At the beginning of April the field behind my cottage was full of ewes in lamb. They were about to be moved to another field as the grass was getting very low, when one night the first one lambed. It was a freezing cold night, and when I awoke in the morning the flock was at the far end of the field where the farmer fed them every morning, and the one ewe that had lambed was at the end near my cottage right up by the hedge, far away from the rest of the flock, with little twin lambs huddled underneath her to keep warm. She had quietly separated herself from the flock during the night, and given birth at a time when sheep, being diurnal animals, are not normally active.
All mammals will naturally give birth at a time when they can be alone, unobserved, and away from their peers. It was a time and place that she felt safe. We could learn a lesson from that ewe. How many mothers travel across town in labour, to go to a strange place where they feel nervous and where they are observed by many strangers? A recipe for a difficult labour.
And there she stayed. She moved very little for several days. She didn’t go to feed with the rest of the flock. She simply stayed quietly in her own little enclave, sheltering and feeding her lambs.
The farmer also knew from experience what works best. He moved the rest of the flock to a different field where he had intended the lambing to take place, but he left the one ewe and the newborn lambs undisturbed. He knew that, if he interfered, he would disturb establishing feeding, and the ewe’s supply of milk, and the ewe might reject her lambs.
As far as giving birth is concerned, we are simply another mammal. What works for other animals works for us too, and we would do well to remember this.
Katharine Graves is the teacher at The HypnoBirthing Centre, where she runs HypnoBirthing Courses in London and Southern England for expectant couples.