By Louise James
“Imagine a woman is in second-stage labour but instead of everyone telling her to hold her breath, push and count to 10, she is synchronized with her body, in the moment, doing exactly what her body tells her.” These are the words of Sheila Kitzinger, a grand old guru of natural childbirth, recorded back in 1997.
Natural childbirth has not changed over the decades, it still requires women to be in tune with their bodies and to allow the sensations of childbirth to move them to deliver their babies.
A body surrendered to labour is a magnificent thing.
For many women, this may not come naturally. At least three things can interfere with healthy natural development of a woman’s sense of her body. Females have often been trained by the culture they live in to behave in certain ways, e.g. Western culture expecting women to sit upright on a chair with both feet on the ground. There is a chance that a number of women have been victims of abuse and mistreated during childbirth, affecting more than a third of women.
These are important considerations in preparation for childbirth. A healthy body image, belief in the ability of the body and yielding to the sensations are the foundation for a natural childbirth experience. For those with past negative experiences, recognising and speaking out about physical and emotional hurt can help heal wounds, and free the mind and body. Trusted family members, friends or professional counsellors can be a listening ear.
Not everyone has to unravel things from the past. Whether women are restrained or open with their bodies, benefits can be found from implementing the suggestions below. They are not quick fixes for anyone to be able to attune with their body; it is about lifestyle.
Slowly, regularly, as women allow their bodies to participate in life, the fear and constraints melt away and are replaced with faith and surrender.
Other aspects of a woman’s life can be positively affected as well. It takes time to reclaim, appreciate and rest in the wonder of one’s body.
Spending time naked, not just in the shower or bath. When women are comfortable with their naked bodies, during childbirth when the clothes come off, fear is less likely to come. Being naked is an ideal time for affirmations. “What a wonderful and marvellous body I have and how perfect it is for giving birth.” The body is also wonderful to dance with. The sound of beautiful music, the rhythm of the beat and movement of the body, it is a freeing experience.
Give and receive physical affection and play: with your partner, older children, close relatives, friends and pets. The hormone oxytocin is released during these close moments and it will be that hormone that moves the contractions and labour along. Experiences of this nature allow the body to practise being uninhibited, which is helpful during childbirth.