“I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire, the ring of fire” —-Johnny Cash
Ah, the dreaded “ring of fire.” Pregnant women shudder at the mere thought of the commonly described moment as the baby’s head is crowning. Couldn’t we paint a more loving picture of the moment directly before a mother meets the child she has been growing in her belly for 9 months (let’s face it, 10)? Yes, this moment can be intense.
But it can also be your baby’s gift to you. I’m a big fan of perineal massage in the final weeks of pregnancy for several reasons. A muscle deserves the chance to be stretched prior to the big “event”. I wouldn’t dream of stretching my hamstrings for the very first time at mile 22 of the marathon. I would expose them to a stretch and train them to be flexible in the weeks leading up to the big day.
Likewise, the pelvic floor deserves the same opportunity to experience lengthening and stretching. Do you know how women describe the feeling of self-perineal massage? Burning, ripping, tearing. PLEASE KEEP READING! These sensations give way to total numbness and relaxation after 1 or 2 minutes. These are the same sensations you feel when you stretch your hamstrings…..it just seems less scary because the hamstrings are a big, bulky muscle group.
Do you know how women describe the “ring of fire” during crowning……burning, ripping, tearing. So, if you can experience these sensations during self perineal massage and make it to the other side of relaxation and numbness, do you see how this might lend itself to carryover in a labor situation?
If you are able to live in the space of intensity that is a baby’s head crowning (versus the more natural inclination to rush through this stage or avoid it altogether by sucking the baby back up) you will allow your perineal muscles to do their thing, of gently unfolding over the baby’s head like the petals of the rose gently opening outwards.