We try to make birth practical by measuring, overseeing, and monitoring it… when really, it’s an experience that flows seamlessly from one stage to another, taking the birthing person deep into their physiology and intuitive altered states. Whapio Diane Bartlett shares with Adriana how to better describe what the laboring person goes through, by explaining the Holistic Stages of Birth.
In this first episode of a two-part series, we start with embarking into labor, and just past what is usually considered as transition. In Part Two, we move through the Quietude phase, all the way to the birth of the baby, the magic that happens in the first moments, and the weaving of the story that goes on forever.
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What we talked about:
- Making “physiologic” the golden word for labor
- Expecting more and different from your caregivers
- Practice being comfortable in altered states
- Embrace being out of your comfort zone
- How doulas can be your anchor
- The values of slower brainwaves that heighten intuition
- Stage 1: Embarking
- Stage 2: The Veil
- Stage 3: On the Mountain
- Stage 4: The Summoning
- Stage 5: Quietude
- The Holistic Stages of Birth, The Matrona
- Michel Odent’s Womb Ecology website
- Joyous Childbirth Changes the World, by Dr. Tadashi Yoshimura
- Birth in the Squatting Position video
Related Birthful episodes:
- Straight Talk about the Effects of Electronic Fetal Monitoring on You and Your Baby
- Dealing with Birth Fears
Transformation Through the Holistic Stages of Birth (Part One)
Adriana Lozada: Hey Mighty Parent or Parent-To-Be. Welcome to Birthful! I’m Adriana Lozada and today we are starting a new series where we are going to explore what birth may feel like for you.
If youʼve checked out our first series on Models and Places of Birth, you already know that the typical media portrayal of birth, with all the drama of things going from 0 to 100 the minute your bag of waters releases? That is pretty much a lie. Birth very, very, very rarely happens like that, and in fact, it can show up in a multitude of variations, with each birth being unique— even when itʼs the same person giving birth again, like for a second birth, or a third birth, a fourth birth.
Now, as a side note, a whole labor and birth process that could fit into a 30-minute TV episode would be so intensely overwhelming, that it’s really a good thing thatʼs not how it happens.
Okay, since birth can be so unique, exploring what it may feel like for you, is kind of a tricky proposition. I mean, who knows how itʼs going to go? However, there are enough commonalities for us to be able to explore it from several different viewpoints, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do through this series.
You’re going to find that some of these viewpoints are going to overlap, some will build on each other, and some may even hold a bit of contradiction. The reason we’re going to present you with all this is so that you can have a very broad understanding of what you may feel, and then lean into your curiosity to further explore those viewpoints that most resonate with who you are and how you approach the world.
We’ve called this series Birth Beyond the Clinical Experience and to start us off, the amazing Whapio Diane Bartlett is here to walk us through her Holistic Stages of Birth, which she created in order to reframe the process of labor in a language that best describes the journey of birth.
Whapio is an independent elder midwife, and founder of The Matrona, which offers transformational programs in the realms of quantum and holistic birth, healing, and wisdom-keeping. The Matrona advocates the return of birth to the family, soul-level connections between the birthing person and their team, and an understanding of altered states of consciousness relevant to childbirth.
I do need to give you a heads-up that this is going to be a two-part episode because there was no way we could do these stages justice in just one. So today is Part One, that is going to take us from getting ready to go into labor, up until what is usually talked about as transition… and then we’re going to have our own week-long “rest and be thankful” phase, before getting to Part Two of the episode. Of course, if you’re listening to these episodes after they’ve been posted, then you can just go straight from one to the other.
You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition.
Adriana: Whapio, welcome! Itʼs so great to have you here.
Whapio: Thank you, Adriana. Same. Same. I’m happy to be here.
Adriana: Yes. Iʼm so happy we can make this happen. Why donʼt you tell us a bit about how you came up with these stages and what motivated you to do so?
