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The right way to labor

I got into a great conversation with a doula friend the other day discussing the birth of her daughter.

During our conversation she confessed that several of the typical “no-no’s” of birth turned out, for her, to be the only way she could labor.

One example she brought up had to do with vocalizing. Vocalizing is often encouraged as a coping mechanism, for discharging and channeling energy during contractions. Usually the coaching is to make the tone of your moaning and groaning deep and low.

This woman, at the top of her lungs, full on high pitched screamed her way through labor. Not just active labor but from the beginning!

Another common coaching is to encourage laboring people to say “yes”. When your mind or body wants to resist what you’re feeling, the redirect for that resistance is to find the yes to it. To express your surrender to all the sensations of birth and the affirmation, “I can do this”, with a silent or audible “yes”.

This woman, literally said “nooooo!” with nearly every damn contraction.

For months after giving birth she had to process that despite knowing intellectually that she had a positive, well-supported birth, she was actually traumatized by how painful the contractions were. She felt hesitant even sharing how painful she found the experience because the presiding culture among many birth-workers is to dispel the myths of birth as painful. To not scare pregnant people about birth. She hesitated to share her experience in part because it didn’t fit the “right” narrative.

But did she birth the “wrong” way?

Of course not.

I was inspired to share this story because while sometimes redirecting your vocal tones from high to low and your no’s into yes’s may serve some birthing people, this is a great reminder that sometimes the best way to be supportive is to approve of whatever feels right to our clients, our partners and ourselves. To allow and embrace, whatever helps us move through. (In labor AND in life!)

In an interesting reflection, she shared the insight that her “no-ing” invited her support teams’ “yes-ing”. It fed into their encouragement and allowed her to both be seen in her authentic internal experience while simultaneously hearing that she could do it!

Let’s remember to share our birthing wisdom and guidance and support with humility. Let’s trust birthing people, that the way they labor, that the touch and support they want and don’t want, and the ways they experience their births are valid and perfect as they are, simply because of the sheer fact that they’re theirs.

Should’s and shouldn’t’s, right ways and wrong ways have no place in birth. Validating different ways, different choices, and different experiences frees all of us from the risk of living with shame and isolation, and opens the door to self-acceptance and connection.

A much kinder way to enter parenthood for sure.

Photo credit: @amyphilpphotography


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