Skip to Content

Intense Birth Pain and the Gate of Great Doubt

For most laboring women there comes a point in their experience when all sensations become so overwhelming, the break between contractions is GONE and you just can’t pull it together anymore.

Intense Birth Pain

She feels completely out of control, panicky, and looks for a way out.

Women doubt their ability to continue, ask birth attendants for relief, and tell their loved ones that they can’t do it anymore.

Women may weep, feel shaky, have hot/cold sweats, and vomit.

This is normal. This is called transition.

gateShe is Passing Through the Gate of Great Doubt.

Notice how I wrote passes through the Gate of Great Doubt. It feels like an eternity and that her burden will never be lifted, but she gets through it. She keeps going. She surrenders to the rawness of what she feels and realizes SHE is the one who can get through this, moment by moment. Nobody else.

This is an incredibly hard place to be in physically and emotionally for mom AND dad. Who wants to see their loved ones in birth pain? Most guys would just love to save their woman from this intensity, but they cannot. All they can do is support her as she passes through.

He and other birth companions may offer her encouragement by telling her she IS doing it, hold her body throughout contractions, remind her the baby is coming soon, move to different positions, remind her to stay present and take it one contraction at a time, what she is feeling is normal and lead her through breathing techniques.

A Rite of Passage

The transformative nature and power of birth is when she passes through the Gate of Great Doubt and gives birth to her baby. It seemed completely and totally impossible, BUT SHE DID IT! She found that strength and pressed on.

She took it one breath at a time, one contraction at a time. She realized she had to keep going, and that surrendering and continuing would be the only way out.

This process is amazing and humbling to experience as a mother and to watch as a doula. When I think of all the women I have served,  as they passed through their gates, my eyes get blurry and my heart bursts.

They were so strong.

And they found that strength in themselves to do it – it’s truly inspiring. Add to that the miracle of a new baby and I become a puddle.

Sigh. This is why I do what I do. 🙂

So, tell me. Have you been there? What was the Gate of Great Doubt like for you? What worked for you to pass through it? I’d love to hear your stories.




Wednesday 8th of September 2010

My gate came when I was 8-9cm. It felt as if the contractions were continuous crashing waves over my head and I could not catch my breath. Everyone kept saying you are doing so good and I kept saying, no, no I am not. And my doula heard what I was saying and came into the bathroom and put her hand on my head and said in her very calm voice- just relax and breathe, you are almost there, just when you think you cannot go any further you are almost there. And so I did. It was one of my favorite labor memories. Great post! Thanks!


Wednesday 8th of September 2010

Thanks for posting this. This is why I feel like I need someone like you, Lindsey, on "my team" when I have my baby in a few short months. Glad you will be there with hubby & I to help us! :-)


Wednesday 8th of September 2010

Again, a lovely post. My doubt occurred during my "ring of fire" moment with Nora... I told Jeff I didn't think I could do this anymore... Layla and Jeff reassured me. I was pushing. There was a little, beautiful, head in sight. I could reach down and feel her. That is what got my through my gate. I love this post... sharing!!