Whapio: I sure would love to. Alright, so, going back, I had my first child in 1981 at home. And then I had another child at home and became a midwife back in the eighties, really, alright? And when I was a young midwife, I realized, “Hey, I am part of this beginning midwifery renaissance on the planet!” And I was so excited to be part of that. And as I went to birth for, for a number of years, I realized that even though midwives have been really very powerful in helping women reclaim the normalcy of birth. I realize that we are still using the same old, very clinical medical language to describe birth, and I said we need to change that, if we want to change the pattern of something, alright? In this case, birth, well, maybe we need to change the language. And I also felt that describing labor in the very practical ways of stages, and so on. And that itʼs perfectly wonderful and that itʼs practical, but it doesnʼt really describe what I feel most women are experiencing during their labor, and that is a transformation. So I have tried to reframe labor in the language of a “transformative journey.” And back in the nineties, all right— in the mid-nineties, I believe— I presented this to the public as a paper, okay? And I’ve had many, many people call me, email me and say, “This is it. This is what I’ve been looking for.”
And I also wanna just make one other statement: that is, that this has nothing to do really with where you have your baby, or with whom you have your baby. This is something that women told me they experienced in hospitals, they experienced with their OB, they experienced at home with their midwife, they experienced through an unassisted home birth, or something like that.
Thatʼs kind of the backstory and the history and the reason why the Holistic Stages of Labor were born, really, to change the pattern, change the language.
Adriana: And that makes total sense to me because, it’s so true that when we get obsessed on how dilated you are or how, you know, have you dilated a centimeter in an hour, all these boxes we need to check. You’re right, we’re talking on medical terms, but we’re talking on terms that are just measuring and prodding and collecting data in a process that should be more seamless. So we’re breaking it up too much, I find.
Whapio: I agree. And I like to use the words “practical,” because I believe that when we language labor with its stages, it is a very practical experience. That is what happens. I mean, if you look at the textbook, you know, the clinical textbook, labor is described as “the expulsion of the contents of the uterus.” And anyone whoʼs had a baby knows itʼs much, much more than that, alright?
And therefore, though, the language that we’re using— and the breaking it up into boxes that you’re talking about— is very much akin to “the expulsion of the products of the uterus.” It’s not really describing the deeper transformative journey that a woman goes through.
And so I appreciate the practical. But I also appreciate something much more holistic. Hence that’s what we’ve created, a holistic stages of birth.
Adriana: Right, to bring everything together, and the transformation is huge. Iʼve always said that that birth has to be an intense process because it has… you have to have a physical manifestation that reflects the immense transformation thatʼs happening inside you, that—
Whapio: Oh, right. You are. Yes. I totally agree.
Adriana: —it canʼt just be one more day. It has to, like… well, you just had a baby and then you’re done. No, it’s what’s happening inside of you is so monumental that thereʼs gotta be an outside representation of that. But in our western cultures and the way we’ve gone about birth, birth moved away from the home and moved away from midwives and into a clinical setting.
And in many ways it made a lot of things safer, of course. And we’ve benefited from many of it, but we’ve also missed and forgotten a lot of information. Because I’m sure a hundred years ago— I’m assuming, I’m trusting— that a hundred years ago or more, you know, midwives didnʼt view birth as stages in dilation, and “Wait, let me check you, to see if you’re fully dilated, to give you permission to push.”
Whapio: Right. Yes, you’re right. These are very clinical concepts of doing procedures on women. In the U.S., for instance, we came across this, you know, “midwifery renaissance,” back in, like, the seventies and eighties and so on. We had this idea that births, you know, midwifery had been lost, which is not really true. Midwifery was held in this country for years and years by the granny midwives, the Black/African American granny midwives who practiced in the South, and their last school closed in the early sixties. They were trained, these midwives, by the health department.
But itʼs interesting that they did no clinical procedures. They never touched a woman in labor. Ever. they didnʼt check her cervix, obviously, they didnʼt coach her to push vehemently, based on, you know, the dilation of her cervix. They never touched a woman. They just used what I would consider holistic and practical skills to help a woman navigate through her labor. And then after the birth, the only clinical thing they did was to cut the cord.
So you are absolutely right that labor has proceeded— from the beginning of time, I would dare say— without the need to use a lot of clinical techniques that are now the mainstay of most womenʼs births, okay? And to be perfectly honest, I donʼt see vaginal exams going away anytime soon. I donʼt see hospitals necessarily giving up electronic fetal monitoring, different things like that. But I do see that with a new language, a language of more of the heart, we can use technology with more of a heart. And thatʼs something that I would definitely like to see happen. And I would like to see a more holistic stages of birth, bring that realm to the hospitals: technology with a heart.
