Many mothers instinctively ‘tune in’ and adjust to the natural rhythm and unique order of their labours, especially if they are relatively straightforward. Often however, the many rapid changes and uncomfortable sensations of labour and birth can feel like internal chaos. A mother’s capacity to tolerate and surrender to the intensity of her labour relies on her ability to maintain focus. To do this well she must manage her internal mental, emotional and physical energy, as well as the impact of external influences.
During labour most mothers focus on something that stays the same – something that provides comfort and stability through those moments when chaos threatens to dominate.
Some of the things that stay the same through labour are – the need to breathe, the instinctive drive to birth, the contractions coming and going, and the mother’s relationship to her baby. Other steadying influences may include the support, information, strategies and skills the mother has in place, and those that will be offered while she is in labour.
Focus on your breath
The rhythms and sensations
Appreciate their coming and passing.
Ride with them
Relax between them
Embrace the changes – however small.
Your body is opening
To birth your baby –
Focus on your breath.
A mother may create a reliance or vision around what she feels will best help her manage the intensity of her labour. Her choice of environment may hold promise of connection and comfort. She may believe her care provider or support person will know what to do; or she may rely on her spiritual faith. She may have previous experience of what works for her; or find her connection and focus along the way. She may embrace a number of ‘connections’ and be very skilled at maintaining them; she may shift from one thing to another, seduced by the promise of relief. Some mothers may be totally overwhelmed during their experience for any number of reasons, and need to be guided to a connection and focal point. Ideally, the way in which the mother focuses in labour also helps her to work with her body and use her time and energy efficiently. This isn’t always so. For example, a mother may rely on her environment to keep her focused, and help her to feel safe. But that may not be enough to allow her to surrender to her experience or manage her energy and time effectively if she is not prepared for the intensity of labour. She may still feel overwhelmed, exhausted or stuck in labour. And her focus will be further disrupted if she has to deal with moving from one environment to another. Another mother may rely totally on her care-providers and support people for connection and guidance. The level of gratitude or disappointment she feels toward them will then be directly proportional to how effectively they live up to that expectation. A comfortable environment and caring support certainly enhances a mother’s ability to focus and surrender. But things don’t always go according to plan. It seems some babies have their own agendas about where they are born, and care-providers are regularly at the mercy of human circumstance and external conditions. Mothers need to seriously consider who and what they are relying on, regardless of care-providing contingencies. You might ask a mother: