Friday, February 20, 2015

Pain and Labor

Pain is really all in your head by Jon Hamilton

As I read this article I found myself wondering if the author knew that he was writing about labor.

"One system determines the pain's location, intensity and characteristics: stabbing, aching, burning, etc.
"And then," Linden says, "there is a completely separate system for the emotional aspect of pain — the part that makes us go, 'Ow! This is terrible.' "

In labor we can think about the various sensations and identify them.  When we know what is happening, the sensations are not scary and therefore our response to them is not charged by negative emotion. In fact, we can choose to infuse our experience with positive emotions and decide, to the extent that is possible, how we experience labor.  It is the emotional response to the experience and what we connect to it that informs how we react.  Fear is so powerful.  If you believe that the pain you are feeling means that something is wrong, that you or your baby might not be alright, your perception of the pain is connected to terror.  If, on the other hand you believe that the sensations you are experiencing are like a road map, telling us where your baby is and how we can facilitate the process, and you are not afraid, then contractions are just that...muscle scarier than any other physically challenging event you may have experienced in the past.  When there isn't fear, we can appropriately define labor pain as something more positive, INTENSE (not always a bad word!), STRONG, OVERWHELMING, POWERFUL. We can also interpret the sensation to be something that your body is DOING, instead of something that is happening to you, then you are free to see yourself as powerful, strong, at times overwhelmed, and intense when needed.  These are not bad things to associate with becoming, or being, a MOTHER.
I was also wondering if he knew that he was promoting Doula's.
"Linden says positive emotions — like feeling calm and safe and connected to others — can minimize pain. But negative emotions tend to have the opposite effect. Torturers have exploited that aspect for centuries.
"If they want to accentuate pain during torture they can do this with humiliation [or] with an unpredictable schedule of delivering pain," Linden says. "Those things will make the emotional component of the pain experience stronger."
And so, as a doula, my job becomes to foster and facilitate connection, and to create an environment in which mom feels calm and safe.  I have to admit that I absolutely ADORE that my profession is, by the article's definition, the exact and polar opposite of terror and torture.  Comfort and calm.  That makes my heart really happy. So how does one go about doing this?  The answer is far simpler than one might think.  The biggest part is being someone who is very comfortable with bearing witness to the birth process.  If your attendants are not radiating comfort, you will feel that.  Another important piece is knowing the particular kind of contact, words, and touch that will comfort the laboring woman in front of you.  There is an intuition and an instinct, a mothering element to it. The next part is understanding the discomforts of labor and having a skill set and some tools to use at the opportune moments, when she may feel overwhelmed.  Finally, it is a confidence in the body's ability to give birth, which isn't something I really talk about, it is just a look in my eye, I believe.  The absolute longest I have made eye contact with another person (even considering my loving 23 year far) was with a laboring woman, who needed to look in my eyes for the entirety of her pushing phase.  Direct, focused, eye contact.  I was communicating to her that she was fine, that everything would be alright, yes, this is ok, without needing to speak a word.  My words were encouraging too, but the eye contact was a different message entirely.

Labor is a challenge, a beautiful challenge.  I won't lie, there is some pain, or at least there is an experience of your physical body that we don't really have the right words to describe and so "pain" is the closest we can get.  Isn't it wonderful though, to think about how much of the experience is just in your head?  
Please contact me if you would like to discuss:
Childbirth Education: Inform yourselves about what to expect from labor so that you can, to the extent possible, control your emotional response to labor. If you are not local, consider purchasing my book "Expecting Kindness", available at  or on Amazon at

Doula Services: Surround yourself with people who can create an atmosphere of calm and comfort, and who can support you, physically, mentally and emotionally throughout this incredible event.  See my "Resume and Testimonials" tab for details.
Local Resources: Find an OB/Midwife who will meet you where you are, and treat you with the dignity and respect that you deserve, while providing quality individualized CARE.
Synergy Stones: One of my favorite support tools, a massage stone that can be warmed to provide a beautiful radiant heat that eases tension and gives comfort...for both the laboring woman AND whoever is providing the massage!  You can see them in action here: Synergy Stone Store...if you purchase online, tell him Kristin sent you! If you want to schedule a demo, find my "Contact Info" tab to reach me directly.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.