Adriana: I love that: the “technology with the heart.” And I know we will get to the stages, but this is just sparking so many questions in my head. How can a mom that, you know— somebody whoʼs pregnant right now, listening to this and has everything set into place and will be birthing in a hospital— and how can they bring into their birth more heart? Because that technologyʼs already there.
Whapio: Well, thatʼs a really good question, and I feel this way: Itʼs not impossible at all, even though, it… you know, even though youʼre up in the air amongst all this technology, how can you use it in a way that suits what kind of birth you want? So, I would like to say that there is a golden word that I would love for every single mom and dad and birth-goer, as it were (doula), to know, and that is the word “physiologic,” okay?
Because there’s a movement afoot in the clinical medical model to wonder what would it be like if we left women alone and didnʼt insist that they push or didnʼt need them to get in any particular position or just left them to what their own intuitive response to labor would be. If you want something like this, you want once again to use the language that the medical community knows, and that word is “physiologic.”
So now, any woman with her doc, or when she goes to the hospital, can ask for a “physiologic birth.” Most caregivers know what she means. She means a birth in which I am allowed, as the mother, to do what is just occurring to me during my labor. If I wanna get up, if I want to go in the water, if I wanna go in the bathroom, no, I donʼt wanna push. No, I donʼt really want any, you know, augmentation of labor. But you have to use this golden word “physiologic” because then the establishment (the medical establishment) knows that you know what you’re talking about, alright? And you’re much more inclined to get it.
Another thing I would say too is: ask for what you really need, and make it simple. What you really need is a physiologic labor. You can let go of a lot of, you know, “I donʼt want this,” and “I donʼt want that,” and “I donʼt want this,” and “I donʼt want that.” And, and just boil it down to: “I want a physiologic labor. And Iʼm so glad to be in this hospital and I appreciate everyone who comes in and out, and facilitates that for me.” That is, to me, the supreme birth plan: using the golden word and also undergirding everything with a sense of gratitude and humility even, for your caregivers. How does that sound?
Adriana: That sounds great. And I love it because itʼs a physiological process. It’s not a medical event, and they know that. It just happens in a medical facility most of the time— you know, 98% of the time. So, I love using a medical word to get your point of view across.
Whapio: Yes. And along with that comes using, then, technology appropriately. Using it physiologically. Using it when itʼs needed. Ultimately using it with a heart.
Adriana: Absolutely. So letʼs walk through these stages, the holistic stages, yeah?
Whapio: Well, I do have to say that practically everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned sitting at the feet of women giving birth, okay? And I preface that holistic stages of birth by kind of giving a shout out to these women and families. Many of them in my early years were having large families. So naturally, I’m a young midwife. I’ve had two births. I’m gonna be sitting with a woman whoʼs having her seventh baby, or what am I gonna teach her? Nothing. I’m gonna sit at her feet, and I’m gonna watch how women give birth.
So I’m happy to say that I feel like this knowledge comes right from the physiology, if you will. It comes from the many wonderful people that I’ve worked with who, because they seem to have a handle on birth, these women knew how to give birth. They’ve done it more than I did.
And so, I would just basically kind of watch them. I would be willing to kind of sit in the background. They asked me to do that. They would be like in, in ways, not using these words, but in ways like, “Weʼve got it, okay?” And so as I watched women give birth, as I sat at their feet, I began to see things that I kind of sure that a lot of other people werenʼt seeing. Even some of the midwives of my generation. And what I saw was things that I then coalesced into different stages of labor.
So I start out with the word Embarking, because I feel like it’s a journey. And I also feel like everyone embarks in a very different way. Some people nest and they clean the house and they reupholster the furniture and they clean all the cupboards and curtains. And other folks just kind of, I donʼt know, they grab a toothbrush and a blanket and off they go. It’s very interesting watching how people embark on a journey that they are definitely coming back from in a very transformed manner. And I would have to say that one of the things that I saw that thereʼs no mention of in our clinical stages of labor, would be something that I would call The Veil.
