“Stage 0” of labour: The mental, emotional and spiritual opening
I’m in this space. The space between two worlds. Two chapters. I have been here many times before, but most times I had at least a date to cling on to. Knowing that on that date a new chapter would begin, the date the flight was booked, the date the wedding was planned, the date the operation was scheduled. And sometimes a new chapter would start unexpected, by meeting a new person, learning a new skill or discovering a different way to think. Not this time, not in this case. The space I’m in I am expecting the change, but I can’t tell you when it will happen. I’m talking about the last bit of pregnancy. Because my baby doesn’t come with a date. Well, some pretend that she does. But in reality she choses when she comes into this world. To have my wish of an assisted home birth granted she needs to chose a date between the 1st of December and the 5th of January. Outside of these 5 weeks it’s either me on my own if she’s in a rush or a hospital birth. To both experiences I’m open to and I feel prepared. As much as I can.
After reading this beautiful article this morning I thought more about this space, the last few days or weeks of pregnancy. It’s the ultimate surrender to your body and your instincts. I’m 35 weeks pregnant now and for the last couple of days I have felt off, wanting to retreat, to sleep and sleep and eat and sleep. And cry. And grieve. Overly sensitive, to smell, to touch, to taste. Overly emotional when I don’t get what I wished for. Hips aching, heartburn, stretching skin, trying to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. My belly hardening rhythmically, waking me up at night, my body training, preparing.
And even though I have been in this space twice before this is also new territory again. The first time I was preparing to enter motherhood, with loads of quite naive ideas about what it would mean to be a mom. I was eager to meet my baby and I didn’t surrender. When my waters broke the promise of an induction ending my wait was too tempting and I wasn’t informed and prepared enough. The second time I used this space to research and research and research until my head wouldn’t take any more information. Then I listened to meditations and affirmations and hypnosis between naps over and over, thinking more than once that it was time before it really was. Stuffing my anxiety and loneliness down with chocolate and chocolate ice cream and more chocolate. By now I know I crave my mom’s love and attention when I reach for chocolate. And I had to think of that when I read this wonderful paragraph earlier, written by a midwife: “I tell these beautiful, round, swollen, weepy women to go with it and be okay there. Feel it, think it, don’t push it away. Write it down, sing really loudly when no one else is home, go commune with nature, or crawl into your own mama’s lap so she can rub your head until you feel better.” That was exactly what I was craving last time. Crawling into my own mama’s lap, letting her tell me that everything is and will be okay. When I chose my word for 2017 ~ SURRENDER ~ I didn’t know that the final month of this year would bring me the ultimate chance to do exactly that. We had not planned to have another child. Conceiving her back in April was an act of surrender in itself - surrendering to the deep desire within to have a daughter, raise her, teach her what I have learned about being a woman in this time and age. With the awareness I have gained since the last time I was here, in-between worlds, waiting for my baby to arrive, it’s a fascinating experience.
This stage, “the first sign of labour” or “Stage 0” (I totally just made this term up and I’m loving it!) doesn’t get much attention, especially when it comes to the mental, emotional and spiritual aspect of it. All that is ever talked about is how this stage, the last month of pregnancy, feels like FOREVER. There are many tips about how to deal with the physical discomfort that comes for most women at this stage. This morning, this article, this wonderful woman, was the first time that I saw someone who didn’t try to gloss over the other, less tangible aspects of it. Push the mental and emotional discomfort to the side, because “baby will be here soon.” Who addressed the issues and behaviours that come up and suggested surrender instead of denial. Just this weekend I was called “The Queen of Surrender” by a dear friend, after teaching and exploring the subject from all angles this year. And even now, as someone experienced in this way of life I feel myself stretched, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, in stage 0 of labour.
I find myself snapping at my children for tiny things, because they are loud or tease each other or my smallie runs away when I say we need to change his nappy. I started crying when my 4 year old called me “Fat” the other day instead of laughing it off and then explaining him that I’m not fat but pregnant and that this is hurtful if someone is really fat and struggles with it. I started crying when my husband forgot to bring flowers with him. And I started crying when my son destroyed my earbuds yesterday.
I’m grieving. The fact that this is my last pregnancy, because honestly, my body can’t take another one. The fact that it might be one of the last times that I will fall asleep with my 2 year old in my arm as my arms will be full with a newborn soon enough. I find myself already missing the beautiful group calls as I retreat from my work. And then I’m filled with love and gratitude and excitement and joy again. Anticipation for the birthing experience, so close. And then anxiety: What if my water breaks while I’m alone here with the boys? What if my husband Dennis doesn't make it home in time? So many emotions running through me that I can’t keep up. There’s no control anymore, just an endless stream that seemingly has no balance to it at all. Completely open.
And if I would try to ignore this stream of emotions to “function properly” I would end up overeating and putting on unnecessary weight, craving any form of numbing substance or action like alcohol, shopping, binge watching movies or playing games or if I don’t numb them, but don’t let them out either, secretly thinking I’m going crazy, feeling like a total nutcase. Not knowing that this emotional roller coaster is completely normal and part of the labour coming, preparing me for all the emotions that will run through me when it’s time to birth my child.
