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.”
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!