Being Wonderful: getting in the groove with the greatest comfort measures – rhythm, ritual, relaxation.
Okay, so now let’s look at nature and birth.
Well, the most obvious connection is that yes, birth is natural. It happens. Regularly.
But you know that already.
So how about we take this a step further. Not just into the natural element of birth, but into the wild!
For just a minute here, let’s bring birth into the wild side.
When birth progresses normally and naturally, chances are you will shift into an altered state of conciousness. “The zone,” I like to call it. It’s a good place. It’s a wild place. It’s the place where your body just know what to do, no matter what you think or say or are told. Birth is the most primal act (sex is a close second). It goes deep and wild and taps into the eternal knowing of womanhood. It is an act we cannot control with reason or demands or contemplation, but rather by trusting in the nature of our bodies, our baby and the process. And letting go. We have to let go into the space of nature and trust. We have to just know and be, rather than demand, require, manipulate or otherwise try to control. A lot of women have tried that. Men too. It doesn’t work. You can’t reason birth any more than you can reason nature. You just have understand. And this kind of understanding doesn’t come from books, lectures, equations or scientific research. It comes from that deep dark place within. Your wild side.
And it is in this space, the zone, the wild side, that our greatest comfort and connection in birth can be found. It is through what are commonly called “The Three R’s.” I like to call it the Primal Pattern of Birth. Whatever you call it, this is what it is: rhythm, ritual, and relaxation. For it is through rhythm, ritual and relaxation in birth that we may tap into our deepest knowing and being. It is through rhythm, ritual and relaxation that we may unleash that wise, wild woman within us. And it is through rhythm, ritual and relaxation that we are flow into the natural space of letting go.
(Much of the following is written by birth doula and educator, Shauna Brandes, from her excellent website, http://www.shaunabrandescom.)
Penny Simkin, doula, birth expert and author, coined the phrase of the Three R’s after observing hundreds of laboring women, and noting that women who managed through labor with the greatest calm, comfort and satisfaction had these three coping mechanisms in common:
- They were able to relax during and between rushes/surges/contractions.
- They fell into a rhythm.
- They found and faithfully used a ritual during each surge.
How can you create or instinctually use relaxation, rhythm and ritual to help your labor be more manageable? Chances are, you will instinctually fall into your own manner of the 3 R’s. It’s natural. If we feel safe, secure, comfortable, and are left to our own, we naturally find our patterns and practices of rhythm, ritual and relations. We naturally create our own 3 R’s. That said, like with so many other elements of the birthing continuum, the more aware we are educated, empowered and understanding, the more we are able to let go and allow when then the time comes. And so, let’s take a deeper look at the 3 R’s, and find a space within you to hold each one.
Rhythm is a regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. Dancing, singing, chanting, swaying. Rhythm is motion, patterns, pulses, waves…Rhythm is back and forth, in and out, over and over and over again.
As with all 3 R’s, you can keep this in mind, consider ways in which this will work for you, plan and prepare…but ultimately, if you are allowed, if you are in a space where you feel safe and supported (and this is different for all women), you can do what feels right, you will find your own way. You will create your own. You will naturally turn towards a rhythmic pattern in sound or motion.
Forms of rhythm you may want to experiment with:
- Rhythmic breathing, deep and full
- Moaning or sounding, low and slow
- Body movement (swaying, rocking, rolling the hips, rubbing the belly)
- External movement on the body (pouring water over the belly or standing under a steady shower)
- Repeating an affirmation or mantra
Most of us instinctually move rhythmically to ease discomfort and/or to relax, and zone out. Think of the baby that likes to be rocked, the trancelike motion of dance for some forms of spiritual meditation, or children than instinctually rock themselves for comfort. Think of the rocking chair, and how mesmerizing that feels… No one has to tell you, but you find yourself beginning, and going with it.
Over the next few weeks, you may want to experiment with this. Start by being aware of rhythmic patterns in your life. Tapping the foot or rocking in the chair or swaying to the music. Be aware and play with others when you’re thinking of it. Notice how they allow you to feel, nor not… perhaps these rhythms allow you to just let go.
Finding your rhythm can help you move with the sensations you are experiencing instead of resisting them.
Quite simply, a ritual is a ceremony or action performed in a customary or prescribed way. Ritual can be a pattern or chosen movement or action or sound that you turn to over and over again with each rush. Ritual becomes as regular as your rushes, and as you move with your rushes, so you move through your rituals. The methods you find yourself using to relax and get into a rhythm may become your ritual during and between each surge. An example of ritual in labor might be moaning and swaying your hips through a rush, then looking your partner deep in eyes and breathing low and slow, and then back again. Over and over and over again to the ebb and flow cycle of your contractions.
