Protecting the Space

The traditional midwife believes that birth proceeds in a spiral fashion: labor starts, stops and starts, while the baby goes down, up and down, and the cervix opens, closes and opens. Nature has no design for failure; she holds her own meaning for success.
~ Sher Willis
I know that the terminology 'protecting the space' has been thrown around quite a bit. But I wonder, how many know how to apply it?

There are so many levels to protect a mama in:
  • emotional
  • physical
  • mental
  • spiritual
But, for times sake, I am only going to really discuss the physical and emotional space, since they are both intertwined. When mom is laboring, very often, she labors in a spiral. Her hips move in spirals, her baby moves down in a spiral.. and her physical and emotional attention spirals.

Early in labor, she is aware of everything in the room, far out, at the edges of her spiral, with her at the nucleus. Everyone who comes into the room can affect the nucleus by frivolous or unthoughtful words or actions. As labor progresses, a woman pulls that spiral tighter, so that the peripheral of her attention is closer and closer to her body. Toward the end, she is only aware of those things closest to her, unless they demand attention.

A protector of the space would be able to prep family, friends, nurses, doctors, midwives, doulas, children, etc... of the need to be thoughtful, quiet, unobtrusive, and gentle; not cracking jokes, talking loudly, or otherwise 'breaking the mood'. If mama is playful, you are cautiously playful. If mama is serious, you match her mood. If it is quiet and peaceful, dark and soft, you are too.

And, as the mother spirals her attention toward herself, you do the same, moving cautiously forward into that space. And, at first, it demands the whole room be aware of that space.. but the further into that spiral she pulls herself and her awareness, the more it is those closest to her.

Likewise, support people need to understand that, the tighter into that spiral a mom moves, the more she needs your physical presence to be closer to her to be able to benefit from it. Earlier in labor, you might have been able to talk to her from near the sink while she was near the window. But now, while she is deep inside that space, she needs you no more than 5 feet away. And later, as she moves toward birthing, she will need you within arms grasp to benefit from your physical and emotional presence.

This is so important of a concept for doulas and other support people to understand. I have seen women who are progressing well, moving inward with their attention, suddenly pulled out of that spiral, forcefully, by a well-meaning joke from the grandma, a loud question from the nurse, a doulas quick dart for an elusive water bottle, or a husbands insistent questions. It then takes a good while to help move her back into that space, so that her contractions can reestablish and her attention can become refocused.

Other times, I watch all support people become very attentive to moms space spiraling inward, moving to a cumulative point of energy flawlessly; and mom is allowed to move through that space effortlessly. These experiences are much more seamless for mom and for labor - and that is our goal as support teams: protecting the space.

Now, to draw this post to a close, watch this slide show of Maya's Birth, and the accompanying story.


Donna Ryan said...

I so enjoyed this analogy of the spiral. Very thoughtful and insightful. Thank you.

dandelioncc said...

How random, a friend posted a link to this on facebook & lo & behold, you linked to Maya's birth (I'm her mama!). Your words resonate loud & clear - the folks I invited to her birth were ones I knew who could "hold the space" - they rocked.

Dou-la-la said...

Beautifully articulated! Love this.

Amanda said...

Really enjoyed this article. Thank you. The spiral is such a great anaology.

It reminds me of the quiet spiral of strength residing inside that later erupts into a powerful journey later. A baby that descends down into birth, the smallest sprout that spirals upwards towards the sun, or an expanding galaxy.

All starting a new chapter of their life from their inner strength.


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