Holistic Stages of Birth
The Holistic Stages of Brith in A Quantum Paradigm
In my early years of practice I found myself called to attend women who were building large families. My third client family was welcoming their ninth child, my next mom was having her seventh. I realized very quickly that my personal experience of birthing two children and my three years of midwifery study paled in comparison to the knowledge of these birthing women. I understood, that as their midwife, I would sit at their feet and learn from them.
Here are some of the things I learned.
After a women has her first baby, SHE UNDERSTANDS. She understands instinctively how her body works, how childbirth feels, what she likes and doesn’t like. She is aware of what she wants and doesn't want the next time she gives birth. She knows what her partner is capable of, what she wants in a
caregiver and how capable she is to figure things out. She also knows that she can’t be fooled. She doesn’t want to be abandoned yet she doesn’t want to be observed. And she also wants a caregiver who KNOWS...a caregiver who understands that she knows these things.
The women I worked with taught me how to be a midwife...they trained me to KNOW. Actually, they trained me to remember what I already knew and to engage with them using my instincts. They wanted a midwife with skills -- the skills to be in harmony with them. They wanted me to be practical and offer information and advice when appropriate. They wanted my years of study and experience to be available to them, but in a way that was harmonious with their needs and desires. They wanted a midwife who could instinctively open an arena of participatory care with them and I quickly realized that co-creating care would look differently with every woman and every family.
Pregnant women are incredibly insightful and naturally wise. During prenatal care, as we developed our relationship, they instructed me on these realms of wisdom and insight. We would talk and tell stories, we would share a meal and share our feelings about birth and then we would check the baby together. We exchanged knowledge and information as women and sisters and equals. More and more, I remembered the knowledge of birth inside me, so I shelved my textbooks and let the voices of my illustrious midwife teachers grow silent for a bit so I could listen to the women I served and to myself.
Most women needed little or no testing, counseling, dietary guidance or other managerial therapies that seem to be the stock and trade of many midwives and midwifery practices. Although everyone's prenatal care evolved differently, most women, regardless of their backgrounds, educations, resources or spiritual beliefs, wanted a very similar thing. They all wanted to birth their babies their own way. They really didn't want or need a trained midwife telling them how to do it. They wanted a wise person, standing by. They wanted someone they loved and trusted in attendance to witness how amazing they were as they unfolded the birth that was authentic to them.
Here’s another crucial thing I learned.
Women in pregnancy and especially women in labor have access to realms of non-ordinary reality. Pregnancy and birth have easily accessible altered states of consciousness and women have the option of attaining information that is not apparent in our normal reality. What this ultimately means is that pregnant and laboring women are quite adept at handling any concerns that arise at any time. The altered state, complete with endorphins and access to these broader realms of information, qualifies the pregnant mother as the most suitable person to make any decisions about her process. Mothers understood that they will birth this child only once and because this child is so important, it was paramount that they make the decisions from the place of their innate wisdom, not someone else’s. Parents understood that birth is sacred, a 'set apart' experience in their lives that emanates from the realms of spirit and soul as well as physics and biology. Parents chose what was instinctive and authentic to their beliefs and traditions.
When I speak of altered states I am not speaking specifically of religious beliefs although various
spiritual beliefs may enhance the altered state. I am speaking of the natural shift in brainwave patterns that occurs during parts of pregnancy and peaks during birth. The patterns have been identified as Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta and each progressive pattern accompanies a deeper altered state.
I became more and more comfortable being where the mom and family wished me to be rather than having any preconceived ideas about where I felt I should be. This became the Art of Midwifery to me...understanding that a woman knows instinctively how to have her baby and not disturbing her or her family during this process, being available to watch and wait and come forth when called, respecting that a woman will call when necessary, finding my place at each birth with the natural rhythm of unfolding, not presuming anything, carrying no fear, bringing no routines or procedures, welcoming all that is transformative, witnessing the creation of life on earth...all this is the true Art of Midwifery for me.
I recognize that each woman gives birth individually yet, over time, I noticed a specific overarching pattern emerge that was perceptible in each labor. I call this pattern the Holistic Stages of Birth and I would like to share my experience of how I have seen birth flow. The language I have chosen to describe these stages befits a journey, a rite of passage or a sacred event rather than a medical process. It is symbolic and poetic rather than clinical although this does not imply that the process I have witnessed is a metaphor for labor.
(Pre-labor and Latent Labor)
Labor is a Journey. The preparation has often been elaborate, conscious and consuming. There is usually an all-important ritual of Arrangement preceding the actual event. We call it nesting and Mother has moved about in a final flurry of activity, taking care of all last details...clothes are washed, food fills the freezer, house is ship-shape...all is in order. Nesting is part of Embarkation. Mother senses that labor is soon. Perhaps contractions and the loss of a bit of the cervical mucus has offered a hint that the journey is about to commence.
Then it does begin and Embarkation is also the time when a woman realizes that labor is truly here.
Mother is excited, maybe a bit nervous, concerned for the welfare of her loved ones having made sure that they will be well taken care of while she is gone. As the Journey is launched she may call all her family to her to bid them goodbye or, depending on her custom and constitution, she may silently take leave with her partner and companions. Usually, at this time she alerts her chosen caretaker. If she is birthing at home, she notifies her midwife who may or may not arrive immediately depending on the mother's preference. If she is planning to give birth in a hospital or birthing center, she may notify her chosen caregivers and remain at home until other changes occur. Often, moms wish to spend time acclimatizing to the sensations the body offers before they actually connect with their birth attendants. Most moms are aware that labor is still in early phases and are excited and managing their energy very well.
During this time the Mother often feels like talking and sharing impressions as she is pulled away from ordinary reality. She may be chatty and relate information about each contraction or each sensation. She usually stays centered as she is stretched and molded; her sensations become stronger, more intense, powerful. Most Moms experience this as varying degrees of pain. The waves of contractions repeat with increasing intensity and frequency and the Mother is swept toward the Unknown.
In modern parlance this time would be considered pre-labor and the latent stage of the First Stage of Labor. Physically, the cervix is beginning to efface and dilate and this stage lasts until the Mother reaches 4 to 5 cm dilation. Contractions are usually 30 to 45 seconds long and 5 to 10 minutes apart. As Mother comes closer to the chasm that separates her from ordinary reality, contractions build in intensity and become coordinated and rhythmic. It becomes apparent that the Mother is being called away – she is less and less present in ordinary reality with each successive contraction. Her chatty persona disappears, replaced with a growing seriousness.
As she feels herself pulled toward the Veil she will probably want to connect with her caregivers. Shemay feel the need for the presence of the midwife or doctor because she understands that she will be
leaving ordinary reality, taking a definitive step into the unknown, and she wants her caregivers to be
aware and ready to witness.
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