Ask someone to explain their vision of a laboring woman and you are likely to hear the hysterical, over dramatized movie portrayal of birth. For many women, labor is nothing like the movies. Labor can be slow and methodical, or fast and furious. But one thing most people will agree upon is it’s intense. The intensity has been described as rushes, waves, pain with a purpose, transcending, encompassing and a lot of hard work.
I recently caught wind of the podcast The Wellness Wonderland. (Lots of good info on this podcast!) However, my feathers got pretty ruffled by some of the comments featured guest, pregnant holistic life coach, Robyn Youkilis, made about her experience in a prenatal yoga class. During the interview, Robyn commented on her experience in a prenatal yoga class. She described, with great irritation, the yoga instructor remarking on the difficulty of a pose and how labor can be so as well.
“She [the teacher] used the word hard, like 6 times, “this pose is going to feel really hard” or “birth is hard.” And thank god, I had the consciousness in the moment to just flush the words down the toilet. I just used the visualization of literally flushing the words down the toilet and replacing them. But I am like, can you stop saying that to a room of 17 other pregnant women?! Tell them it is going to be easy. Tell them to think about ease and flow and gentleness, not hard“
(Robyn didn’t divulge where she took her class, I suspect it was with me or one of our teaches.)
While I recognize the intention behind Robyn’s statement may have been to ward away negativity, it is important not to go so far in the other direction that we are giving false beliefs. I absolutely agree pregnancy and motherhood attracts negative comments and stories like a magnet. Unfortunately, pregnant women and new moms need to shield themselves from such situations. However, the reality is labor is hard work for many women. If we tell women that it is going to be easy and flow, and it doesn’t present that way, we are setting them up for disappoint and panic. The laboring mom is going to be unprepared and believe something is wrong with her and her baby.
In prenatal yoga we safely explore poses that are challenging and full of sensation. Sometimes the discomfort is finding the endurance to sustain a pose and other times it is finding the ability to surrender to the release and stretch of an asana. These challenges can be both physical and mental. They are meant to create a safe space for the student to explore how she deals with an obstacle and instill belief to trust her body, mind and soul. That she can and will make it through the birth of her baby. I want the women in my classes to have an opportunity to face obstacles, learn to work with these feelings, and find a way to surrender. We examine using the breath, sound, movement, mantras and many other coping techniques to manage and release into the intensity of the yoga poses.
It takes a tremendous amount of effort and concentration to surrender to the sensations of contractions. Learning to work with the ebb and flow of the waves of labor and figure out how the mom and baby can work together is not always easy. I have witnessed over 100 births and have personally experienced two dramatically different births. Labor can be exhilarating, it can make you face your highest highs and lowest lows. It can be both painful and joyful at the same time. Labor is powerful and one needs to have developed coping skills to ride through it. When a mother and partner have put time into communicating, discussing ways the mother may like to move through labor, exploring anxiety that may surround the birth; the fear of the experience can be diminished. Then labor perhaps can be an undisturbed journey.