This time around I know that I am not my emotions. That I’m just the space my emotions run through. That knowing makes it easier to surrender to them and almost having a split experience: Feeling the emotions while also on another level witnessing how quickly they pass through and being able to see where they stem from. In some cases I made conscious decisions and compromises around them too. One is for example that, as my mom hasn’t been in my life for the last 5 years and my previous pregnancies (plus lives 1300km away) and I’m missing the comfort of having a mother figure around, I’m craving chocolate. So I eat raw chocolate or drink almond milk hot chocolate made with honey on a regular basis, imagining myself filling up with motherly love and compassion while doing so.
Most of the day I find myself half awake and half asleep, it reminds me of these nights when you are lying down with a fever, drifting between worlds, which always send me on amazing spiritual journeys and bring visions on. I crave alone time, but also feel the need for a village, a circle of women holding me, protecting me, supporting me through this transition. Everything takes much longer and when the boys are dressed and their teeth are brushed I’m ready for my meditation and a nap. My days go much smoother when I surrender to that too and just go, putting some Netflix for them on. Spiritually this whole pregnancy has taught me so much. As I had a massive spiritual (re-)awakening between my last and this one I was much more aware of the energetic side and the other possibilities to communicate with my baby. From calling the Soul of my daughter in, then feeling her visiting when I conceived, communicating throughout the pregnancy, having conversations in the middle of the night, drawing boundaries around food and business decisions over answering her questions about her grandfather by visiting him and letting her pick her own name I feel so connected to her. Having her energy, her Spirit with me permanently since around the 100 day mark has been wonderful, sometimes confusing and also annoying at times where all I wanted was to be by myself. I had to draw lines over and over again and “My body, my life, my choices” has become one of my favourite mantras, reminding the little miss that once she’s out and old enough she can make these choices for herself, but right now she’s in my body. Surrendering to the fact that I was sharing my body, this amazing vessel for my Soul with another Soul during pregnancy and that we needed to put down some ground rules was immensely freeing. We also made some compromises that felt good.
In the last couple of days I hear her chatter almost constantly, she’s giggling, saying she’s ready and that I’ll better be prepared to catch her. That I need to get the things into the house I saw in my visions of this birth, the pool, the fairy lights, the tools and tokens and affirmations, because soon it’s time. She’s whispering into my ear: “Mama, there is some fear you need to let go off and then I can come in!” And I surrender and look closely what fears I’m holding. The ability to open myself up to Spirit and the support of Mother Earth while feeling the power of all the women through space and time who had birthed before me and at the same time this mind blowing connection to all the women who were birthing with me in this very moment I experienced when I birthed my second…all of this can’t come in at once. And our Soul is making sure that we retreat enough to slowly open up to have such an experience. As I mentioned earlier I have a lot of knowledge around childbirth for someone who isn’t trained after my research marathon in my second pregnancy and through my birth story blog LightMothers.com. And when I looked at all the different challenges I’m dealing with right now at this not really openly discussed “Stage 0”, the opening of the mental, emotional and spiritual kind before physical labour can start it always comes back to one thing: surrender. And when you thought you surrendered…surrender some more.
This made me go back to my teachings. I looked at the process I defined for myself to surrender my life and my actions to something greater than myself. The one I teach and I saw working for others too. And then I tweaked it for this weird, special, magical and difficult space, “stage 0 of labour”. By sharing the steps of this process I hope to make any pregnant women’s life who is searching for a solution easier in this stage in-between, just before EVERYTHING will change as you take on the responsibility of another human being. 1. Surrender to what is. Without judgement, just looking at the facts. Knowing now that this is what is going on and that it is perfectly normal and fine to happen when your pregnancy comes to an end this step seems relatively easy. You, seen as a whole, need to open up for the incredible experience of bringing new life into this world. Keeping up everything your every day life included beforehand isn’t possible in this transition phase.
2. Get clear on what you want instead. Set clear intentions for this stage, if needed several times a day: Ease. Flow. Feeling comfort. Laugh. Rest. 3. Make space.
This means setting clear boundaries. Say no to others and yes to yourself. Find compromises where you need to, without attaching guilt to it. Tell the people around you that you feel the need to retreat. Let commitments come to an end.
4. Receive Guidance.
Your best guides in this scenario are your body and your baby. So listen to both of them closely.
5. Work through resistance. Look at the thoughts that are coming up and the sabotaging behaviours I mentioned earlier. Deal with the different layers, allow yourself to move through them.
6. Go into Action. Feeling weepy? Cry. Let someone hold you while you cry if that feels good. Craving fat? Make the healthiest choice possible for you, but eat fat, it’s probably exactly what your body needs to create this little miracle inside you. Need a nap? Cancel your plans and lie down.
Repeat steps 1-6 every time the situation changes.
7. Trust, especially in Divine Timing. This step has many layers and I could probably talk about it for an hour or longer. Here is the thing: Trust your body. Trust your baby. I took great comfort in my belief that we chose our parents. And as my baby chose me as her mother she also knew what kind of birth experience I would aim towards. But above all: Trust in the Divine Timing of the Universe/ God/ Spirit… The time your baby is coming into this world is exactly the time it needs to come.
8. Receive. Welcome your baby and step into the next stage with confidence. Keep in mind that this phase is after all just temporary. You will get through it and your baby will come out, it won’t stay in there forever. After all the practise you had in surrendering to your baby’s schedule, to your instinct, your inner knowings and your body you can go into stage 1, 2 and 3 of labour with confidence before the new chapter of mothering a newborn starts.
The strong woman in me honours the strong woman in you!