It's hard in our mostly secular culture to understand or believe that birth bestows gifts of deep knowing and awareness on a labouring mother.
I recently crossed paths with an extraordinary Russian doula and she talked of this moment. How we know it and see it and even feel it as doulas and midwives, by simply holding the mother's hand in just that second, when the full force of life itself tips over and down through the mother's body.
If we wanted to understand it from a biological perspective, the mother is at her hormonal climax and beta-endorphins are now flowing to the max. Too many women are short-changed on this front, denied this ‘gift’ that nature has planned because to reach this level of fullest flow, a woman must be completely protected from disturbance – really completely, from anything AT ALL that is going to intrude on her concentration, like light or language, being managed or obviously measured. And when she is, when there is dark and quiet, when those supporting move slowly and the mother is protected and fully free, then she receives what she needs. It’s all there for her.
With experience, you can see this moment - the feelings rising, pooling, soaring and though precipitous for a second, though the mother - deep inside her body - can at first feel like she is falling, the doula or trusted companion's hand is a tiller, a firm rope, and soon she stops falling. She stops falling and starts following this new huge feeling with fierce and eager joy.
Transition is one description, but this is mostly used to describe the purely mechanical shift of the mother moving into the final straight of birth. But it is a whole lot more than transition. With good anchoring, and total safety, the falling feeling alters to something more. Transcendence. The baby is coming now and as they do, brings connection to all and everything with it.
‘What could take a hermit 25 years silently meditating in a cave to achieve is felt by a mother in labour in a matter of minutes’ said that wise Russian doula and as she said it, my heart raced a little, because I knew it. I knew it because I’d felt it myself and had held those hands too. ‘The mother is an accidental beneficiary if you like,’ she said. And we both agreed, the gift of this knowing – so hard to describe – was the pay-off for what a mother gives when she gives birth.