Your Baby is Your Team Mate
If I told you that your baby is your team mate would you believe me? Raise your hand if you just know that labor starts when your water breaks? Or raise your hand if you believe contractions start with a vengeance with no break. Or maybe you think that labor is intensely painful throughout the whole ordeal. Many people think that’s exactly how and when labor starts and how labor will be. No thanks to movies and popular TV shows, by the way!
Nod if you believe that the birthing person’s body is solely responsible for birth.
Huh? Who else would be responsible in the process? One hint: the uterine occupant. Your baby bean. It’s not all about you! (well, it is, but it isn’t). Your baby is your team mate! Yep, your baby is a team player in their pursuit to be born! This perspective can be encouraging, empowering, and even used as an affirmation in labor!
The mother and the baby have to work together.
There are various mechanisms by which the birthing person and baby work together, whether we, as a society, know it or not. It’s probably why labor is so incredibly difficult to describe to many people or even to understand ourselves, sometimes. How cool is that? Totally rad, right?
How does this happen though?
When the baby’s lungs are fully developed, anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks, their body will release a substance called surfactants into the parent’s body. Surfactants are necessary to keep the lungs inflated. Without them, we could not breathe. Premature babies often lack the necessary volume of surfactants. When the baby is ready though, their body will produce them and the molecules will disperse throughout the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby and the mother’s uterus. The pregnant body will miraculously recognize this compound. Then, the uterus will become agitated and begin to contract. Sometimes, the contractions will be small, light, and irregular if the cervix isn’t quite “favorable” and other times, the contractions will be full-force with the “textbook” pattern. Thus, labor begins.
During labor, the uterus contracts, or squeezes. At the same time, the baby will actively move downward and/or move into a more conducive position (face down). Babies usually attempt to be in a positon called occiput anterior so that way they can tuck their chin and leave the pelvis rather smoothly. They feel the uterus pushing them downwards, further into the vaginal canal. Your baby responds by using the stepping reflex they’ll will be born with that allows them to do the breast crawl. Many women can actually feel their babies subtle and not so subtle movements in labor as the twist, squirm, and step into the right position for them! Your baby is your team mate and will move until they crown and then spin to face upwards upon birth.
As baby moves further downward and puts more pressure on the cervix, the weight of their head and body, and the amniotic sac if it hasn’t ruptured, will influence you to dilate and efface further. When the baby is as low as he/she can be, right before crowning, the pressure will activate the nerves and muscles within the pelvic floor. As your baby crowns, you and he/she will work together to push-you might even feel experience the uncontrollable ejection of your baby! This is what’s called the fetal ejection reflex; a reflex that allows your baby to be born without any active pushing Don’t worry, whether you experience that overwhelming sensation or not is irrelavant because your baby will still be born!
Knowing your baby is your team mate, you can prepare yourself and your birth team with some affirmations to share with baby in the throes of labor. It also helps to know this too, because when things seem to be taking their time or are otherwise frustrating, it can be reassuring to think about the baby also being an active participant.