Searching for a safe haven in all the wrong places

Nearing the end of your pregnancy, the sun sets as you begin to feel an odd, warm niggle. Noticing your stomach begin to tighten, mild cramping sensations come every now and then like little waves in the lower part of your abdomen. This is it. You think (you hope, but not completely believe) it is the beginning of your labour. 

 As the evening wears on you may experience some diarrhoea, notice a "show", and begin to feel a little out of your head, somewhat separate from the world. 

You have prepared yourself for birth and discussed early labour in your birth class. This was confirmed by your midwife or doctor, and you know that this doesn't mean your baby will come straight away. It could be hours or even days for these mild (and still exciting) niggles to build into the powerful waves you are expecting "active" labour to be made from. Do you call your midwife/doctor? 

No? yes? when?

 
When to go to hospital, Sydney, labour, birth
 

You have been forewarned that until your contractions are rhythmic and regular, with a rawness and real intensity you are better at home. "stay at home as long as you can" they said. Armed with heat packs and a little guidance on warning signs, as long as things "remain normal" you are told you don't need help.

But this is only partly true. Of course you need help. But what is the price of seeking help early in labour?

Your body is telling you this is the time for you to start to retreat into your nest, to ensure you are safely in your birthing space. While your wits are still about, your neocortex is still firing and you haven't travelled too deeply into labour land. Now is the time to draw near to you the people you trust and care for, who will take over your higher reasoning. This is when you should be able to safely switch off the part of you that needs to think and reason and instead focus inward on your child and your inner self. This will help increase your oxytocin production and (you have been told) that is the key to effective contractions. Contractions are of course the ticket to meeting your new baby.


Your body is telling you this is the time for you to start to retreat into your nest, to ensure you are safely in your birthing space. While your wits are still about, your neocortex is still firing and you haven't travelled to deeply into labour land


But you have been forewarned the hospital is not the place for you right now. Instead, women are told, openly, honestly, from a place of love and care; "stay home", "not yet", "it's too early". It is known, the midwives cry "You don't want to be here too long/ too early". If you are found in hospital labouring in the early stage, the pre labour, the false labour, all names for the stage of birth when productivity and efficiency are not generally expected/demanded, someone here will take umbrage with your inability to withstand isolation in your most vulnerable state.

You thought to come to hospital wanting someone to see you, to witness. But instead, now, you're being watched. You feared being ignorant of labour and now you're surrounded by authorities in birth, and your body is their jurisdiction. 

In a perfect world, women at the beginning of labour (if not birthing at home) will use this time to transfer to the safety and warmth of their birthing space. To wrap themselves in the sacredness of this time and patiently await the progression of their labour. Allowed space and time for this to unravel organically, not needing to be consciously analysing the strength and regularity of their contractions to determine the perfect window of time to relocate to the hospital. They fear to arrive too early, only to be told to return home, or too late, and give birth unassisted. At best they have an experienced friend or doula who can help guide them through this decision, at worst she is alone or with her partner who is equally terrified and overwhelmed.

Women are told constantly throughout their pregnancy, in many subtle ways, that birth is dangerous and that only with the experts are they ever truly safe. Then the moment their body sends them the signal to seek out sanctuary they are dissuaded from listening to that most primal instinct.


Women are told constantly throughout their pregnancy, in many subtle ways, that birth is dangerous and that only with the experts are they ever truly safe. Then the moment their body sends them the signal to seek out sanctuary they are dissuaded from listening to that most primal instinct.


During the majority of their labour; slow and cyclical as it may be, women are told their place of birth is not available to them. 

Come in pushing they joked (or were they serious?). Stay home with your fear, don't squander our reassurance - we are stockpiling it for later. So call us if you're worried, we do this all the time, your body says find safety, but it's wrong, trust us, we know. 

We know this place isn't safe for you yet. We can't keep our hands to ourselves, and you need to be untouched for as long as possible.