When you step back from the mystical healing available from the laying on of hands,what you see is no more and no less than physical touch. One person touching the skin of another person.
Touch is powerful. It can stimulate nerves and circulation. It can relax muscles and calm fear. It can also stimulate production of oxytocin, a hormone necessary for labor.
There is another, less spiritual but more descriptive, term for laying on of hands — massage. You see, the strength of the touch and the position of the touch, the depth of the touch and the rhythm of the touch can all be varied. So laying on of hands can be done with constant pressure on the mother’s lower back, or can be a rhythmic kneading of her shoulders. Laying on of hands may look like acupressure, with a thumb pressing on a specific point to relieve tension, or it may look like gentle comforting as sweat is wiped off a forehead.
The difference, perhaps, between getting a massage and laying on of hands would be in the purpose and intention. Certainly you are not “laying on hands” every time to hold your child’s hand. Yet sometimes you hold your child’s hand with the intention of communicating more with that touch. Some may say “sending good vibes” or “trying to touch her soul” or “letting him know I love him.” And sometimes, when you are really paying attention, you can feel the difference between the touch intended to communicate more and the touch that is everyday contact.
If you are a person who enjoys massage, utilizing the laying on of hands during labor may be as easy as using the normal labor massage movements with healing intention or prayer. If you do not enjoy massage, you may be able to incorporate the healing aspects of touch through a comforting hand to hold.