathing passageways, as well as the birth-giving passageways of the body.  Visualizing the labor process with positive suggestion for ability to birth can be instrumental in inspiring a change of attitude in particular women. – Gayle Peterson, Birthing Normally, 39

Now, most knowledgeable natural birth advocates know that fear inhibits labor.  Even having unknown stress, or subconscious worry can make your labor stall, and it appears that failure to progess is true, and a cesarean or pitocin is the only way to have your child.  When in truth what is holding you back is something emotional.

Some women don’t dilate because of something that happened in their past, like their mother died in childbirth, or they are unhappy with the situation with their partner.  The majority of the time it can be worked through during labor by just talking or trying to rectify the situation.  Sometimes it takes more extensive work, but emotional issues are one of the majority of ways that labor stalls.

The biggest problem is, is that hospitals and some midwives don’t believe in emotional problems and think stalling labor is just another issue they need to fix with medication or surgery.  So instead of trying to find out why a woman is “stalled” at 5 cms for 6 hours, they instantly turn to the need for pitocin to speed things up.  Sure, sometimes this works, but the majority of time it just leads to an unnecessary cesarean since the issues making the labor stall haven’t been taken care of.

There are three main negative beliefs that can inhibit labor and make it painful for a woman.  As I said in part three of these posts, I truly believe that a painless labor is achievable by every woman.

The first negative belief is fear.

I’m sure everyone knows about the fight or flight reflex that every person has.  When they encounter danger, instinctively they can decide whether to fight or run.  When this happens, blood empties from nonessential parts of your body into the parts you will need.  Your blood enters your arms and legs mainly to strengthen you and enable you to run faster.  This is why when people are afraid they turn “white as a sheet” and all the blood rushes out of their face.

And, since blood rushes out of nonessential organs, and the uterus is considered nonessential, even if you are pregnant, the blood rushes out, causing it to work harder on less fuel, which can slow labor and cause fetal distress since new oxygen isn’t being rushed to the uterus.  Some surgeons have actually performed cesareans and swear the uterus is so white it hasn’t received blood in hours.

Grantley Dick-Read wrote that the uterus of a frightened woman in labor is literally white.  Pain, he said, is not a normal consequence of labor.  It only comes about when the uterus is deprived of its fuel: blood and oxygen.  Without fuel, it cannot function – or rather, cannot function well – nor can waste products be carried away properly.  Fear also restricts the natural expulsive movements of the uterine muscles.  A fearful woman in labor tightens her uterine as well as vaginal muscles, transforming the painless simple act of childbirth into something painful and difficult. – Shanley, 68

Ina May Gaskin discussed this many times.  Her well known sphincter law, where in fear everything closes from your anus and urethra and also includes your cervix and vagina.  You wouldn’t expect most people to be able to pass their bowels with someone watching them or even with people sticking their fingers in their to hold it open, and yet we expect pregnant women to labor and have their children like this daily.

Just being in the presence of a medical professional can bring out this fear of labor.  Fear that something will go wrong, even if you believe their presence is better in case it does.  However in the end it just comes back down to the fact you are scared of the bad “what if’s” so you have a medical professional just in case.  You can’t let go of this fear in the presence of a professional.  Even just seeing them could bring the insecurities and beliefs to the surface.  To truly let go of the fear that something will go wrong, you need to instinctively trust that your body knows what to do, and trust yourself to handle the things that rarely go wrong, or to know when it is beyond your scope of control.

You know your body better than anyone else.  You may not have ever felt your cervix or even your vulva, never done a breast self-exam, never felt for your uterus, but it is your body.  You instinctively know if something feels off.  You know if something feels wrong.  You know if something feels different.  No one else can feel those except you.  It is all you, and no one else.

