So it makes sense that, in those moments that I comfort, hold, and observe a mother in labor, I would notice her hands. What are they doing; what are they expressing. More often than not, I see mothers do this: At some point in their labor, they open their palms wide and unfold their fingers outward. Almost as a signal that they are softening, opening, and allowing their baby to come forth. With palms outstretched, they welcome their baby's arrival. They center themselves. They calm the contraction. They ease their way through. They reach out into the next world and across the line between labor and birth. They beckon their child to come. Sometimes they will close their eyes, cock their head to one side, and tenderly place their hand out; almost as if they are saying, "Gather. Hold on. The end is near." I see this as an involuntary phenomenon at nearly every birth I attend. It is often at this time that I place my own grounding hand on her shoulder or forehead and encourage her to continue to release, relax, and open herself up completely to this experience.
The hands I see will soon be holding their new baby, providing comfort and calm. These hands will wipe tears, change diapers, cradle, hold, and protect. They will likely be a large part of their child's own memories. What a true honor to see these mothers use their hands to help bring about new life.