Ring of Fire

Oh term that every natural childbirther wants to hear - "the ring of FIRE" (picturing the blow-fish from Nemo right about now, standing over Mount Wannahockaloogie). What is this event and what can it tell us about child birthing?

Firstly, the ring of fire teaches us this: the power of words. The power that words play in our birth is tremendous. Don't believe me? What does the term 'ring of fire' tell your perineum? Does it make you squirm to think of fire lapping at your 'tender areas'? What about the difference between calling contractions labor pains and calling them surges or waves? What about the difference between calling a contraction strong and good versus calling it hard or big? Our words impact our perceptions - our perceptions impact our experiences. From now on, we will not call it the ring of fire, but crowning. Because, as we will see throughout this article, crowning can be an exciting and enjoyable event in birth.

Secondly, this term-which-should-not-be-named, teaches us the power of mindset. We assume that, because this event occurs when the largest part of baby is passing by the perineum, it cannot possibly be anything but horrific. I tell you it can! Consider: a girl who is unfamiliar and fearful about her first time using a tampon may find the tampon to cause discomfort and pain. She is in the mindset that his is an uncomfortable and fearful event - so it will be such. This same girl, though, being relaxed and believing that no discomfort will come from the tampon, will likely have no discomfort or pain from inserting it. Consider the act of intercourse: a couple, relaxed and in love will have an enjoyable event of making love. Whereas, a man, forcing himself upon a woman, even if she does not fight, she will find it painful and horrible. The physical outcome is not dependent upon the size of the tampon, or the size of the organ (penis), but upon the mindset of the event. Likewise, if a woman is fully believing that her body will expand effortlessly around the head and body of her baby, if she is expecting a climatic and amazing event to occur at this, the moment of birth, she is more likely to experience that.

Thirdly, it teaches us the power of preconditioning. Tying the first two powers together, what are you preconditioning yourself to achieve? Women who have had unmedicated births 'on accident' were not prepared for the intensity of the sensations surrounding the event - they are frightened, disbelieving, and tense - as a result, their births, their perineums are fear-filled, tense, and painful. Women who have prepared themselves for all of labor and all of it's sensations, but still buy into crowning being a painful act they simply have to accept and 'push through' will get a painful event that they simply have to push through. Medically, during crowning, the babies head will press firmly enough against the surrounding tissue of the perineum that circulation is stunted. This results in the tingly, prickly feeling most commonly felt when your hand or foot falls asleep. Women who expect the moment of birth to be beautiful, climatic, and releasing report that crowning is a full, heavy, bursting, energy-filled, orgasmic, ecstatic, or pleasurable event in many cases. On the other hand, women who have preconditioned themselves to expect otherwise will get otherwise, translating a feeling of prickly 'asleep' perineum, to being a hot, hurtful, fearful event.

So, if we can stop using words that cause tension and fear, if we can alter our mindsets to expect the beauty and bliss of a baby passing through our bodies, if we can precondition ourselves and help recondition our friends, family, and the next generation to expect more than Mount Wannahockaloogie, we will find ourselves enjoying the fullness of our fullness, the beauty of birthing, and the ecstasy of life coming forth from our bodies.


Ryan and Sandi said...

This is so interesting. I really appreciate your insights. I'm collecting information now to prepare for 'someday,' and in all of my reading, I've not heard about crowning being much like the sensation of your hand or foot falling asleep. That makes me feel less nervous about the idea, since I HAD heard of "the ring of fire" and didn't like that idea much!

Picturing myself giving birth, I just told Ryan about your great points you were making about the mindset of "the ring of fire" vs. the mindset of crowning, through enacting the situation through my words and expressions. Being excited about crowning seemed so much more peaceful and happy, and when I acted out "the ring of fire" he said, "you need to be more calm. If you're not more calm than that, I won't be able to be in the room with you!" I know that's not the full truth, but I know that it would be much more difficult for him to enjoy the birth with me with a pain-filled mindset.

I'm copying this post into my database of great pregnancy/birth ideas (with credit to you, of course!) so that I'll be sure to read it when I need it. Your writing is so great, Nicole. Your Christian childbirth curriculum is going to be great & I'm going to order a copy when it comes out!

hayley said...

i'm not sure if i agree 100%. i just gave birth to my first baby 7 weeks ago, and i had an all-natural home birth. i went into it with a very positive attitude, and believed in the power of my body to perform this natural function of giving birth. i had read the hypnobirthing book and loved its philosophy about managing fear and using relaxation to overcome pain.

maybe it's because my whole labour was 30 hours long (12 hours active), or because i was stuck at transition for hours (i had an anterior lip), but when it came time to push i definitely wasn't able to "gently breath the baby down" and i did experience quite a bit of burning pain as she crowned. she also came out with a fist next to her cheek, so that might have been part of it!

anyways, i still appreciate the attitude of using positive language and i hope that more people will come to understand that birth is something our bodies were designed to do and we don't have to fear it or use interventions routinely.

Karelys (Beltran) Davis said...

I am starting to understand the changing of words theory. And I really like it. I was apprehensive about natural birth and medicated birth. But then after I researched I thought natural birth was better and I'd make the "sacrifice" of being in pain. I kept hearing ring of fire etc. Wow, what a difference it makes to change the words!


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