Labor for a Lifetime – Part 1 of 2

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, September 13th, 2012

There were 100 little babies laying three and four to a cardboard box, strapped in the belly of a gutted cargo jet. It was 1975, Saigon was falling to the Communists, and I was accidentally caught up in the Vietnam Orphan Airlift.

A stressful situation. If you don’t have coping skills, you learn them fast!

As our plane took off, I was haunted with image of three days before when I had stood on the runway and watched as first planeload of orphans crashed after takeoff, killing half of the adults and children board. I clutched our newly adopted baby boy to my chest. Would this plane be blown out of the sky too? I trembled so hard I could barely hold our son. To cope, I started slow, deep easy breathing…the kind I’d learned from our Lamaze classes several years before. The same breathing I used to bring our daughters into our family, I was using to bring our son.

Since then, my many years as a childbirth educator, convinced me that those child-birthing techniques are not just labor skills, but life skills. I taught couples laboring tools: breathing, relaxation, positive thinking and visualization. These are imperative for coping with challenges of labor, and are equally applicable in coping with “labors” in our lives.


Like other activities done with at rhythm, rhythmic breathing releases endorphins, our bodies own pain medication. We have it to tap every day, but forget to do activities that release it!

I taught laboring moms that when they are afraid, they have increased adrenalin production which inhibits the release of oxytocin, resulting in poorer contractions and a longer labor. Rhythmic breathing decreases stress, thereby decreasing adrenalin production, facilitating a better shorter labor. If stress and adrenalin do that to labor, what does it do to our everyday lives?

We need to breathe like laboring moms–in 2,3,4 and out 2,3,4. As we breathe in, think the words “I am” and as we breathe out think, “relaxed.” It works. When I was en route to Vietnam, the national officers of our organization met me at the airport with $10,000 to smuggle into Vietnam!  So with the most expensive padded bra in world history, I headed through customs. An angry looking Vietnamese guard with a gun, barked at me, and I feared he’d take one look at my chest and know this was not an act of God! Trembling with fright, I knew I’d give myself away. So I started that deep breathing– in, $1,000, $2,000, $3000, out $4000…!


It’s said relaxation is 90% of a good labor, and that applies to life too. Keeping our bodies relaxed keeps our emotions under control. I told laboring moms, we are only as relaxed as our hands and our face. We can’t relax if we’re making a fist…or clenching our teeth… or the steering wheel.

We schedule so many activities into our days, yet seldom schedule relaxation. Still, we must allocate at least fifteen minutes every day for relaxation, meditation, or prayer.

Ideally, we should set up a “relaxation” place at home, where we can listen to guided relaxation exercises or soothing music while doing our slow, rhythmic breathing. Involving all five senses is best, perhaps by lighting a scented candle or gliding in a rocker. Once we’ve mastered this relaxation technique, we can utilize it in the break room, the ballpark, or the bedside.

As a nurse speaker, I specialize in nurse recruitment, nurse retention, and work life balance and can help improve morale, retention and recruitment. CONTACT ME TODAY to talk about my powerful keynotes, workshops and programs. I look forward to helping your organization achieve its goals.

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