Monday, November 30, 2009

In Praise of Spaces

Birth is so much about swelling, surging, growing, stretching to maximum capacity, riding the waves, and being full to bursting.

I want to take a minute to remember the importance of the spaces. The pauses. The rests. We spend so much time as doulas and birthing mothers supporting/coping with dizzying heights of contractions. And this is important, because these waves require a lot of our attention and a commitment to working through their challenge. These waves create gifts. The endorphins which make us stoned and the oxytocin which makes us loving and sexy in good labour, are the gifts we can bring to the spaces. These gifts allow us to sink into the ocean of Resource available to us, if we so choose.

But many of us do not choose. We are products of big, over-thinky minds. Our minds are like impatient children, demanding "why". "Why is labour taking so long?" "Why does it hurt so much?" "Why isn't it ending soon?" "Why is this happening to me?" I have seen so many labours deteriorate with our cultural obsession with the question "why". The truth is that there often are no real answers. There are thoughts, and hypotheses, but not always something concrete, which insults our minds, which feel entitled to answers for their demands. We then take awareness away from our bodies, which would benefit far more by resting between the great big swells of active labour. By wallowing in the "why", we deny ourselves the potent Medicine which exists in the spaces.

Unfortunately, many supporters of birth are far too willing to engage in theories
in order to help the woman to "understand" her situation. This often does not help. Information itself is not usually what heals. Many "bring to hospital" lists include magazines and movies in order to fill the space. Medical students are asked to do questionnaires and workups in the spaces. Nurses chat between contractions to get to know their patients. It is hard to find the space in this environment, the space to regroup and re-source. We need to work on this, as natural birth should not have to be next to impossible in a hospital.

We can help to create more space through many means, depending upon what's going on. Breath is an important way to make room inside. As we breathe deep into our bellies, into the space around and below our settling babies, we make room for everything to open, allowing our babies to settle more deeply. If we make the conscious choice to put down our minds, sink down into the spaces of our wombs with our breath and our quiet, aided to do so more deeply with the gifts of endorphins and oxytocin created by the waves of contractions, we find where our Medicine lives. Our most womanly power exists in these spaces, the power to nourish and restore before bringing forth life on a wave. Our Medicine is Grace. It is Courage. It is Faith. It is Love. It is Endurance. It is Acceptance.

Space can be created by assuming positions which encourage our babies to follow the path of least resistance. Vomiting, peeing, and shitting during labour are valueable too, because they create space. They relieve tension. The image I get when I think of vocalizing during labour (ie: yelling our heads off), is of making our personal containers bigger with the sheer force of sound in order to hold the crazy, overwhelming birth energy. Space is created by processing the emotions that come up in labour. A good cry can create renewal. Letting go of what we hoped for and accepting what is present in our labours creates the space to flow with what is here and now.

Sometimes space needs to be created in more hardcore ways. And let's make sure to honour those too, as they can provide immense value. Manually stretching a cervix when appropriate can make more space for the baby to be born. Occasionally an epidural is the way to create the space to find our internal Medicine. For whatever reason, sometimes the mother needs to get perspective from the experience and the only way to do so is by putting the pain on "pause" in order for the body to do it's thing within the space of rest.

If supporting a woman in active labour, do not engage her with chatter. Don't probe her for information. Don't fill her spaces. You are denying her access to her resources. When she questions "why", unless there is a real answer, don't go there. Encourage her instead to figure out how to deal with what is, which is usually to pause and go inside. Add to her endorphins and oxytocin by making her feel really good, if that's what's called for, by massaging her or soothing her with whatever comfort helps her. If you're birthing soon, practice relaxation. Know how to let your body go instead of shlepping around the tension of the last contraction with you to the next one, compounding the stress and reducing efficiency.

How do you help to create space?