And I’ve used some language that may sound metaphorical, but itʼs really very… itʼs really not, okay? And I wanna explain this concept to you about The Veil. I find that thereʼs this stage between, like, early labor, you know, “pre-labor” Embarking, early labor. Mom is kind of in the foothills. And then thereʼs this place where the journey gets real. Where itʼs like, “Okay, Iʼm ready to take on the mountain. I’m out of the foothills.” And what I see is that thereʼs a moment there, or a time there, and I call it The Veil. And I find that that is something that is remarkable. It’s something to remark on. It’s something for a caregiver to notice that a woman has transited it… transited from her early labor into what we would call if we used the whole (the practical stages), her “active labor.”
And I used to… I noticed that when I would go into someoneʼs home, I gave up vaginal exams really quickly. Many women were like, “We donʼt need that.” You know? And so I thought, “Well, I wonder…” you know, sometimes I would come in and I would be like, “I wonder where she is in her labor?” And then the most amazing thing happened! I was given— Iʼm just gonna call it “an aura”— and what I mean is I was given a very specific way to know where she was in her labor, whether she was still in early labor, or whether she had transited into a more active phase and what her cervix was doing.
And what would happen would be like, I would see, I would see, like, little flecks of gold in the air. And it, at first it unnerved me because I’m not really the kind of person that sees those things. But then I began to… What I realized is that when I would see something in the air like that, the air, the very air in a womanʼs home or hospital room had changed. And I knew something had opened. I knew she had crossed over something.
So I called this The Veil. And I began to ask other caregivers, “Do you have any, like, sign or aura, that a woman has, you know, is clearly now in her more active phases of labor?” I call it On the Mountain. And midwives and doulas would say to me things like, “Oh yes! I mean, when I go in the room, I can tell that a woman is in active labor because of the smell in the room.” And I would say, “What kind of smell?” And they would say, “It’s like the tang in the air. You can just smell it!” And I’d be like, “Fascinating!”
And then another woman said, “Oh, I donʼt see gold. Everything has this reddish cast to me. And I know sheʼs crossed over. Sheʼs in active labor.” And then a woman said, “Well, you know what, it’s not anything I smell or see… it’s a buzzing sound or something happens. There’s a sound in the air. It’s like a low buzzing sound. And I know that we are in a different realm.” And one woman said, “Oh, it’s the air quality. To me, it’s like when I come in the room, I can feel the air has changed. Itʼs like itʼs, like, more dense. I can almost feel it.”
So I’m speaking to very intelligent women who have been to birth, who are confirming that there are other ways of understanding and knowing the journey of birth, that help a caregiver, if you will, understand what particular point a woman is on her journey. So I love The Veil. I use that as the point at which a woman crosses over from her Embarking stages into the journey, alright? The steep journey, as it were, of labor and being On the Mountain.
Adriana: And even if youʼre not seeing things in the room, or hearing a buzzing, or you can… I find you can also just look at the person, and you can see they’re in a different place because they’re not chatty and asking if you can and, you know, if her partner remembered to bring up the bag…
Adriana: You know, sheʼs in it. She… her sounds change. Her… If you ask her something, she goes, “I donʼt know.” And when “Hey, I donʼt know” stage starts like, okay, great! You keep on not knowing. You go not knowing.
Whapio: Absolutely. And I mean, itʼs almost silly to feel like we need some kind of signpost to let us know where a woman is at, in the sense that theyʼre always there. Itʼs just a matter of aligning with a woman, alright? And aligning with where she is in this process that gives you all the information that you need, you know?
So I see that women will cross over, and for some women thatʼs a very dramatic moment. Even itʼs like, okay saying, “Okay, bring it. I can do this. Bring it.” And then I see women, sometimes I call it On the Mountain or Between the Worlds, where I see exactly what youʼve mentioned— that a woman goes into a state of being where she becomes much, much less chatty and she becomes much more deep. And I feel that itʼs very difficult to really understand where a woman goes in labor, without a certain articulation of what I call “brainwave pattern.”
I know we’ve done a lot on the hormonal aspects of pregnancy and birth, but in the holistic stages of birth, I introduced the whole concept of the neurological perspective, if you will, of brainwave patterns and altered states of consciousness. And, I feel that for us not to understand that there are identifiable, altered states of consciousness that women go into, is to sort of miss something about a labor and not be really aligned with it.
