I want to start this blog by talking about the various stages of pregnancy and labor and discussing how they teach us as women how to be better mothers.
Most labors begin a little easy. Dr Bradley described labor as a hike up a mountain with early labor being the foothills or the putsy-putsy stage. Early labor is usually slow, contractions spaced out and relatively short. You may be able to talk through them. Many women are excited at this point. Your body is telling you it is time! Soon you will be holding the sweet thing you have been incubating and preparing for for nine months. Labor at this point is not necessarily hard so mom is not working too hard. Early labor may start or stop and it can be confusing. Is this really it? It can be difficult to tell, and sometimes we pay attention too soon and wear ourselves out.
What does early labor teach us about motherhood and why is it a necessary part of having a baby?
Because early labor can stop and start, come and go and just basically confuse us, it teaches an important lesson of motherhood- patience and adaptation. Any mother knows that patience is something that we need more of! Patience with our kids and ourselves and our husbands. It is hard to be calm and loving for a minimum of twelve hours a day (if they sleep all night!). It is hard to be kind and loving when we don't feel well and there are lots of little people yanking on our actually clean clothes and screaming for something while we struggle to prepare dinner. Patience is also something that you don't necessarily have to have a lot of when you are childless. You can do things on your own time and schedule. You can plan something and it actually happens at the appointed time! Amazing isn't it! I should have appreciated that when I had the opportunity.
Early labor, though not too difficult physically helps us understand that our life is no longer our own. We now exist to spend much of our day serving others who may not realize what we are doing. It is exciting as is motherhood, but it is not necessarily something we can control or make shorter. It starts when it is ready and stops when it wants. It is our first lesson in adapting to a situation that we do not have total control over.
One of the saddest things about the induction epidemic in this country (remember my post from yesterday, there are actually hospitals with 95% induction rates) goes much deeper than just the risks of induction (which are many). From a spiritual or emotional perspective, picking your due date and time robs a woman of one of the first lessons of motherhood- we can't control everything! And- we probably are not supposed to. When we pick a day to have a baby we are picking what works best for us and our schedule. It may not at all be what works best for that baby. The baby in fact may not be quite ready to breathe. It may just not be low enough for a vaginal birth. It may need some more time inside for a hundred little things that science can not even yet measure. We are not thinking about the baby - we are thinking about ourselves.
(This is not a totally scientific observation- but when I asked these nurses why people were induced the biggest reason was not medical need- though you could certainly come up with one to put on a chart if you had too- No, the biggest reason was convenience for either the doctor or the mother or both.)
So when we induce labor at an arbitrary date and time we miss one of the great surprises of life- when will that baby come?!
We miss the lesson of patience. We continue to believe that we can and possibly should be able to control what happens to us and those around us. We encourage the idea that we or 'experts' know best, not the body or our instinct. We miss a chance to learn flexibility and letting go. What is more, we miss the emotional preparation that early labor gives the mother. Early labor tells you- something is happening, your baby is coming, we don't know when or how, but start preparing.
I hope that women everywhere can embrace this chance to let go of our desire to control and plan and just let labor happen and learn from it what it is trying to teach. Labor's lessons are many and they are profound. They will prepare us for the magnificent journey ahead that is motherhood.
(For additional info on the risks of induction see: http://hencigoer.com/articles/elective_induction/ )