There will be no academy award winners here

Mama walking off through her tightenings while she speaks to the midwives. Dad watching in awe and anticipation.

I have had this blog sitting in my drafts for quite some time now. I have toyed with it here and there, rewritten parts and un-rewritten parts. It has come about through having multiple expectant parents asking “how” will labour play out.  There are so many versions of this story its hard to really answer that question, but, as I think back on my own births, those of my family and friends and those of all my Mama clients, there are common threads that I think paint a pretty realistic picture.  I hear people talk about their expectations of what they think it will be and sometimes wonder how they have conjured up that image.

There is a tendency in the western worlds to turn every living moment in to a show. Literally.  We have “reality” shows for EVERYTHING.  As much as we all understand these shows depict very little reality, they have, and continue to, influence the way a huge part of the population perceive what their every day moments should appear to look like to be considered  ‘normal’.  Because so many things we see are dramatised/amplified/overworked, it can set a tone for the way we then share the significant moments in our life.  Stories need a certain level of shock and awe to stimulate interest in order for people to continue to listen/watch and hear what is being said.

I don’t think it is a coincidence then that we also tend to overshare the ‘shocking’ stories of labour and birth and then falsify the image of the moments immediately following it with a picture of perfected love.  Alot of people know of this fraudulence. Now however,  in an effort to correct the skewed perception, we have ended up with opposite extreme versions,  labours and births are painted like gypsy dreams and parenthood is proclaimed as the beginning of the end, filled with sleepless nights,  bad hair days and screaming babies. 

How about we stop trying to shock and soothe. Just say it how it is.

Its all of it. Its hard and beautiful and weird and normal and sometimes things go wrong but most of the time they don’t, and every version is real to who ever has lived it.

If you have never been through labour or birth, there are parts you can control, there is a lot you can not; don’t be scared or naive, be educated as best as you can and give yourself permission to surrender to those bits that can not be understood until you have experienced them.  Know your options, have a plan and be flexible with it. 

The most predictable thing about labour is that it is unpredictable. Yes, there are systematic stages and patterns that every woman will follow, but how they follow them, the way; with what personal style, management and ability each woman moves through those stages will only be known as they unfold.

Lets face it, most of us had no idea about the way our labour and birth would unfold before our first born. We may have watched some time lapsed videos in the prenatal classes, we may have even seen some episodes of ‘one born every minute’. {Confession: I binge watched this show before I went to Doula college.} I  think they have helped a teeny bit  with showing the variations of birth and I also like that they show snippets of the quiet, uninteresting bits of labour too however there is still a lot of dramatisation created through the editing of it all and because they are only 30 minute or hour long episodes, they miss a LOT. There is also, still, a strong impression of birth in our society that is influenced by the almost always undermining depiction that Hollywood has chosen to portray.  (I love a good movie but heavens to Betsy do they mess around with labour/birth truths)

You may have a plan to birth at home, maybe you are heading straight to the hospital or perhaps for umpteen different reasons you are having a planned c-section.  Whichever kind of birth you are committed to, most  people anticipate there is some level of discomfort (lets just say it – pain), most expect that it will be over before the day is through and most hope to feel overwhelming love and adoration for your baby the second he or she is born.

There are lots of  elements of truth in all of that, but its a pretty vague understanding. Lets talk about the more common chain of event a  real life birth.  (for the sake of this blog only, I am going to talk about a a  vaginal birth scenario, in no way shape or form am I suggesting you are not a real woman or that it is not a real birth if you have a c-section!)

In the beginning, when a woman first feels she is having a contraction/wave/surge (depending on your chosen language of labour) more often than not, the beginnings of labour are quiet and calm, sometimes even unnoticed or mistakable.  Often the early stages of labour are long periods of nothing with short reminding bursts of  twingey sensations that reassure you that you will sometime in the near future meet your much anticipated little boy or girl.   Its very common for this to start through the night or wee hours of the morning where you body has felt calm and safe and happy.

Your body takes time to move through these stages, giving you an opportunity to get a little bit use to the intensity before increasing the level.  The increase in intensity can happen very quickly for some women’s labour (as was the case in my second labour) or for the majority, it stretches out over a number of hours (as was the case in my other three labours).  

Mothers may feel excited that its finally happening, maybe they are worried because their partner is at work and they don’t want them to miss anything. You could be nervous, delighted, frightened, hopeful, calm, ecstatic, panicked or without any particular emotions at all. Every one of those feelings or lack there of is completely normal.

Partners can often feel a bit useless during these early hours, not often required to physically do anything just yet. Mums may want to still feel independent so she carries on with daily activities between the waves, leaving her partner wondering what all those prenatal classes were on about.

SIDE NOTE: Here’s my tip for Mums(take it or leave it): if you are fortunate enough to have a loving partner who is all hands on deck ready to support. Let him.

