Birth is certainly physical, but it is not only physical. It is spiritual, too: the mind and body must be in alignment. Having grown up in a Jewish home, my spirituality is grounded in Hebrew liturgy and prayer. When I was in labor, I spent a lot of time rocking in a rocking chair. The movement kept me centered, much like shuckling helps some Jews maintain kavanah, or intention, in prayer. But despite my knowledge of Hebrew prayers, I did not find myself saying them while in labor.
During my pregnancies, I practiced yoga. Yoga is a physical practice that has the added benefit, for many people, of calming the mind. It's perfect for labor, because it brings body and mind together. I took to heart the idea that vocalizing during labor could help the process move along. During every contraction of my labor with Bella, I took a deep breath and released a long "om", repeating until the contraction ended. You can imagine how that made me look: I was already the crazy lady with the doula in a small suburban hospital. Now I was om'ing, over and over, as I rocked in my chair. I was not acting like a normal person! But what I was doing was not only normal, but necessary. I was in a heightened and altered state of consciousness, using effective tools to calm my mind and body during a challenging and unique experience.
Women who have positive births find a spiritual place that gets them through. The means are infinite: reciting psalms, chanting in Sanskrit, visualizing an opening flower, breathing rhythmically, or in the case of a woman interviewed in Birth Story, "making out" with her husband.
Spirituality is very personal. What affects my spirit and soul will not necessarily affect yours. If you had a spiritual experience in labor, I'd love to hear about it.