When I meet with women during their pregnancy, the biggest concern on their mind about labor is being afraid of the pain. It is the fear that motivates many women to plan interventions hoping to minimize or take away the pain. This is a very valid concern.
Most people don’t want to experience pain. It is very normal and our mind’s job to desire to take away pain, avoid it, or be rescued from it. The process of labor and birth is much more affected by your mental state and ability to cope with intensity in your mind than the physical sensations happening in your body. The mental process affects the physical process of labor.
In Birthing From Within Classes®, I teach Pain Coping Practices. These are called “practices” because they take practice to retrain your mind and deepen your determination to cope with intensity, physically and mentally.
There is a difference between pain and suffering. In your mind, pain can turn into suffering when you create a story about the pain.
For instance, if a loud beeping happens in the room during your labor, which often does, it may be easy for your mind to shift to an anxious state of wondering if something is wrong and many questions. Is the baby OK? How is the heart rate? Oh, no this is going to affect the outcome of my birth . . . I am not going to be able to o this . . . and on and on.
You may begin to create a judgment or criticism of yourself or others in your mind bringing more anxiety, causing your body to tense up and slow down or stall your labor. It is a normal default or coping mechanism for your mind to do when you become anxious, overwhelmed, or in pain.
The basic practice is called Breath Awareness. Some breathing techniques for labor may teach you to breathe in a certain pattern. This activates your “thinking mind” and engages your mind. In labor, it is important to disengage from your mind and be fully present in your body.
Breath Awareness is a practice that helps you become deeply aware of your breath and what is happening with your breath in moments of peace, anxiety, pain, and comfort. Often when we experience something intense or something that catches us off guard, we may begin breathing shorter and make high pitched sounds.
When we practice Breath Awareness, we noticed when our breath becomes short and shallow. Through practice, we can re-train ourselves to shift into deeper, longer breaths and lower tones.
You can learn to cope with the intensity of labor. Even when labor takes a shift and interventions become necessary, pain coping techniques can help you embrace challenges and possible changes to your ideal birth and move through your birth in an empowered, connected, beautiful way.