I was sitting low and deep in a squat in yoga on Tuesday, nearing the brink of my squat threshold. Our instructor, Jen, was guiding us through breaths and encouraging us not to let up.
And that’s when I gave up, my muscles tight and quivering, and stood up for a second to rest my legs.
And it hit me: this is labor training. Not just physically, but mentally as well. If I can’t even hold a squat for 10 breaths, what does this say about my preparation for regular contractions that could last for hours on end and that have no quick adjustment for relief?
A little later in class we did a similar stretch for our feet. I have really tight feet (from my foot surgery) and could not endure the 2-minute hold without a few breaks to relieve the pressure. (But you see – I am making excuses for my weakness!)
I generally think my pain threshold is pretty high. I tolerate headaches, menstrual cramps, stubbed toes, painful surgery foot stiffness and sore muscles well, although I do turn to medication when I need to be in my best shape such as during a special event. For years whenever I have stubbed my toe or knocked a body part into bruise territory, I have breathed through the pain like I’m in labor… “for practice.” I do pretty well in these situations. When it comes to emergency pain – glass in the hand, fingers stuck in a door, needles jabbed into the flesh – I don’t do well at all, but those are not “natural” pains. They break things. The pain that comes with contractions doesn’t mean that something is wrong, unlike a lot of other types of pain.
Every labor is different, and there’s no way to know what to expect or how I will react. If I’m nauseous during labor [highly likely] or have a complication that causes another degree of pain somehow, I think I will be much less likely to make it through naturally. I have always said that the thought of an epidural needle going in my back scares me more than my own body contracting to push a baby out. Midwives and natural childbirth enthusiasts will tell you that labor is natural. You do [usually] get breaks in between so it’s not a constant pain. It’s pain with a purpose.
But so were those squats! And the pain from them was probably nothing compared to what labor is like. I’m going to try to get through all 10 breaths without a break next week and work on my mental as well as my physical preparation for what’s to come.
And to make the practice even more appropriate – we just hired my yoga teacher as our doula! So excited about that because she totally rocks, comes highly recommended from some of my mama friends, and her physical approach is just what I was looking for.