I was asked recently, "Why did Nature design first stage labor? Why should their be a period of labor, not just have birth?" I recently got to witness a mom in labor and the birth of her child, and I will write about that if and when she gives me permission to do so. In the meantime, after having three more students go into labor and have three unique experiences, I wanted to share my thoughts on why we each labor differently:
The most common reasons given for "why" are that first stage labor is a rite of passage for the mother, as an announcement to the community that a new life was about to be born, as a preparation for the mother to accept her new child, and as a preparation for the unborn child to become a person outside of his mother’s womb. Since there is a lot already written about these ideas, I am not going to expound on them.
Here are the lessons we learned from first stage labor:
Trust your body, it is smarter than your brain – We had two puttering births. Labor would start and develop into a nice pattern – and then slow down or stop completely. Both times I felt like my body was broken, that I was failing my children some how. Both times the answers to “why” were revealed. With our first labor, it was revealed during labor. Our daughter Ysabella was in a posterior position when we already 8 hours into labor. When labor slowed down and they did a vaginal exam, they were able to tell us that she was posterior. Thank goodness it had slowed down and she hadn’t descended too far, it gave us time to turn her without experiencing excruciating back labor. With our son Bryan, who had a 46-hour labor, we got our answer after he was born. He had been a breech baby who we were fortunate enough to turn without an external cephalic version – with a lot encouragement and an awesome chiropractor, he turned on his own. Did turning cause him to have his cord wrapped around his neck? We will never know in this lifetime – and yet, here he came, with the cord tightly wrapped around his throat. Thank goodness for a slow labor that delivered us a healthy, whole child, not one that had been strangled to death with a quick passage into the world.
It is a rite of passage for the mother AND the father – especially with the birth of their first child. So much emphasis is placed on what labor does for the mother, I think many of us forget that the father is watching the person who he loves the most in the world go through discomfort, agony, pain, trial and tribulation. Although they mutually and joyfully created this situation, she is the only one having the physical experience. What does this labor, which thankfully (usually) culminates in great joy, do “for” or “to” a man? In our case, it made for a dedicated husband and father. My husband is a “man among men”, even among the Bradley dads we know. He was there for me through all 26 hours of our first labor – excited with me, encouraging me, comforting me when we had to deviate from our birth plan. He literally and figuratively held me up when I was exhausted. And when we triumphed, when we were holding our little girl without the use of anesthesia for her labor or delivery, we cried together. This child clinched my husband’s dedication to sacrifice for us, provide for us and lead our family in the beliefs we both share. He takes his job as a husband and father to heart.
As a couple – the mother and father as a unit having a rite of passage - Ysabella’s birth sealed forever the commitment we made to each other when we took our marriage vows. We felt like we had a second honeymoon after her birth. We were both so happy, and impressed with the job the other had done that we could not stop smiling at each other or gazing lovingly at this child we had created with the grace of God. The work that went into labor and the love we felt when we she was born forever changed our relationship for the better and made us better parents. How could we ever conceive to harm or hinder the person we had worked so hard to meet?
A reminder that we are all unique – Although there was not so much of a “rite of passage” with the birth of our sons, each one was a unique achievement and a further affirmation that we had chosen well when we chose natural birth. If every birth had followed the same path as our first one, how would a child stand out amongst their siblings? Since each boy has his own unique birth story, I will never confuse their births with our first birth, or forget the lessons that their unique births taught me about the birth itself, about myself as an individual, or my relationship with my husband. It has been an education in and of itself to birth three children. And as they continue to change and grow, they continue to teach me lessons that I hope to be able to pass along to our students.
I would love to hear *read* your thoughts on first stage labor - please share in the comment section below.
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This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.