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Episode 25: Labor as a Labyrinth

birth prep cesarean birth labor mindfulness Dec 16, 2021

One of my favorite lessons to teach is how labor is more like a labyrinth or a spiral than a tidy linear process as the linear birth model would have you believe. 

The linear birth model (e.g. early --> active --> transition--> pushing --> deliver the placenta --> recovery) is a helpful model to understand, but t's not how labor feels when you're in it.

Whether laboring unmedicated or with an epidural, or via cesarean, the experience and process of birthing a baby feels internally more like a spiral, or a labyrinth, always growing closer to the baby’s emergence (even if it doesn’t feel like it!), rushing through some stages, or lingering for what feels like forever in other stages.

In this week's free weekly video I talk about how often it feels as if labor and birth is not linear at all but a deeply descending spiral as the birth person digs deep to birth their baby. Labor and birth is a journey and no birth is exactly the same. Even when the same parent births, each birth is different! Honor your and your baby’s brave journey.

When helping people prepare for birth, we draw a labyrinth, trace it, then reflect on how labor will be similar to that experience. This is one lesson I always include, whether teaching a private preparation course or in the full Brave Journey Birth Prep Program.

Full Transcript:

Hello, and welcome to episode 25 of the Brave Journey Birth Preparation weekly free videos, where I pick a topic related to birth and postpartum, and I talk about it.

This week we are talking about labor as a labyrinth. The labyrinth, as a model for labor.

I'm Cara Lee I'm a birth doula and a childbirth educator.

And this concept of labor as a labyrinth did is not original to me. This concept came to me through Birthing From Within. My training is with birthing from within, and I'm also a member of birthing from within, and this concept of labor as a labyrinth is a major emphasis. In the birthing from within childbirth preparation method.

And for good reason, I spent a lot of time a few weeks ago, or maybe it was a month or so ago in these free videos going through the stages and phases of labor. And this is the linear birth model, which is, it starts with early labor and then you move into active labor and then transition, and then you're pushing and then you deliver the placenta and it's in theory, this nice tidy process of your baby being born.

I, every time I taught on that concept, I prefaced it with this is really important to understand, but it's not the only way to understand labor. And that is because labor doesn't feel linear when you're in it. It rarely. And it's important to understand that model and in the brain Joanie birth preparation program, the full program, we spend a significant amount of time learning that model of labor.

It's important to be able to know it, to communicate with medical care providers. It can be helpful for understanding your labor after the fact or while you're in it. It can be really helpful for your birth partner to understand both what medical care providers are talking about in the room and for them to have a framework for what's going on as the baby's labor and birth continues. And before the baby emerges, but labor just doesn't feel linear when you're in it. Labor feels more like a spiral, like a deeply descending spiral where the birthing person has to go deeper and deeper and deeper and dig deeper to really get through labor and bring their baby here.

Labor feels and a labyrinth is similar to a spiral in the sense that a spiral is a form of a labyrinth.

A labyrinth is a path that has a beginning. It has a center it's not a maze. A maze is meant to trick you. A labyrinth is a path often of spiritual enlightenment, and it has a long history in, um, there is evidence of Greek, the ancient Greek using labyrinths. It became, the Christians adopted it in early Christianity.

So there's some, some old, old, old cathedrals in Europe with labyrinths and even today, most retreat centers will have a labyrinth if you look closely.

So the idea is you begin, the, each labyrinth has a beginning as a middle, a center and then an end. And then a return. And that is one of the metaphors for labor and birth.

And so this concept of there being a beginning and there being in the end, but having no idea how close you are to the end, that is how labor and the labyrinth is a better and more accurate representation of what labor feels like. The fact that as you travel a labyrinth, sometimes you get closer to the center and you think you're there.

You think you're to the center, which the center is birth in the metaphor, but then you have to wrap away away and all the way around. That is how labor actually feels. Versus this nice tidy, linear approach that you just get closer and closer and closer and closer and closer and closer until the baby's born.

It's not that tidy. And sometimes in labor, there's these ebbs and these flows where labor is just flowing. It is so strong and so fast and so intense. And then there's an ebb labor just, like, Backs off and slows down a little bit. And that's a part of the normal physiological process of labor. Now, if you're using Pitocin, synthetic oxytocin, the attempt is to keep those contractions more steady, but UN UN unmedicated labor will have these ebbs and these flows.

And this metaphor by the way, is relevant for cesarean in birth. This process of meeting your baby. However, this baby gets here, it never feels linear. It is a spirally process that really asks you to dig deep and journey on your brave journey. And I, I picked this name for this, this effort, Brave Journey for a reason, and it really resonates for me with this concept of a labyrinth.

So in the Brave Journey Birth Prep Program, I do have a full lesson on the labyrinth. And any time I do a private customized class for somebody, I, regardless of what we're preparing for and what their individual circumstances are, I always include a lesson on labor as a labyrinth. And when we do this lesson together, we take the time to draw the labyrinth.

So it's experiential. So we can learn with more than just this listening and, and theorizing with our head, but we can draw the labyrinth, which is really fun. And then we trace the labyrinth as a meditative practice. Into the center and then back out in the return. And then we talk about how this experience of tracing the labyrinth is so similar to what labor and birth may feel like when we're in it.

So I think that this concept. It's so important. And the labyrinth, the more I learn about it, the more fascinating it is in terms of its history and the implications that it has for helping us understand all the journeys that we're going through.

So labor and birth is just one element, one labyrinth that we're in, but many of us are in different labyrinths different journeys that require us to enter a path where we don't really know where the end will be.

We know there's an end or a center. But we don't really know what's going to, are we going to get to the center really in a straightforward way? Are we going to wrap way away when we thought we were closed and then come back..

But thank you for listening to this. I think this is a really important concept and I kind of consider this. This is like an advanced concept. Like we don't usually just jump into this at the very get-go. Um, this is something that it takes some time to be ready to really grapple with because it's a little bit, it's a little bit squishy. It's a little more. Woo. Woo. It's a little less straightforward. If only labor and birth, it would be a lot easier if we could just control labor and birth into this nice tidy progression in a nice linear fashion.

That would be really. It fits in with our desire as humans to control circumstances and have everything be tidy and planned. But unfortunately, and kind of fortunately, because it's really beautiful. That's not what labor's like, labor is much more similar to a labyrinth or a deeply descending spiral than anything else.

Okay. So thank you for listening. This is something that I love to talk about. And like I said, I fall include a full lesson on it. No matter how I teach, whether it's a private, customized class or in the Brave Journey Birth Preparation, the full program. There is always going to be a lesson on this because I think it is so essential and it is really honestly the best way to understand the process of birth and what it feels like when you're in it.

Okay. Thank you for listening. I look forward to seeing you next time.

Free Birth Plan Templates

While you can't 'plan' birth, creating a Birth Preferences document in collaboration with your OB or Midwife will help you get to know your care provider, learn your birth facility options, and practice being an active participant in your birth experience.

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This birth bag packing list pdf and mini-class video shows you what to pack for your birth and how to set the tone in your birth room.

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