Ep. 54 Pain Free BirthMar 09, 2023
(I remastered the audio in this vide so it's much more clear! I stand by what I said in this video even more today then when I recorded it 1.5 years ago.)
An unpopular facts in the "natural" birth community: The experience of pain in labor is primarily influenced by two things: 1) the position of the baby and 2) the pelvis that genetics graced the birthing person with.
Yes, mindset shifts can reduce suffering ten-fold. Yes, relaxing through contractions reduces pain. Yes, hydrotherapy, moving regularly, staying upright, lots of labor support with counter pressure, etc. etc.. can help decrease pain.
But the primary factors influencing one's experience of pain in labor are things birthing people can't do much about. (Sidenote: You CAN do your best prenatally to encourage your baby into optimal positioning via prenatal movement, and I do cover this in a body balancing prenatal yoga session in in the Brave Journey Birth Preparation Program -- but even after doing your best with regular prenatal body balancing, your baby may still be in a less than optimal position which may make labor more difficult and painful.)
There is no one right way to give birth. There is no one right way to experience and respond to the intense sensations of birth. And we can keep this in mind if we find ourselves feeling either pride or shame about our experience and/or response to pain.
Hello and welcome to episode 21 of The Brave Journey Free Weekly Birth Prep videos. And this week I am thinking a lot about pain versus suffering. So that's what we're gonna talk about today.
Now I'm coming at you back here in my backyard next to a waterfall, and love coming out here to, uh, think and talk to you, and it's finally cool enough here in Phoenix, Arizona for me to be back here in my backyard next to one of my favorite plants in my backyard.
So, pain versus suffering.
First off, I wanna be very clear, I'm using the word "pain". You may hear some doulas and childbirth educators refer to the sensations in labor as "intensity". They may refer to contractions as "surges" or "waves". And while it is absolutely true that when a contraction is building, it feels like a wave, it builds, builds, builds, builds, peaks, and then goes away over the course of 30 seconds to a minute.
It does ebb and flow, so that's helpful. But I think to not call the sensations of labor "pain" is to do a disservice when we're trying to help people prepare for birth. I think there are two different kinds of birthers. There are people who are preparing to birth, who are terrified, who think that they are going to be in the worst pain they've ever been in their entire life, and, uh, are going to do everything they can to avoid the intensity of that pain. Which is wrong. They're, they're not necessarily going to be in the worst pain they've ever been in their entire life. And there are some people who are approaching birth way overconfident. They've been told they can "achieve", achieve, I hate that term, around birth. They've been told they can do something to do it "right". And "achieve" a pain-free birth or a "peaceful" birth, and they are completely unprepared for the transformational intensity that is birth. That is, includes some pain, but also includes just so much more mental, physical, a need for stamina and courage and strength of the, like, fortitude, sort. Like the personality fortitude that it requires to get through labor.
No matter whether you're birthing unmedicated or pharmacologic with pharmacological pain relief or via cesarean. Birth is intense. And so when people go into it thinking that if they do it "right", they'll just have this pain-free, "peaceful" birth where they just like puff and breathe their baby out, um, that could be doing a disservice for them.
We really never know what labor is going to be like for us.
It depends on two things. One, our own internal anatomy, the shape of our pelvis. How close our clitoris is to our vaginal canal and how close our lower back is to our vaginal canal, and all of those things that are just how our we are built.
And the position of the baby. And some things can be done prenatally to help position your baby optimally. And I do absolutely teach those in the Brave Journey birth preparation program. But there's no guarantee. And there's no guarantee that if you do all the "right" things, that your infant is going to magically be born with in optimal fetal position.
You do the best you can, but you just aren't gonna know. So the positioning of your baby affects the sensations of labor and how painful labor is and your own internal anatomy, which it just is what it is. Everybody is built different in their pelvis. The dimensions and the how close things are and how you're going to feel, where the nerves are and the way the baby is placed.
Some people claim they have orgasms during birth. I don't mean claim like that doesn't happen. It does happen, but it's like less than 1% of people. And it probably just has to do with how close the nerves of their clitoris are to the rest of their vaginal canal. And it's how they were built, born. Everybody is built different in their pelvis.
Our pelvic anatomy is super complex, super diverse, and super fantastic, but you just never know what you are going to come into it with.
So I use the word pain because I want people prepared for intensity. I want people prepared to work hard, and I don't want them surprised when it is a mind-blowingly intense experience.
And um, I've also had births I've attended where I was in awe of the strength and courage of the person birthing. They were roaring their baby out. They were moaning, but afterwards they were embarrassed because they made noise. And I felt so bad for them to have been embarrassed for roaring their baby out.
