The Journey of Labor and Birth

I am often asked by pregnant people what they can expect when they begin labor. I have never had a "one-size-fits-all" answer. These are the only bits of wisdom I have to share after attending close to 700 births.

There is a lot being written about what birth is supposed to be. Is it supposed to painful, empowering, natural, painless, ecstatic, the list goes on.....

I see birth as a path that you start on, sometimes tentatively and other times with full abandon. Up ahead on the path lies a forest. You cannot see what is ahead because of the thickness of the trees and foliage. You may be the type of person who has prepared for this challenging journey by reading everything you can get your hands on and collecting everything you might possibly need to have at the ready. Or maybe you are the type of person that feels preparation isn't helpful, that you will go with the flow and see what comes. There is no "right" way to begin the journey.

There is no way to know how long the path is or how long the journey will take. There is also no way to know what dangers or beautiful views lie along the way. You cannot know for certain if the people you meet along the way will be helpful or may impede the journey.

You can choose to make all the decisions yourself, you can hire a sherpa or guide that knows the terrain, or you can put the challenge of the journey entirely in the hands of an expert who tells you every move to make and what time to be where. But the question remains, who owns this journey?

There will be forks in the road, and you will have to make decisions. There will be no way to know for sure if the fork you have chosen will make the path easier or more difficult. You have those you have chosen for support and yourself to rely on. Do you trust in yourself to make the needed decisions?

You have no control over the journey as a whole. The only thing you can do is prepare yourself mentally and emotionally, build your resilience, and surrender to what comes, trusting your ability to handle whatever comes. And during labor that may require time, support, solitude, but only you will know the answer to that.

And at the point in the journey when your legs are burning and you feel you can't go on, but you know you must, who is there to support you, to be strong so you can fully have moments of weakness inherent in the journey, so that you can feel the complex emotions that are so necessary, and hold space while you dig deep into reserves you weren't aware you had?

And afterwards, the journey needs to be spoken, the story told, the feelings expressed. Telling how the journey was different or harder than you expected, more joyful than you imagined, more disappointing than you thought possible, or how ecstatic, empowering or rewarding it turned out to be. You may even feel that it threatened to destroy you. All of this deserves to be spoken and fully heard. It is NEVER the same for two people. The resources and experiences we bring with us are unique and so the path is never the same. This is what makes it so hard to tell another person what the journey will be like for them.

It is a bit like a spin on a roulette wheel.

You have chosen to accept a level of responsibility that you have never before had, and with that you have opened to a depth of love you have likely never felt before. A connection to another soul that lasts a lifetime. At the end of the journey, you are fundamentally changed. Who you are will never again be the same.

The thing to know is that there is nothing this journey is "supposed" to be. The only thing to be sure of is that you will have been introduced to parts of yourself that you didn't know were there. What you do with that information is the next part of your journey.......

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