Birth Waves

‎”Uterine contractions are felt by many women to sweep towards them, rise in crescendo and then fade away like waves of the sea, so that wave imagery is very useful when describing the sensations they produce. This wave imagery is closely associated with the idea of rhythm, which is all important in harmonious psychosomatic adaptation to labor.”

–Sheila Kitzinger (Education and Counseling for Childbirth)

Sheila Kitzinger is one of my all-time favorite birth writers and I quote her frequently. She has such a beautifully lyrical writing style.

I’ve noted before that even though I’m not much of a “water” person, wave/water imagery and analogies always strike me as very right/true for my own birth experiences. I shared the quote above on the CfM Facebook page and one person made a comment that quotes like the one above “hide” the truth about how birth is painful and that perhaps we should stop talking in flowery images and instead address how it really is. What was interesting to me is that I do not associate “wave” images with lack of pain or lack of intense sensation. Indeed, somewhat of the opposite! This is one of my personal experiences that leads me to identify with quotes about waves, water, and birth:

With my second baby, I described the contractions as having a “sharp edge” to them. My mental imagery of water and birth was not so much of peaceful, lapping waves, but of intense waves CRASHING into/around a rock. They would then part and flow around the rock (i.e. me), so it wouldn’t get knocked down by them but would be there waiting for the next wave to crash into it…I actually have this same image come to mind during the tough moments of parenting young children!

Additionally, the way contractions build to a peak of intensity much the way waves crest and break, as well as the unstoppable rhythm and flow of them also held power and relevance for me. The ocean is BIG and waves are powerful and so is birth!

2 thoughts on “Birth Waves

  1. I read a lot of things before I went into labor, listened to a lot of stories and thought I had a pretty good idea of what labor would be like.

    It was none of the things I had read/heard/been taught.

    Yes, there was pain, but never overwhelming. My labor wasn’t long (I had been prepared for a marathon). And after transition, it was one of the most beautiful, peaceful times I can remember. Even the “ring of fire” failed to show.

    So, for all the flowery images that are wrong… They weren’t wrong. For me.

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