I lied. There are only two stages of labor.
And the miraculous and mysterious thing about it is that women can go through these stages of labor in any order that they need to. But they must go through it to have a physiologically, mentally, and emotionally normal and natural labor and birth.
Surrender - to cease resistance
Acceptance - the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.During pregnancy, you have the amazing gift of time to be able to learn to trust your intuition, know everything you can know about the options for birth, tap into your own power, and build a birthing team that can rock your socks off... but then, during labor and birth, the only two things they need to do is accept the process and surrender to it.
“Let your monkey do it.” ~Ina May GaskinSurrender
Surrendering physically to the sensations of birth allow your uterus to work, unobstructed. Bending of the knees, sinking into the sensations, allowing them to be full, and deep and everything they need to be allows for your labor to progress without resistance. Learning how to do this throughout pregnancy can help to achieve it during labor and birth. Certain positions allow for this, as well as certain coping skills like kissing, moaning, breathing, and movement.
Surrendering emotionally requires a woman to get her heart on board with her body. Negativity inadvertently rears its head in nearly every laboring journey. Equipping yourself with tools prior to labor can help overcome these negative emotions that fight surrender. These tools include affirmations, positivity, and learning to protect and initiate your bubble of peace.
Surrendering mentally requires that a woman get her own head out of her pelvis. A woman cannot think her way through labor. She can't be worrying about the next stage, the next contraction, how to integrate what she learned in pregnancy to her birth, or what information is filtering into her birthing environment (nurses, fetal monitors, IV beeps, etc..) that is why a supportive person or persons is so very important. These people should be people who both have her best interests in mind (truly!) and have vast experience in labor and birth. They should also be someone that mom trusts on an emotional, physical, and mental level. This can be a MW, an OB, a nurse, a doula, a friend, a partner... or any combination of those, but they should fulfill all of those requirements (which is why it is usually best to have a team in place of more than one support person).
“Birthing a baby requires the same relinquishing of control as does sex — abandoning oneself to the overwhelming sensation and doing so in a protective and supportive environment.” ~Libby Bogdan-LovisAcceptance
Accepting the process is just as important as surrendering to it. Accepting infers reception. Receiving the sensations and emotions of birth, yes, but even more than that. This is so vastly important because labor rarely goes exactly as we plan. Either it is longer than we anticipated, shorter than we hoped, more intense than we prepared for, or more challenging than we planned for.
If labor does not go as planned, if something does happen that requires a change of plans, more intervention, or a shift in mentality or energy, acceptance will mean the difference between a positive emotional and mental outcome, or a negative one. It also allows for mom to be present and autonomous in any event, not only those that we hope and plan for.
How can you see acceptance and surrender as being the two stages of labor?