Labyrinths…these ancient symbols of life’s journey are found across time and cultures.
Although the terms are sometimes interchanged, a true labyrinth is not a maze. Labyrinths have only one entrance and route. You can’t get lost, or stopped by a dead-end. It does, however, take mindful attention to stay on the path to the center, and then back again to find the way out. Perhaps you’ve walked a labyrinth in a garden, or some other meditative place, slowly step-by-step through its twists and turns.
It has been proposed that pregnancy, labor, birth, and early parenting are like walking a labyrinth.
Pam England, midwife and founder of Birthing from Within, an approach to birth and parenting preparation advocated by the midwives of the University of Vermont Medical Center, has coined the word LabOrinth™. We think this is a powerful metaphor for expectant parents so they may put into perspective the unpredictable nature of their path to parenthood. While a crystal ball might be helpful in seeing what the journey will hold, these are in short supply and wouldn’t truly prepare you for the task of birth! Far better for expectant parents is to plan for a path that will likely hold many twists and turns.
There’s nearly always something unpredictable about pregnancy and birth. Most pregnancies are a healthy experience for moms and babies, but even when everything is expected to be smooth sailing, things can come up. For some women, the path is particularly long and twisted. Perhaps becoming pregnant is hard to achieve. Perhaps there is an unexpected complication of pregnancy, or labor takes longer, or is harder than one had hoped. Sometimes a woman gives birth by an unplanned cesarean. Then, just when the hard work of birth is done, the reason this path was taken in the first place really unfolds: parenting, with all of its own complexities.
Occasionally babies need special care. Breastfeeding is important and is almost always harder than expected. Growing a baby, giving birth, and early parenting is a momentous experience, which calls upon a woman to dig deep to find her own well of resiliency. Each family’s journey is unique.
It is incredibly important for women to surround themselves with supportive family, friends and birthing professionals as they walk this labyrinth of birth and parenting.
Expecting an unpredictable journey is a good start in building personal resiliency and flexibility.
- Learning about the process of birth and realistic preparation can help to guide you and decrease fear.
- Ask questions! Spend time thinking about what helps you when things are physically and emotionally difficult and then seek to put those resources in place.
- Look for providers who will explain the path and be partners with you as you walk your own personal childbearing labyrinth.
You will be born as a mother/father at the center and emerge as a new family ready to face the joys and challenges of parenthood.
Resource: www.birthingfrom within.com
Bonitta (Bonny) Steuer, APRN, CNM, is a certified nurse-midwife in UVM Medical Group Obstetrics and Midwifery at University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vermont. Her clinical focus is low-risk pregnancy, well-woman gynecology, contraception management, and mindful childbirth preparation. She provides support to her patients throughout pregnancy, labor and childbirth.