So now every time I talk to people about preparing for birth, I like to invite the fact that you may roar your. baby out. And that is 100% awesome. And it is really connecting with the strength and courage and bravery it takes to walk the journey of birth, which is why I named this this wonderful business of mine Brave Journey.
So let's talk about pain versus suffering for a second. So that was a little bit about why I used the word pain and some of my thoughts about pain and pain versus suffering.
Pam England has a wonderful quote. Ooh, I should have it exactly right, but I don't have it in front of me, but it's something like:
"pain may be an inevitable part of labor, but much can be done to ease suffering". And this is absolutely true. The pain of labor does not have to equal suffering, and this is a nuance that I love to talk about. Oh, my favorite plant is giving me a little kisses here. This is something that I love to talk about and think about.
When you are in pain because you have an injury, your body is saying, there is something very wrong with this situation, and you need to attend to me so you don't injure me further.
That's pain, and that can include suffering. Labor is not the pain of suffering. Labor is the pain of labor is not because anything is wrong. In fact, the more intense and painful contractions are sometimes, the more effective they are in moving that baby, helping that cervix open the baby, rotate and move down, versus like really gentle and easy contractions sometimes are not effective contractions .
There's always somebody who, who has like super easy, gentle contractions and their baby like falls out in a beautiful, easy way. So we are not all the same, and our experiences of birth are not all the same and even a a, the same birthing person with multiple babies are not gonna have the same experience with the different babies.
And I can say that from my experience, my first birth versus my second birth were wildly different for a few different reasons. But one being that I had two very different infants in my womb that I needed to birth vaginally. And um, the first one was about eight and a half pounds, and the second was about 11 and a half pounds. And, um, it was different. I'm just gonna be real with you. It was, the two experiences were very, very different. And the sensations were very, very different.
So suffering is when something is wrong, and it's also involves the story that we're telling ourselves about the pain. So if we can say like, "yes" to the, intensity.
"Yes". To the strength of that contraction. "Yes", because this is, everything is right, and this is bringing my baby down, versus blaming or shaming ourselves for making noise and labor or shaming ourselves for making all sorts of animalistic noises when we're birthing or, feeling angry about the situation that we're in, or worrying that we are not doing it "right" or worrying that we can't do it further.
There versus just being in the moment and welcoming the intensity and working through it. Also, pain is a wonderful indicator to the body to start moving, to find different positions. Often the best advice for birthing people is to labor in positions that feel good because the positions that feel most good tend to be the ones that are the most beneficial for that stage of your labor.
No, not always. There's always complications for some folks whose baby is less than optimally positioned may have to take on a few uncomfortable positions for a few contractions to try to help that baby turn. But generally, if you move in ways that feel good, the pain is a wonderful indicator to your body to move out of one position that isn't helpful, and to move in another position, which isn't so painful, and to labor through the next five, 10 contractions in that next position.
So pain can be really, really helpful. Pain is saying pain in labor is saying "pay attention. Something huge is happening and you need to find a safe place to birth this baby. You need to find a place where you feel safe, where you feel private, where you can move and moan and make noises in ways that feel good for you and that reduce the pain of these sensations."
Um, and so therefore you can have pain in labor but not suffering. And that's a difficult nuance. And I know that maybe this, maybe some of you're watching this, I'm imagining, I wish we could have like a live conversation about this cause I'm sure some people are like, what the actual, you know what, is she talking about?
But these are some of my thoughts. I've seen it in action. I've experienced it in different ways.
And that's another thing that really bugs me, and I'm just gonna be real blunt right now, and this is my last point, is that people who wanna promise you a pain-free birth, I think that they are unethical.
I think that it is damaging, it is potentially damaging birthing people when they try to promise a pain-free birth. Do some people have a pain-free birth? Absolutely. Is it because they just relaxed enough and they managed to have a pain-free birth or an orgasmic birth? No. It had to do, like I said, in the beginning, with their anatomy and with positioning of their baby.
Is there much that we can do to help get that baby into optimal fetal positioning? Yes. Can we guarantee it? No. Can you guarantee that you'll do all the "right" things to get your infant in the perfect position? No. You can try your best, but you cannot guarantee it. And the reason I think it's unethical to promise people a pain free birth.
It's because they make people think that if they just didn't relax enough or they didn't do the "right" things, that they did it wrong. And nobody needs to be told there is any right or wrong way to birth their baby because that is absolutely not true. Absolutely not true. There is no one right way to birth their baby.
None. Okay, so that is all I wanna say about pain and pain versus suffering. Um, I have many, many, many more thoughts on this, but I tried to organize myself enough that I wasn't just rambling at you. So let me know what you think. Did you experience pain in labor? Did you have a pain-free birth?
. So anyways, without further ado, I will close this up. Thank you. I appreciate you. Email me [email protected] if you have any questions. Um, let's talk. Have a great day.