Encouraging women through the last part of pregnancy and during early and active labour can be challenging. I realized some time ago, perhaps without this language, that it’s because linear progress is what makes sense to us. What, I’ve had a bunch of contractions and I’m not even 1 centimetre? Or, I’ve been labouring this hard and I’m only 5? But I was 4 centimetres 3 hours ago!
That’s because progress in labour isn’t linear, it’s log.
Getting from closed to 5 centimetres takes days or weeks. Getting from 5 centimetres to 10 takes hours or, if you’re lucky or a second time or more mom, minutes.
I shared this with a laboring couple a few years back, and the husband said, “So it’s the Grouse Grind.”
The Grind is a killer trail up Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver, dubbed “Nature’s Stairmaster”, and is not for the faint of heart. I haven’t seen it myself, but when the website says, “Keep in mind that there is a wide range of mountaintop trails that might better suit the average hiker,” you know this trail is NOT messing around.
So how is it like labour?
The trail is 2.9 kilometres (1.8 miles) with an elevation gain of 853 metres (2,800 feet). The base is 274 metres (900 feet) above sea level and the summit is 1,127 metres (3,700 feet). It has quarter markers, and here’s where it matches that labour curve: the first quarter seems the longest and is the least steep. The second and third quarters are very steep, and the final quarter is more steep than the first but not as much as the second and third. The average grade is 17%, the steepest grade is 56%.
What’s more? You can’t go halfway up and change your mind. It’s too narrow and too steep to safely navigate down-you get down by a tram line.
From listening to people who have done it, some of the mentality sounds the same. There you are, plodding along for what seems like forever, maybe exerting a little, and then WHAT?!? I’m just at the one quarter mark??
Then the hard part starts. At times it’s so hard you forget what you’re doing and just put one foot in front of the other. Thoughts include, “WHY am I doing this again??”, “Are we REALLY SURE I can’t just turn around and go back?”, and “OMG THIS WILL NEVER END.”
The takeaway here? Your labour is more than just a number.
Also, at the end of it all, you’re up to your eyeballs in Feelgood hormones, you’re filled with accomplishment, and you’re surrounded by beauty.