Birth lives outside of time. Women in labour are often supported by caring people who are unwittingly blocking the slow birth process by writing down the time, charting, calculating, commenting on the progress of labour.
We are all guilty of this. We turn our heads to the clock. We look at the numbers on the monitor. We whisper of our own need to eat lunch, dinner, breakfast. We are stuck in time. But a labouring woman needs our help to stay out of her left brain, her 21st century mind. If we help her to labour without time constraints, her autonomy is supported. There is no pressure. She is undisturbed.
What happens to a woman who is hampered from entering her labour trance? What happens when she becomes fixated on time? The more we note the passage of time, the more she might start to calculate. "Okay...1cm per hour...and I'm at 5cm now...that could be five more hours...I can't do five hours!" She may become so anxious that her labour may stall.
But, give her a quiet, cave-like space, the sound of water, and the rhythm of swaying hips - all that will help her to labour outside of time. Add a calm, quiet voice if she likes it. "How about trying the shower again...listen to the sound of the water...listen to the sound of your breath...in...out...live with your breath...you are safe...your baby is safe..."
She steps into the shower. "Oh, this is lovely!" and she has finally left time behind. An hour later, she is deep in a trance and her birth sounds are becoming deeper. She is progressing. Her eyes are closed. A man sits silently on the edge of the tub. Then the bathroom door opens, and someone leans into the dimly lit space. "It looks like you're doing fine right now. I'll be back in four hours," says a voice, and then it's gone.
"Four hours? Was that the doctor?" cries the woman. "I can't do four hours! That's a lifetime! Does she think I'm so early on that she has four hours to do other things?" The spell has been broken. It takes a long time to help her to regain her trance.
Hours later, a new voice whispers into the darkened shower room, "Oh, what a lovely calm space you have made here. How are you?" It's a different doctor, and she stays, silent, sitting cross-legged on the floor, totally trusting the woman. The shower sounds like a waterfall. We are all living outside of time now.
Outside of time/
The whisper of water unites us
And then the woman is suddenly pushing, standing, aware and present, and, as flawed humans, we are once again guilty of turning our heads to the clock. "It's now minutes, not hours! You are doing this!" And the baby tumbles out into her arms.
"8:12!!!" someone cries.
Will we ever be able to escape time? Perhaps not. We are humans, bound by time. Perhaps we should just laugh at our imperfect attempts to support women in labour, and keep trying to do our best...by turning the clocks around, keeping our words quiet and few, keeping our fears and impatience at bay, and trusting each woman to birth in her own way. Always reaching for a slow birth, outside of time.