The Art of Midwifery
Lavender is popular amongst many midwives and doulas because of its varied uses in labor. It calms the entire birth team, lowers tensions and blood pressure and facilitates labor’s energy flow. Lavender oil contains a small amount of the ketone camphor, which can be emmenagogic, so some authorities recommend it be used with caution in early pregnancy. However, because it is a weak emmenagogue, it is unlikely to initiate uterine contractions in a healthy pregnancy.
Allowing the Laboring Mother to Be Primal
I arrived at SG’s house at 6 am on Thursday. She was in labor. The day went on with her pains coming consistently but tolerable, allowing her to smile, eat and laugh and allowing me enough breaks to check in at home, have my weekly midwife student lesson and make plans for the evening.
At about midnight, SG’s pains changed, becoming far more intense. I called two midwife students—they stayed at SG’s bedside from then on, massaging her back, comforting and encouraging her as she started to yell and pull her hair. She even began to scratch at her face.
I wondered: Would the doctors and nurses have allowed this kind of behavior in the hospital? Would they have yelled at SG to stop? Why can we not look at someone doing this in labor, and does it need to be stopped?
I found myself wanting to stop SG immediately. What she was doing could not be helpful. She is freaking out, I thought. She needs to be more calm and collected. This needs to be a gentle, physiological birth. She is going to use up all her energy. I need to remind her how to breathe and tell her everything is okay so that she can relax (and so her behavior would be easier to witness and support).
What would happen if I allowed SG to let out her frustration at the pain, her lack of control, the unknowingness of time, the persistency of the contractions, her aloneness and her involuntary, spontaneous reactions to labor pains? What would happen if I stood by her, with complete faith in her body and the process, and I just supported her, reassured her and was there to allow her to be what and who she needed to be in that moment?
And then I remembered my labor. Involuntarily, I screamed and I shouted so loudly with each contraction. It was all completely contrary to my quiet nature. When a contraction came, I needed to scream to let that pain enter, move through my body and leave. Thank goodness no one told me to stop. As I look back, I understand now the many emotional reasons why I needed to express myself and my pain in that way. It was not only about the labor pains—it was about a lot of things that I had been dealing with throughout my pregnancy. When my baby was born, I felt peaceful and whole.
When we understand the physiology of labor, we know that this primal behavior is meant to happen in a physiological birth. It is, indeed, the primal part of our brain that controls and acts during labor.