Why I Love Transition Labor (And You Might Too)

From Katelyn Demidow Photography
Transition labor is that often dreaded part of labor just before pushing when women experience swift and incredibly intense dilation.  This period of quick dilation doesn't usually last too long, but it will feel like an eternity.  Even a well prepared mother may ask for an epidural or decide that her natural birth class was really one heck of a bad idea.  Suddenly her sister that told her, "You don't know what you are getting into with this natural birth stuff!" is starting to sound like a very smart woman.

Transition labor.  Women fear it.  Men dread it.  Midwives watch for it.  Some people would prefer to numb it and shut it up.  Then why would anybody "love" transition labor?

Oh, but I love transition labor! YES I do.

Not when I am in the middle of it, of course.  Being in transition labor actually is excruciating.  With my first baby I was pretty cool and never noticed a hard "transition" part of labor.

With my second I was blown away by a deep and sure knowledge that I was in fact going to DIE.  Probably by being ripped in half from the inside out.  Yup.  Death seemed imminent.

With my third I just asked for a vaginal exam at some point (9 1/2 cm!!!) because if I wasn't almost there it was time to call it quits. 

And with my fourth I distinctly remember 1) weeping 2) looking in the mirror and thinking that being numb from the chest down was an incredibly delicious idea 3) wept some more and finally 4) screamed like a freight train.

So why would this girl who has (at least in her mind) denounced natural birth while experiencing transition labor actually claim to (after the fact) LOVE it?

The truth is that transition labor sucks when you are in it.  It makes you want to give up, run away, and get out of your own body.  It is hard.  There is nothing to love about it in the moment. 

But if you do it- if you make it through and manage to go "all natural" or whatever you want to call it-  that is when transition becomes something to love.

The feeling of triumph when labor is over, that triumph is there because of that hard time.  The relief of having a baby, it is a feeling of relief because the pain part is finished.  The euphoria of birth doesn't just wipe the senses clean, it floods your body and your mind with joy and love for a baby and for a job well done. 

The beauty of labor isn't in the easy parts, it lies in the difficulty that you overcame. 

That is what I love about birth.  I have a hard time understanding why everybody doesn't see the intrinsic teaching power in the manner in which women have been blessed to bring life into the world. 

Transitions in life are almost always difficult, just like the transition from first stage to second stage labor.  When you are in the middle of the trials of life, those problems are all you can see.  They cloud your vision.  They make the horizon disappear behind a sheet of grey doubt.  You don't know what lies ahead.  The only thing that seems certain is that you can't handle what is happening now. 

But when it is over you can look back.  You can see how much stronger you are because of what you overcame.  And you have more confidence...not because you tapped out or screamed mercy, but because you did it even when you thought you couldn't. 

Transition labor might hurt.  But the pain is what teaches you how strong you are.  The confidence comes from overcoming something that seemed so impossible. 

So yes, I love transition labor.  Not because it was easy, but precisely because it was harder than anything else I had ever done.  And I did it anyway. 


AmandaRuth said…
^^ YES!!! <3

The only clear thought I remember from my natural labor at home, during transition, was thought of "I dont know what I am going to do!".

I'm not sure if I could describe it as panic, but that probably the closest emotion to it.

There was NOTHING I could DO, SAY THINK, GO, MOVE - whatever, that would make the intense and painful sensation of those transition contractions 'go away'. I had to simply SURRENDER and let it pass.

Luckily, I *physically* got a break between those contractions, even if it was only a minute or two. But in those minutes in between is where I felt the panic of what 'OH MY GOD, I can't deal with another contraction like that again!'

Once I had to push - I WELCOMED those pushing contractions!! At least I no longer had to deal with transition lol.

Once it was all over - I was able to wrap my head around how much hard work I accomplished and what I never knew I was capable of until I DID IT!
AmberLou said…
I loved transition labor while it was happening with my last baby. I'd been in labor over 30 hours, and I knew I wasn't done because I wasn't having the "right" kind of pains. As soon as those transition contractions hit, I knew exactly what they meant and I was so excited to know where in labor I was!
Melissa said…
Excellent post. You are spot on. I have had ten babies naturally and I always tell women that just when they think they cannot go any farther, they're almost there.
Alainarae said…
Oh, I loved this! WIth my first labor, I was in a birthing tub when transition hit, and I remember feeling like I must have looked like a drowned cat with all my screaming and flopping around in the water! But somehow, with my next two, especially with the third, transition was nothing compared to pushing my 9 pounder out at home :) I don't even remember feeling any different during transition, just remember thinking that if I had to push more than a few times I was going to die!

So I will try and remind myself of this come February, when I welcome my 4th little one at home!
Pam said…
So true!!! I agree, as women we have been blessed with an opportunity to be so powerful in birth. It's like running a marathon, or climbing a peak- without even having to train, and all you have to do is be a woman in decent health. My first labor took 30 hrs and my 2nd took 6, but both were hard in their own ways and I would not trade those experiences for anything in the world!
Unknown said…
Thank you! This is amazing.