So I always teach labor and birth and pregnancy— the whole childbearing continuum really, if you breastfeed or all of that— is not generally taking place in ordinary consciousness. Itʼs taking place in various other levels of consciousness that are determined by what happens to your brainwaves.
And when we go into altered states of consciousness— which we do all the time, I mean, if you are sleeping, you are in an altered state of consciousness, you’re not dead, but you’re not in ordinary reality— but pregnant women have this ability, this mastery about them to be in other states of consciousness with their brainwaves slowing down and still be lucid, alright? And not be asleep. And this is pretty amazing because when your brain waves slow down, and we do name them, we call them Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta states. When your brain waves slow down, what happens is that you get the opportunity to process the information that you receive.
In ordinary reality, it’s just coming in too fast. But in these altered states of consciousness, you can extract the content and the meaning of the information that comes to you. And this is what women are doing in labor. They’re dropping down into their more intuitive, more instinctual, more perceptive states, alright? And they’re navigating their labor from these places rather than from what we would consider ordinary thinking reality. And if you can imagine… Well, I mean, one of the values of being in different states of consciousness, well, clearly you expand your perspective!
What that means is that you have more information and it has more content and more and more meaning. So it’s odd to me to see a woman in an expanded state of perspective, being managed by someone in ordinary reality. There is a whole disconnect right there. See, I believe that caregivers should be very comfortable and conversant with altered states where your brain waves slow down naturally, physiologically, and be able to navigate a womanʼs labor with her in those places.
And what you will see is that in those places, women have very instinctual responses to the unfolding of labor. We’re all capable of instinctual responses, and what youʼll see is that labor, birth itself, is an instinctual process. And as it unfolds, women really do know what to do and how to do it if they are able and facilitated by their caregivers to allow those altered, expanded perspectives to come forth.
Most women today being, I will say, being managed in a very, ordinary reality state, are very… wanna be very civilized. They want to be very, like, on it. They wanna know whatʼs going on. But actually all of that unhooks when you are in your instinctual place, and I just… Itʼs just my opinion that when you are coming from an instinctual and fulfilled perspective, you are much safer, really, than you are being managed by someone whoʼs coming from a totally different perspective, alright? I think this is so important for us to learn.
Adriana: Yeah, because with the vaginal checks and with the monitoring and all that, what weʼre trying to do is understand whatʼs going on, right? As much as we can with the tools that we have, with medicine that we have, because thereʼs “no other way for us to know” otherwise. So we just wanna make sure everythingʼs all right.
Whapio: And you know, some of the best nurses and docs and caregivers and midwives are people who instinctively know, “Oh, sheʼs fine.” Or, “No, we shouldnʼt disturb her right now.” Or, “No, sheʼll be okay.” Or, “No, give her another hour.” Do you see what I mean? Our caregivers who also go into that aligned instinctive, kind of deeper slow-your-brainwaves-down state make, I think, some of the best caregivers, because they are in alignment with what a mom is doing.
Now, we donʼt articulate this in our culture. We donʼt say “Caregivers should be able to go into altered states of consciousness,” because first of all, we are scared of altered states of consciousness. Really, we associate them with people being out of control. Yet, that is the truth. They are out of control of the ordinary mind. They’re not out of control. But I feel like thereʼs a longstanding fear of people not being in control, if you will. And I get that. I do. When someone is not in ordinary reality, very often the things that you are doing in ordinary reality donʼt mean anything to them and have no place in whatʼs happening here. And would just as soon go in the bathroom and lock the door. So not to be annoyed by those things anymore.
Adriana: And I think what, you know, what you’re talking about… I mean, different people have been studying this from different angles and bringing together, sort of calling it with different words, you know, we speak about Laborland. Itʼs the same thing. It’s an altered state of consciousness that you’re just calling it with a different word. Or you have, you know, Michel Odent talking about going into your “primal brain” and shutting off your neocortex and going into the primal brain because thatʼs the part of the brain where the hormones are released and where also, you know, the emotions live and, meditation also gives you those deeper states such as the Alpha and Theta and Delta.
