She had been pushing for twenty minutes, deeply ensconced in the cushions of her couch.
She held on to my fingers as though she was holding on for her life, dangling from a precipice. And in a way, she was: she was in the middle of a wild, intense transition, on the precipice of becoming a mother once more. On the edge of her own transformation.
She pulled my hand into her chest, dampened with sweat, and used all of her energy and some of mine to push into the sensation of her contraction, to push her baby toward birth.
And then, though I could not conceive of how she summoned the energy to do it, she flipped herself off the couch and onto a hands-and-knees position on the floor with a deftness I have never seen in a pregnant woman.
Her spontaneous movement caught me so much by surprise that I unwittingly yelped “what are you doing?”
(I’m thankful she was too deep in labourland to have registered my surprise and momentary confusion).
Though neither of us could have expressed it at the time, I’m now convinced that her baby and her body were telling her to move. As we know, babies make a significant number of micro-movements as they travel from the top of a woman’s pelvis, through and into the birth canal, and a woman’s position and movements are instrumental in facilitating this process. Something about the position of her baby motivated her to move in a way that allowed her baby to descend.
It was intuition, so deeply felt it was unconscious.
Once I started recognizing it, I saw it at every birth I attended. My next favourite was the time my client spontaneously stood on top of her hospital bed while the nurse sputtered something along the lines of “you can’t do that! You can’t just stand on the bed!”
There is something about the birthing process that takes us right out of our intellectual minds, and allows us to access intuition like never before.
When I sense the strength of a woman’s intuition, as her doula, I try to remind her of her innate ability to know what the “right” thing to do is when a decision about her birth arises, pulling her out of her animal-like labouring mind and into her intellect.
The best way to make sure you can access this inner knowing during labour, though, is to practice. You can flex your intuition in such simple ways during pregnancy. Following your cravings is probably the easiest. If you are craving oatmeal or spinach, for example, there’s a good chance your body needs more iron. Salty or sweet cravings could indicate your body’s desire to regulate blood pressure or blood sugars.
Another great way to access your intuition during pregnancy is to do an intuitive movement practice. Yoga works nicely. The next time you hit your mat, instead of following your usual routine, let your body lead the way. Maybe today what you need is grounding child’s pose, or uplifting Warrior. Allow it to unfold exactly as you most deeply desire.
Ultimately, this is a practice of trust. Following your intuition both creates and relies upon a sense of trusting. Trusting your body, trusting your inner knowing, yourself, your process. It is something that will carry you far beyond the experience of labour, and well into parenting and navigating your new identity as a mother.