Take a breath, close your eyes. Focus inward for a moment. Can you find the rhythm in your own breath? Can you find the rhythm in your surroundings? Maybe in your movement? We all have a tendency to find rhythm when we are not distracted by other things.
Finding your own rhythm can be an invaluable tool during pregnancy and especially labor. It is hypnotic, powerful, and can help focus, while also distracting from outside stimuli. Helping a laboring woman can help her find her focus, regulate her breathing, encourage contractions, while also helping her relax. This is especially important because when a woman is relaxed, The adrenaline is lowered, and this helps the oxytocin more freely flow which will greatly progress labor.
When left to her own, a woman will find her rhythm within her breath, movements, and mantras or affirmations. Sometimes she will rock side to side, side to side over and over and over again. Other times she might Focus more under her breath work. Finding a rhythm and a pattern in her inhales and exhales. Other times it can be in words she says… She could slowly whisper “okay, okay, okay, okay.” Or, “ I love you, baby. I love you, baby. I love you, baby.” Or, “I am strong, I am strong, I am strong.“
Sometimes, she will combine several of these rhythms into one combined rhythm. She could be chanting, while holding her partner around the neck and swaying to her own breath.
The reason this rhythm and ritual is so important, is that it is one of her body‘s natural coping mechanisms. As the birthing person, it is crucial to feel open and unhindered when you are finding what you need to do to get through labor.
As a member of the birthing team, It is one of our responsibilities to see what is working already, and how we can help. Asking question after question to the laboring woman isn’t going to get us very far, and most likely those questions will disrupt her pattern and progress. It would be more valuable for us to observe, and see how her personal pattern changes over time.
When the laboring woman has changes in her rhythm, this could be a sign of further discomfort, or even suffering. It is important to observe this as both a labor support person, as well as the laboring person.
I have had three labors, and I remember finding my rhythm during each. My first labor was pretty long, and I had several changes in my rhythm. I walked around, walked the stairs in a certain pattern, I slow danced with my husband. Towards the end, I found another rhythm after getting in the tub and watching some old-school Queen music videos. That portion was more of a distraction rhythm, but it was so beneficial to me.
My second labor was quite a bit faster than my first. I spent a large portion of it on my hands and knees swaying to the waves of sensation. Moving my hips side to side was just enough movement and sensation for me to focus on getting through each contraction and to help visualize my baby moving further and further down.
My last labor was very similar to my second labor. But this time, I spent a lot of time on my birthing ball. Again, swaying my hips to my own rhythm, at times doing hip circles, and really focusing on the pattern of my breath with my movement. Later on, after getting into the tub, my daughter and I even sang some songs together, Which was sweet, distracting, fun, and such a beautiful memory. If I wouldn’t have let myself get to the place to focus on what I need, I wouldn’t have found my own personal coping mechanisms.
The Yoga Birth Babies podcast had Penny Simkin on as a guest. She is oneof the pioneer doulas of the modern age, and a world renowned birth worker. When talking about rhythm versus suffering, she said, “Fatigue and discouragement may get her out of her rhythm, and if we don’t get her back, she may end up with trauma. When a woman has been trying and trying and trying and she doesn’t get anywhere, she starts to fall into mental defeat, a symptom of suffering.”
During my prenatal yoga classes, I always have mamas find their rhythm. I have them look for patterns in their movement, to follow their breath. Even though they’re not currently in labor, sometimes finding what soothes you right now, can help remind you what worked later.
When the laboring woman loses her rhythm, a person from her birthing team can step in and help her refocus and find it again. Doing this work during pregnancy, can help build the confidence that you need to find that rhythm again during labor.
You’ve got this mamas!!