Adriana: Thereʼs a lot of support to this, from lots of different angles. But I think what I wanna talk a little bit about right now is back to your saying about how we want to control things. I find we… Right now, we have such powers of control of so many things in our lives. We can go to the store and get the red shirt with the bow, with the red polka dots, not the blue, but the red polka dots on the left shoulder. We can find that, you know, itʼs that level of immense control that we have in our day-to-day lives. And the fact that we donʼt really… we havenʼt experienced labor, so itʼs a scary process that we really donʼt wanna let go. And itʼs so tough because itʼs a process that you have to get through one way or another, but the way you get through it is by letting go. So letʼs talk a bit, a little bit about that anxiety and fear that people have going into labor of the process that they’re so unfamiliar with. What can you say to them, to try to help through this process?
Whapio: Well, I have always told women and, and students and anyone else who asks me, that transformation is very valuable. We want to evolve. Ultimately, I think it is a need, a deep need in us, to evolve. And we will through transformation. And hereʼs the catch: Most transformation happens outside your comfort zone. So think about that most transformation— whether itʼs birth or some other epiphany that you have had or some other amazing right of passage that youʼve gone through that has brought transformation— itʼs usually happening outside (at the edge of, at the very least, and then outside) your comfort zone, okay?
I think if we embrace this understanding, And realize it happens for everybody. Everybodyʼs outside their comfort zone, for the most part, when weʼre giving birth, alright? And that can be a very safe place for you because you come there all the time. You practice all the time going outside your comfort zone. When I tell women this, itʼs like, “Oh, okay, I can make an alliance with that. I realize that itʼs going outside my comfort zone, and I realize that that makes sense to me, that transformation happens there.” So that’s the first thing, making an alliance with where youʼre going and knowing that itʼs totally okay to go there, alright?
I think a lot of the fear comes in, truly, when a woman knows that sheʼs going outside of her comfort zone, and doesnʼt trust the people on the other side. Another thing that I feel like really enhances losing your anxieties is trusting your caregiver. And I just have to say that, I think for many, many of the women that I have seen over the years, their most trusted caregiver is their doula. Their doula is their anchor. Their doula gets this part of it, okay?
Their doula is not necessarily trying to compare them to a standard. I mean, God knows I love midwives and I love docs. I… you know, I’m very grateful for anyone who is considerate and conscious and wants to make things better for women. But I also realize that doulas bring in what women really, really care about, and that is the psychological and emotional effects of this journey that theyʼre taking.
And what I see is that over the years now, midwives and docs have taken care of the physical aspects. Many midwives, of course, have an emotional and psychological relationship, but Iʼm also feeling that it’s the doula— it’s the doula that a woman looks to to really be the trusted companion.
And so Iʼm calling doulas to also really know— know that you are a womanʼs anchor. Be comfortable with altered states and be someone that she can trust. And I think that goes a long way to allay the fears that a woman has. Knowing that sheʼs going to go outside of her comfort zone, knowing that she has a trusted individual whoʼs got her back, and that she can look at any time for reassurance.
I also feel that the fears that we go in, the fears of being out of control: give yourself to your pregnancy. We have this idea that pregnant women are, like, “space-y.” We call it “pregnant mind,” or, like, you know, comedians make, you know, make jokes out of kind of like, “Oh, and my wife is pregnant, so you know what that means? We donʼt have a reasonable thought in the house.” That kind of thing. Thereʼs a reason for that. Thatʼs really true, alright? And not in the way that though a woman isnʼt reasonable. Itʼs more like “You are right— sheʼs not in ordinary reality.” She is practicing. She is learning mastery over these nine months, okay? To be able to let go, alright? Just to let go.
And people like Odent— Michel Odent, whom I really value his work— he got it when he said, with pregnancy, we, you know, in the hospital that he worked at, he got rid of the exam rooms. There was only one, and you only went to an exam two or three times maybe during your pregnancy.
What did he do? He bought a piano and he hired a rocking grandma. He put out a buffet of good foods. He gave a 20-minute lecture, and then everybody danced. Why? Because it takes you outta the thinking mind. You enjoy your pregnancy. You allow these other states of being to be real for you in pregnancy, so that when you go in labor, you’ll dance, okay?
