As of January 1st I am 39 week pregnant with #3 (I say this because I know this post will not appear on that exact date). I found myself thinking over my last two deliveries wondering how I did it. I am not super human, although after having my first unmediated birth I felt like I was. I am fortunate. I had no complications, my labor progressed well with little to no stall time, and my pushing time was significantly shorter than most.
I am genetically made to birth babies. Hurray my “child rearing hips” came in handy; but it can’t all come down to genetics. I sat down and through out how I would help a laboring mommy through.
I chose to decline the epidural after watching the procedure done in an informational video from Babycenter.com (video here). I found the side effects (loss of mobility, numb lower body, tingling, inability to push well) were less appealing than the pain/discomfort of labor. As a result I knew I needed to learn as much as I could about labor and delivery, relaxation types, methods for pain management, and anything else I could learn between now and baby time.
Here is my list of suggestions and tips for a mommy-to-be.
*Even if you don’t plan a “medication/intervention free birth”*
For some odd reason mother are more inclined to just “go with the flow” of labor or trust the doctor. This is all well and good but a doctor can’t tell you how to handle a contraction or even what a contractions will feel like. You need to take charge of your body and learn everything you can about how labor starts, the stages of labor, and what happens to baby during all of it. Know your rights, your options, and your preferences. If i hadn’t don’t my own research I know my births would have been drastically different and most likely less ideal for me.
Always remember Labor is not Pain, it is Progress
If you go into labor thinking you are “in pain” then your body will think something is wrong. What you need to realize is labor pains are not like other pains. When you break something pain is how your body tells you something is wrong Labor is the exact opposite, pain tells you something wonderful is about to happen.
When I sang Soprano my voice teacher always told me to keep my neck soft. If I couldn’t move my head around while hitting a high note I was to stiff and would likely go sharp. I took that lesson into labor with me. My body is already contracting, I will not help it out by tensing up. I intentionally moved my neck around and open and closed my hands during contractions to keep relaxed and in control.
Don’t Be Shy to Make Some Noise
Its called vocalizing and can be no more than a sigh all the way to a yell. Remember tip #2 though, screaming is harsh and tense, moaning on the other hand is a soft sound and comes from the gut rather than the throat.
My first was light labor and I only needed to vocalize during contractions, until pushing (but nobody pushed quietly). My second, on the other hand, was intense labor from the first contraction. I learned to moan without fear, loudly enough for a nurse in the hall to come and check on me. I was in transition so it was forgivable (more on that later).
Find Your “Happy Place”
Over the next few months really pay attention to how you deal with pain. Think about what you do when you stub your toe. I learned quickly that I always closed my eyes and breathed slowly. I took this into labor with me and used it not stop. I closed my eyes and breathed into the contraction relaxing and moving my body (ie hands, neck, hips). I played music, lowered the lights, and created a safe place with the hubs. I also LOVED swaying my hips, but that may not be your thing.
Don’t Stay in the Pain.
Contractions last, on average, 50 seconds and come every 8-5 minutes for the majority of labor. That means for those 5-8 minutes between contractions you are not in agony. Breath, smile, laugh, talk, drink, rest, DO SOMETHING other than think about labor. With both pregnancies the intake nurse told me I wasn’t “acting in pain enough to be admitted”; both were very surprised to find me at 6 cms.
Ask for Intermittent Fetal Checks rather than Constant Monitoring.
Decline constant monitoring, use the word “refuse” if you must. If you are constantly monitored there are tight uncomfortable bands sticking into your belly and you lose the ability to move freely and comfortably, in some cases you are restricted to your back in bed while the monitors are on. Ask for limited monitoring, 15 minutes every hour for example or request a doppler over the straps.
Transition SUCKS, but this also ROCKS!
There will come a time when you think “Dear God I can NOT do this anymore.” At that moment you are officially in transition and you are almost done. Contractions will become beyond intense (in Adelyn’s case they were down right painful). You may feel pressure from the baby moving into the pushing position which feels like a huge poop! The contractions will also start coming more often, usually every 1-3 minutes and lasting 60-90 seconds long. It sucks, there is no way to make it fun but it is the last stretch! NEVER forget that!
Push How You Want To
You do NOT have to push on your back in bed if you do not want to. Push squatting, or on all fours, whatever feels right.
Wait for the Urge to Push
If you don’t know what that means then you aren’t there yet. It will feel like a HUGE poop (sorry sweet baby but its true). Your body will literally do everything for you and it will decrease pushing time (yeah!)
Non-Linear Labor Types:
– Stay at home as long as you are comfortable.
– Use the equipment they provide: Shower, Birthing Ball, Squatting bar, Hot tub
– Take pictures!
– Eat RIGHT before going to Labor and Delivery
[even with new medical evidence that laboring mother need and benefit from eating during labor most hospitals still do not let you eat during labor and it can make you hungry]
– Teach Support Partner counter pressure for back labor
– Tour the Hospital prior to Labor