I often hear stories of women being turned away from hospitals in “false” labour, are told that they labour has stalled, stopped or that they are not progressing.
Its a mysterious thing this false labour. What is it exactly? What message is someone trying to give a women when they send her home telling her that she is in false labour? How many of these women who experience this go on to have intervention free births? In my circle of experience, not many.
So lets look at the meaning of false:
false |fɔːls, fɒls|
1 not according with truth or fact; incorrect: he was feeding false information to his customers | the allegations were false.
• not according with rules or law: false imprisonment.
2 made to imitate something in order to deceive: the trunk had a false bottom | a false passport.
• artificial: false eyelashes.
• not sincere: a horribly false smile.
3 illusory; not actually so: sunscreens give users a false sense of security.
• [ attrib. ] used in names of plants, animals, and gems that superficially resemble the thing properly so called, e.g. false oat.
4 disloyal; unfaithful: a false lover.
If we put this together with the word labour, we have no other choice but to believe that our bodies are trying to deceive us, or do something artificial, illusionary or insincere.
How on earth can that be? Did we get it so wrong that we made our bodies into an instrument so perfectly designed, except in the process of birth? No. In the words of the great Ina May Gaskin:
“Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic”
So if our bodies are not lemons, are us women the one’s that are giving false information to caregivers? Is this false labour phenomenon something that we have created in our own mind? Perhaps we are not feeling our bodies change and move? Is the subtle dance of early birth occurring within us a figment of our imagination?
As true as it is that our bodies are not lemons, neither are our minds. I’m here to let you in on a secret, the only thing false about birth, is false labour.
In her book “The birth partner” Penny Simkin likened these early shifting inside our bodies to an Orchestra tuning up before a performance. Another way to look at it is the run around the oval before a football game. We don't refer to this as false football, its warming up, getting ready, being prepared.
Before the onset of the first stage of labour (where the cervix dilates or opens) the cervix needs to prepare, to soften, to shorten and to get into position. These internal adjustments can happen over a matter of days weeks or months. Just like the footballers warming up or the orchestra adjusting their instruments, these early movements matter. They are in no way false.
If you find yourself presenting to your place of birth, to be turned away and told you are in “false” labour, please choose to hear these words:
This is great news.
Your body is getting ready to birth your baby.
Everything is happening as it should.
You and your baby are doing great.
You are not quite at the dilating phase, but what is happening now is really important.
Get as comfortable as you can in a place where you feel secure, warm and loved, and wait for the next phase to blossom.
Trust your body and your baby to orchestrate a beautiful meeting.
Think positively about your body, it is doing something magnificent.