I feel like a lot of the testing and the… you know, hereʼs what I feel. I feel like there are so many caregivers who would gladly spend an hour with you doing testing, when honestly that hour would be better spent taking a walk, having a snack, having a cup of tea, chatting, okay? I feel like, as caregivers, you know, I feel like what women need to do is to demand or expect more, maybe different, more and different of their caregivers. And I know that right now in the world, much of caregiving that happens to the pregnant woman is basically caregiver-directed. But I’d like to tell women that “You can direct your care.” And the more that we do, the more that women become self-directed, the more caregivers will listen, alright?
And okay, there’ll be a few at first and then more, and then more. And finally, you know, the hundredth monkey, you’ll have women all over wanting to take their power and wanting to direct their care. Now, maybe not in my lifetime, and I know that you’re asking me like, “What do we do now, alright?” So I just feel that, you know, have a doula, have a trusted doula. Hear birth stories of women whoʼve had wonderful experiences— women who have transformed.
I really feel that these, or the things that we do to allay fears, are generally not the things that we can analyze, alright? Oftentimes we cannot analyze our fears away. So what do we do? Instead of being… you know, instead of keeping those fears in the thinking mind, take them to the deeper states. Because in your deeper states of Theta and Delta, you can know itʼs not about thinking. It’s not even about feeling. It’s about knowing. And you can know that this journey will open untold worlds to you. You can know that your baby will bring you so much happiness. You can know that youʼre gonna have a hard labor, but that you will make it through it and youʼll have a doula, alright? Or your caregiver will be someone that you love and trust. So those are a few things that I feel like we can do now.
Adriana: Yeah. Those are all fantastic. I of course love the doula part, being a doula, but I can relate to that trust, to the… to, yeah, we take care of the emotional, because we donʼt have to do anything medical. That is not our job. Our job is specifically the emotional and the comfort, yeah.
Whapio: And for the most part, you can tell your doula anything. It doesnʼt go on the chart anywhere. It doesnʼt go on her record. You see what I mean? Your doula is your confidant, and I think thatʼs what pregnant women need more than testing.
Adriana: And it doesnʼt have to be about, you know, whether your feet are swollen. Itʼs rarely whether your feet are swollen, but itʼs more, “Iʼm having this issue with my partner. Iʼm feeling this way, and now this happened…” and they just wanna need a good cry.
Whapio: Totally. I so agree with you. Yes. Thank you.
Adriana: Yes. No, thank you. So, and, okay, letʼs get back to the holistic stages. We were On the Mountain. Sorry to… like, big detour there, but I thought it was important!
Whapio: Oh good. Me too. Okay, so then I see something else happen. I guess in modern parlance we call it “transition.” You know, when a woman gets very close to the top of the mountain, or very close to her cervix actually being completely pulled up into the upper uterine segment, opening the way for a baby, and thereʼs this moment of truth. And I call this place The Summoning.
And I call this place The Summoning because I have watched women get to this place, and knowing that thereʼs nothing that I can really do for them. You know, I mean, I can be here, I can be a presence with them. I can have their back, but I canʼt change the nature of their contractions, okay? But what I can do is witness them. And I do.
And what I have seen from many of the early women that I worked with, was something really surprising for me because, you know, as a young midwife, I felt like, “Well, we need to support women. We need to help them up the mountain.” You know, when itʼs really tough, when they say, “I canʼt do this anymore!” Iʼm… you know, then we have to do even more for them. And what I realized is “Hmm, not necessarily at all.”
The best thing that I can do for someone is witness them and allow them to have what I call their Summoning. I see women in this place, where they feel that they have no… nothing left, no reserves left, and they canʼt do it. I see them do this thing that I call “make an act of will.” And I see them gather together every single molecule of who they are— physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychically, mentally, socially— every bit of them. I see them. They just gather it together into this really solid core of who they are, and they make an act of will. And they go to full dilation, they go through their contractions, they go to the top of the mountain. And I have come to value this time in a womanʼs labor. Itʼs usually pretty short. But it is so important because we all need to learn how to make an act of will.
An act of will is not an affirmation. Itʼs not an intention. It is an act of will. And a mother will make acts of will on behalf of her children her whole life long. And I feel like this is where we get imprinted to do this. Some people have in their first labor, before their labor, they have never made an act of will before, alright? But when you make an act of will, is it gonna happen? Yes, it is. And I see women climb that mountain, open their cervixes and be summoned! They summon themselves. Some of the people I would work for would tell me “God summoned them now to the top of the hill or to carry through.”
