“Don’t forget to bring your sense of humor to your labor.” ~ Ina May Gaskin
I chose this quote to share on the Citizens for Midwifery Facebook page this week because it made me think about my own labor experiences.
I made jokes during the end of all of my labors and then laughed at my own wit—in a stroke of coincidence, one of the jokes was actually about Spiritual Midwifery ;-D I had just been told I was fully dilated with my first baby and I couldn’t believe it and said I was, “feeling all trippy like in Spiritual Midwifery.” With my second baby, I had inadvertently started saying “ouchie, ouchie” at the peaks of contractions and then joked, “ouchie, ouchie is a dorky thing to be saying!” With my third labor, which was an early second trimester miscarriage, I even managed to find some humor, joking to myself that I really should, “get into extreme sports” rather than keep having babies.
On a somewhat related note, one of my fears going into my first birth was about “being mean” to my husband and mother during labor. I think this idea came from all the media representations of women being “out of control” and yelling mean things at their husbands and/or grabbing the collars of their shirts and saying, “you did this to me!” and other such things. My actual experience was that I was nicer during labor than I am during my everyday life! I told my husband I loved him several times (perhaps because the normal hormonal symphony of labor was undisturbed) and we hugged and kissed and I felt very connected to him in the process of bringing our baby into the world. I think feeling safe and undisturbed is critical to birth for a variety of reasons, but one of them is to prevent fight-or-flight stress reactions from being activated. I had no reason to “turn mean” and snarl at my support people, because I was in my own protected environment with only a few carefully chosen people around me. When I think about those women snapping at their husbands during labor in media representations (i.e. being used as comic relief, rather than bringing their own sense of humor to labor!), I see a trapped, mistreated animal snarling and snapping and anyone who comes close 😦
I cannot remember being distressed or annoyed or upset with anything my husband or mom said during my labors. They knew well in advance that having quiet people in attendance is of paramount importance to me—aside from the obvious things, the top element of any birth plan for me is “NO extraneous noise or chatter.” Extra noise causes women to leave their “birth brain” mode (right brain) and switch into the logical, analytical part of their brain (left brain) which is not helpful to a physiological labor. The only person who was allowed to talk (or make jokes!) during my labors was ME! And, I could trust that the people around me would respect that.
The image your article brought to mind re “snarling and snapping” was a disturbing YouTube video of a camel giving birth with the ‘help’ of a young man. He calmly and systematically intervened in the whole process – pulling on the baby camel repeatedly. The mother responded by turning on him each time, grunting with obvious annoyance and plainly communicating *#%¥ off! Perhaps camels are not known for their sense of humour, but this was clearly not the way to promote it! Whenever I hear of unwanted / unnecessary interference in the birth process, this is the picture that I remember.