It’s my 3rd go-around, and NO it doesn’t make it easier – but for the most part you do know what you’re getting yourself into, and can somewhat tell what to expect. Here are some tips to make labor and delivery more manageable.
Don’t Think of Contractions as Pain
What’s the one thing we are all afraid of the most? The pain we know we’ll experience during the birth. We know it’s going to be there, so it’s a matter of how to deal with it.
You can do relaxing exercises every day, practice hypno birth, or hope that a water birth will give you relief, but the one thing that stuck with me and made the biggest difference in how I approached my son’s birth was to not think of contractions as pain.
Instead, I decided to think of them as cramps, which they essentially are. If you take the time to really experience them, you can really feel how every wave of contractions is pushing the baby closer to being born.
I was already used to very strong menstrual pains since being a teenager, and that’s how the contractions felt, so I wasn’t freaked out by them. I kept riding the waves of the contractions, knowing that they wouldn’t last forever and that no one has ever died from menstrual cramps. This was going to last just a little while, and I was confident I could endure the discomfort.
Let Your Body Do What It Needs To Do
Instead of fighting the contractions and focusing on how painful they are, try to relax as much as possible and let your body do what it wants to do. If you tighten up because you are afraid of the next contraction, you’ll have a more uncomfortable experience.
Do what you feel like doing to alleviate the discomfort of the contractions: sit on an exercise ball and roll your hips, have your partner massage your back or feet, or take a relaxing shower or bath.
Know Your Rights When Giving Birth in the Hospital and Have a Birth Plan
If you are having your baby in the hospital, or even if you plan a birth at a birthing center or at home, know that you have a right to say no to interventions if you end up at the hospital.
Thinking through your options and preferences well in advance of the birth and putting them down in a birth plan is crucial to what kind of birth experience you and your baby will have.
Make sure to share the plan with your partner and doula, midwife, and/or doctor.
Not only does it make you think about what you want or don’t want to happen during the birth (do you want to be able to use a tub or do you want to delay the clamping of the cord or administration of the eye ointment, for example), it cements those things in your mind.
You are more easily able to insist on what you want when you are completely clear about your preferences. When you are in the vulnerable position of giving birth and in the middle of contractions, it’s too late to make those decisions on the fly, and too many women feel like they weren’t heard or had a terrible birth experience because they felt helpless.
I knew I needed to be flexible in case things didn’t go according to plan, but I was ready to refuse as many interventions as possible. But you can only do that if you have informed yourself about those interventions and what happens during birth and how your hospital handles deliveries.