A Mental Place Called Laborland
In labor, women do all kinds of things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. They are in a different head space than usual; a mental place called Laborland. A lot of the things they get up to can be classified as Stemming as they are purely responding to the needs of their body.
Or self-stimulation, is repetitive activities done to distract the self. This repetitive activity rivals internal input for attention,therefore helping to lessen other sensory inputs. All people do this instinctively, but it is especially noticeable in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This can be gross motor such as swaying or rocking, fine motor such as tapping or petting, or even vocal such as humming.
Perhaps you have heard of stemming in association with Autism?
Let’s think this one through- people with ASD are less aware of what is socially acceptable and hyper aware of what is going on inside them (as we should be in labor- go to Laborland and focus on communicating with your body). So if they are overwhelmed, they start stemming in response to their body. I would not be surprised that, with the hormone changes leading up to birthing, a pregnant woman’s brain is a little more similar to someone with autism temporarily. Sounds strange, but it’s natural and it happens for a reason.
One time, I was with a laboring client and she was eating, but as soon as a contraction came, she said it was like she was being electrocuted! Her body said no! So she listened and only took little bites between contractions and didn’t have this problem again. I hypothesize the reason the demand for pain management (and therefore interventions) has gone up is because we women refuse to listen to our bodies but instead act the way we’re ‘supposed to’. We simply cannot allow ourselves to stop focusing on the external and give ourselves our full attention.
But it is very important that we do. So how can you give yourself the best chance of getting to ‘Laborland’? Three things: plan to birth where you feel safe, put together a birth team you trust (perhaps a doula? :p ), and last but not least- practice listening to your body.