Labor and birth —
Labor is serious business! It’s hard, it’s exhausting and it usually goes on for hours if not days, and then there’s the pain! Yet, the way TV portrays a woman giving birth is a joke – but not a funny one. TV and some media make labor and birth look stupid simple: her water breaks and out pops a baby but not until she thrashes around foolishly and tries to choke the nearest person. In TV, the laboring woman is silly, has no intuition, is bitchy, and she always looks like she just wants to get it all over with. IT – – – the birth of her beautiful baby.
Well, that’s TV and they make an awful mess out of one of the most significant and beautiful events in a woman’s life.
So let’s set the record straight. First of all, in real life, labor is damn hard work. Hard like running a marathon hard. Like digging your own pool hard. Another thing, when the contractions get going good and regular, the pressure is intense and the contractions are exhausting and unlike a marathon, you can’t just quit. And something you really need to know but nobody talks about, is that epidurals don’t always work. So now that you heard the truth of it, if you don’t want to look foolish like the TV version, you need to prepare yourself, physically and mentally .
A good first step is to understand how pain generally works in the body. This is any kind of pain, from tooth pain to labor pain. Pain and stress work similarly: as pain increases, your heart rate and blood pressure rise, breathing becomes fast and shallow, adrenaline is released and your muscles tighten.
As you can imagine, when your body is working hard to open your cervix, tightening adrenaline-fueled muscles would be counter-productive.
The NUMBER ONE thing
You can do during labor, is get your mind out of your body’s way. Seriously! Relax, and be still. Let your body work.
But you know what happens,… You’re going along in early labor thinking “this is great,… I can handle this,… what’s all the fuss about?” And then the first good contraction sneaks in, and your thoughts switch to “woah, where did that come from?” And, then BAM!
A really powerful contraction hits and you think, “Oh my God!” As your contractions continue to get stronger, you start to question your ability to handle the rest of your labor.
Your mind starts running away from you and the next thing you know, you’re battling FEAR and PAIN together. Not a good combination, right?
Your breathing starts to get shallow and fast. You feel the pain getting stronger and adrenaline kicking in and then suddenly, you’re in trouble.
WAIT!! Your labor doesn’t have to go this way!
This is when training and a good coach will help you relax to break the FEAR / PAIN cycle. I say training and a good coach because relaxing is easier said than done. So, the sooner you start practicing the better.
I recommend you set aside time each day to practice relaxing. If it helps, consider this a practice of meditation for labor.
Here are some simple steps to get your practice going:
Find a quiet place and a quiet time — Relaxing starts with removing distractions once you get better at quieting your mind, you can do this anywhere. For now, find yourself in a quiet place and a relaxed, comfortable postion. Work up to being able to do this walking down your hallway.
Close your eyes — It is quite natural to want to close your eyes when you’re in pain so go with it. It works! Closing your eyes helps your brain focus in on what it needs to do to keep your body relaxed and your level of comfort optimal.
Focus on your breath— Don’t try to change it. Let it be what it is. Simply pay attention to your breath coming in, and going out. You’ll notice the slight pause at the end, then followed by another breath. If it feels better to make your breaths longer and deeper, then go for it. The point is to stay tuned in to your breath – all the way in, pause, all the way out, pause. As your breath leaves your body, let your body sink. Sink. Mentally send a message to your body to relax your muscles and sink. Do this for two or three breaths. If you have a partner to time it, find out how many breath cycles you need to span 1 minute to 90 seconds. That’s the length of time for most good contractions during active labor.
Next, move on to notice your body — Mentally scan your body between contractions from head to toe, looking for tension. As you find a tense spot, tell that body part to relax… Breathe. On the exhale – Relax. Sink. Melt. Let go. Sink into the bed or floor or your partner’s arms. Relaxing more and more. Scan the rest of your body sending the message to Relax as you go.
Note to Partner: you can help by whispering to her, slowly, steadily while she breathes through each contraction: Relax. Let your shoulders melt. Your Neck. Your Back. Relax your Hips. Your Hands. Feet. Your Jaw. Relax your Brow. Breathe. Sink. Just melt….. Relax. Develop a slow, steady, quiet rhythm. Your goal is to help her stay focused on relaxing. Use your best, sexiest whisper. 🙂
Relaxing during labor is the very best medicine. Focus only on one contraction at a time. Don’t think ahead. So, don’t worry, mama. You’ve got this!
I hope you try this relaxation technique and practice it a lot. Good luck and keep us posted. We’d love to hear from you!
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