Can Birth Really be Painless?
Can birth really be totally free of pain? In my opinion the answer is no! Nope, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, a Debbie Downer if you will, but I don’t believe that most women can or will experience a labor and birth free from pain. I’m writing this because it’s a question I am asked a lot and it’s a topic I feel strongly about. Birth is an intense physical, spiritual and mental challenge for most women, but are you ready for the good news? Women are exceptionally strong! Our bodies are incredible and they can endure more pain and exhaustion both physical and mental then I ever thought possible. Being a doula and seeing laboring women day-in and day-out is remarkably humbling and reassuring at the same time. The raw power and strength of a birthing woman is without equal.
So why do some popular childbirth-preparation classes teach, that birth can be painless? That if you are experiencing pain, or cry out that you are just not doing it right? That you must not have practiced enough or that you simply need to try harder? That I can’t answer, but to be honest, I hate it. Now I don’t mean to say that every woman will experience pain or that relaxation, deep breathing and meditation don’t work. However, in the many births I have attended and my own experience most women do experience pain. Quite often, more pain than they even though possible and I find it so sad that these women feel like they have failed. I hear it all the time and each time it breaks my heart. “I can’t relax through these contractions, what am I doing wrong?” Wrong!? Nothing! You are doing nothing wrong! You are doing everything right! You are working incredibly hard to bring your baby out of your body and into your arms. This is birth and you, my dear, are rocking it!
Women feel guilt constantly, over almost everything. Our hips are not slender enough, our houses not clean enough…. Now I see and hear women feeling guilty because they are not relaxed enough during labor? Not able to remain as quiet and modest and composed as they envisioned or as they were taught. Birth is raw and primal. In my experience as a doula, it’s sweaty and loud and difficult. During the most intense parts woman often grunt and growl and scream out and cry. They clench their fists and squat down and crawl over the floor and puke. This is labor in the ways I see it. It’s not prim and proper, it’s raw and beautiful. It’s a beauty that I feel privileged to be a part of. I feel so honored that families would let me into and allow me to support them during this incredible, difficult, and yes, painful time. And I’m so glad to be able to help.
Now just because birth is, for most women, painful doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Pain does not have to equal terrible. I think with the right support and the right preparations that the pains of labor are manageable. I have many tools in my bag to help lessen the pain and calm the fears. Relaxing through contractions is a great tool. If your body is relaxed it will naturally release hormones that will help labor to progress and help you to naturally manage the pain. I love using counter-pressure to help ease the intensity of each surge. Relaxing music, dim lights, and minimal interruptions are all fantastic ways to help you get into the zone. A hot shower or warm bath feels great and can help many women find comfort. If simply relaxing and breathing are the only tools you are given in your birthing class I recommend you find others! Get every tool you can possibly think of and hire a doula that can bring a whole lot more and guess what? If together you, she, and your birth team have pulled out all the tools available to you and nothing is working? That usually means the baby is almost here!
If during labor there comes a time when relaxation isn’t working, then I say get up and scream. No, I’m serious, screaming feels great! Dropping a few F-bombs is totally normal and actual research has shown, especially for people who don’t usually, that letting go and letting those swears out can relieve pain better than drugs. Get up and move. For me, the only way I was able to manage my contractions was through movement. I paced around like a crazy person/caged animal for the majority of my labor and assumed a new position at the start of each labor pain. One foot up on the chair, crouching down by the bed, white knuckled on the towel rack, you name it! Moving and vocalizing are staples of nearly every un-medicated birth I see. Don’t be ashamed to use them. Allow yourself to let go. Let go of the vision you had of the perfect calm and painless birth. A good birth doesn’t have to mean a quiet and controlled birth. I think society is so afraid of natural birth, because it allows women to be naked and sweaty and not in a “hot to men” sort of way. Don’t feel ashamed to let loose. To be primal and loud and powerful, this is our birthright and our right in birth. There is nothing more feminine than that!
To see a beautiful slide show of powerful and primal women in labor please visit this link below. My friend and fellow doula Terra Maynes put this video together. You might even catch a few pictures of me! Primal Birth Slideshow
and take the time to check out her website at: Terravie Doula