One of my gorgeous Mamas was in hospital the other day. She overheard something that she thought I’d enjoy (ha!). It went like this…
The lady beside me was told by one of the nurses ‘if when you’re in labour you can talk, or laugh; if anything is happening other than your breath being taken away and you needing to stop to cope, then nothing is happening to your cervix yet’.
Let’s just have a little think on that. Yes, it’s fair to say that as labour progresses, women are drawn inwards, their thinking brain switching off, and that limbic system taking over. It’s a mammalian process after all, governed by a part of our brain we cannot reason with on the spot. Broadly, changes in behaviour are a good indication of progress.
However. The idea that women must be demonstrating that they need to ‘stop’ to cope, that their breath is being ‘taken away’ or else NOTHING is happening to their cervix is disempowering, and ridiculous.
What about those women who agree to a sweep only to be told they are already 2cm and they have had no idea? And what about all the work the cervix has to do before it can dilate? Efforts that are not always detectable, but laying important groundwork. Lets not dismiss a wide spectrum of cervical behaviour and varied labour patterns.
When I was in labour with Rory, I laughed with my husband about 40 mins before he was born when I spilled my waters all over his feet.
(This doesn’t mean it was easy, or that I didn’t have any discomfort. I’m always keen to be clear that I’m not promising anyone a pain free birth. More comfortable than otherwise, definitely.)
And the idea that our breath is taken away leaves us without this extremely important coping technique- controlling the breath. Breathing deeply and slowly facilitates the action of the muscles of the uterus, gives us a focus aside from the sensations, keeps our oxygen and oxytocin up, and in turn allows the pain relieving endorphins to flow. Talk of taking that away doesn’t help.
I knew there would be plenty of my gang who would find this overheard ‘advice’ as outrageous as I do.
Here’s what they had to say (all re first babies):
Caroline, “From personal experience this sounds ridiculous! I was 9cm dilated and still singing to songs on the radio, having conversations with my partner and laughing because quite frankly I found labour such a wonderful experience”.
Nicola, “Oh my god – how ridiculous!!!! When I was first examined I was 4cm dilated and I was still happily chatting and tidying up. Was chatting most of the way through. Granted towards the end I had to concentrate whilst the surges came but not til I was nearly pushing! ”
Sam, “John was teaching me to box while I was labour…..as you do!”
Gina, “I was walking around Southend hospital (having been encouraged to by the midwives) talking to my mum and partner until around 6cm dilated”
Hannah, “Haha!!!! Love that comment! I was so bloody happy to be in labour and not feel sick I was chatting, eating (I ate so much food!!), bouncing on my ball, texting, calling my mum. I was told ‘you’re not in labour you look too happy!!’
Then they checked me and rushed me to surgery I was over half way and things were very much happening!!”
Lucy, “What complete rubbish!! We were happily chatting to each other whilst I was bouncing on my ball and to be fair although I wasn’t very dilated at all for a number of hours I went from 1-10 cm in about 30 minutes, and then asked them If I could walk down the stairs to get in the pool with Juno’s head out/half out (I can’t really remember exactly)… they didn’t let me but the desire was there and we talked about it!”