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Contraction – a shortening of the uterine muscles occurring at intervals before and during childbirth.

Labor and childbirth is a difficult process to describe.   Searching the Internet for other’s opinions about this is an interesting exercise.  Most describe contractions in relation to physical sensations and most will describe them as painful.  Some will say it is the most pain they have ever felt. There are a few that will describe them as painless.

When I was pregnant with my first child and would tell people I was going to have a natural childbirth, they looked at me like I was crazy.  I was not even sure why I wanted a natural childbirth, other than I liked the birth center near my house and I had to deliver naturally to be able to go there.  With that labor, I do remember feeling like my contractions were incredibly painful, just as much as everyone said they would be.  Yet it was still a good birth, and I loved the experience.  It was from this that I learned that pain does not mean you are suffering. I learned that pain can bring joy.

When I heard about hypnobirthing and their theory of pain, I was a bit skeptical of the idea that labor could not be painful.  I was a bit skeptical up until this last birth.  I did not use hypnobirthing. However, I learned something about labor and the power of birth that sometimes overwhelms, causes fear, or consumes us —  to the point that it can be painful.  I found that pain is a signal to adjust, move, and utilize that power in a way that it becomes more of a force (a source of information), than a feeling of hurt.

I entered the birth center at 6 centimeters dilated.  Once there, I immediately began leaning over during contractions.  The need to maneuver my hips in between was also present. (I was so glad that I had done my natural movement stretches and exercises promoted by Katy Bowman.)  I could feel the difference between when I tucked and un-tucked my tailbone, with the first being much less helpful.

It was soon after this that I realized that I knew exactly what my body was doing.  Not just: “Oh here comes a contraction!” Rather, I understood where I was at in labor and how my body was changing with each contraction.  This was a new experience!  With all of my other labors, I felt like I was just coping.  This time I felt like I was listening and responding to what my body and my baby needed.

When I tried doing other positions or techniques, the pain kicked up a bit.  I knew that was a signal to change what I was doing.  I was so surprised by this awareness that I remember saying out loud, “I think I am changing.” I moved down to my hands and knees at some point, as that was what I needed to do.  It was at this point that I began to recognize my contractions as a source of power and information on what my body was doing.  While they caused me to work or struggle, I did not feel they caused me pain.  If they did, I knew something needed to be changed.

I also decided to move to the tub when I felt the need come. I knew I was going to have Bethany very soon.  Time was still a very foggy sensation in the background, but the signals my body was sending were not.  I remember looking at my husband while in the tub and telling him, “I don’t want to do this anymore!”  As soon as those words came out, I knew I had hit the birthing time.  I think everyone else in the room did too.  In my head, I was even chuckling a bit at myself.

The next few contractions were very intense as I felt the head crowning and my new baby being birthed.  I was struggling with the intensity of the contractions, but also in awe that I was doing this, again.  I knew that I would soon get to meet my new little one, and that helped me cope with the power behind these final contractions that brought my daughter into the world.

Now, instead of defining contractions as incredibly painful, I would define them as incredibly powerful.  Learning to accept and cope with that power was a huge part of what I did throughout this labor.  I could not do it alone.  In the next few posts, I will talk about the use of support and love during this labor that helped to bring me peace and do the work that I needed to do.

Want to learn more about physiologic labor and how to support women through labor and birth?  Click to register for doula training.

Newborn Baby with Mother

(This is post is part two in a series of posts. Check back frequently  for the next installment in the series.)


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Rachel has worked as a register nurse (BSN from University of Utah) since 2004 with a work history in Labor and Delivery, NICU and Postpartum Care. She is also the founder of New Beginnings Doula Training which she organized in 2011. When she's not busy being a mother and grandmother, she can be found reading research papers related to some aspect of childbirth.

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