I am working with a Doula in training and after a recent birth, she commented that as she observed the mama and I during the labor process, it seemed like we had rehearsed what we would do. We hadn’t. Rather, what we did was move through position changes and transitions guided by intuition, she was part of a labor experience that unfolded from a place of connection. This is something we can all do. We all have intuition, we just need to clear the obstacles that block our access to it. One way we clear the obstacles, is through embodiment.
For me, when I talk about embodiment, I am describing an approach that takes into account the mind, heart and body connection. In this context, embodiment is the moment to moment awareness of what is arising in these three areas. It leads to a feeling, a sense of knowing, that isn’t held exclusively in our rational minds. Embodiment doesn’t negate the thinking aspects that are part of labor support; like where and when to place a TENS unit, or which positions are helpful for posterior babies, but rather, embodiment provides a clear ground from which this information can be applied. It takes practice, and in my experience, it is key to connected, compassionate care in labor (and life).
What does embodiment look like in the birth space?
First I observe, striving for non- judgement. Non-judgement is critical here because judgement, good or bad, is one of the many ways we can be blocked from embodiment. So, without judgement, I notice her physical body, any speech she has, any places she is in her mind. I notice what is happening in the room; the environment and with other people. I then connect with the rhythm of labor, where is she in the process? I mirror her, subtly.
For example, this mama was standing tall, legs close together and she was slightly swaying. Her husband was standing beside her. I could feel in my body that she was holding and tense; in her pelvic floor and in her breath.
I came up behind her and as I took a wide stance, gently said, “Feet apart,”
And then I paused,
She widened her stance.
I bent my knees softly. Low and quietly I said, “Knees soft,”
I left space, noticing what was happening in me,
Her knees softened.
I held space for her husband and we took a breath together.
I touched her at the sides of her hips and gently guided her pelvis to tilt.
My hips tilted. I synched my breath with hers, slowed my breath audibly, she followed. I began to rock our hips side to side. She dropped into a swaying movement and deep breathing. I could feel an opening of the pelvis, a relaxing of the breath. “You’ve got this.” I whispered to both of them (really all three) and I stepped back a few steps. We continued this process over the course of her labor and birthing. There were several position changes and supportive interventions, and very few words.
This is why it looked rehearsed. To the observer, we moved through the process as though it was a practiced dance. And in fact, my experience of labor support is much like a dance; but it isn’t prescribed by a set list, rather it is orchestrated by whatever this baby and family’s path is. From an embodied place, I notice, and from a nonreactive, nonjudgemental place, I enter the dance.