Gloria Lemay’s “Secret Sensation Time: How to Have a Great Birth, Especially VBAC” in the current Spring issue of Pathways Magazine brings a vital message for pregnant moms who want to have a safer and easier birth.
“Many births begin in the night” says Lemay, who’s been a childbirth activist and educator for many years. “The woman will get up to pee, feel her membranes release, and then an hour later will begin having sensations 15 minutes apart.” Usually, it’s at this first sign of labor that the mother will wake up her husband, and begin preparations with feelings of excitement and anticipation. The early sensations of birth which begin in the peaceful, quiet nighttime setting quickly shift into a setting of brightened lights and mental and physical activity, and this can be counter-productive.
“I have seen so many births that take days and days of prodromal (under 3 cms. dilation) sensations, and they usually begin this way,” says Lemay, in her article. In these cases, the couple essentially distract themselves at the beginning of birth, turning the quiet of the night into the more frenzied activity typical of daytime. Lemay calls this early period of birth a “critical time” when the pituitary gland begins initiating all the complex physiological changes for a healthy, easy birth to unfold. But we often can compromise this critical period, unintentionally.
“That first night can make all the difference,” Lemay says. She explains how many midwives who receive the mothers call at 7 a.m. to learn that the couple has been up all night timing contractions and making preparations, often lament later on that they wished the mother had called sooner, so she could tell her to “turn off the lights, let the husband sleep as much as possible, and to stay dark and quite, perhaps taking a bath with a candle if it helps.”
Because we think of birth as a family/couple experience, and we want to live the story of our birth from beginning to end with anticipation, we often derail the vital opportunity to tune in to our bodies at the early moments of birth. “When you begin to have sensations,” Lemay says, “try to ignore it as long as you possibly can.” Instead, “have a ‘secret sensation time’ with your unborn baby.” Lemay recommends that we try to minimize what is happening in our surroundings, including what the husband, the family, or the birth attendants are doing and thinking, and if we happen to be in a setting that’s a little chaotic, we should try our best to have a quiet time for mother-baby connection.
To have a smooth birth, we have to honor our hormone activity, our oxytocin release, and our ability to open up the cervix, and this means cherishing the dark, quiet, and early period of birth as a precious time. It is a time that is best free of distractions and in deep connection with one’s self and the baby, together in a loving embrace.