Labor is hard work (hence the name), so I asked our Mamas, “What was the one thing that helped you the most during labor and delivery?” You’ll see that there are some common themes, so hopefully these suggestions will be helpful to other soon-to-be-Mamas too!
“The second time I was pregnant, I did not feel the need to go back through Lamaze classes again. I did some additional reading on natural childbirth and read about using your mind along with breathing to reduce contraction pains. The visualization/mantra I decided to use was to think of my cervix as a flower opening up with each contraction. When I woke up at 4:30 a.m. with contractions, I put my technique into practice. I welcomed each contraction with the thought that my cervix was opening up and getting ready. I labored this way until I arrived at the hospital at 5:00 p.m., already in transition, and I delivered my daughter just 50 minutes after I got there. I think really the key word is that I welcomed each contraction and did not dread them or tense up with the anticipation of the pain. I relaxed and visualized softening and opening as best I could. I actually found myself looking forward to each contraction, knowing that it was bringing me closer to meeting my baby. Transition and delivery were still tough of course, but laboring at home remains one of my favorite memories of my pregnancy.”—Kelli
“My sister in law told me, ‘Don’t fight the contractions, don’t be afraid of them.’ I think it really helped me to mentally embrace them as a good thing instead of tensing and resisting them.”—Lela
Fearing the contractions causing our muscles to tense up and actually creates a more painful experience–called the Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle, conveniently enough!–so if we relax and embrace the contractions, they literally feel less painful to us. Pretty cool! For more information on this theory plus a ton of empowering birth stories that will give you serious birthing confidence, Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth is an amazing resource.
“I had a scheduled C-section because Jacob was breech, and probably the best thing I was told came from the anesthesiologist. I was balancing in a gaping robe on a cold table, trying to ‘arch my back like a Halloween cat’ so he could put in my epidural (this is was neither easy nor pretty, by the way), and I started to panic a little bit. I said, ‘I think I’m going to start freaking out.’ And he looked at me and just said with such authority, ‘No. You’re not,’ like I didn’t even have a choice. Well then. So I got a grip, arched my back, and on we went.”—Jordan
“Reflecting on my two very different labors and deliveries, I can’t help but snort-laugh. The eldest was politely ushered into the world via induction and a well-timed epidural, in a foreign country no less! The second (and soon to be middle) came in a rush – 4.5 hours start to finish – in the traditional American OB way. This third child is another gamble and another method, as I plan on a natural birth with a midwife. Can there be any connecting theme in these crazy different births? Surprisingly, yes! The ability to let go of plans and embrace flexibility has been key both times in very different ways. I’m not against planning – I love a good plan! You should have seen my first birth plan! But the ability to release your plans, whatever they may be, to the unique and unknowable experience of each child’s birth goes a long way to secure your peace of mind and ability to cope with any curveballs thrown your way during labor and delivery. It’s stressful enough without fixating on details now out of your control. Lulu was not supposed to be induced. Buddy was born so fast I barely had time for an epidural before pushing. And Baby Girl could come at any moment…while we are in the middle of selling our house and planning a move! So I daily remind myself that each child comes when they come, at the right time, in the right way. A healthy birth is the goal – how much control I have over the details and process is icing on the cake.”—Caitlin
Doulas, women who are trained to assist in childbirth, have been proven by countless studies to be an amazing resource during labor. Women who give birth with the help of a doula have fewer epidurals, fewer interventions, fewer C-sections, shorter labors, and report more positive birth experiences overall than women who give birth without assistance.
“There were many things that were helpful during labor (such as my doula’s presence, my husband’s strength, and my own preparation) but two things really stand out. My midwife’s complete confidence in my ability to naturally birth my baby made me really believe that I could do it—she never seemed concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do it, so I didn’t worry either. She literally sat back and said, ‘You know what to do. I’ll be here when you’re ready.’ This was so empowering as a first-time mom! The other thing (which really got me through the wild ride of the transition phase and the oh-my-god-my-butt-is-actually-going-to-explode feelings of pushing) was telling myself ‘You are not going to die.’ I tried to remember all of these beautiful, positive mantras about opening and relaxing, but in the nitty gritty, all I could do was tell myself that I wasn’t going to die from this. Childbirth is a normal, natural process that my body was made to do, and reminding myself of that was incredibly helpful in the midst of labor.”—Jessie
“Knowing my doula was there to help get me whatever I needed to make the process go smoothly!”–Kayla
How about you? What did you do that was most helpful during labor? Let us know in the Comments!