Itʼs a beautiful thing and it is something that I have learned not to interfere with. Because I would never wanna step in and distract a woman from making an act of will, because she will do that. She will. And then when she makes that act of will? Oh my God, Adriana, something happens that I wish all women could know.
A woman gets to, metaphorically speaking, the top of the mountain. Physically speaking, her cervix and lower uterine segment have been all pulled up. And when she gets to the top of the mountain, right, what happens? It stops. She is in the eye of the storm.
We donʼt have a stage of labor called The Quietude. I call it the Quiescence or The Quietude happens. Some very astute doulas and nurses are noticing that there is a point in the labor after transition when the contractions seem to slow down.
And when I was a young midwife, I was taught to not let that happen. To tell her “Come on now, you’re stalling out. Come on. We need to augment your labor. Come on now. Donʼt lose it. Come on! Letʼs push.” And I realized, no, no, no, no, no. There is another stage of labor happening right here! I call it The Quiescence. The quiet. There is about 20-30 minutes, on average, where the labor seems to quiet down. Itʼs… oh, it would look like it’s stalled. It would look like itʼs stopping. It is physiology.
Adriana: Youʼre going to love this, because during my training we did get taught about this and they call it the “rest and be thankful” phase. And it’s that— it’s a “rest and be thankful,” ’cause you’re getting a break from all this intensity.
Whapio: Sometimes itʼs quick. Sometimes a woman will be looking for her break and itʼs only five minutes… and sometimes it lasts an hour or even two. And it is so important because she is now completely open; sheʼll never be this open again unless she has other children, alright? And this is a very deep, deep altered state.
I feel that a woman often goes into a trance. Sheʼll go… Sheʼll nap. Sheʼll trance. Sheʼll just kick back. And I believe that something is being downloaded into this woman, alright? Yes, it’s a rest… But, look, if you climbed a hill, okay— and it took every ounce of everything, it took an act of will to get to the top— and you got to the top, you wouldnʼt just run right back down the other side, and you wouldnʼt just rest up either! You would look at the view.
Adriana: And just like in birth, you would stop to look at the view in this “rest and be thankful” phase. We are going to stop and give you a week to think about all that Whapio said and look at the view and analyze it and let it sink in. And then next week, we’re going to come back and pick up right where we left off.
I also wanted to mention that the “rest and be thankful” phase that I learned about during my doula training was originally coined by Sheila Kitzinger, and that it was Pam England who originally coined the phrase Laborland.
I hope you enjoyed this first part of the episode with Whapio Diane Bartlett, who is an independent elder midwife thatʼs been involved in the realm of birth since the mid-eighties. Whapio founded and directs The Matrona programs, where she teaches about quantum midwifery and the holistic witnessing of birth to return it to the family. You can find Whapio on Instagram @whapio_and_thematrona or learn more at thematrona.com and Matrona is spelled M-A-T-R-O-N-A, and means “midwife” in Spanish.
If you wanna connect with us you can do so on Instagram @birthfulpodcast.
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You can find the in-depth show notes and transcript of this episode at birthful.com, where you can also learn more about my birth and postpartum preparation classes and download your free postpartum preparation plan.
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Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte.
Thank you so very much for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to follow us on Goodpods, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and just anywhere you listen, and then come back for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “Transformation Through the Holistic Stages of Birth (Part One).” Birthful, Birthful. March 8, 2023. Birthful.com.
Whapio has been an independent midwife for more than three decades. In 2001, when she retired from active midwifery, she founded The Matrona, with its quantum midwifery and holistic doula program designed to educate birthworkers and provide a balance of the practical and intuitive aspects of birth. She also teaches homeopathy and is affiliated with the Hahnemann Academy of North America (HANA). Additionally, she has studied homeopathy and Qigong with Robin Murphy, ND for over twenty years. Plus she has explored healing modalities via The Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Beijing Massage Hospital in China. She is a community mediator and counselor for family concerns. She enjoys speaking and writing on the topics of quantum midwifery and returning birth to the family. Whapio developed and shared the Holistic Stages of Birth with families and caregivers in order to reframe the process of labor in language that best describes the transformative journey of birth.
Find out more on The Matrona website and follow the conversation on Facebook and Instagram @whapio_and_thematrona
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