The Birth Mountain: On Patience and Focus and “Support”

mountainHiking up a steep mountain trail can reveal a few things about giving birth and supporting someone during birth. I did a big backcountry camping trip this past summer and here’s what I came away with in regards to birth:
1. On the way up, I was behind my group and struggling to keep up. I was annoyed I wasn’t going faster.

“Why aren’t I in better shape?” “I want to go faster” “How much further?” were among the mantras in my head while trudging up a 20K trail with 40lbs of gear on my back. I was mad at myself and annoyed at my body and beating myself up for not moving as quickly as I thought I should be, for not keeping up with my friends.

Finally I realized, there was no hurry. The point wasn’t to prove how fast I could get there, the point was to enjoy the hike. So I gave up wishing I was doing the hike differently, that I could get to the top faster. I let my group go ahead, and started focusing on putting one foot ahead of the other, and telling myself “you are always stronger than you think you are.” Suddenly I was in blissful enjoyment of the hike, soaking in the scenery, the air, and the peace of hiking in relative solitude, proud of myself for doing it and feeling strong.

I think it’s easy to see the correlation here to birth, especially those long births. So important to remember that wishing the birth was going more quickly and trying to force it to do so doesn’t do anything but cause frustration. The only thing to do is to let your body set it’s own pace and enjoy the ride, in awe of the process and proud of your strength.

2. During a big, steep stretch, I was in a real groove. Chugging along slow and steady, happy as can be and focused. A woman on her way down smiled and stopped me. “Don’t give up” she said. “it’s so worth it. Don’t turn around. Keep going.”

I appreciated the thought, but the truth was, I didn’t need this pep talk. I was happy and in a rhythm. Her assumption that I must need a big pep talk because I was in a challenging part of the hike caused her to stop me, break my groove and get me out of the inward focused rhythm I was in. While well intended, it was actually disruptive, unneeded, and in truth, a bit annoying!

I smiled though, happy for the reminder that in birth, often it’s better to just be present quietly and observe rather than disrupt a birther who is doing just fine, in her own personal introspective world. A pep talk and support can do wonders in the right moment, but when it’s not needed it actually can cause more disruption than good. So important in this work to be as good at knowing when active support is NOT needed as it is to know when it is.

And, at the end of the day, through the frustrations and the joy and the pumping muscles and the sweat and the rhythm of putting one foot in front of the other, there was the rush of satisfaction, of adrenaline, of relief, of amazement when we finally got to the top was unbeatable.

Sound like birth to anyone else?

berg lake

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