Google Maps, GPS, Garmin...as someone who has always been missing that "internal compass" that I've heard wonderful things about, I am very grateful for their existence. I depend on them (probably way more than necessary) whenever I need to go somewhere unfamiliar. And 95% of the time, the ETA on the GPS is right on. I have no idea how it can be so accurate, but I'm sure it involves lots of technology and maybe invasions of privacy. Who knows. But I can have the confidence that if Google Maps tells me that "your route is clear and I should reach my destination at 5:00 pm", that I almost certainly will arrive at 5:00, or within a couple of minutes of that time.
There is something SO reassuring about that certainty. I can plan my day around it. I can schedule an appointment and not worry about getting lost for 20 minutes. I can tell my kids that I'll be back at a certain time.
In our modern lives, we are now accustomed to being able to schedule most things. We like to have the assurance that we know what's happening and when. How long events will last. It is likely this desire to know WHEN labor will start and how long it might last that drives the routine measuring of cervical dilation before and after labor begins. But guess what?
YOUR CERVIX IS NOT LIKE GOOGLE MAPS. Any measurement only tells you where you ARE. Not where you were, where you are going, how you'll get there, or how long it will take.
What if the cervix WAS like Google Maps? Well, a cervix at 3cm dilation with regular contractions would give baby and ETA of about 8 hours. 7 cm? Baby's ETA= 4 hours. And in reality, this mindset is common! Here's an example:
I really cannot stress this enough, because this confidence in the predictive power of the cervix is now ingrained into how we think about birth in the United States. So, what's a better illustration for the cervix? I think I've found one.
The cervix acts more like a TARDIS.
Sometimes you might feel like you are stuck in the present dilation, with no end to labor in sight...
Or maybe you are feeling like labor will never begin, even though the cervx is "ready"...
You might feel that your cervix skipped past early labor straight to the really difficult part and didn't even ask permission.
Did you know that your cervix can UN-Dilate? Yep. I've seen it happen. But it doesn't matter! Because it can dilate again faster than it did before!
Or maybe you feel that you missed labor completely and jumped straight from pregnancy to motherhood.
AND THAT'S PERFECTLY NORMAL
So please, please...don't think of your cervix like Google Maps. So much more is involved in the labor process than dilation. The cervix has to soften, your baby signals that he's ready, the uterus has to contract, baby has to rotate and descend, ligaments need to stretch, etc. Try to remember that even if you read a hundred birth stories, that yours will be unique. Gather a great, positive birth team, trust your intuition, take every contraction one at a time, and enjoy your ride on the labor TARDIS.
What do you think?
I look at birth from the perspective that our bodies are wonderfully made, and if we really believe that and work with the birth process and nourish our bodies properly, they will function optimally, most of the time!