Wild and Loud or Calm and “In Control”?

The most recent birth I attended was so quiet and serene. Had I not known how mama’s first labor went, I might not have been as prepared. She hardly made a sound as she breathed her baby out. When her water broke, I quickly moved near to her and waited. Not long after, her baby’s head appeared. She proceeded to move her baby down and out, still with little sound.

In contrast, I have attended some very vocal mamas in labor, beautifully laboring and roaring through contractions. The kind of primal sounds that everyone in the room can feel – down to their toes. Most of the time I just ride the waves along with them, sometimes physically in their grips as they root themselves and gather strength. Sometimes though, I have counseled the dear woman that has the high pitched scream, the one that lets all of the air and energy up and out and sounds frightened. I have even had mamas say to me, “I’m dying! Angela, be honest, I know I’m dying”, gripping me in desperation, only to give birth moments later, and then forget all about their prior anguish while gazing into their sweet babe’s eyes.

In response to these screams and high pitched sounds, I often make my own low tones and many times, she follows and matches my sounds, encouraging all of the energy down. I reassure her that everything is o.k. and she is indeed going to live.

After reading Midwife Thinking’s post on Judging Birth, I have to ask myself. Am I really doing her a service by adding my suggestions? Or, am I making myself feel better because the low tones comfort me, in knowing she sounds less scared.

According to Michel Odent this “transitory fear expressed in an irrational way” is a typical sign that the fetus ejection reflex is about to kick in. And, in this situation, “the worst attitude would be to reassure with words”.

He adds, “This short and transitory expression of fear can be interpreted as a good sign of a spectacular increase of hormonal release, including adrenaline. It should be immediately followed by a series of irresistible contractions. During the powerful last contractions the mother-to-be seems to be suddenly full of energy, with the need to grasp something. The maternal body has a sudden tendency to be upright. For example, if the woman was previously on hands and knees, her chest tends to be vertical. Other women stand up to give birth, more often than not leaning on the edge of a piece of furniture.”


But, I may still share a reassuring word (maybe just one), or a knowing look and a nod along with a calming squeeze on the shoulder.

So, which is better?! Wild and loud, or calm and in control?

Whether you are a roaring lion, or a quiet cat, both are beautiful and efficient ways to labor. “The point is to keep in mind the basic needs of labouring women,” Odent concludes. “The point is to reconcile the need for privacy and the need to feel secure.”

Which are you? Feel free to answer the polls below or add your own comments. I’d love to hear them!


2 comments on “Wild and Loud or Calm and “In Control”?

  1. Interesting! I think some of the most helpful words you told me in both births was “I know”– they made me feel secure. I remember one time distinctly when you said it: I had been feeling out of control and depressed (first birth), and even though I still felt out of control, I didn’t feel as scared or dejected. I also remember lamenting that the baby literally would never be born despite assurances that I was making progress. Although I did not believe any of the assurances outright, in the back of my mind they kept me going bc deep down I knew you guys wouldn’t lie 😉 For my second birth, I did need to hear “Trust your body, it knows.” I knew it in my mind, but I needed the reminder/reassurance all the same.

    Lastly, I liked low tones — they sounded safe and in control.

  2. I am usually a very “in control” person, but strangely enough, I scream my babies out. In the hospital, I had a not so nice nurse tell me to stop screaming (I threw the blood pressure cuff at her) At home, my midwives didn’t editorialize. It was nice to not feel judged.

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