by Stephanie Larson, Founder of Dancing For Birth™
Does birth hurt? You might assume that the answer is an obvious and emphatic―Yes! On TV and in the movies, birth is mostly portrayed as a very scary, torturously painful emergency from the moment the water breaks or the first contraction happens. Every scene needs conflict for dramatic purposes, and birth scenes get a lot. You’ve probably also heard a real-life scary birth story―or ten. Maybe you’ve even been advised to “Get your epidural in the parking lot” before you get to the hospital (that’s not a thing, by the way). All of this can really freak you out about how much it will hurt when you give birth!
If you lived on a deserted island your whole life you wouldn’t have to “de-brief” before birth. But since you don’t (or if you do can I come visit?) you’ll need to shed all the many layers of fear about birth that you’ve accumulated throughout your life. Fear can lead to physical tension, physical tension can lead to pain, and pain can lead to fear….repeatedly. This fear-tension-pain cycle doesn’t help you during birth.
Assume nothing! It’s natural to wonder about how much birth will hurt, but what if instead, as you prepare to give birth you enter a state of wonder? What if you could release the fear of pain and instead be curious and open to possibility. “What will birth be like? What will I want to do in the moment?” Imagine how much you’ll learn about your innermost self, your fortitude, your essential qualities. What will the experience reveal to you about your baby? If you have a significant other, how will your partnership evolve and grow?
Asking if birth hurts is kind of like asking “Does sex hurt?” It depends on a lot of factors, right? Have you been looking forward to it or dreading it? Did you wait until your body gave all the signs of readiness? Are you in a place where you feel safe? Are you in your power? Do you know how to communicate and stand up for your needs? Do you love and feel connected with your body? Who are you with? Is it who you want to be with? Are you taking it at your own pace? Are all your senses delighted? Are you being interrupted? Can you get into the flow and stay there? Are you moving your body to find what’s pleasurable? Are you being told or forced to do anything you don’t want to do? Are you tense or scared? Are you fully present in the moment? These same factors can affect the sensations of your birth too.
One way to decrease fear and to bring maximal pleasure to your birth is to tune in to your body and to move with it. Move in ways that bring you comfort, ease and pleasure. When you listen to your body and move accordingly you’re also responding to your baby’s signal for you to move in specific ways. That’s why it’s useful to feel the sensations of labor. For example, if lying on your back in bed makes your back hurt and you get up and lean forward on the furniture to relieve the pain, you’ve actually allowed your sacrum (the back of your pelvis) to open more fully to provide more space for your baby.
During labor, baby needs to perform specific moves to descend into and rotate through your pelvis and you can help with that. Being up on your feet allows you to harness gravity to your advantage, to help baby move down and out. Hip sways, pelvic rocking and pelvic circling can be very beneficial and enjoyable. Labor can become about release instead of strain and pushing. You and your baby have primal birth instincts and they will help to guide you both. Birth is a dance that you and your baby do together. You each have your part―and you get to pick your back-up dancers!
Do you have a birth story that reduces the fear that birth will hurt? Share it in the comments!
Stephanie Larson is a leading world expert on supporting pregnancy, birth and new parenthood through movement and instinct. She is the Founder and Master Trainer of Dancing For Birth™ the global pre/post natal class. Larson calls for an end to forced lithotomy position, and a worldwide shift to primal, powerful, euphoric birth and conscious parenting. Her speaking engagements and TV appearances include DONA International, Lamaze International, CAPPA, ICAN, CIMS, ICEA, CAPPA Canada, AWHONN, CBS, NBC and FOX. She ‘danced out’ her four babies in birth center, hospital and home births.