Labouring in the zone and the approach of fear
Sheila Kitzinger talks of indigenous women labouring alone in a private but familiar place, whilst the midwife waits at a safe distance, ready if she is needed. In a high-tech hospital I too turned inwards to this place, just like other mammals do and pregnant woman have done for millennia. Hours passed. Labour advanced slowly. I remained focused and calm. I hummed a Buddhist chant continuously for hours, varying the tones as the contractions came and went like waves. My late Nanna had described contractions this way, an appropriate analogy in that the pain starts slowly, worsens, reaches its crescendo, before subsiding; then the whole process repeats itself.
I made sounds from deep within me I never knew existed, instinctive sound vibrations which moved and worked with the contractions. My husband massaged my lower back with aromatherapy oils continuously for countless hours; in my own zone his touch was an indication I wasn’t alone. I remained totally in control by focusing on the deep humming sounds my voice made as my body moved in unison to the sounds. My eyes remained closed almost continuously for five hours. I sought a quiet, non-verbal, private plate in which to labour, away from sights, sounds and lights. It was me and my baby, in our own space together. I knew my husband and the midwife were close by, so I could call them, if I needed to. I trusted and read my own body.
This special zone was rudely interrupted as I heard one of the midwives suddenly exclaim directly to me;
‘You’re being very musical aren’t you!’
Almost violently this human voice pulled me back into that other world I had laboured hard to mentally retreat from. I could have hit her. Although unintentional she had broken the spell, the peaceful zone shattered.
Back to the machines, bright lights and human conversation. And with it the pain.