“‘Breathing for a hollow organ’ works well in labour. Breathe in...breathe out. Allow there to be space after the out breath, a time for nothingness, for the hollow organ to be still. Then wait for the body to take in the next breath. Listen to the sound of the breath as it goes in and out...circular, whole.”
This is the centre of labour. The breath is a reminder that there is continuity in all things. There is safety and surety in the breath which goes on and on throughout the wild storm of labour. Even when the labour reaches the point at which it can be called “white lightning”, the breath is constant as ever. And in the quiet times, between contractions, the breath is soft and open.
“Breathe in strength, breathe away the fear. Listen to the sound of the breath...in and out. Each breath takes you closer to the end of a contraction. Then comes a deep breath, down to the ground, and a long slow sigh...which brings quiet and rest.”
Around the central core of the breath is the movement of the body. The body rocks and sways in rhythm with the breath. Kneeling and squatting, leaning and dancing...the body moves as it wants. At times it wants stillness and rest. At times it wants to match the intensity of the power within. The hands trace circular patterns in the air. The toes point, as the feet trace the patterns of a dancer.
“Allow your breath to take you deeper and deeper inside yourself. Allow your breath to make music. Your sounds will sing to the baby. Your body will rock the baby. You are safe, the baby is safe.”
Deep into the labour, the trance comes. Space and time alter. The mind accepts the power of the event, and the breath continues at the centre. One breath, one breath, one breath. Live in the moment. The body opens. In the spaces between contractions there is sleep and dreams. The breath takes form and becomes a voice, a sound, a song. Round and open, the “ohhhh” of labour begins.
“Picture the baby, chin on chest, deep down, wriggling to find the perfect fit in the cradle of your pelvis. Feet press against the top of your womb, helping the baby dive down, down towards the light.”
The “ohhh” sounds open the throat, open the vagina. The labour now has a rhythm, a form, which is known and safe. The power gathers and intensifies. Yet, around the woman, there are hands to hold her, hands to stroke her, echoing the rhythms of her body. The room is dark, the voices are calm and quiet. She knows she is safe. She lives in the moment. She lives with her breath. Time and space mean nothing. Her circle of awareness has become smaller and smaller. Only the eyes that look into hers matter. Only the voices that hear her whispers matter.
“Soon, you will feel a deep pressure at the peak of the contraction. That is safe. You’ll want to fight against the urge, or to push with it...but you will breathe deeper, more open. Listen to the sound of your breath. Let the baby press down, let the body change from opening to giving birth. Your mind will rebel, but your body will know what to do. Trust your body. You are strong. You are safe, your baby is safe.”
And the moment comes when the power is confusing. The rhythm is dashed and ragged. The eyes are wide...
“My baby is coming!”
The power shifts, the trance is gone. The ‘feminine’ opening part of labour has ended, and the ‘masculine’ pushing part of labour begins. The hands pull, the body curls, and the baby presses deeper. The feet need the firm ground to press on...bare feet on hard ground. A deep squat, eyes closed, hard work...then rest. A growl escapes the throat. Everything in life is present at this moment. Pain, pleasure, joy, acceptance, struggle, love, fear, patience, anger, power... At this moment the door between life and death is wide open. The woman as she knew herself is gone, but in giving birth to a baby, she gives birth to a new woman. In giving birth, both a mother and a baby are born. And she is safe, and her baby is safe.
“And it comes back to the breath, with joy. The baby’s breath comes, the soul is strong in the body.”