What I never knew about labor and childbirth

18 April 2009 at 7:25 pm 2 comments

My son is almost eight months old. He’s my first (only?) child, and every single day I think about the day he was born. This is not just a figure of speech: I really do think about his birth daily, in part because he was born at home, and so just waking up every morning, opening my eyes, and seeing the same yellow walls I saw around him when my midwife first placed him on my chest reminds me of his birth. In part, too, though, I think about his birth so much because it was such an enormous revelation to me.

The biggest thing? I never knew how much I would love and enjoy the process of birth.

Of course I love my son—the product I smile at a hundred times a day. But I had no idea, before he was born, that I would cherish the process of pregnancy, labor, and birth to such a large degree. It makes sense, of course, when I think about it now: any experience has value just in the way it adds to our memories and contributes to our views of the world, and birth is such an all-encompassing experience at the time. Even while I was pregnant I was constantly telling people how much more blood I had, why my fingernails were growing so fast, and so on. I was absorbed in every detail of the experience, the whys and hows as well as the whats.

Labor and birth were the same for me, only more dramatically so: while I’m used to intellectualizing and analyzing every experience, I was not conscious of any analytical or even articulated thoughts during the process of my son’s birth. I really was in what Pam England calls “laborland,” though when reading Birthing from Within during my pregnancy I thought that a ridiculous term for a state which I was sure would never apply to me. Pregnant, I had apparently imagined myself calmly monitoring my labor and consciously choosing from an arsenal of strategies—now I will press the comb to my palm to apply counter-pressure during a contraction; now I will use the Rainbow Relaxation meditation. It was a complete shock, therefore, to realize only after the fact that the process of labor for me was so much more instinctive and so far beyond words and conscious thought than I had even imagined.

I am a person who makes her living with words: I place them, meditate on them, laugh at them, dwell in them, every minute I’m awake of every single day. But about ten hours before my son was born I had my last deliberate, clearly articulated thought, when, midwife on her way, I climbed into the bathtub, relaxed my jaw, and vocalized as I had read about. Apparently, guided by my midwives, I continued vocalizing throughout my time in laborland, but after that first moment, instinct and my body just took over.

I know I was blessed with wonderful midwives, who surrounded me with care and kindness and support, and I also had my husband and parents with me during my labor. My baby, too, reaped the rewards of this emphasis on the process—he had as gentle an entry into this world as he ever could have received.



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Book Review/Commentary: Laboring On (Rothman, Simonds, and Norman, 2007)

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. nursingbirth  |  24 April 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Christina, this is such a beautiful account of your experience and of the process of birth. As my favorite quote says, “It’s not just the making of babies, but the making of mothers that midwives see as the miracle of birth.” ~ Barbara Katz Rothman

    As a labor & delivery nurse I can only stand by in awe when a woman’s innate instincts take over to help her through her labor and birth journey. I have the priviledge of witnessing the miracle of life on a daily basis. I am one lucky chick! 🙂 Reading your story took me there and gave me chills! I wish more women would talk about how much they loved and enjoyed (and not feared) the process of birth.


  • 2. Toni  |  28 April 2009 at 11:17 am

    this is exactly how i feel about my daughters birth! i also was in “laborland”, i remember before hand having all of theses methods i had read about and planned on using during my labor, i hardly used any of them other than walking and deep vocalization. my body just took over and did the job. it was the most rewarding experience of my life. thank you for your story! xo


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