The struggle and the letting go
When we give birth, we let go to the power of the physiological forces that must take over. The total moment of letting go is shown in the ecstasy of release on a mother's face as she holds a newborn in her arms. It makes us all cry and let go to witness it. Struggling can stand in the way of letting go although sometimes it is a necessary part of the process. All weekend I have been fielding phone calls from Anna who is having a stop-start early labor. She has been out walking vigorously trying to make it happen. When she lets go of her efforts, her physiology will allow her to let go at the moment of its choosing, and she will give birth. The other day, it was Susanna whose water broke and felt like she was a watched clock. She had no contractions at all and struggled to make labor start. She let go..... and labor didn't start. (Gottcha, you thought I was going to say "it just happened"). She recommitted to the struggle and took castor oil at 20 hours after her water broke. At 23 and a half hours after her water had broken, she had her first contraction. Two hours later her wide-eyed baby in her arms, she had the ecstatic, totally receptive new mother look that touches our hearts. So, for Susanna, the struggle didn't make it happen, then the letting go didn't make it happen, and she needed a bit of a push and a struggle to then let go of the process in a wild and perfect birth.
Penny had a cesarean the first time around. She had waited patiently for her body and her baby's body to slide naturally into action. At 42 weeks and a day, she was persuaded by her care provider at the hospital that an induction was unavoidable. After many many hours of struggle she ended up with a cesarean section. She was deeply dissatisfied at how things had turned out. There is something incredibly frustrating about the story of the struggle and the letting go being interrupted in a place that feels wrong. This time she was committed to her VBAC. Again she reached 42 weeks. Eventually labor began to happen. I was in the birth center visiting with pregnant women and watching her walk in early labor in the park outside. She walked into my office glowing with fulfillment when her water broke "My water broke. On its own. My water broke. On its own" Her delight shone from her face. She labored powerfully all through the night, letting go, sometimes struggling, and letting go. By the morning, her cervix had opened only two centimeters through the whole night, and perhaps even more telling, the baby was floating and seemed to be resisting the power of her body that was trying to bring him down. We can only surmise what is going on inside for our babies. What was holding this one back? Penny knew that it was time to let go of one dream and embrace another. This particular phase of this birth struggle was over. Time to go to the hospital. So we went. When hours later her baby started having serious heart decelerations, it was time to let go of that struggle too and have a repeat cesarean. During the operation it was noted that her baby had not only a tight cord around his neck (not usually a cause for concern), but also no less than TWO true knots in his cord, a miraculous birth indeed by any method.
When the struggle and the letting go play out in the way that they are supposed to, the fulfillment is there, the healing is there and a strong mother is made.