20 Weeks: Mentally Prepare

April 19, 2012

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.

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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.

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Reghan April 19, 2012 at 8:11 am

I feel the same way. I think I can tolerate pain well BUT if I get an unexpected pain like a cut or some kind of emergency, or if I see blood, I usually faint :( makes me kind of afraid of childbirth but in a way I’m not afraid of childbirth because, like you said, it’s a “natural” pain not an “unexpected” one and it also has a purpose.
I am terrified of IV’s (which is weird since needles or blood draws don’t bother me at all) but I’ve had an IV twice and both times came close to passing out. I definitely do want an epidural though because I just don’t think I will be able to handle that much pain. The thought of childbirth without pain meds if scarier to me than an IV I guess.
I hope and think I can push through my panic about blood and all of that because of the reason behind the pain that’s coming! I always worry stuff will be really bad and then afterwards it’s never as bad as I thought so I’m trying not to worry too much.
congrats on finding your doula!

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2 Kelly@Runmarun April 19, 2012 at 8:15 am

I think it’s really cool that you are already thinking so much about labor although I guess it’s hard not too as your stomach continues to grow. :) It’s also great that you have an open mind to what giving birth will look like!

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3 Lindsay April 19, 2012 at 8:55 am

My prenatal yoga teacher is a doula and she is just amazing. I love how insightful and helpful she is in class, unfortunately she is very popular and rarely has any openings for clients because she books up so fast. We are taking a couples yoga for delivery class with her which is not so much a yoga class but yoga poses that help during labor and how your partner can support you. I have heard from people who have taken the class in the past that it was one of the most beneficial things they did to prepare for giving birth for both the partner and the woman.

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4 Allison April 19, 2012 at 8:57 am

A lot of hospitals will have squat bars that they put at the end of the bed, so you can lean on that when you squat, which makes it easier. I did use that when I was in labor (30+ hours with my son). Didn’t use it at all with my daughter. Labors are all so different.

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5 Anna April 19, 2012 at 9:05 am

I think squats hurt more than contractions! :-)

I had a quick, mellow, natural birth and it was much easier than I thought. The body is amazing. It’s hard to describe the pain and I truly think every woman feels it differently. Contractions sort of warm-up and increase over time when it comes to intensity. Taking a pain med in the middle of a long labor can make contraction pain seem worse since maybe you were a 4 (on a 1-10 scale) and when the pain meds wear off you are an 8 so you missed the gradual increase. I also found when it became awful, I was in transition and very close to pushing — which wasn’t as terrible as i thought it would be.

I never felt sick — just unbelieveably hot. I made a point to chug water, gatorade, etc. to stay hydrated between contractions. I also had a filling meal in early labor which lasted me through the 4 hours of labor I had.

I do think women who have long labors (more than a day or so) and go without pain meds are pretty bad ass. I thought it was hard after a few hours and was sort of ready to give in but thankfully, I was minutes away from pushing! When I hear some ladies’ birth stories and listen to what they went through, I’m amazed at their endurance and strength. I don’t know if I would have been able to do it!

I think have a good doctor you trust, a support system, and being in an environment where staff is helpful and encouraging can make laboring easier.

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6 Hollie April 19, 2012 at 9:13 am

I gave birth to my daughter at home and I would not have had it any other way. However, I understand that it is not for everyone. I will say though that the worst parts of my labor were when I was lying flat on my back in bed while my midwife checked my progress. If I were confined to a bed at a hospital (or anywhere for that matter), I would have certainly asked for an epidural because of the pain and it would have been a much more scary experience. Having the freedom and ability to move around not only aided in relieving the pain for me, but it can also help speed up labor because it assists in opening your cervix. I suppose my advice would be to make sure that you have the option to get up and move around during labor – some places are very particular about that sort of thing. If they have a requirement regarding hooking you up to a ton of IVs, monitors, etc, that can really limit your mobility. Good luck!

