Preparing for labor

11 Mar

As I approach my due date, I’ve felt an unexpected absence of anxiety about labor, but have this nagging sense of urgency. Like I should be mentally preparing.  I think it may be because I don’t feel like I’ve “prepared” for labor in the way I’d imagined I would — as if studying for a test. Reading as much as I can, then quizzing myself. The more informed I am, the less room for fear.

Early on, I watched birth video after birth video (sobbing with my surging first trimester hormones as each mother is handed her child); read Birthing From Within cover to cover in a sitting; and poked all over the web in search of real labor stories. I think I’d imagined that closer to my due date, I’d re-visit all this first trimester information for one last download, but I just haven’t felt like it’s necessary. My calmness is unnerving.

I read about birth plans before I was even pregnant and had always planned to write one, but the truth is, my plan is nothing more than “just get the baby out”.  I have complete faith that my body can do it and don’t want to be overly prescriptive as far as my expectations for how it unfolds. I’d love the room to be darkened and peaceful, sure, and I plan to bring in some flameless candles, my own pillow, and some essential oils to help me relax, but I only pray for a healthy, happy baby. With pain relief or without.

That said, over the last 9 months, I’ve had plenty of time to confront my fears about labor and can sum them up fairly easily.

I’m most concerned that:

– I’ll require augmentation
– My labor will be needlessly augmented
– Augmentation will hurt the baby and my chances to labor naturally
– I may require a C-section
– A C-section will be forced on me
– I’ll regret not working with a midwife and/or doula
– I’ll regret not delivering at the Cambridge Birth Center
– I won’t be able to handle the pain

I guess in a less formalized way than I’d imagined, Brian and I have been mentally preparing ourselves. We’ve talked through these fears but have also spent time practicing pain management techniques. Without recapping the whole experience, our experiments involved taking turns holding ice cubes in our hands or against our wrists, then talking each other through the pain using techniques like distraction or visualization. We learned that I don’t appreciate humor in painful situations, although I do tend to laugh myself when I’m in pain, and that Brian’s reassurances of “You’re OK” are NOT appreciated when I’m hurting! We both had a good laugh when, 15 seconds in to the ice on the wrist and a lot of heavy, labored breathing I screamed I want the epidural!!! I’m just hoping in the moment, I’ll be able to reign that in and that Brian can support me.

Since the second trimester, I’ve relied on him for massages and accupressure to help relieve the excruciating lower back and hip pain I’ve felt since my belly really started to pop and he’s basically an expert at this point. At one of our birthing classes a few weeks ago, we actually learned that one of the hip moves I’ve been requesting since Thanksgiving actually has a name: the “double hip squeeze.” Apparently, with a little bit of a tilting motion worked into it, it can help to better align the pelvis for passage of the baby’s head. Who knew?

It was reassuring to realize how well we’re already working as a team, but I do still feel like we should have a scheduled “study” session lined up each week to make sure we’re consistently practicing so we’re prepared. Always the nerd, I suppose.

In early February, I experienced some really horrific belly pains that I blogged about here. Going through that experience may be the reason I’m so “zen” about everything. I have complete faith in myself and in Brian to support me during labor. And I think my expectations are reasonable as far as what I hope for my birth “experience”. There are going to be so many variables once labor starts that the only thing you can do is be flexible and roll with it.

Since I feel like I’m in a good place as far as my expectations, I haven’t found it very helpful when others share advice gleaned from bad birth experiences. I know they are coming from a place of wanting to spare and prepare another woman from feeling the same surprise or disappointment they felt, but I feel like my positive mindset suffers each time I hear another labor horror story.

What I have found really helpful is to just read other women’s labor stories and pull tips, inspiration, and advice from there.

Here are a few pieces of advice I’ve found particularly helpful for me to read, that helped other women though their labors:

– Confronting any fear and accepting that there was going to be a lot of pain
– Knowing that the pain will be more intense than I could imagine
– It’s called labor for a reason; it’s meant to be work. Painful work. Remembering that the pain is accomplishing something with purpose helped me get through.
– I used an image that helped me to visualize the force with which nature was working in my body. I used a heavy rushing waterfall. Something with such force that it was useless to fight against it. I told myself to just ride the water. It ended up being much less painful than I expected.
– Knowing that labor averages around 24-hours, I thought: I can survive 24-hours of pain. Then it’s over.
– Being told “You ARE doing it” each time I said I couldn’t do it anymore

So that’s where I am mentally lately. I think part of the sense of urgency I’m feeling is just needing a distraction for myself because I am SO EXCITED. I have a million other things I could (and probably should) be doing, but all I want to focus on lately is what is standing between me and my baby. I can’t believe we’re so close!

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