Natural Childbirth: A Real-Life Experience
Going Natural, Part II
Be careful about the whole hand-squeezing business—women in labor have been known to grip and squeeze so powerfully that they can break their partner's (or doctor's) hand.
I found out I was pregnant again only a few months after giving birth to my son. I was understandably not ready to go through all that again. The memory of my last delivery was just too fresh to allow me to enjoy what was otherwise a wonderful and uneventful pregnancy. Still, I intended to deliver this one naturally as well.
Check-in and Count-Down to Birth
When I went into labor this time, my contractions were only five minutes apart—a detail I refrained from sharing with my husband. At the time, we lived on a farm about thirty minutes from our hospital, and even I was concerned that we might not make it in time. While my husband is usually not the hysterical type, under extreme duress he's been known to get a little crazy. Since he was driving and I wanted to make it to the hospital in one piece, I bit my lower lip, crossed my legs, and hoped for the best.
Transitional labor is that stage of labor when your contractions are closest together and the final progress to delivery is achieved.
At the hospital we learned that I had about one hour more of transitional labor ahead of me. This is the phase where you hate everyone and use the most obscenities. The labor was intense, but this time out I finally caught on to what the birth experience was all about—I finally figured out how to influence my own pain experience.
Going with the Flow
All my natural childbirth training had told me to use two special pain-management techniques: to visualize and to breathe into the contractions. I had tried these techniques in labors past, but this time they worked. I was finally able to relax enough during labor to see that breathing a certain way really does reduce the pain.
Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This
During labor it's easy to lose patience with your birth coach (the partner or friend who goes through the training classes and comes with you to the hospital). When your coach starts telling you how to breath, you're likely to snap back with something X-rated—after all, you're the one doing all the work, right? But your coach is really trying to help, by reminding you to breathe properly when the busy-ness of birthing might make you forget.
Using the Tools
During this delivery I was able to listen to my higher self, the angels, God, or maybe just my own good sense and work with my unborn child to make the birth experience positive for both of us. So, for once, I really put the tools I'd learned in childbirth classes to good use:
- Visualization. During this labor I visualized my baby and talked to her. I thought about what she would look like and who she might be. Each time I felt a contraction coming on I would say, “Come on little one. Soon you will be born.”
I also spoke to myself, saying, “I am strong and I will not object to pain that brings on new life.” I relaxed my body as completely as I could and imagined waves of water each time a contraction would begin, reach crescendo, and then recede. I gave myself affirmations, told my baby how much I loved her, and soon my darling 7 pound, 2 ounce baby girl was born. It was a very happy moment when the doctor put her in my arms and I realized that that was all there was to it.
- Breathing Techniques. This time, too, I managed to remember my breathing training (and listened to my coach when I forgot). I took deep, cleansing breaths when necessary, and remembered to take the rapid, shallow, panting breaths that help move contractions along.
Understanding the Pain
When you are going through labor, particularly natural childbirth, visualize your baby, talk to it, and breathe into the contractions. Go through it with your baby and try to overcome your fear. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes.
In a normal delivery, your body really will tell you what to do. This is important, because you can draw upon your faith in something higher than yourself, whatever you believe, to relax and conquer your fears. Fear, after all, is the enemy of childbirth. It causes the laboring mother to tense her body, breathe erratically, and work against her own progress.
We are not used to pain—we see it as a negative thing—but in childbirth, pain is your friend. It is the result of your body's efforts to profoundly change the internal configuration of your womb so that the infant can be expelled. The important thing to keep in mind is that your response to the pain—tensing up against it or relaxing into it—can make a big difference in the amount of pain you feel.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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