Labor Pattern Variations: Don’t Shoot the Messenger

To focus on production, we are working with a standardized system rather than recognizing the need for individualized care. On a production line all of the same things can go into making a product.  One can even have some different molds with some variation.   Birth and the human body, we all know, don’t always fit into molds. One might be able to affect bodies similarly by giving Pitocin, but to expect all of the bodies to do the same thing with the same stimulus would be off the mark.  Why would Pitocin or let’s say even herbs, nipple stimulation, or other interventions that are meant to increase contractions be used in the first place.  In this culture, there seems to be a focus on changing the symptoms rather than seeing them as messengers communicating the body’s attempt to move towards physiology.  There may be a time for this but that time is an exception rather than the rule.  

When we begin to shift the focus to the final product or manipulating the way birth is supposed to be, we forget much about validation of the individual and listening to what the body is really trying to do.  We can actually pay more attention as we look for restorative models.

Don’t shoot the messenger.  Don’t ignore the signs.  

How are some of the things deemed abnormal actually talking to us? 

That “stall” or pause in labor, what is it telling us?  The pain in the back, what could that be?  The pain above the pubic bone, what else is happening?  The urge to push when the baby is high that disappears, what might that be?  That position the Birthgiver keeps moving to that doesn’t seem to be working, are we paying attention to what they really trying to do? Can we look to the inside information of the baby and validate the baby as well?  

Let’s start with validation. Today, I wanted to address labor patterns that were irregular or have almost disappeared after being regular. 

Validation of the physiology of the stalled labor might sound like this: 

“Oh, uterus, we are listening to you.  I see that you have been working so very hard and that you need a moment.  Please, go ahead and take it.  Is there something I can get you as you rest? ” 

As we listen more deeply to this moment, can we hear a tired uterus asking for food and water so that it can do the work that needs to be done.   Maybe it needs to “rest and restore” after a lot of exertion from helping a baby get engaged and just needs a moment.  Is the uterus telling us it is unable to efficiently do its work because of torsion (possibly shown with coupling) or the position of the baby who isn’t applying pressure to the cervix?  Can we assist with positioning, balancing, or relaxation? 

As we listen, we can look to what is being asked for as far as restoration.  If the uterus isn’t having regular contractions that are building in intensity, it may be time to think about how it has come to a conclusion that it isn’t time to be in that sustained pattern. What would happen if the uterus used all of its energy on a baby that wasn’t able to engage?  At the same time, if the uterus is trying to help baby engage, so how might we be able to assist in addressing the root cause?  

What might we do to restore physiology of the uterus?  Can we do some body balancing to help with the presenting part of the baby?  Is there something preventing baby from coming down higher up in the pelvis? Could it be a nuchal hand or a shoulder?  Can we help with energy to assist with this work by providing food or water or electrolytes?  Are there particular positions that could assist with descent (or back out baby to reset ) for a baby that seems to be stuck?  All of these things could be reflected in the labor pattern itself.  This is not a time to shame the uterus but praise it for being a messenger.  

Of course, since we are talking about the body there are exceptions.  The uterus for someone who has birthed before might be taking part in an “installment program.”  They might be doing a little work at a time and those contractions are just the introduction to the symphony to come.  And, yes, sometimes births need assistance and we use herbs or other modalities so that we can take the opportunity to help with engagement (when someone isn’t exhausted). We may be able to help with symptoms while at the same time addressing the underlying needs.  The important thing is that we know that what we see on the surface is reflective of even more information from within.  

How are we validating the physiology?  How are we listening more deeply beyond the symptoms?