Labour and Life
Labour is a challenging process when thinking about it, talking about it, preparing for it and going through it. Labour is called labour because it is considered hard work. There are many takes on what hard work is though, and every single woman will have their own measure of what hard work is for them, hence for each woman, labour will mean something different.
When I was sitting for a moment, reflecting on what to write in this article, I started to recall the many midwives with whom I had the honour to work with over many years of taking antenatal classes. We worked together to give the best in our classes, and we learned from each other every time. I was one physio, who took weekend and evening classes for many years, over time with many different midwives. It is likely that a piece of information, a great tip, or an insight I can now provide came from one of these midwives.
I recall the time when active birth was being introduced into the antenatal arena and as a physio we had a big role to play during that time, in helping women to work with their midwives, and use breathing, relaxation and positioning strategies during their labour. I was able to learn from leading antenatal educators as well more about active birth and over the years as an educator myself, give many women insights and tips to use along their labour journey. I always thought that there was more though, and now as a mother I can see many possibilities for also using what you learn when you are preparing for labour, in part of your life journey.
If you take what you are learning for example from Learning Relaxation for labour and life, the opportunity to practice controlled and focused breathing out, whilst using your three key moves, can be thought of also as a tool for preparation for motherhood. Knowing it well, having taught it many times, there have been MANY times as a mother, where the breathing out focus has paid off, both for my body and for mind control. Learning to build up the intensity with the practice of this breathing out focus, will help for labour as contractions build up in their intensity. It will also help for life situations, where the intensity builds and lowers and changes are experienced as we go through everyday life. There are some situations where children are unpredictable, and to prepare for the journey of motherhood, choose to think “Why not prepare for labour and life”, not just labour.
A practical example of building up your intensity when practising your breathing focus for labour is by leaning with your back against a wall, and slowly squatting down to hold this position, making sure that you feel no discomfort in your back, neck or knees. Hold this position for 20 seconds and during this time focus on your three key moves, and on your controlled breathing out. Then stand up again and shake out your legs. This can symbolise the start of labour. Then squat down again, and this time hold for 30 seconds, focusing more on how your legs feel. If they start to feel tired more quickly this time, then tune in to your breathing out, keeping your shoulders low and your fingers loose. Stand up again at the end of 30 seconds, shake your legs out and then when you are ready, repeat one more time. If you are already practising squats and you exercise regularly, this may not be very challenging yet. Simply increase the length of the hold time, holding up to a minute.
You can then add intensity by having a shorter break in between holding the squats, so that you really do need to focus more attention to your breathing out, to take away or distract from the feeling in your thighs. Building up to doing 3-5 in a row also builds intensity, holding for between 30 seconds and a minute each time to really start to feel that you need to focus. The more you tune in, the more you can learn about your responses you have to the ‘work’ you are doing. Think about your responses – do you want to give up? Does it feel uncomfortable? What do your fingers and shoulders do? Do they tighten up? What happens in other parts of your body?
You can also extend this practice into thinking of other ways that you can distract yourself during this practice, which can be thought of as ‘training’ for labour. In labour, during the contractions, you are not going to do this squatting exercise but it does give you one way to help you prepare for the work ahead. Distraction from the feeling in your thighs as they work, can also come from focusing on an object or a picture in the room, counting as you breathe or closing your eyes and focusing your thinking on pushing through with each breath and the control that this gives you. Something will work best for you, so it is good to explore in your mind how well you can use just this one idea and expand it to be one thing that you can use in your labour and during your life.
This is just the start of a journey of discovery and over the coming months more ‘unfolding’ will occur as The Pregnancy Centre brings you our insights to add to the ways that you have and can use, as you prepare for labour.
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