Peterson adds that, when the “flight/fight mechanism” (as it is called) is activated because of fear, the body ceases to produce oxytocin, the hormone necessary for uterine contractions to occur.  This is actually a protective mechanism also, she writes for if a woman in the wild were in a dangerous situation she would certainly want her labor to cease.  For the modern Western woman, however, fear has become an undesirable impediment. – Shanley, 68

If a woman becomes afraid and her labor stops, instead of understanding why this happened or talking her through it, a synthetic form of oxytocin is given.  Women aren’t allowed to feel afraid in their labors.  If they do and it stops, they are given something else to keep labor going.  Not only is this completely unnatural and against the body’s natural defense mechanism, it uses medication instead of understanding to “fix” a broken labor.

Getting rid of your fear is one of the first steps to having a beautiful labor.  And for the majority of women, that comes down to the fear of something going wrong.  Letting it go and basically understanding that 97% of the time it is nothing can be the very first step to having a painless and easy labor.

The second thing to let go of is shame.

Our culture is extremely self-conscious.  Mostly about looks and beauty, which stems from nowhere.  We put ourselves down because we aren’t as “pretty” as others, or aren’t as “skinny” as others.  So many things stem from this self-consciousness, but those that truly believe they themselves are beautiful, inside and out, they just shine.  They don’t care about what others believe, they are just themselves.

In our culture of plastic surgery and make-up, and appearances, we have forgotten what it is like to be purely happy with ourselves, even around those that are “better” than we are.  However, if you think everyone is beautiful and no one looks better than anyone else, there is no better or worse.  Everyone is their own version of beautiful.  There is no shame in appearance.

There is nothing shameful about the human body.  Absolutely nothing.

The emergence of shame in humankind’s evolving self-consciousness is depicted in the Bible in the myth of Adam and Eve.  Originally they were in a state of bliss, at one with God: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).  When they became self-conscious – symbolized by eating from the Tree of Knowledge – they became shameful and covered themselves with fig leaves.  In reality, humankind did not become shameful.  It believed that it did, however, and so suffered the consequences. – Shanley, 68

Shame is a concept that is all in our mind.  It comes from judging and anger.  And partly fear of what others will think.

Another concept of shame is the idea of sexuality.  Either people throw sex in your face by being very open, which can be seen as just a way to hide their shame, or they are embarrassed by the fact that they have sex.  All our lives, especially in my religion, sex is considered special and sacred, and if outside marriage it is considered shameful and dirty.  Now, I do believe that sex is best left for marriage, but having sex outside of it doesn’t make it shameful.  People have the choice to do what they will.

If a woman believes her sexuality is shameful, she will find it difficult to spread her legs and give birth to a child who is the result of sex.  However, not only is conception sexual; birth is, as well. – Shanley, 69

Women giving birth make the same noises that women having great sex make.  Whether they are having an orgasm during childbirth or not.  The birth I attended in March, if someone had walked by the window, they would have sworn she was having the best sex of her life.

For a lot of women, and even some men, when they make these noises in labor and they learn they are, they stop.  They become embarrassed that they are emitting those sounds when they are the same sounds they use during sex.  The sounds are construed as shameful and unnecessary.

Even in most childbirth classes you are taught to breathe through contractions, rarely to moan.  Yes, breathing is great, but when a woman is in labor, and can feel it, she moans instinctively.  Saying it is shameful cuts out instinct and can make childbirth that much harder.

Several years ago I wondered what the difference was between an orgasm and a contractoin.  In both cases the uterus is contracting.  When I called a nurse and posed the question to her, she replied, “One hurts and the other feels good”(!).  In researching the matter further, I discovered that the two experiences differ only in intensity.  In fact, some women experience labor as a series of orgasms, rather than a series of painful contractions. -Shanley, 69

Is there really a difference between a contraction and orgasm?  As I stated previously, a contraction and an orgasm use the same muscles and nerves.  Why are the perceived so differently?  Why is one pain and the other pleasure?

