40 Weeks

Slow and Low

“The cattle are lowing” is a line from a Christmas carol that you are probably hearing a lot now in December.  Cows have it right.  Apparently, they make noises at a lower frequency when their calves are near them.  What a great model the lowly bovine is for us humans! 

I have been in on births where there are high-pitched screams.  These are typically not productive.  They are signs of stress, fear, panic and meltdowns in a labouring mom.  Sometimes the fight or flight responses are overwhelming and moms just freak out.  I remember one labour that was slow-to-start for a number of days.  Mom was exhausted yet keyed up at the same time.  She had been back and forth to hospital multiple times, only to be discharged for not being in active labour.  (“Active labour” typically being when a cervix is dilated past 3-4 cm and mom can’t walk or talk through contractions).

This led to her being over-anxious with wide mood swings.  She had an ideal in her mind of what she thought things would look and feel like in labour, and it just wasn’t happening.  I was called to her house and found she had completely “lost it”.  I had to do some quick, yet calm, strong coaching to help her get into a place where she could cope.  As it was, there was one more trip to hospital and home again until she was admitted and finally had her baby.

During active labour, and especially during transition, when contractions are coming thick and fast and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by them, I encourage moms to breathe slowly and make low tones.  Often, I will breathe and moan with them.  That way they have a partnering model and don’t feel so conspicuous, and feel supported.  Breathing slowly and ‘lowly’ from the diaphragm is better for breath overall, and breathing is essential for the baby’s health! The animals have it right:  maintain low tones.


Perhaps the best meditation for this post is the words of “Away in the Manger”, the children’s Christmas song.  In case you haven’t heard it for a while, here are the lyrics.  Go ahead and sing it during labour, then over your newborn as a lullaby. (The only line I have a problem with is “no crying he makes”….. I think Jesus wailed just like any other baby at birth!)

Away in a manger
No crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus
Lay down his sweet head
The stars in the sky
Look down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing
The poor baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying he makes
I love thee Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle
‘Til morning is nigh

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Traditional

Doula Tip:

Don’t hold your breath, rather, use your breath.  Breathe from your belly, not your throat.  Relaxing your jaw and dropping your shoulders will help to drop your pelvic floor and make more room for baby.  It will also make more room for deep breaths, life-giving air.  Mooing and moaning are great – make cow noises.  Here is a link to get the sound of the real thing!


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