Did you “become a different person” when you were in labor? When we let our bodies lead, we’re able to access inner strengths we didn’t know we had.
I can’t enumerate how many times I’ve heard new parents express their discomfort with maternal actions during labor. Birth is intense, and most of us are unprepared for what that looks and feels like.
Often these statements come from couples who got an epidural well into the labor process. Women will tell me about how they ‘become normal’ after the epidural took effect. They reintroduced themselves to the staff and apologized for who they were before. Dads will say it’s helpful that mom is willing to have an epidural. After she gets an epidural, they say, “it’s nice to have her back.”
It’s not that you’re not going to be a different person in labor. Consider, for example, the assumption that a laboring woman will yell, “I hate you! You did this to me!” when the going gets tough. This just doesn’t happen unless there is already animosity toward her partner. Labor makes you more you.
A woman in labor is doing something really difficult. She can do it more easily if she lets go of her analytical, thinking mind, and enters a state of meditation. If she makes slow, low, theta brainwaves, her body will be able to labor safer and faster. Also it will feel less intense. Win!
People are not comfortable with a woman in labor. Truthfully, we’re not comfortable with a lot of things that are instinctual behaviors. Most of them we’re socialized to hide. We’re socialized to control ourselves, and often that’s a good thing. We don’t want everyone’s animal instincts running the show all the time.
Labor makes us feel like we’re not in control — because we’re not — and that’s scary. It’s like the kind of ‘out of control’ you experience during sneezing or sex. (I hope I’m the first person to lump sneezing and sex into the same category.) It feels good to let go. If we let ourselves, it helps move birth along.
Just like sex, it would be nice to be able to relax into birth without judging ourselves and each other.
Unfortunately, we have an even bigger problem when we try to uphold our roles and be…nice. We don’t want to put anyone out. We want to be liked and likable.
This desire to make nice and build relationships gets in the way for birth. Women, especially, tend to define themselves in terms of their relationships. (I think I’ve seen two male bios or profiles claim the title of father, husband, or son up front. Women do it most of the time.)
Even in labor, the people around us expect us to be appropriate — to maintain our duties in relationships, even sometimes to be caretakers. You can’t (and shouldn’t) give a rip about your roles in your relationships while you’re in labor. You don’t have to be a good wife or patient or even a good person. It’s important for all those social rules to fall away so that you can let your body lead and lead your baby out.
To do that, you have to turn off the part of your brain that governs social norms and expectations. That’s why women in labor act strange and don’t talk much.
Labor is intense. When dealing with the intensity, we can’t deal with people or their expectations.
For some women, this vulnerability is terrifying. Their socially acceptable, well-cultivated, appealing appearance and demeanor is unavailable to them.
Instead, they look and act like goddesses.
Most people really don’t want to meet the goddess. We don’t want to meet her either. We just want things to be normal. We want to be able to intellectually experience the birth of the baby.
We’re also, of course, afraid of our own power and what we’re capable of.
All superheroes have an origin story — an accident or event that got them their powers. It’s always scary, intense, difficult, and painful. Cultivating the superpower requires motivation and focus, like giving birth.
This is how you get your powers.
It’s okay for you to act weird. It’s okay for you to lose it, to ignore everyone, to moan and shake the earth. It’s okay and normal.
It’s important for both partners to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Even so, labor is mega intense. Sometimes an escape from the intensity is emotionally or physiologically necessary. Get the epidural if you need it.
Either way, birth is the meat of your motherhood origin story. Few changes or transitions in life are as significant as this. It’s supposed to change you. Even if its not your first rodeo, it’s your first time bringing this spirit into itself — dividing one life into two. It’s the creation of life.
You’re partnering with God, spirit, and universe in creation. Did you think you’d be the same afterwards?