Okay, the title of this post is quite a stretch, but I like it. At times labor did feel kinda zen…even though it was the most painful thing ever. I am writing this post in response to a request from an email that asked “How were you able to make it to 8 cm dilated at home?”
First of all, I’ve got to say, thank you for making me feel like a tough girl 🙂
Second, if you have no clue what this is about, my son’s birth story has the deets.
Third, short answer: by dealing with bad menstrual cramps all my life.
Well, honestly, I do truly believe that having terrible cramps all my life helped me get further along in the dilation process during my labor. I’ve grown used to dealing with the pain each month until whatever painkiller I popped started to kick in.
(sidebar: this one time I was on a video shoot and my period started and I couldn’t get away to get any advil, nobody had any, no PAs could leave for it, and I had to act and be cutesy while I was dying. It was one of the hardest days. I would shoot my bit, then double over in pain…repeat..repeat. UGH!)
Now, I don’t know what contractions feel like to other women but for me it was an extremely painful rigid menstrual cramp that gripped from right under my breasts to right under my butt. A torso full of squeezing, cramping, vice-like waves of pain so hard it takes your breath and makes your teeth chatter. It felt like I was breaking open and kind of being pulled and pushed from the inside at the same time. It’s really hard to describe so I hope that made sense.
How did I get through them? Well, here’s what worked for me:
Going Limp – Removing all tension from my body during a pointed exhale and letting my body go 100% limp and floppy was the major factor in handling the pain. I feel like it allowed the contractions to do their work in the most efficient way possible because it didn’t have any of my unnecessary tension to contend with. I would get loosey goosey head to toe and even in my jaw where I store a lot of tension. (having John remind me to relax my mouth was a big help too…during the times when I didn’t mind his voice) This wasn’t a slow, body part by body part process like you would do during a meditation, this was an all at once, one second and you’re done type of going limp, I musta looked like a narcoleptic or something.
Breath Work – Breathing helped a LOT. An extreme difference in tolerance was noticed when I was focused on my breathing or when I was even the slightest bit distracted. I would breath out kinda forcefully during the peaks of the pain. And I would try to time my breaths a little, slow and steady, extremely slow and steady. So slow you get the feeling like you’re trying to fall asleep between contractions. It’s my natural reaction to hold my breath during anxious times or pain (getting a needle or something) so focusing on my breath took conscious effort, but was so worth it. I practiced deep breathing and calming breath exercises while pregnant, but what I practiced and what I ended up using were different. My body knew what breathing tactics I needed on the big day.
Vision Work – I’m a very visual person so I knew that visualization was going to have to be a big part of my pain management process. Unfortunately I didn’t know what I would visualize. My standard visualization when meditating or trying to get rid of a migraine is to imagine glowing white healing light in my head, or picturing that light enter me and fill me up till I’m glowing. (does that make sense?) I figured I’d go with that, and I did at first, but changing it to waves after a passing word from John really worked better for me. The water images and wave visualizations seemed so much more temporary which kinda tricked me into feeling like “OK, this pain is just temporary…wash it away waves….”
Movement – There is a lot to be said for the fetal position. Laying on my side curled up until one of the waves hit was how I spent majority of the time laboring in bed at home. I’d also lay on one side using the long body pillow under one leg. Standing and rocking helped also, but not in a relaxed way, my rocking looked like I was gonna jump into some double dutch ropes. Laboring in the car was the worst for me, movement wise. The inconsistency of the bumps messed with my attempts at rocking away the pain. This is when a breathing/movement combo really helped me tolerate the pain.
Listening to My Body – This was key and is incorporated in all of the above items. Listening to my body helped me change things up when they needed to be. Moving from fetal position to side lying. Or changing my breathing from slow and low to forceful exhales. Rocking, swaying, shifting my weight, bending over at the waist and letting myself hang… All of it came naturally from observing what’s best rightatthisverymoment instead of relying on what I read in books, or what I was told to do, or what I’ve seen like that “hee hee hoo” mess you see on TV.
This is what worked for me, and I know that if I had an experienced doula to help me along the way and remind me of more pain relieving techniques when I was in the grips of pain, I would’ve been able to hold out longer, or even go fully natural. I just know it. (It would’ve been moot anyway since Roey had some problems getting in the right spot/position)
Preparing before labor started was super important. It helped me know what to expect, feel normal about the pain, and remember to try to relax and that I’ll get through it no matter what.
Here’s what I used and loved:
- Hypnobabies – Don’t expect a pain free delivery from this. Expect help with relaxation and getting your head together for what you’re going to go through
- Bradley Method Books – The BEST books and IMO probably the best natural birthing method. It’s realistic, relaxed, and so judgement-free.
I hope this helps!
What did you do to handle the pain of labor on your own?