What is Transition in Childbirth? | Ottawa Videographer

I walked back and forth, up and down the hallway of my house.  It was raining.  I would walk between contractions then pause at the window and roll out the pressure in my hips by moving them in circles while I focused on the raindrops rolling down my front window.  It was intense, but manageable.

We had called the midwife - she was on her way.  I knew my friend was there taking photos, but I didn't notice her anymore - I would have moments when I knew she was there, but that was it.  I don't remember her taking any photos.

I don't remember exactly when I new I was heading into transition, perhaps it was the nausea, or the tears that were moving down my cheeks through each contraction - not due to "pain" more due to the intensity of the experience.  I was having a baby.  My son was coming.

With my daughter, I was at Montfort.  I was 42 weeks along and she was finally making her way into the world. I looked at my doula and said "I'm going to be sick." And from head to toe, within a second, my husband was soaked.  "I'm sorry.  But HEY?! This must be transition!".

This is birth. This is transition.

Ottawa Doulas Explain Transition:

Jennifer Tuthill of Wholehearted Doula Services in Ottawa explains transition: Transition is the part right before the pushing phase. It can be really intense and is the shortest part of labour. It can feel emotionally and physically intense, women can shake or sometime vomit and there can be an intense feeling of pressure because baby moving into their birthing position. It's a time to be strong (emotionally, mentality and physically) and to focus. Baby will be arriving soon.

Ashley Kyle - Doula shared: I know a client is in transition when strong feelings of self-doubt start creeping in. It's during this time when I will often have a labouring mama looking me right in the eyes and say "I can't do this...!" or "I'm scared!” Transition tests their mettle, and it usually means they are on the cusp of meeting their baby. As a doula, I am always filled with pride watching and helping a woman through transition; the euphoria they feel that comes after is palpable, and well, you can't beat that. Transition is powerful, it's raw, and it's beautiful.

Woman labouring in birth pool during home birth in Ottawa with midwives and doula.

My Experience of Transition

Thank you to Julia for sharing her experience in her own words. Her words are so raw and beautiful.

The thing is, you don't necessarily know that you are in transition. Those who are experienced around you may be sure, but you yourself may question the end is near until after you are over that hump. That was me.

I felt so many things at the same time, more pain than in my previous labour due to my son Avery being posterior, defeat that I once again thought my body was ready to push when I wasn't yet fully dilated, a flood of fear that I wouldn't be able to do it, complete exhaustion from labouring through the night. I recall those emotions being overwhelming and wanting to escape them somehow.

Yet my team held me together. I literally felt surrounded, in front by my husband Grant, and behind by my doula Amie. I recall at one point someone urging me to just look at Grant, to make eye contact, and it took every ounce of power in me to escape my inner turmoil of fear and inescapable back pain due to my son's position, to look at him in the eyes and let him help me ride it through. In that moment I surrendered. I couldn't believe that the video captured me opening my eyes then. I forever have the joy of witnessing a turning point.

I then eventually felt signs of change, signs of progress, and my mind started to catch up with my body, "ok, it's happening with or without 'me'", this 'me' of course being the mind part of me that doubted the body part, the 'mind' part that even doubted whether the mind itself could handle coming along for the ride. But that mind of mine caught up, and my body likely smiled a little, "yay she believes in me again!"

I know that some might think "why would you want to re-live such a difficult moment of your life" and it's hard to describe how much seeing footage like this can help with birth story processing but the best analogy would be this; my hard memory of that time is like a wrinkled sheet left in the basket too long after being machine dried: kind of jagged, uncomfortable, just doesn't sit well (this is all of course still fairly fresh for my birth story processing), but in watching the clip, it is not only as if the sheet was instead line dried on a breezy sunny summer day (freshens the memory), but then each time I watch and continue to process, it's as if the sheet is then lovingly ironed, creases and folds and wrinkles removed, making it more comfortable and prepared with love. Cheesy I know, and I'm not sure anyone irons their sheets anymore, but it's the idea that the memory isn't altered, it's the same old sheet, just more comfortable.

All this to say that seeing the clips of what was so intense internally, is so healing. Watching it from an outside view seems like a simple version of what happened, simple in such a beautiful manner. It could never carry all that I felt and thought on the inside, rather it offers me a view of how well I was held, that I was ok, and offers me a glimpse of the narrative I was able to convey on the outside. I am able to pair those moments with what I felt on the inside and it slowly and carefully softens the edges of what may have only been difficult memories otherwise. It smoothes it over. I will be forever grateful for Kim's work at my son's birth.

Kim of Breathe In Photography worked with the parents to create this beautiful, and intensely raw video of just what it is to move through transition to birth. The strength, the surrender, it is all so palpable at this time. My heart swells watching this video, knowing this remarkable birthing woman, knowing her beauty and her strength. This is birth, folks! It’s moving, it’s beautiful, it’s raw, it’s hard, it’s normal, and it transforms everyone in it’s presence.
— Amie Scharfe O'Neill ~ National Capital Doulas
Mom and Dad smiling and celebrating the arrival of their newborn baby with midwives and doula in Ottawa.