A deep breath.
Air tumbling into capillaries. Nourishing, oxygenating.
Eyes focused beyond the backs of her hands, the eyes of her lover, beyond the walls of the room, focused subconsciously on the thrumming power of all the Women Who Have Come Before.
The long exhale.
Letting go. Deoxygenated breath passes through loose lips and, with it, all the moments that led up to now. Every contraction, every thought, encounter, communication. Released.
At the end of her out-breath, she connects deeply into the familiarity of this – this empty space, the openness and preparation for what’s next. She is ready for the intensity of this sacred process to wash over her.
She’s been ready since the beginning. Since those very first days, when her hands drifted to her swollen belly as she sat quietly each morning in meditation. Training her mind, her breath, for this moment.
Many people say that you can’t prepare for the intensity of labour. That you have to just wait and see, and go with the flow.
While I’m all for going with the flow, I disagree that there is no way to prepare. The very first thing that I share in my Sacred Pregnancy weekend retreats is how to create a pregnancy practice. Though meditation comes to mind as a natural fit, a pregnancy practice can be any ritual that a woman intentionally focuses on each day. It could be a walk in the woods, an extra few minutes in the shower, or fingers fumbling the beads of a mala necklace. The purpose of a pregnancy practice is to focus the mind and breath.
The benefit is both intuitive and scientific. Practicing the exact behaviours that are most likely to help you during labour – focus and breath – on a daily basis throughout your pregnancy, will make it easier to call upon these skills when you need them the most. The neuroscience of the process would agree: when you repeat and ritualize a behaviour, it becomes easier to continue repeating and ritualizing that behaviour. Your brain, the amazing and ever-changing organ that it is, establishes neural networks – shortcuts, if you will – when you repeat behaviours. Much like Pavlov’s dog, you can be trained to begin to relax, focus and calm yourself upon that first familiar inhalation. The more often you practice, the faster your body responds to your intention to relax, focus and be calm. You can even help yourself out by having a particular object – like mala beads or a special candle – that is a part of your regular pregnancy practice. After practicing relaxing and focusing breath with that object after a while, just seeing it can trigger you into a calmer, more centred state.
It’s powerful stuff. It can change the whole dynamic of your labour when you know how to get to your “happy place” quickly and deftly.
Did you/do you have a pregnancy practice? What was/is it?
What did you find helped you most during labour?