Getting in our own way

Because of my passion for pregnancy, birth, babies, breastfeeding, families…and everything else involved in this ‘job’ of mine…many of my blog posts tend to be long-winded as I try so hard to explain different concepts and make it so that it’s understandable. This is actually a stumbling block for me! There are many topics that I want to write about – but then, when I think about actually writing about it, I feel overwhelmed with how much about that topic I want to impart.

So I will try and make this one as brief as I can. I am about to explain to you why a woman who is past her due date and feeling anxious to have her baby and is TRYING to have her baby….is actually less likely to go into labor.

There’s the bombshell…the concept that is new to a lot of people…so let’s explore this phenomenon. (and, again, this is my attempt at being brief)

We hear a lot of analogies when it comes to birth – it’s like a marathon, it’s climbing a mountain, it’s like intimacy, it’s like…..

The truth is, it’s unlike anything you’ve experienced. Try as you might, it isn’t something you can relate to until you’ve experienced it. To that end I say, “It’s like an orgasm…we can try to explain to you the physical response of an orgasm, but until you’ve experienced one you can’t truly understand.” Explaining labor/birth to someone who has never experienced it is like trying to explain the color blue to someone who was born blind.

HOWEVER – when it comes to the physical transformation that occurs, it is most related to sexual intimacy. Now wait…get back here…let me explain….

* It uses the same hormones: Prostaglandin, rich in semen….oxytocin, the hormone responsible for orgasm….yep, same hormonal cocktails during birth!
*  It uses the same parts of the body: how the baby gets in is how baby gets out.
*  It uses the same part of the brain: different parts of the brain offer their expertise to different functions of life….and the part of the brain that takes over during intimacy, the part that forgets about everything else in life, the part that no longer lets you care if your legs are shaven or if you are making sounds….it’s the same part of the brain that does those things in labor. You’ve heard of women talking about how they had no modesty during labor? Yup…that part of the brain! Men learn very early that their thoughts can have a huge effect on this part of the brain, slowing down its ability to function. Have you ever heard of a guy “doing math in his head” or “thinking baseball scores” in order to slow down and make the intimacy session last longer? That’s because he knows that the THINKING part of his brain competes with the part of the brain engaged during intimacy and can keep it from working well. I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too…ever been intimate and gotten a phone call? Both parts of the brain can’t function at the same time…they compete! To function optimally so that you can achieve orgasm, you MUST allow that part of the brain to take over, you MUST feel safe and open and allow it to happen, you MUST release all control in order to become primal and in the moment…..

You will notice that the part of the body involved most with sex is the mind….that’s why I wrote so extensively about it above. People think of sex as a physical act and don’t stop to think about how much of it is mental. If it were mainly a physical act, then we couldn’t have sexual dreams that culminate in an orgasm – and we can, and do. Simply with THOUGHTS we can have such a huge physical response such as orgasm!!

Uh oh…I’m getting long-winded…I’ll try and reel it back.

So if I’ve been able to get you to truly understand and agree that yes, labor/birth requires a lot of the same functions of the body as sexual intimacy…..lets now explore the mother who is 40 weeks pregnant and “trying” to have her baby….and why that can actually be detrimental and keep her pregnant longer!

You wake up in the morning, snuggle in with your partner– and it becomes apparent to you that he wants more than just a quick kiss good morning. You glance at the clock and think, “Uh oh, I have 20 minutes before I have to get up and get ready for ________” (meeting? Appointment? Breakfast date with friends? School function? Doesn’t matter what)
Okay…so you want intimate relations with your husband…but you feel a time crunch. You began to physically respond, but a quick glance at the clock reveals you are down to 10 minutes. You will your body to respond…you do everything you can to “make it happen”….you can feel the time ticking away….come on, body, finish! You are doing all of the tricks that have worked before, your husband is doing everything right…but still the time is ticking away….COME ON BODY!

Ahhhhh……I can see that the wheels in your brain are spinning even without me explaining the analogy! Yes, the woman who is 40 weeks pregnant and who is walking miles each day, scrubbing floors, eating spicy foods, having sex…all with the express intent of causing labor to begin…is actually undermining her body’s ability to do it!! And boy, are we Americans good at getting into our own way (and I think a lot of it goes back to that dreaded “due date” – which is not an expiration date!!). We are so very good at over thinking this and mistrusting our bodies. Is it any wonder so many MANY women go into labor in the middle of the night, when we shut our brains off and our bodies can finally take a deep breath and say, “FINALLY….she is getting out of my way….phew!”

(until we wake up to a contraction, get excited, and interfere with our body’s ability to finish the job – BAH!)