If you need something or want something done, ask your partner to help regardless of whether or not you can actually do it yourself.  Most dads want to help, they want a little bit of that knight in shining armour feeling, you are going to get all the glory for the hard work, don’t worry, but let them love you in what ever capacity they know how, this is their story too, they have been waiting for this moment as long as you have and its a very hard thing to feel unnecessary.  Give them a job, let them time the contractions or finish packing the hospital bag or make you a cup of tea of fuss around in the car. If they are feeling useful, let them be.

In the first stages of labour, most of the communication is verbal, from the mum, the partner, the midwives etc.  Everyone allows the waves to pass and then they pick up the conversation where it was left.  Often there is lots of movement and different positions tried. 

Gradually the communication becomes less verbal and more gesture orientated, more instinctive.  As a birthing couple/team observe the mamas natural rhythm, they no longer need words to understand what is needed and there is a shift in mood with the changing sensations.  The increased intensity, often brings a new kind of focus into the space, it is a beautiful time of labour to witness. If you are in the hospital and you are progressing nicely through your labour, managing each surge as it appears and fades away, don’t be surprised that the midwives are ‘missing in action’. You see, well trained midwives and doctors know that labour is a normal physiological event and not a medical emergency, they also know that a woman who feels safe and comfortable in her birthing environment needs as little interruption as possible so take it as a pat on the back, a sign of a good thing if you are on your own for most of your labour.  You have not been forgotten or ignored, you are simply doing a fabulous job and they will be there when the time is come for your to birth your baby, in the meantime, you got this, your body and your baby know what they are doing. Trust the process! 

SIDE NOTE 2: When a woman is being monitored, it can be a little distracting, the beeping machine breaking the soothing silence and often the elastic that is holding the monitor in place stretches and slips as mama moves and sends the machine into a panic meaning it always needs readjusting which is more touching and fussing than whats desirable. Its not the end of the world, but it can make it trickier for mum to find her rhythm.  As best as you can, continue to ignore everyone and everything around you and just focus on what you need to do to feel as comfortable as you can.  Midwives and Doulas know how to work around a mama so you don’t need to apologise for moving or shifting positions. We are there to work in with your rhythm.  You can also let your birth team know if the constant interruptions are frustrating you.  Its your space, say what you feel.

The not so told or desired to hear story: when labour stretches through the day and on past the wee hours of the night into the next mornings sunrise? Now I know this may make for a long and less than riveting script but the false hope these 15 minute show scenes seem to offer is particularly cruel to any woman who has experience a lengthy labour. When a labour is taking a particularly long time, or if it seems to stall,  its often only hindsight that uncovers the reason why.  This may be that bub is in a slightly inconvenient position, or that the cord is in the way or perhaps baby is a little too exhausted.  Sometimes trying different positions can help, sometimes manually releasing the membranes (breaking the waters) can speed things along, an epidural has proven to also been an effective tool in some of these moments where mum just needs a rest before its time for baby to be born. Other times, its all just chugging along fine and doesn’t need anything changed, its just a slow process.

{ The sheer exhaustion of a woman who has worked SO hard for so long, can  require a change in the labour process. Its possible that a woman who is doing an incredible job has just run out of oomph and now needs a helping hand, either to get bubba out quickly or to have a much deserved rest.  This is often through the aid of pharmaceutical relief and this can sometimes come as a shock or disappointment.  A ‘drug free’ natural labour can be the ideal birth plan for a lot of women, and that is a wonderful and achievable goal.  I want you to know also, especially if this is what you have your heart set on, that in the same way that we want women to know and understand that pain in childbirth is not the enemy; neither is pain relief .It is NOT a failure.  It is NOT because something you did was wrong, it is simply just another part of some womens labour stories and although it may not feel okay to you in that moment that your plan is redirecting, it’s okay if this is what you need. It does not automatically mean you will no longer enjoy your birth experience, sometimes, this intervention can improve the way a woman views her experience, if she has made the decision herself and feels confident about her choice, it can  be another empowering moment for her in the story of this birth.  It often requires a lot more clock watching for hospital protocol and sometimes more people in the room. If these scenarios have not been discussed beforehand, if the available relief options have not been understood before labour has started, having to make impromptu decisions in these moments can be overwhelming, even traumatising. (reason number 157 to hire a Doula)

I encourage anyone who has been through this and feels less than okay about it to talk to a post natal specific psychologist to allow yourself the opportunity to shed the weight that this memory may carry } 

Moving into the second stage where a woman is ready to birth her baby can feel exciting, you’re almost there, the anticipation builds back up again for those in the room and yet again the focus changes gear.  

Mum digs deep for the last stash of energy ready to birth her baby. Its exciting and exhausting.  

Now you might be wondering “what about the big water breaking moment” well, it doesn’t always happen.  Your waters may not release until just before bubs is born, maybe it has been trickling for hours or in some less common but totally fine scenarios, it is left in tact the whole time.  Yes, sometimes women’s waters release with a gush and it can be quite the surprise, she may also have what is commonly known as ‘a show’, this is effectively the plug of mucus from the top of the cervix that has been protecting bub from outside influences the last nine or so months. You may or may not notice when this happens.  