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7 KERF April 19, 2012 at 10:20 am

I FEEL like moving around will be my preference too. When I’m in Body Pump doing a hard arms track, I like to pace in my spot. Moving my legs somehow helps my arms. I know that’s a stretch, but somehow it connects movement to relief for me

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8 Allison k April 19, 2012 at 9:14 am

Yes…practice now. It gets much harder with the belly!
Also….interesting to think about. I also like to think I have a high pain tolerance, but I have only endured long term pain like labor a few times, my back after my car accident…and I totally took Advil then….and I take aleve for the severe menstrual cramps I get. Ha! I guess we will see how it goes…cause I would like to go naturally!

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9 Megan April 19, 2012 at 9:21 am

Labors are so different. I agree with the previous comment. I did have a natural labor/delivery, but due to my daughter being born at 34 weeks, I was on a fetal monitor the entire time for her safety, which restricted my movement during labor. But it was ok! Mentally dealing with the pain is half the battle. Despite the unexpected timing of her arrival, it was an amazing experience. Oh and the IV was great, despite the fact that it tied me down a little bit. I was sweating/ boiling hot due to the intensity of the pain and nauseous right before I started pushing so drinking water wasn’t easy and the IV was a help. A lot of women refuse IVs when they decide to go with a natural delivery, which is a personal choice, but I found it helpful. You will do great during labor/delivery.

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10 Sally Mae April 19, 2012 at 9:23 am

You will totally rock a natural birth! Seriously, you can do it – especially with the amazing support of your husband and doula. :)

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11 Morgan April 19, 2012 at 9:25 am

I had plans to go natural but I didn’t make it. I was profusely vomiting through my entire labor. I’m talking yellow stomach bile at regular intervals. I wish I had taken Bradley classes because I probably would have been better prepared for it. I think what ruined my natural birth plan is that I always knew I could get an epidural if I wanted one. If you REALLY don’t want an epidural, make sure your doctors, nurses and your husband don’t ever offer you one or even bring it up.

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12 KERF April 19, 2012 at 10:18 am

I’m very scared I’m going to throw up the whole time since I hate throwing up so much. But when I had that bad cramping at 7.5 weeks, I threw up. Not a good sign of how my body handles cramps!

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13 Amanda April 19, 2012 at 10:38 pm

I am the same way, hate hate hate throwing up, and I definitely felt nauseous and threw up during transition, but then as soon as I did I dilated 2 more cm and was ready to push. So it was forgotten quickly, and maybe served its purpose.
Plus, at 7.5 weeks throwing up is very normal because of morning sickness…

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14 BMarie April 20, 2012 at 9:36 am

I was nauseous while laboring and was able to take my zofran that I took while pregnant. I guess they can even give it through the IV which is even more effective. Just let drs/nurses know you’re prone to nausea– they will assist you in every way possible to try to give you the best possible birthing experience!

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15 kristin April 20, 2012 at 9:29 am

I puked the whole beginng of labor and ended up getting an epidural which stopped the nausea. When they turned the epidural off at 10 cm so I could push I started puking again! I was drinking juice bc I was starving and it came back all over my labor spectators (mother in law, grandma. Nurse and hubs lol). I was only supposed to drink clear liquids… Busted haha.

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16 Morgan April 20, 2012 at 10:07 am

dont’ drink or eat even though you’ll want to! I pushed for 3 hours and was SO thirsty. I couldn’t only eat ice chips, but I regret doing that. i profusely vomited them all up. This is after the epidural, so it didn’t necessary stop the vomiting for me.

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17 Morgan April 19, 2012 at 9:27 am

Oh, and I didn’t even even feel the epidural or care what they were doing to me. I was in so, so much pain from contractions that they were all I could think about or concentrate on.

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18 Leslie April 19, 2012 at 9:31 am

I think the most important thing is to prepare well and keep an open mind. Bottom line (no pun intended) is there is no way to anticipate what one’s labor will be like. Rather than having expectations based on previous pain experiences, be expectant of whatever presents and take it in each breathing moment. Preparation is vital, but won’t guarantee a certain outcome. If I expect certain responses of myself, I may set myself up for disappointment if things play out in a different way.