I will even take the analogy further….a person NOT IN LABOR that is trying to go INTO labor is like a person sitting in a room alone, fully dressed, assuming different sexual positions in an attempt to cause her body to become aroused and close to orgasm. Over-thinking it, and without the assistance of a very important partner in this process! (did you know that it’s the BABY that initiates the delicate hormonal cascade that is labor and birth? That it’s not just YOUR BODY that is laboring, but that it’s communicating with the baby the entire time and that the baby is the initiator and the conductor of this symphony…)

Long-winded….apparently I don’t know how to be otherwise. Fine…let me sum up…

STOP TRYING TO HAVE YOUR BABY….trust your body, it’s done a good job for you so far…and just enjoy the anticipation rather than trying to control and rush the process. The best way to get yourself to go into labor is to stop trying to go into labor, release control, and just enjoy being in the moment. Jeez…why didn’t I say that in the first place??


  1. annika wrote:

    so true!i tried all the tricks to ‘encourage’ labour.. and my water broke while i was reading a book, in bed at midnight!

    Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink
  2. Debbie Page wrote:

    Thanks for an excellent article. I will pass this on to all “my mothers”. I’m glad you were long winded. I enjoyed every sentence!

    Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  3. Rachel Keppner wrote:

    This is wonderful, Stephanie! I sent the link to all my pregnant friends and family! 🙂


    Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink
  4. Emily wrote:

    I LOVE all of your blog posts… They are all so thought-provoking and important and true!

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  5. Kate Kilroy wrote:

    LOVED this! You put into words what I’ve been trying to express for years! LOL- and in such a fun way! Love your blog! I will become follower and happily mention your blog on my own site! 🙂

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  6. Nikki Ausdemore wrote:

    Right on Steph!

    Monday, April 26, 2010 at 12:46 am | Permalink
  7. Kelli wrote:

    I remember feeling impatient to meet my baby last time, which I think is good, it helps to welcome those contractions, but what helped me balance out the welcoming with the impatience was to remind myself that I can never get back these belly moments with THIS baby. No matter how tough a pregnancy it is I bet every mom will look at how big her baby is getting at some point even if they are grown and long for the time when they were closer than anyone could ever get.

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 12:21 am | Permalink
  8. Stassja wrote:

    I could not agree more! This was VERY true for me in my most recent pregnancy. I went past 40 weeks (again, so not surprising at all) and I would have days with practice labor. I’d take long walks and clean and go nuts. Then the next day, there would be nothing, no matter how much I walked and cleaned and had sex. After a few days of this I reminded myself that this was crazy! Labor would come no matter what, when the time was right. I resolved that IF I was getting contractions, then I would walk and all, and if I wasn’t, I would consider it a day of rest and just lay around and nap and relax. Within two days of this revelation labor started slowly, peacefully, and went wonderfully. You just gotta relax!

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  9. Kelli wrote:

    So I cried about the pressure from others for me to go into labor, cried about the practice contractions which actually were a good opportunity to figure out coping techniques for this labor before it got BIG but I was tired of them, cried that my mother in law had to leave the next morning and would miss my birth. This went on from 8 til 11am. Around 5pm I told my MIL and Joe I’d given up on having a baby before she left the next morning on the 30th so baby can come on the 7th for good luck. That day I had a contraction at 7:20pm and Joe caught him at 10:28pm. on the 29th. I knew this before but I fell into this mental trap for a few days, luckily only a few hours seemed so upsetting to me though. Things really do come more easily when you step aside and let nature take its course.

    Friday, July 30, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Permalink
  10. Nicole wrote:

    I am dealing with this right now. 43/4- been literally trying everything for a week now. I haven’t done castor oil because I don’t want to… I am hoping if I can let go this weekend something will happen.

    Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink
  11. Diana wrote:

    Of course, the problem with birth in the Western world (or at least the U.S.) is that women are usually feeling the push from the medical establishment that starts this nightmare off. “Go into labor NOW (or in the next two days, etc.) or we will induce you, section you, whatever.” There’s usually no physical reason for the mother to birth rapidly, but that “NOW” factor from the OB community has contributed to an entire culture-wide post-due-date panic. Because we’ve been so well-trained in this mindset, women now have to fight against their doctors, their families, their friends, pretty much everyone who is panicking and telling horror stories the moment a woman is “overdue.” You know, because your baby could DIE, etc. If the OB community could calm down about due dates, women wouldn’t need to feel this insane amount of stress over “Good grief, I’ve got to do something NOW to go into labor!”

    Excellent as always, Stephanie!

    Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

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