I was way too self-conscious with my first birth to be instinctive about it. I didn't know the midwife very well, only having met with her a dozen or less times, and did not know her assistant at all. I had no basis for being naturally intimate with either of them, so it was impossible for me to totally let go and get into a primal place.
This was nine years ago, but I clearly remember feeling inhibited about being intimate with my husband. I have to laugh when I read the stories in Spiritual Midwifery, because there was *no* way my husband and I were going to be loving on each other -- putting on a show, it would feel like -- in front of people who were there essentially as medical professionals. I felt that way about touching myself as well. I don't regard my genitals as a non-sensual area, but I can manage to pretend with someone who is not my lover touching and looking at it. I disassociated in effect (which you can imagine didn't help with pushing) in order to be able to bear it. If I'd put my own hands down there, I'd be reminded instantly of what that area is for, and that this was something very private that was being exposed to people I hardly knew. And, again, it would be putting on a show. I would be the performer, they the audience. It would have been embarrassing. So I kept my hands well away from that area while the midwife worked away on it.
When she told me to touch my baby's head, I didn't want to. She said that I needed to, so I did. I felt completely disconnected, it was interesting, but meant nothing. I certainly wouldn't have done it if she hadn't insisted.
I felt that way even with my second birth, in which my midwife never prodded or peered at my genitals. I was in a deep, dark tub. No one could see anything below my collarbone. And yet I still felt a resistance inside myself to touching myself, and was annoyed when the midwife suggested it. Because, see, I wanted us all to keep pretending she wasn't paying attention to the fact of what I was doing. I did touch myself, because this was to be my empowered birth, and I felt it would be ridiculous *not* to do so, when that's what I would do normally in birth. I'm glad I was able to, finally, but still it was marred by my self-consciousness.
My private births were fantastic because they were fully uninhibited. My hands were all over my body, and at points so were my husband's. I felt up inside of me, I felt my breasts, I kneaded my stomach and back, I moaned in ways that sounded very sexual, and did so with abandon, spontaneously and instinctively. I felt the folds of my vagina; I softly and even pleasurably touched my clitoris. In my "rest and be thankful stage" I fell back against the pillows, legs splayed open, and touched myself some more, smiling at how swollen and lubricated I was. When the baby was ready to be born, I felt the coin-sized top of her head, felt the lusciousness of the waters releasing, and the sheer sensuousness of her head in my vagina. I felt my tissues expanding and I pleaded, "come down, baby, come down. Mama's waiting for you." I shrieked at the peak of contractions and moaned coming down from them. I rocked my hips back and forth, waving my butt in the air, with my hand between my legs. Remembering the ecstatic feeling when my daughter moved down through me nearly brings me to tears. Serious tears. This is how it was supposed to be.
Some of that was uncomfortable for me to write, admit in public. (Never mind what my husband did during this time, which is never going to be made public.) Was any of it uncomfortable to read, to imagine watching? Imagine, then, it being a thousand times more uncomfortable to do it while being watched. And that's exactly why I wouldn't do it in front of someone I wasn't normally intimate with.
After those experiences, thinking about doing perineal support or touching my baby's head at a midwife's direction seems so perfunctory and unnatural it's laughable.