I often hear from women that they were left alone in labour.
Labour may last for hours or it may last for days. Midwives and doctors may not have the time to stay with birthing women when they have other people to care for.
For some, being left alone is a negative experience. They may have wanted company, reassurance that they are doing the right thing or that they will be OK or guidance in how to be or what to do.
For others, alone is absolutely where they want to be.
Michel Odent, the well-known French Obstetrician in his book ‘Do We Need Midwives?’ suggests we are culturally conditioned to believe that a woman does not have the power to birth on her own
Even the word ‘obstetrics’ derived from the Latin word ‘obstetrix’ meaning ‘midwife’ from the verb ‘obstare’, literally means ‘the woman staying in front of’
So if you find yourself alone in labour, for whatever reason whether voluntary or enforced, here are 8 things to know that may put your mind at rest, ease your worries and enable you to listen to your birthing power within:
1. There may be an innate and powerful instinct to birth in a place that is private, safe, warm and familiar away from strangers and the prying eyes of others. Without distraction, our neo-cortex (the thinking bit of the brain) switches off. Our minds go into ‘labourland’; zoning out from the outside world and zoning into our inner birthing wisdom allowing our bodies to get on with the job of birthing our babies
In this state we may experience what is known as the ‘foetal ejection reflex’ where the body just opens up and expels the baby. It is very rare in the modern woman and only occurs when the woman is undisturbed
2. Michel Odent himself believes that the fewer the number of birth attendants the more likely there is a positive outcome
3. There is a belief in some cultures that contact with others during childbirth actually makes it hurt more and so women go off on their own
4. The Pirahas women of the Brazillian Amazonian jungle prefer to birth alone (although occasionally they go with one female attendant). She will go off into the river up to her waist, squat down and give birth
5. Women of the Kalahari desert in Namibia, Botswana and Angola, at the first signs of labour go off quietly on their own without comment. She will create a clearing in the shade; a soft bed of leaves to give birth on her own
6. Eipos women of New Guinea may go off into the bush to prepare a fern bed with their mother. The mother may then leave giving her daughter a gentle pat and transmit non-verbally ‘From now on I cannot help you… My presence might make the birth more difficult’
7. A woman can give birth whilst in a coma; the body will expel the baby when it is ready.
Our bodies know how to birth (if only our minds and the environment and our support could be set up to allow us to have the best chance of birthing in the way we choose to)
8. There are countless examples of ‘concealed pregnancies’ where women birth quickly and easily. There is something about feeling unobserved
Now, I’m not advocating for a minute that women go off into the woods and give birth on a bed of leaves alone or go off by themselves to a desert island.
My point is that women are strong.
And it would be really, really great if we knew this.
It would be great if we knew how to birth without fear, how to support the birthing mum and how to create environments in the modern world that are conducive to the birthing process.
Birthing without fear makes the sensations of birth manageable. We can learn to switch off the neo-cortical activity, the thinking part of the brain and this it makes everything much, much easier.
So if you find yourself birthing alone on a desert island, please remember that you CAN do it!
If you would like to learn how to access the innate wisdom you need for birthing on a desert island, please book in for the Birth You In Love 1:1 Course ‘Empower Yourself’ available in person (Manchester/ Cheshire) or via Skype. DM me for a free 30 minute discovery call to see if we’d be a good fit and this course is right for you.
Reference: Odent, M (2015) Do We Need Midwives? London, Pinter and Martin.