Threshold Moments

“Labor is all about finding your threshold and learning you can go beyond it.” –Rose St. John

Threshold Stone (Newgrange, Ireland)

I think one of the powerful lessons of birth is about one’s own immense capacity. Each of my births has had a “threshold” moment and, indeed, I have some notes taken for a possible future article about being, “At the Threshold: Pivotal Moments in Birth.” With my first son my threshold moment occurred during pushing when I realized I had to just do it, I had to push him out even though it was scaring me a lot to do it. With my second son, the threshold was when I realized that I was actually in labor—I had a distinct sense of literally crossing a threshold. A sense of: “there is no turning back now. I’m going back into that house and I’m having a baby.” With my third son, it was when I got up in the night feeling contractions and went into the kitchen. There, I talked to the baby, telling him it was time to let go of each other—”Let’s do this. Let’s get it done by 3:00″ (and we did). With my last baby, the threshold came when I was talking to myself prior to pushing—fretting that I was too “in my head” and not letting go enough. After this moment, I did let go and she was born very rapidly after that.

It looks like I had two “pushing” thresholds and two “bring it on—labor is beginning” thresholds. The pushing thresholds occurred during my longer labors and the bring it on moments during my short labors.

Did you experience a threshold moment in birth? I’d love to hear about it!

The concept of threshold moments in birth is closely tied to the idea of birth as a liminal experience and also reminds me of Sarah’s book, Birth on the Labyrinth Path, which is approaching its one year anniversary.

Related posts about liminality and birth:

Just over the threshold! (last baby–caught her myself!)

Wednesday Wisdom: Liminal

Invisible Nets

Where are the women who know?

Birth Pause…

Birth Matters!

This post is adapted from an older post:

Threshold Moments

About Priestess Molly

Molly is a priestess, writer, birth educator, and activist who lives with her husband and children in the midwest. She is a breastfeeding counselor, a professor of human services, and doctoral student in women’s spirituality at Ocean Seminary College. Molly and her husband co-create goddess jewelry and birth art at Brigid’s Grove: and she blogs about theapoetics, ecopsychology, and the Goddess at

  • Christine Kraemer

    This was one of the first topics covered in my childbirth class, interestingly.

    • Sarah Whedon

      Oh, cool. Did your instructor have the same perspective that Molly describes here?

      • Christine Kraemer

        That there is almost always a threshold moment? Yes, although she focused on the potentially terrifying one that can come at transition and helped us think through emotional strategies for handling it.

  • Sarah Whedon

    Molly, thanks for the book shout-out!

  • lishevita

    Oh, yes! The liminal moment I remember most clearly with my second born was when I realized how painful crowning actually was. My first ended in a c-section after 4 hours of pushing, so I didn’t know what it felt like when the baby’s head actually came through. I told the doctor to forget it, I couldn’t do this, let’s just do another c-section. I’m surprised that she didn’t laugh her head off at that point. Instead she said, “You’re not gonna rip, now just do this!” in a really strong and firm way, and then I knew she was right and I just had to go for it.

    The third child bith also had a liminal moment during pushing. I was at 10 cm and was being told when to push at each contraction, and I just couldn’t do it. It just didn’t feel right, but the doctor and nurses kept yelling at me to do it like they were telling me to. Then suddenly, there was this *moment* when I knew it was time and that one push was so easy, almost effortless, and not only did I push the baby out in one go after lots of seemingly useless pushes before, but I also managed to kick my poor sister-in-law (wonderful doula that she was) right across the room. We still laugh about that.

    Now when I help other women as a doula/birthing partner, I’ve learned from that third birth to encourage the mother to listen to her body and let that internal power just take over when its ready rather than listening to lots of yelling from other people who think that they need to tell you how to have a baby.