The Power of Silence

by Lynn M. Griesemer

Blood, sweat, tears of joy and pain, saliva, mucous, vomit, urine, bowel movements. Almost every bodily release occurs during labor, resulting in the final adrenaline-packed moment of the birth release. Add to this scenario the emotions of love, anticipation, anxiety and stress and you have a physically and emotionally intense event that can be best understood and appreciated only in silence.

As a woman nears stage two of labor - the pushing phase - she is usually experiencing pain or at least massive pressure of the baby moving out into the world. In many instances, she does not want to be bothered with a lot of noise, conversation or demands. The same is true in those few magical minutes right after the birth. Yet most deliveries occur in brightly lighted rooms, filled with people scurrying about their business, making mundane conversation. The baby is treated as an object to be examined rather than a person to be immediately loved.

Silence allows the body, brain and soul to replenish itself as it tries to recover from an altered state of consciousness. Silence, which is much easier to capture at home than in the hospital, allows fathers to contemplate their contribution and importance during birth and as a parent. Home allows you to transcend reality, while unfamiliar and anxiety-provoking people and places invade your silent space. Recovery time following the birth event varies for each person. Five minutes, twenty minutes, or a few hours of quiet time is critical for making the transition from pregnancy to parenthood, from a couple to a family. Any distractions or separations during this sensitive period can affect the early days as a new family unit, and jeopardize the chance for a successful rite of passage.

Experts have agreed that if left to nature, many births would occur in the early morning hours, when most people are asleep. This quiet time of the day is nature's way of providing silence for birth. Many babies are conveniently born during normal business hours. Some women make appointments for inductions or C-sections. Aidan Macfarlane (author of The Psychology of Childbirth) points to a study of 601,222 spontaneous deliveries and noticed that there was a peak between 3:00 and 4:00 A. M., the time when a woman is likely to be in a peaceful emotional state, in quiet, comfortable surroundings. The onset of labor often begins during this time period.

Birth requires patience and trust. Patience and trust enter the lives of those who are open to it. Laboring women need time and space for concentration, which is best done in the absence of noise.

It was very liberating for me to give birth at home with only my husband. I have always known the importance of silence, but only recently figured out how to ensure silence at birth. At home I did not have to exert effort to achieve silence, but entering an altered state of consciousness during my hospital births required a lot of mental work. The only silence I had was based on my ability to retreat within myself.

Whether we give birth in the hospital or at home, we must actively pursue silence so that we can concentrate on and recover from the intensity of birth. If we can clear our minds and incorporate more silence into daily living, perhaps we can approach our lives with more meaning and intensity.

(Lynn M. Griesemer coordinated the 1st National Husband/Wife Homebirth Conference in April 98 and is the author of Unassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love)

copyright Ó Terra Publishing, 1998