One man wrote about the birth of his child and discussed the crowing:

As the baby crowned, I knew from Jean’s look and sounds that she was having an explosive orgasm, which rolled on and on.  What a long way from the pain and agony of conventional myth!  Years later we asked a sympathetic doctor about this.  “Yes,” he said, “I’ve seen it a few times.  It may even be that many women have orgasms during birth, but interpret them as pain because the sensations are more intense than anything previously experienced and because women are conditioned to expect pain. – Quoted by Marilyn Moran in Happy Birth Days, told by Donn Reed, 34-35

Since sex and orgasm is a very taboo subject and again considered shameful, most women don’t realize that sex and birth involve the same organs.  They involve the same feelings, the same muscles, the same parts of the body.  Letting go of the shame that you aren’t beautiful, that sex is dirty or embarrassing is just another step to have a painless, beautiful, (possibly orgasmic) birth experience.

The last negative belief is guilt.

Natural guilt is meant to help us.  If we do something that is truly wrong (such as killing someone), natural guilt helps us not to repeat it.  Most people in this culture, however, have developed unnatural guilt.  We feel guilty about everything from sexual pleasure to financial success.  We don’t believe we deserve it.  This unnatural guilt is also a result of our emerging self-consciousness. – Shanley, 70

I can relate to this so well.  When I found out I was pregnant a month ago, I felt nothing but guilt.  Guilt that it was me, that I didn’t deserve this more than others who were trying, that it wasn’t my turn.  This was unnatural guilt.  Just because something wonderful happens in your life doesn’t mean that you should feel guilty because it isn’t happening to other people.

If women believe they are bad for wanting to raise a child in an overcrowded world, they will punish themselves with pain during childbirth.  If she feels guilty for having an easy pregnancy, or guilt that she can have this and others can’t, she will punish herself.

We must eliminate all guilt, therefore, if birth is to be a joy and not a punishment. – Shanley, 71

To truly have a beautiful, natural, painless birth you need to let go of negative things.  Yes, there are more things that can be gotten rid of when cleaning your mental house, but these three are basically the bottom of our lives.  We are scared, shamed, and guilted into believing we aren’t worth what others are.  That we aren’t beautiful like others.  That birth is meant to be painful as a sign that we need to be punished for what we have done.

Eliminating these three beliefs is what women need to be able to let go during labor and let her body do what it needs to do.  We need to realize that birth, just like sex, isn’t shameful.  I don’t know of a creator that believes that sex is shameful.  Without sex we can’t have children.  Someone that creates perfect bodies like us wouldn’t add fear, shame, and guilt to a process needed to have families.

Can women let go of their fears?  Can they let go of the shame of their body?  Can we let go of our guilt because we may have something someone else doesn’t have?

Can we ever truly just “be”?

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One Response

  1. Although it started hundreds of years ago, many modern midwives embrace an old concept of having the woman be brought to an actual orgasm in order to allow for natural child birth. Many home births are facilitated by having the partner manually or orally stimulate their pregnant partners to orgasm which allows for the Oxytocin release and the natural production of hormones which enable the cervix to open and allow the passage of the baby with the need for surgical intervention.
    Women will let go of their body fears when society realizes that our bodily functions are as normal as male bodily functions. Women historically have been shunned during their menstrual cycles and pregnancy and sent to the “Red tent”. Most men will not touch women during menstrual flow for reasons that do not make sense. They often do not want to have sex during pregnancy which is important for bonding for the baby, mother and father!The Oxytocin from male and female orgasm passes into the baby via the placenta barrier.
    Female body shame is perpetuated in this country with size zero women as our models and the average body size is in fact a 14. Perhaps if we focused on who we are rather than fixating on our bodies would allow women to have better self esteem.A pregnant woman is beautiful and deserves praise and words of love and gratitude for the uncomfortable parts of birthing.
    Giving birth, where your legs are spread apart for all the world to see your engorged vagina is impersonal and intimidating at the very least. And you want to know why we can’t relax?Many women might consider more natural methods when it is an option with her partner present in order have a supportive, loving, Oxytocin producing environment in which to allow fears and stress take a back seat to the beauty of the birthing process!

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