Anxiety as well as excitement about the unknown is common, especially for first-time mothers. Though we all know that millions upon billions of women have given birth before, we do not know what it will be like for each of us. The experience of birth is universal yet it remains a mystery. Like love, labor is difficult to describe in words. Still, it is the work of each pregnant woman to seek a personal understanding of and commitment to the process of childbirth.
To meet the stronger contractions of active labor, we must develop our own coping styles that are naturally activated to cope through the pain, rather than merely relax!
Discovering Your Natural Coping Style
We process information based upon the three sensory cortices of the brain: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. From the time of birth, people develop unique patterns for processing and organizing information. John Grinder and Richard Bandler in their two volumes of The Structure of Magic, have analyzed patterns by which people process experience. They describe these models as "representational systems" and believe that a person will lead with one and favor one or possibly two cortices for incorporating new information.
Some people process information using the internal or secondary visual cortex which is used in dreaming and visualization. Others will rely on the secondary auditory cortex to repeat phrases in order to comprehend the meaning of a concept. People who utilize their secondary auditory cortex in this way will be likely to use auditory metaphors like "It rings true." And still others will need a hunch or to "feel it in the gut" in order to understand. These people utilize the internal kinesthetic cortex for their primary system in processing new information.
It is also possible, even desirable, to develop all three cortices for information processing, which will yield greater creativity and lend a richness to our everyday experience. However the first cortex we use for initial processing will be the system we lead with and therefore our predominant style for integrating new information in a manageable manner.
When we can identify our primary lead system, we can enhance our natural coping style for dealing with pain in labor. Some women suppress their natural style of coping because they have been taught relaxation and breathing techniques which do not take into account their unique manner of processing the labor experience.
Women have many different ways of dealing with pain in labor. When left to uninhibited expression, a large percentage will moan or make some use of sound during labor. These women use an auditory means of expression for dealing with their pain. Other women may squeeze a pillow or a friend's hand or even want to move around as a way of meeting the contractions. These women are kinesthetic in their coping style. Still others prefer to use internal or externalized visual images for traveling through contractions. These women use primarily a visual means of coping with pain.
Some methods of childbirth preparation inhibit vocalization or movement because these expressions do not fit the concepts of what relaxation is supposed to "look" or "sound" like. Methods which discourage sound and squeezing in favor of relaxation which renders a woman quiet and still, often inhibit the woman's natural and predominant coping style. However because of the intensity of the labor experience most women need to express and release through a contraction using auditory or kinesthetic techniques in addition to visual methods.
The following exercises will help you to understand and identify your own natural coping style, as well as increase your ability to develop your other sensory pathways for dealing with pain during contractions.