Most approaches to birth preparation emphasize “relaxation” and being able to “relax” during contractions. Some people have noted that the word “relax” isn’t very descriptive to women in labor–or, it can irritate them (“Just relax?!”) while at the same time not really giving them anything specific to work with. I recently finished a really incredible book called Birthwork (more about this will follow in several more posts!) and it addresses this topic as follows:
…it can be disconcerting for a mother to be told to ‘just let go and relax’ during labour without some practical guidance on how to do this or without first acknowledging how tough it is, or how stuck or frustrated the mother may feel. Perhaps a more helpful response might be:
–‘Let’s find a way to open more.’
–‘How can I help you to let go?’
–‘Try softening here.’
–‘Sometimes this works really well. Would you like to try it?’
I particularly like the “soften here” idea. It reminds me of something else I read in The Pink Kit, which was about “directed breathing.” The idea with directed breathing is that you can direct your breath into any specific area of your body–when helping a woman in labor, you might put your hand on her lower back and ask her to “breathe into my hand.” When you practice this at home, it is fascinating to me how you actually have a sensation of “breathing” in your back, or thigh, or shoulder, or wherever–sort of a subtle feeling of expansion.