This is a natural comforting reaction that women may intuitively turn to and hold onto for a sense of power and place. You may know where you are in the great cycle by finding your place within your ritual. You may feel the security of knowing what comes next and what you can do to move through it. It may allow you a connection and inner direction in the midst of the letting go of control.
Ritual in labor may be the ebbs and flows, turning to one through the rush, and another through the release. Like riding the wave, rituals bring a pattern and consistency that helps remind us of the natural cycle we are passing through, and knowing it will change, as energy shifts, and the security of consistency.
Early in labor, the rituals may be deliberate, conscious, practiced with intention. As labor progresses and the woman naturally dives deeper into her sacred birthing soul, ritual may become more primal, more passionate, more wild. Good. Allow this. Honor this. This is the mother going where she needs to go, and connecting with the deeper, wild side of women. She is not alone there, though she may appear in her own space. This is the unveiling of the wild side. These wilds can be vast and powerful. Go with it.
The relaxation and rhythmic techniques practiced with your thinking mind early in labor will give way to a spontaneous intensity of ritual. Your inner knowing will bring you there if you are allowed, safe and supported – and not disturbed and distracted. This is the wild woman’s way of releasing and opening her body, and bringing forth her baby.
For those honored to be present and witness, your ritual must be respected. Interruptions, distractions and disturbances should be carefully avoided. If they are aware of your state, your partner or attendant can help removed any disturbance and allow you to return to your space where you can dive back in.
In nature, we may find our wisdom for letting go. Who are you in labor? You may be the lone tree, old and tall and wise, swaying in the strong winds. You may the shifting sands upon which turbulent waves crash, retreat and return. You may be tall grass out on the open meadow, moving with storm, dancing like a golden wave. You may be the clouds forming or the flower blooming or the great eagle unfurling her wings. You may be the shell forming, opening, receiving, slowly being created.
There is an eternal, natural, primordial strength within you. And part of your power is in letting go. The complete surrender. Becoming a part of the wilds. This is nature. This is Woman. Our strength, power and wisdom is not only in standing tall, but in moving, bending, swaying, releasing. We have the ability to shift and adapt with our environment and all its wild forces, not fight against it rigidly.
Tune into this power within you. Let your body and mind go where they need to go. They will know where and how if they are allowed. How do we allow? Through trust. Trust your body. Trust your mind. Trust the birth. Trust your baby working with you. Trust the process. Trust life.
Though it is natural and will occur if allowed in birth, now is a good time to practice the complete body release. If you’ve been able to work on yoga and meditation, these are powerful practices for teaching your mind and body to release, let go and flow. We’ll look at another meditative exercise later in this week.
What else can you do now?
- Lie down flat on the ground and let your body go limp. Stay there five minutes. Imagine yourself sinking deeper and deeper into the floor.
- Try a standing meditation with your feet firmly planted and your knees and shoulders soft. Relax your jaw, your tongue. On the in-breath, raise your energy up to the heavens; on the out out-breath, let your energy fully connect deep into the center of the earth.
- Try a walking meditation, walking in a small circle, move your body with your breath, raising your energy, lowering it, up and down. Focus on your breath, your slow deliberate movements.
- Fill your bathtub and lie with nothing but your face out of the water. Hear your heartbeat and focus on nothing but that.
- Walk in nature, step lightly, imagine yourself lighter with each step until you lift off the ground and fly. Allow yourself to float in this image with your arms extended.
- Light a candle, turn off the lights, and simply sit and stare.
- Meditation and yoga are powerful tools for mind/body/soul releasing.
The more you practice now, the more your body may naturally remember in labor. It may turn to this inner knowing naturally.
Full relaxation encompasses both physical and mental awareness.
Tools and tips for relaxing in labor
- Breathe in, low and slow
- Moaning deep and wild
- Releasing tense muscles with water or massage or touch
- Visualization – close your eyes and see the clouds, the waves, the swaying grass.
- Affirmations – “I surrender, I let go, I completely release and relax. I ride the wave…”
- Mantras – sounds and words to bring you to an altered state where letting go happens. “Relax” is a harsh word to say. What about “Open…”
- Sleep between surges
- Listening to relaxing music
- Aromatherapy – see what works well for you ahead of time (try lavender, clary sage, cedarwood and frankincense)
- Staring at a candle, a flower, or calming visual object
What else can you do to relax? Think of ways that work for you. Be aware throughout your day. Standing in line at the grocery store, sitting at your desk, when you first lay down at night…
Practice releasing, trusting, letting go, body, mind and soul, a little bit every day.
My personal favorite daily essential recommendations for the pregnant woman (any woman!) to connect us with the power of the primal patterns of birth and life:
- Prenatal yoga
- Walking (preferably in nature)
- Breathing. Okay, I know you’re going to do this one no matter what, but focus on your breath. Fully focus. Even for just one breath. Sometimes, that’s all it takes…
See what you can do, what works for you, and begin to find that wild place within you.