The process of labour and birth is an archetypal journey in the sense that it is an original pattern that every natural birth follows (Natural here meaning a labour that is uninterrupted and without interventions). Those natural labours follow a pattern of labour that is recognized the world over by midwives, doulas and women who have walked the path. Although every birth is as unique as the two people it involves! The medical profession recognises three stages of labour and birth, which can be summed up in thirty-one words:
In the first stage of labour the cervix opens,
in the second stage baby moves down the birth canal and is born,
the third stage ends when the placenta is born.
And within each of those three stages there are commonly used terms such as pre-labour or latent, early, active, transition, pushing and birth. They are describing words and feel adequate but somehow lacking to explain the depth of the spiritual experience, of the journey of the soul that the mother and baby are making. Stages are measured by cervical dilation, even though it is common knowledge that although the hospital ‘rule of thumb’ is 1cm dilation per hour of labour that many labours follow their own pace; with periods of slow dilation followed by rapid advancement.
Archetypes are recurring patterns of human behavior, symbolized by standard types of characters in movies and stories or typical examples of things. The origin of the word comes from ancient Greek (like the word doula!) The word archetypal was also used by the psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung who saw common patterns in the human psyche throughout the world and therefore part of the collective unconscious.
There are many factors that influence each woman and baby’s individual path to birth. I hope that by understanding the archetypal journey your own will understood some more as you follow in the footsteps of countless mothers before you.
Here is my list of the nine archetypal steps through labour and birth:
Pre-labour / Hearing the call
Early labour / Preparing for the journey
Active labour / Crossing the threshold
Transition / Reaching the summit
Rest & be thankful / Space between worlds
Bearing down / Bringing spirit home
Crowning & Birth / Welcoming
Right after birth / Communion
The placenta arrives / Integration
In my one day workshop The Birth Path I share these nine steps in depth from the physical/ psychological & spiritual perspective of the three people who are involved in the birth process: The Mother, the Baby & the Father. you can find out more here: Three hour Birth Path workshop
art credits in order:
My World by Giampaolo Ghisetti