Would That Be a Half Or A Full Order?

   I am the father of three, all now grown to adulthood. Their births, happily for me, came at that time when fathers were no longer banished to the waiting room, bur rather were allowed a supporting role in the birthing process. We fathers-in-waiting were given the title of “birth coach”. Although I will forever cherish having been allowed that role, I am admittedly uncertain just how critical that coach’s role may have been. In hindsight, I may have to concede that the birthing instructions, the software if you will, seem to have been largely factory installed. But I digress.

   In order for the father to qualify for that role of coach, he would have attended birthing classes with the mother. There, he would have learned to soothe the laboring mother with damp cloths on her forehead and soothing ice on her lips, soft words of love and reassurance, a calm and steadfast presence. Only later, in the delivery room, did we learn how, at times, inadequate and even unwelcome those efforts might prove.

   Among the practicums he would learn were lessons in timing. Timing is critical in birthing. The baby must be ready to be born, properly presented and descended in the birth canal. The mother must be ready for her baby’s passage, open to that – fully dilated as the midwife would say – and with the strength and courage to push her baby out. That time is called "transition", and until that moment, it is not yet time to push. And so we coaches would be instructed to help the mother wait for that moment, to hold her and tell her to "blow, blow, blow".

   Meaning no irreverence to the labor of childbirth, nor aggrandizement to the process of mediation, I see similarities. Each is a journey of distinct passage, bringing into existence something new; in the case of mediation, ideally, new understanding and agreement. And though not meaning to equate one with the other, each is born in pain

   And while the parties themselves labor, it falls to the mediator to serve as the labor coach, offering ministrations, sometimes welcome and others not. And yes, to know when the parties have said what needs to be said and have heard what needs to be heard; have acknowledged the real universe of options and interests and have had the chance to examine each in relation to the other. That they have made the journey and come to the opening with the necessary strength and courage remaining to pass through the opening. In mediation too, we call that “transition”. To know when it’s time to push. All of which brings me to a question.

   Imagine a hospital, when doing pre-labor intake for a pregnant woman, asking if she wishes to book the labor and delivery room for a half day or a full day. Ludicrous, yes? After all, who knows how long it will take for baby and mother to be ready for birth – to reach transition.

   And ask then, why is that election so readily accepted in mediation? We certainly do not know how long it might take to reach transition, yet if we imagine that we know, we will conform our conduct to that imagination, with all of the risks attendant to that imposition. To push too soon is disaster. To approach that time of transition, and then be banished to a later resumption, is abortive. Momentum had and surrendered is neither assuredly nor easily regained; nor courage easily refound; nor clarity easily returned.

   Though I understand the economic benefit to the mediator of requiring the election, I fail to see the benefit to the cause of resolution. Let the process dictate the schedule, not the other way around. If some urgency is needed to create the final push, let it be the dynamics at hand rather than the hands of the clock. When it seems too hard and too painful to push, when we look for an excuse to avoid that pain, let it not be so easy as having to vacate the delivery room.