Transition in labor, is the storm before the calm.
It is the leaves turning to alarming colors orange and red.
It is the day getting darker, and seeming longer…
It is going deeper.
There is no missing the inner message from your body during transition: something big is about to happen.
The energy in the room during a woman’s transition can be similar to that subtle, electric charge you can feel in the air right when it is about to rain.
Like the energy of fall.
Yes, it’s a fact: transition is the stage where mothers are most likely to request an epidural (or demand to call the whole thing off and remain pregnant forever!)
Hint: epidural is not necessarily a dirty word! See a video on epidurals on our YouTube channel here.
I consider going through transition in labor (twice) to be the hardest thing I have ever endured, physically.
I have also had to deal transitions in life that felt like the very earth itself was being swept from underneath my feet. In hindsight, some of those could have been handled with much more grace. Yet, here I am still standing today. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Here we are...
The observations I make in this article are a blend of evidence-based information and offerings from my own life experience and inspirations from my favorite season, which we happen to be in: Fall.
A meditation on gracefully coping with transitions in all of life as well.
Periods of change in life, when things are stirring and shifting, are when we are most likely to panic, to make poor, hasty decisions, or to throw in the towel.
Transition is the most intense stage of labor. It is also the shortest.
let’s look at common ‘misconceptions’ or ‘misjudgements’ made during transition(s).
What is happening is, the baby is turning and moving further along the birth canal and the pelvic bones are making space by opening wider. At this point, the most perceptible mental change is losing the ability to relax and focus between contractions. Suddenly, there may be to an overwhelming sense of urgency and alarm.
(The total losing of one’s $#@!, so to speak.)
Jokes aside, there is absolutely nothing abnormal or wrong about feeling shaken up!
It is a natural and scientific progression of our hormones that aid in birth. In early labor and active labor, oxytocin, and serotonin the happy, calm hormones were our friends. NOW, catecholamine and endorphins have taken their place and right on schedule. Yes, catecholamines are stress hormones, they trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response. “Who on earth ordered that?!” you may ask. Their purpose, at this point, is to charge our bodies with the energy it is going to take to push the baby out soon. Endorphins, are another great friend in this stage. They are energizing and have some pain relieving effects.
It might not feel at all like it, but this is a sign that labor is almost over and baby is almost here. If the mother at any time says, "I can't do this anymore…", she is most likely saying that she needs reassurance that, yes she can and is capable of bringing her baby to earth.
Misjudgement #1: Judging yourself too harshly for not 'keeping it together':
We live in a culture in which not showing vulnerability is mistaken as a sign that we are strong. That we are not afraid and that we are not suffering. A subconscious ‘smile for the camera’, mentality.
BALANCING LIGHT WITH DARKNESS In Life
The autumn equinox is when day and night are equal in length. The seasons teach this lesson to us every year: need to balance light and darkness within us. We tend to fear the dark and cling only to the light. There are times in life that being uncomfortable is inevitable. Finding ourselves outside our comfort zone can be a rite of passage. Embracing the darkness means to be authentic about it. To acknowledge that we feel uncertain, afraid even. Yet keep walking through the experience, remaining patient with ourselves. Remembering, everything comes to an end. If you find that you keep losing focus during transitions, focus on what may be coming on the other side.
In labor, visualizing meeting your baby at last... or having their going home outfit somewhere you can easily see can be priceless.
One of my favorite tips I give as a Doula is vocalize, vocalize, vocalize.
I’d like to clarify that this is not the same as screaming. Birth takes on a very primal nature. You may surprise yourself with the sounds that you make during a contraction, but, the deeper the better. Some women even find that the same sounds it took to get baby in, are the same ones it takes to bring baby out. Go into yourself and just let it all out.
Let your body and your spirit express itself as you meet this once in a lifetime milestone.
Misjudgement #2: Doubting your ability to birth
It is normal to become highly suggestible in the throes of the longest, most intense contractions you have felt all along. This is when mothers are the most vulnerable to accepting interventions they would otherwise opt out of.
This is one time in a woman’s life when she needs the most mental, physical and emotional support. Any and all comfort measures and relaxation techniques that you and your Doula or partner, have up your sleeve might come in handy at this point.
If you find yourself wondering how much more intensity you can handle, know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. It is that labor does not keep increasing in intensity.
Once the contractions peak, they don't become longer or stronger. They maintain that same intensity.
At this point, the contractions are about 2 minutes long. But, what exactly does taking one contraction at a time might mean? Let's meditate on this:
Embracing IMPERMANENCE In Life
Fall reminds us in the most dramatic ways, that nothing is permanent. Leaves fall and leave bare branches displaying to us in a way we cannot miss, the fleeting nature of all things. Yet, there is a beauty in this change, knowing that come spring, the trees will bud yet again, vibrant and green, flowering and alive. No matter how many leaves seem to be drying and falling and decaying, you can always find truth in the age old saying: This too shall pass. One minute, one hour, one day at a time.
In labor, try to think of it this way: It’s only 2 minutes. You are a trooper. You can do anything for just 2 minutes!
Misconception #3: Keeping track of time
At one point in transition, it is likely that anxiety will kick in you may start to worry about how much longer labor is ‘supposed’ last.
Transition typically takes less than an hour to 90 minutes if there are no complications.
Let’s take a moment to think about how quickly an hour slips away from you on a typical 24 hour day? And how often we complain about time flying…
Isn’t it something then, that when life is challenging, time seems to stand still? It is here that our resolve might falter. So what do you do when you find yourself losing focus?
LETTING GO AND BEING PRESENT In Life
Isn't it amazing how fall, is a season of loss for nature, and yet so breathtaking in its beauty and vibrant colors? As we watch leaves fluttering to the ground in the fall, we are reminded that there is a certain beauty and wisdom in letting go and releasing things. Letting go sometimes means letting nature take it's course to pave way for the next phase of the journey.
As a Doula, I say take the breaks between contractions as a gift to look forward to.
Do what you can to rest then. This allows your uterus to do it’s work in aiding your baby out.
You do not have an internal timer and hopefully no external pressure for time. Try to remain grounded in the present. Find your center in knowing that your body and baby are not on a schedule.
Let go and let nature do its magical work.