There are lots of things mothers don’t share about labor experiences because they are just too gross or embarrassing, or maybe they would rather forget that “part” of the story, like pooping on the floor in the delivery room when all 16 eyes in the room are solely focused on you “down there." Not to mention, most of those sets of eyes belong to people you just met that day, and they are seeing the most intimate parts of you, and now you are giving this mini-public a viewing of your bowel movements. But lets face it: at that point you honestly just don’t care; modesty left a few hours ago anyway. Or maybe the most embarrassing part is that you thought all that movement “down there” was the baby, but it wasn’t. You are still waiting on that little bundle to arrive. Any. Second. Now…
But these aren’t those things. These are things that I really wish I had been privileged to know and could have learned so the whole labor experience would have been less intimidating. I will preface this article with the fact that these are based on the desire to have a natural childbirth (unmedicated). To give a little background, the hubby and I are currently preparing to welcome our third baby soon, so this is fresh on my mind as I prepare for labor once again, and these are things that I have learned with birth of my second child that I REALLY wish I had known with my first.
Bringing home my first born
1) There is more than one way to do a Kegel.
Kegel! Kegel! Kegel! “Do your Kegel exercises!” is preached all over women’s health for a host of reasons outside of pregnancy, but Kegels are especially heralded during pregnancy as women prepare for labor-one heck of a Kegel workout-amongst other reasons, like not peeing on yourself by accident when you sneeze! Kegel exercises are also known as pelvic floor exercises, and the Mayo Clinic here does a superb job of describing the specifics of what Kegels actually are and how to find the right muscles. So, I knew the basics and understood I had to a great deal of Kegels to do daily especially while pregnant, and so I did. (30-50 is a lot right??) Well, as I became more knowledgeable about Kegels, I started to increase that number to about 300 daily. Basically, as you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, you can “advance” your Kegel exercises. Here are some different ways to do Kegels and advance your “workout”
- Beginner-Contract and release your pelvic floor muscles 10 times. Repeat periodically through out the day
- Intermediate-Contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold the inner squeeze for 10 seconds before releasing. Continue to do this 10 times. Repeat periodically through out the day
- Advanced-Contract your pelvic floor muscles and then try to contact those muscles even further (think deep inside.) Hold the deep inner squeeze for 10 seconds before releasing, and, like the others, do this 10 times. Repeat periodically through the day.
2) Rock that baby into a better position.
The infamous pelvic rocks are a MUST. My first baby’s position made for a very painful and difficult delivery (not fun-only back labor and hours of pushing), so I was determined to get my next baby into a different position so there wouldn’t be a repeat of that intensity. This is a great tutorial from Spinning Babies on how to accurately do a pelvic rock (which they call a pelvic tilt), and why I am a firm believer this one daily exercise made the biggest difference in how much easier labor was the second time around. The baby was a fantastic position for birth, or at least that was the phrase that kept being brought up by multiple doctors the last few weeks before the baby was born, and I attribute that to these exercises.
3) Relaxation must be learned and practiced.
You must teach yourself how to relax--and I do mean fully relax--all the muscles in your body so your body can devote all of its' energy to working the muscles to push the baby out. You can help your body out by not making it do double the work and relax your muscles instead of flexing and tensing (which is our instinct of how to deal with pain). This concept of relaxing your muscles has to be learned and practiced often in prep for the big day so it will come naturally when you are faced with intense labor contractions. Mind Over Labor by Carl Jones is a FABULOUS book and resource to guide you into relaxing. The book uses the power of the mind and mental imagery to help expecting mothers loosen up completely. There are multiple relaxation techniques to practice in this step-by-step guide. For me, the mental imagery of my “special place” was a great place to mentally go to check-out once the muscle contractions got rather strong. I seriously can’t rave enough about the idea of relaxing and practicing it, and this book was a go-to for me in that particular area. It really does help jump the mental hurdles of the fear and pain that are associated with childbirth.
4) Learn all you can.
Yep, that’s right. Education, specifically childbirth education, makes a huge difference. The more knowledge you gain about all the aspects of having a child, the more confidence you have in your ability to make sound decisions relating to care before, during, and after the pregnancy. The old adage “knowledge is power” fits well here. A huge source of anxiety for me relating to labor was not knowing what to expect, so I tried to learn as much as possible to relieve the “not knowing” factor, which did help some, but there will always be more to learn. If I could go back, I would have taken an in-depth natural child birth class instead of the 3 hour class the hospital offers to acquaint you with the facility. I chose a class the second time around that really taught me, and it made all the difference. I highly recommend the Bradley Method. It was an amazing experience!
5) The power of protein.
Okay, so this isn’t as much related to delivery as the others but its one that I always reflect back on and wish I had known earlier. I detest that dreaded feeling of morning sickness, which for me seems to arrive later in the day, but a more protein-packed diet seems to minimize that yucky feeling. This even carries over into non-pregnant times, like endless work days and jet lag. There is just something about protein (and less sugar) that energizes you and seems to keep that gross nausea feeling at bay.
One valuable personal lesson I learned that I think is very important in today's ever present, social media laden world--you know, the one where you feel someone is always watching your life’s milestones--is you have nothing to prove to anyone in labor. The ultimate goal, for me at least, is to birth a healthy baby by a healthy momma, and everything else is just icing on the cake. With my first labor, I wanted so badly to be able “to do” a natural labor, to wear that badge with honor and be esteemed by rising up and meeting the tough physical, mental, and emotional challenges that natural delivery requires, but I wasn’t able to do it. I felt somewhat defeated, but then realized, I wasn’t going to let my own selfish tendencies of wanting praise from others rob me of one of the most joyful days of my life. It just wasn’t worth it.
This was worth it.
Daddy and the second born
With my first birth experience in mind, I tried again to have a natural labor with my second child, and was successful!! There were two major differences in the births and I think those factors contributed greatly to success with natural child birth the second time around.
1. Listening to and being educated by a Bradley Method instructor through some 25-30 hours via DVDs verses spending that much time, or more, trying to teach myself the ideas through books, internet, hospital classes, ect.. as I had done in preparation with my first. (Being located outside the USA didn’t allow for me or my hubby to actually attend a live class so the DVD’s were an invaluable resource)
2. Having experienced one birth already, I was much more mentally, emotionally, and physically ready for the intense challenges I was going to face, plus I had the BEST coach-my hubby, who had also been trained in the Bradley Method encouraging me all the way!
Here are some valuable resources to help guide you along your journey to welcoming the newest little bundle of joy!
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition- a book that goes into detail educating the reader about natural childbirth. Be advised that the book does show pictures of a natural delivery and everything that is going on “down there.”
Husband-Coached Childbirth- a book written by Bradley himself, it is a great read for your birthing partner (and you) so they will know specifically how to help and guide the mother during labor and delivery.
Mind Over Labor- this book was mentioned previously in the post, but it had such a positive impact on my ability to relax- extremely crucial to me- that it is worth mentioning again.
Spinning Babies- it’s a website chalk full of great information and resources especially fetal positioning. I absolutely love the idea of belly mapping available from this website!
Tell us ladies: do you have any tips to add or maybe just a good ole birth story you would like to share?? We’d love to hear what you have to say! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org