By Kristen Ethier
In her book Birthing from Within, author Pam England offers a breathing technique called "Finding the Center" which I often encourage laboring mothers to use in my work as a birth doula.
The basic premise for "finding the center" is to visualize the center of the contraction or labor pain and breathe through it, facing the pain and, at the same time, shattering it with your breath. I often encourage mothers to imagine that they are taking a dive right through the center of a very cold ocean wave, allowing the wave to crash over them and then retreat with the tide. Some women like to imagine a raging tornado, swirling in the center of the storm, their breath dispersing the chaos of the tornado- the pain of their labor.
"Finding the center" works well during the transition stage of an unmedicated labor, between 7 and 10 centimeters when even our best efforts at distraction are absolutely useless. During this time, all you can do is face your pain and dive in!
When I reflect on the fertility stories of so many women and families that I am blessed to hear while at Pulling Down the Moon, it seems that this idea of finding the center applies to not only the intense pain of childbirth, but to fertility, conception and parenting.
I encourage you to remember this if you find yourself at what feels like the height of any pain, heartbreak. Find the center of your pain, dive in and, with awareness of your breath and your body, shatter it. Keep going until you come out on the other side. There is clarity and joy to be found when you get there.
England, Pam. (1998). Birthing from Within: An Extra-ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation . New Mexico: Partera Press.