Birth is a bizarre out of body experience. During labour, many women only exist within their own thoughts.
I remember during my own birth I experienced my birth through thoughts, not through physical reality. I felt the fresh cold cloth on my head and thought it was the sweetest gift someone could have ever given me, but had no idea who put it there. I smelled the scent of a new person entering my birth room and thought "the scent of that perfume is going to make me throw up. Get lost! Get lost!" but had no idea who was wearing it. I felt my husband's gentle touch on my neck and when he left me to set up the birth pool, I was ready to go all hulk on him.
The thoughts that go on inside a woman's mind during labour are fascinating. She might be focused inward but she is still taking everything in around her.
So I asked some women what was going on in their head during this exact moment of birth captured below.
"I am feeling exhausted. My mind and body want to rest but just as I get comfortable another contraction started to come. I kept thinking that I was done and then a contraction would come. I didn't want to let go of my husband's hand. My thoughts would go back to my breathing, trying to keep slow rhythmic breaths. Deep breath in, slow breath out. The contraction would end and I would be reminded of the warm water surrounding me. Helping my body relax and prepare for the next tidal wave of pain. I knew I would get to the other side, with my beautiful baby in my arms. I just didn't know how much more I would have to overcome."
"In this moment I wasn't thinking. I had always envisioned labour as panic, stacked on pain, topped with mind racing urgency. It was none of those. Maybe because he knew just how to hold me, I didn't have to think about how to be strong. Maybe because seconds before and after this moment we were all smiling and laughing and I didn't have to question if I was loved. Maybe because in this moment I felt I knew exactly what to do without having done it before and I didn't have to wonder if I'd be ok. In this moment all I had to do was feel."