Everyones favourite part, the bit most anticipated;  The mother is overwhelmed with love and maternal instinct for her newborn baby, breastfeeding with love, delicacy and discretion. 


There is a definite love bubble that forms around a freshly made family, there is no denying this is one of the most significant moments in your life, leaving a permanent memory and emotion tattooed on your heart.  It can and hopefully is, mostly a beautiful moment with lovely emotions, but that bubble  often contain other emotions too, other feelings, other thoughts and honestly, that’s okay. You are not required to follow a script. 

Yes, when you have a baby you have overwhelming feelings, but are they always of love for the slimy odd looking tiny human they just threw on your chest? not always.  More accurately felt, is the overwhelming exhilaration/relief of it being the end of the labour, the  love you feel is often directed mostly at the father of your baby (if he has been there with you) and how impressed you are with what you have achieved together in those moments.  You are in awe of what your body has created, seeing the fruits of your efforts. 

Hopefully you get an opportunity to soak in those first few moments (hours) together, skin to skin, kisses and cuddles with a natural progression into bubs having their first feed.  There are some circumstances that require the baby to be monitored or checked by a paediatrician in the moments immediately after birth. Sometimes this is known to a couple before the labour begins and they have time to prepare for it, other times it is due to the way labour may have progressed in the final moments or because baby needed assistance to be born.  Again, this can be confronting if the parents do not completely understand what is happening. It is never too late to have skin to skin time with your baby though. 

Que a whinge about movies; Why are the babies always so clean on the screens and where is their umbilical cords and why do they always forget about the delivery of the placenta! I know, I know, because it’s just a movie.  But even the “reality” shows seem to always edit out the third stage of birth and in my experience as a Doula so far, it is always the part that takes the mother and father by surprise the most. Not because we haven’t spoken about it, not because they are ill educated or without written information, not because they are unaware that it will happen but because they have zero reference as to what that stage looks and feels like. Even when women share stories amongst each other, the description usually ends at the baby being born. I guess for a lot of women it feels like the least significant part of the story hence it gets omitted. For others, its the part that held the biggest impact and they are not always sure how to share that part of the story or even if they want to.  

For some, they are so wrapped up in fresh baby feels that they have no recollection of the birth of their placenta. You may feel ripped off that you still have more work to go or in a few cases, it can be a tricky stage of the placenta being a bit of a pickle and needing either assisted delivery or surgery. There are many cultures around the world that hold the placenta in such high regard, it is given its own ceremony/burial/celebration. Don’t be scared or shy or forgetful to learn about your options surrounding this extended part of your birth.

The whole labour/ birth event can and hopefully is, moments of power and pride and beauty in its rawest most honest form.  It is intimate,  messy, somewhat hectic and yes, there is for most women, pain. That pain though has a purpose and it is best for all involved when it is understood as such. Not feared or avoided but acknowledged and worked with.  

Babies almost always have instincts to be close to their mum, look for their dad, find the goods (insert the breast crawl example), as for “Maternal Instincts”, they could probably be more aptly named as “an evolution of understanding of what to do or try next through trial and error”.

 I am a Doula. I am a HUGE lover of labour and birth and breastfeeding and all the fabulous feels that come with every part of it. (I can’t say I was at the time of my own birthing stories but that reason is partly what drove me to become a Doula and why I love having the opportunity to now support others) I am not an anti baby love pessimist. I am every bit the romantic (literally! I took that personality test thingo that every one is doing and that was my result). I am also very much a realist and believe the truth of it all is not something that needs to be smothered with a rose coloured cloak , nor do I understand why the calm parts are dramatised and dramatic bits undermined.  

I want birthing women to feel freedom to have whatever emotional reaction they have to their birth and newborn to  be normalised. 

It is important that every parent feels they can say these thoughts allowed without fear of being torn to shreds in judgement or concern.

Are you are feeling nothing but love in all the happy bubbles that could ever  be blown?

Are you feeling suffocated in responsibility that you are not sure you want? 

Do you feel like you are not ready for this afterall? Maybe you can’t quite remember what it was that you were looking forward to?

Its a beautiful thing to love your birth and to feel an instant deep unwavering connection to your newborn, its also completely normal if you don’t feel that way, at least not in an immediate time frame.  

If you feel any prolonged feelings of wanting to harm yourself or your baby after birth, please, without any shame, take those feelings seriously and reach out for professional help. 

The more common feelings I am referring to are those of melancholy and sheer exhaustion. The fluctuating mindset that precariously balances between oozing affection for your baby and wishing you could just pop them in the freezer for a few minutes to drink your cup of tea while its still hot. The swaying between enjoying your new role as someone elses whole world and wishing they could just not need you for a day so you could be ‘yourself’ again.

For every circumstance, for every birth for every woman, I can support you.  If you live on the Bellarine Peninsula, the Geelong Region or Surfcoast Shire and would like to chat more about your options, hopes, plans or predicaments, please contact me here

Beth x



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