The Flow of Life in Pregnancy and Birth
Everything we see and feel and do is about movement and flow. Daily, we watch the sun move from the eastern horizon to the west. We feel the wind tug at our bodies as we walk outside, see the flight of birds from one point in the blue sky to another. Each night the Milky Way of stars makes its rotation…or is it ours?
We lie down in our beds at night, rise in the morning, and move toward our tasks. Red blood speeds through our arteries and veins, the delicate filament weaving a tapestry within us. It intertwines with nerves, transporting and releasing chemicals and hormones, sustaining organs and the passage of nutrients. A heart continually throbs, alternately contracting and expanding. A sea of internal waves, ebbing and flowing.
Scientists call it fluid dynamics, and it provides ways of studying the evolution of stars, ocean currents, weather patterns, plate tectonics, and even blood circulation. Flow can be steady and smooth or turbulent and chaotic, depending on internal or external pressures. Inertia is produced by resistance to a change of motion.
A pregnant woman innately experiences changes in flow the minute she is pregnant. The flow of internal resources is directed to the growing baby. When her body supplies just the right flow to and from the baby, as well as meeting her own needs, it reaches homeostasis (or balance). When a pregnant mother moves her body often, she stimulates “flow,” both for herself and the baby. This enables the baby to grow and settle in a good position for birth. Harmonious flow in a woman’s relationships, work, goals, and expressions creates meaning and satisfaction.
How do we support the flow? By eating food that is as free of chemicals as possible; by drinking clean water; by wearing clothes that allow the skin to breathe; by breathing clean air. It means finding a place for regular exercise, a way to express the energy in one’s body through dancing, and flowing within the universal flow and our own solar system. Finding happiness. These are essentials that all women and their unborn children everywhere need. When the flow of these resources toward the mother is blocked or interrupted, disharmony results.
Homeostasis peaks toward the end of pregnancy, when the unborn baby is fully grown. Chemical releases and body dynamics signal to mother and baby that the direction of flow must change, and labor begins. Freedom of movement is an imperative, whether it is a state of rest and steadiness, like resting on a soft mattress, or a state of restlessness and a need to be upright and mobile. Interrupting a mother in labor in either of these states risks impeding or altering the flow. Prolonged interference blocks flow.
For instance, a lion trapped in a cage will attempt to break free. The cage impedes his freedom to move and flow within his environment. This will drive him to behave and act in desperate ways, and even to self-harm. Finally, the lion may reach exhaustion or despair and appear submissive. To be trapped is anathema to life.
A woman in labor needs to be in an environment that does not detract from the changes in direction, from the steadiness of early labor to the turbulence of transition to the motions of final expulsion. A mother strapped to a table, attached to an electronic monitor, is a woman whose flow has been impeded and blocked. This state alters physiological labor and birth, which affects the natural movement of the baby through the birth canal. Unborn babies are thwarted when their natural impetus toward moving in an expulsive direction is blocked. This can create stress and internal frustration, and eventually deplete both the mother and the baby’s internal homeostasis and flow. The results of this may be lack of attunement to each other after birth.
Flow During Birth
I am blessed to be able to witness the flow of birth with women in the homebirth setting. A midwife tunes in to the dynamics of flow in a mother in labor and giving birth. Sometimes a mother expresses turbulence when conserving that energy might serve her better. Slowing down the speed of the movement using darkness, a comfortable bed, a hand on the back, and a slow breathing technique can steady the flow of labor. It will help a mother tolerate the internal forces and pressures, such as the sensations of bearing down, just before they become definite.
It is helpful to try to ensure that the uterine wall, lining, and vessels are in perfect balance prior to conception, and that the flow during pregnancy is supported by pristine environmental resources, organic food, herbs, and supplements, where needed. The body is then able to cease the flow to the placenta and expedite its expulsion once it has stopped functioning. After the birth, the flow of urine and milk become important. The movements of the mother and baby toward each other must not be thwarted by external interference, so that they can establish and attune their communicative flow.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #58.
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