“Laborland” is a place doulas, midwives and mothers talk about when they refer to the mental and emotional state of labor. It is a state unlike anything in normal, everyday life. It was the journey to this state of mind that I found so fascinating when reflecting on the birth of my children.
It felt like a journey to a place deep inside myself. That was one of the reasons for the name “The Prenatal Journey”. It seemed that labor felt very irritating when people were disturbing me, talking to me, taking blood pressure and so on. When I closed myself off from everyone and went inside myself, I found the stillness in the eye of the storm. I didn’t feel much “pain” anymore. The further into labor I went, the deeper into the state I was.
I was inspired to write this post after reading an article by Nancy Salgueiro called Getting To Labor Land.
“In labor the mother needs to be in control of what is happening around her, who is there and what they are doing. This needs to be dictated before she goes into labor and she needs to know that she can trust her desires are going to be respected so that she can completely let go of that control while in labor.
If she feels safe and knows the people around her will honor her requests and desires she will be able to let go of those things outside herself.
She needs to be able to completely surrender to her body and the sensations without conscious thinking. This is how she will be able to go to what is called “labor land”.
Labor land is like a deep meditative state. It is like an out of body experience except that it occurs so internally, totally within your body and in the meditative part of your mind. Being in this state allows the mom to get into the rhythm of her contractions and to develop a routine of what works for her to stay on top of the intensity of her labor.
It is important that no one tries to talk to her or pull her into her conscious mind when she is in labor land. This can take her out of her zone and make it more difficult for her to deal with the sensations she is experiencing.”
To read the rest of the article go to Getting to Labor Land.
I noticed that when I was in laborland, my sense perception was different. I couldn’t actually hear or see very well. If someone was more than a meter away talking to me, I couldn’t quite focus on what they were saying. I also couldn’t hear most of the music or see the candles by the time I got to active labor. That’s why the doula who was so fantastic at my birth spoke to me right next to my ear. I could focus on that.
Another thing I noticed was that I had a heightened perception of other people’s emotions. Even though I couldn’t see or hear them clearly, I could sense what people in the room were feeling even if they were far away. It was helpful when they were feeling caring, supportive and believing in my ability. But when they were worried on my behalf or focused on mundane discussions with other people, it shook my confidence and focus.
The reason for this shift in mental/emotional states
There is a reason for this shift in awareness. Birth, like other instinctive functions, is programmed into the lower mammalian brain. There are different parts of the human brain, some of which we share with other animals. The highly developed neo-cortex is where all the conscious thinking, speech, language, sight and sound is processed. But birth requires the use of the mammalian part of the brain. All mammals instinctively know how to give birth. they don’t have to read books, attend prenatal classes or watch other females of their species to learn. It is instinctive. Human females have the same part of the brain and the sooner they leave the neo-cortex the sooner they will labor from their primitive brain.
It can be difficult to do that sometimes, especially with a lot of distractions pulling us back into conscious thought. And also our own lack of trust in our instincts and natural abilities.
It may be easier to understand if we think about the emotional / mental state of a similarly instinctively programmed function – sex. Sex is very similar to birth in more reasons than just one being the beginning and the other the end product. Sex is a function that is programmed into our mammalian brains for the survival of the species. But we can probably remember times when we had sex with our attention in the conscious, cerebral part of the brain. Compare that with how it feels the times we have sex while not in our conscious thoughts, but acting from pure animal instinct. That’s very similar to birth. You can birth from the neo-cortex and think your way through, and probably have a harder and more painful time, or you can surrender to your natural instinctual self and know that it knows what to do and it will do it well. Deep within you, you are programmed to give birth and know exactly what to do at every point in the journey.