1. It will hurt*. Last time, I was under the mistaken impression (thanks to Hypnobirthing) that as long as I relaxed, I would have a comfortable, easy birth. This time I knew it would hurt, and prepared myself for it. It hurts, but then it's over, and it doesn't hurt anymore. In fact, I have a really hard time trying to remember what it felt like even now, just two weeks later. (When I was in the thick of it this time, I remembered, "oh yeah! this is what it felt like... why did I do this again?")
*If you are one of those few, amazing women who doesn't experience pain in childbirth, I am so happy for you! If only we could all have such luck!
2. Don't just tell yourself, "I'll deal with it when I get there. How bad could it be?" Prepare yourself with pain management techniques and different positions. Have lots of tricks up your sleeve in case what you had planned isn't working for you. I compiled a good list of things I could try, and typed them up so I wouldn't have to remember them all. I went over the list with Josh beforehand and brought a copy of it to the hospital.
· Please remind me: To eat and drink, use restroom often, relax my jaw, and that a BABY will be here soon!
Early labor: (fruit, pasta, toast, crackers)
Walking, swaying, slow dance
Music and slow breathing
Up through transition: (popsicles, ice chips, water, juice)
Relaxation hypno tracks
On birth ball: resting with head on pillows on bed, or leaning over birth ball while standing or kneeling
Straddle a chair
Heating pad, hot water washcloths, cold pack
Tennis ball on my back
Counterpressure (hips or knees)
Supported squat (against chair or wall or person) or supported stand
Squat with bar on bed
Supported while on birthing stool
Against pillows with legs spreadJosh and I got some good ideas from Husband-Coached Childbirth by Dr. Bradley, but the most helpful book I found was this one. It has a couple of really thorough chapters on pain management, comfort techniques, and labor positions:
3. Use your husband (if possible). One of the greatest helps for me during labor was the counterpressure that Josh put on my back during each contraction. Not only did the pressure on my lower back help the contractions feel more manageable, but it was also a physical manifestation of Josh's love and support. He was there for me. I wasn't alone.
Josh also took on himself the responsibility of keeping me from feeling anxious, and of making me laugh. He found some Jack Handey quotes online and read them to me during a period of early labor when I was feeling discouraged. He also reminded me about things I had said I wanted (for example, he asked the nurse to install the squat bar on the bed, and then kept asking me if I wanted to use it. I finally said, "NO!" but hey, he tried). He did his best to help me just to enjoy the whole experience.
4. Remember that there's a baby coming! When it hurts so bad you can't take it anymore, that means you're SO close to meeting that baby! I remember with Bennett when he finally came out, I thought, "oh, there's a baby?" and was a little surprised. I had kind of lost track of what I was even there for. This time, I was constantly telling myself that there was a baby coming soon, and when he finally arrived, I fell madly in love with him.
Some other things I did:
- I regularly did squats in the shower for the last two months of my pregnancy, and squatted while doing household activities as much as possible. Some people believe that deep squats before birth help the labor go faster. I had originally hoped to squat while pushing, but didn't end up wanting to when the time came.
-I regularly practiced deep breathing exercises. During labor I ended up doing more of a 4 count inhale, 4 count exhale, rather than a longer pattern.
-I practiced relaxing while listening to music. I was hoping to do a lot of my laboring in the jacuzzi tub, so I also practiced relaxing in the bath.
6. Things I'm glad I brought to the hospital:
- I changed into a black nightgown before going to the hospital. It was knee-length and stretchy and very comfortable, and even worked well for nursing after giving birth.
-My own birth ball. The hospital had one for me, but the size was way too big. I ended up sitting on my birth ball and leaning onto pillows stacked on the bed for a good part of my contractions, and I was so glad I had brought it.
-My iPhone. I listened to relaxing music during the difficult parts of labor. It was also nice to have the phone camera on hand afterward.
-A hair tie. I pulled back my hair while laboring in the shower so it wouldn't be all crazy over my face.
-An extra pillow. A nice, thick fluffy one. It also came in handy afterward when we spent the night and Josh was able to use it on his less-than-comfortable-pullout bed in the hospital. We put a blue pillowcase on it so we would know it was ours.
-My flip-flops. I had read that you should bring some comfy slippers with you, but man was I glad that I had brought some washable footwear!
-Myself, before things got too intense. With Bennett I arrived at the hospital at the point when the contractions were becoming really difficult to get through, and so I was being asked questions ("what was the date of your last menstrual period?") and checked in and moved around while the pain was becoming unmanageable. No wonder I couldn't relax! This time, I got there in enough time to be comfortable and settled in for the hard part.
7. You have a say in any interventions. Sure, the nurse, midwife, or doctor knows much more about the medical side of things, but only you know how you are feeling. It's your body, your baby, and you have a choice. If you have educated yourself beforehand, you will know what your options are. (For example, they convinced me to put in a heplock, but I convinced them to take it out before the labor got too intense and I was so glad I did. Can you imagine laboring in the shower while not getting your hand wet?)
8. You can do it! Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Your body was created for this. You are a woman, you are strong, and you can do it.