Sitting In Discomfort


Red flowers of discomfort

Image by mendhak via Flickr

When both of my sons were born in Oregon, I delivered them at home. My midwives were amazing ladies who were highly skilled in their art. Long flowing gowns and capes, long dangling earrings of amber and lapis, from the moment I first met Pamela & Madrona, I knew that they were my midwives.

While laboring with my daughter in the hospital, I had resented being forced to stay in my bed. I longed to be up on my feet, moving around, hanging onto chairs, as I had read about in Spiritual Midwifery and my birthing classes at the Birthing Center. However, I’d been transferred to the hospital due to lack of progress in a very long first labor (49 hours, total.)I actually kicked the nurse who was pressing the abdominal fetal monitor into my swollen belly during my contractions. I swore at her and goddamned her. I was so mad to hear years later that they discontinued the use of these devices because they had proven to be neither accurate nor useful.

So my enthusiasm for homebirth several years later when I was expecting my second child was unbounded. Both of my sons were born easily, overnight, with no complications, and I was able to move around freely, experience my contractions in different positions, have my own music and candles. I had my second child in a birthing tub which we’d rented and set up in the living room! The water greatly eased the pains of the contractions. I’d planned to have my third child in a birthing tub as well, but he arrived two weeks early and I didn’t have the tub. His was a shorter labor, and so in the end, it didn’t matter.

However, homebirth is not a process of doing whatever you want and then the baby magically comes out. Perhaps it is for some people. There are times when the midwives step in and say something like, “You need to take your next three contractions laying down on your left side, because there’s still a lip on your cervix, and if you’re on your left side, the pressure of the baby’s head will push the lip away.” I never liked being told what to do in labor; no woman does.

But the midwives were always right. Pamela had a theory that for most women, it was necessary to get down into the discomfort of the contraction in order to open the cervix. I favored standing in the shower, or holding onto the back of a chair. I didn’t like the down on my hands and knees position which is greatly conducive to delivery. During both of my homebirths, Pamela made me take several contractions sitting on the toilet with my legs spread wide to “sit in the discomfort.” I hated this, but she made me do it both times for ten minutes, and she was right. I needed to sit hard and painfully down into the discomfort in order for my cervix to open fully.

I’ve received comments from long term friends about my “Winter of Drunkenness and Cruelty” post. They say that I shouldn’t doubt my decision to leave him twenty four years ago, and that I was doing the right thing in order to keep my baby safe.

They may be right. However, I never processed leaving him in 1989 in any way, not emotionally, not spiritually, and not intellectually. I just shoved him into a closet in my mind and bolted the door shut. I would not allow myself to think about him because I was afraid that, loving him, I would lose my resolve and go back to him and put my daughter at risk of harm from his friends and lifestyle.

So now I am doing Pamela’s trick. I am sitting in the discomfort. I am not running away from it. I am not avoiding it. I am allowing myself to open up to it, no matter how painful it is.

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