The squatting you’re doing is fantastic – that can be a position that really helps a stubborn baby move on down the canal!!! One thing for sure, it is absolutely true that once the birth is done and you’re holding that baby, it’s hard to conjure up a memory of what the pain was like – even right after. Certain healing parts may take awhile, but the pain of labor becomes almost forgotten with the joy of having the best gift ever! You’ll do great.

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19 KERF April 19, 2012 at 10:17 am

That’s one thing I didn’t mention – at the end of the road you get a baby! That makes getting through it so much easier to push (ha) through

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20 Alicia @culinarybliss April 19, 2012 at 9:41 am

congratulations on hiring a doula! that’s a great step.
I squatted many times every day during pregnancy so I could use it during labor. And I did! It was helpful for the pushing stage. It shortens your birth canal and moves things along well. Most of my squats were assisted with either a sling held by my doula or the squat bar. Just like doing a new exercise, there’s a learning curve to laboring and you’ll get the hang of it :)
That said, I spent most of my time trying to think about relaxing between and during contractions, rather than thinking explicitly about the pain (which is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, including menstrual cramps)
The best preparation I did for labor was mental, not physical (though being athletic helps!) I practiced getting into a relaxed state of mind at different times/places by focusing on my breath, closing my eyes, and drawing inward. I practiced identifying tension in my body (I really found it between my shoulders and forehead) and then using the breath to soothe it.
It helped me to remember that relaxation breeds relaxation, and fear/tension breeds more fear/tension.

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21 Julie H. of Spinach and Sprinkles April 19, 2012 at 9:46 am

You are definitly right- I wonder how I will react to the entire labor process. We have nothing to base any information off of and I feel like I will be goin gin blind- which is true. I have a pretty high pain tollerence but I just don’t know about that kind of pain- I guess we will see. But, it will be pain with a purpose :) Baby at the end!!!

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22 Callie @ The Wannabe Athlete April 19, 2012 at 9:47 am

Yeahhhh…I can tell you that the pain I experienced in labor was much more like the glass in hand pain than a stubbed toe pain. :) My biggest advice for moms? Stay open and flexible. Labor is really hard to imagine until you go through it. Yes, you can try to prepare, but keep an open mind. Everyone is different! As much as the thought of the epidural needle scared me, the relief I got was worth it. I was actually able to enjoy going through labor instead of continuing to be blinded by the pain. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone! Make the decision that is right for YOU.

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23 KERF April 19, 2012 at 10:16 am

I agree – if I think the epidural is going to make it a more positive experience, I’ll go for it :)

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24 Michelel April 19, 2012 at 9:47 am

Hi Kath!

I never really thought I tolerated pain too well. And then I got pregnant and like you, the thought of a needle going in my back seemed so much worse than labor pain. On the other hand, I had never experienced menstrual cramps and when people told me labor was like “period cramps x 1000″ I was really scared after seeing countless friends doubled over in pain once a month in high school and college. My husband and I attended hypnobirthing classes and I loved it. He thought it was kind of silly. He wanted a hospital birth, I wanted a home birth so the compromise was get a doula, labor at home as long as possible then head to the hospital. My labor was short and from water breaking (which happened during a massage to induce labor) to birth was 4 hours. I can honestly say I felt NO PAIN. I was ready for whatever. It was intense, I’m not going to lie but not painful. My daughter was born naturally, at 41 weeks + 1 day at 8lbs 7oz. Many (strangers mostly) said there was no way I’d deliver naturally. At 5′ 3″ and pre-preg weight at 110lbs they all thought I wasn’t capable. But with birth, your body does what it needs to do – if that’s a vaginal birth or not. In the end you just want a healthy baby and mom.

That all being said, I have friends whom I know are super tough but had such painful labor and deliveries. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. The best thing you can do is know exactly what your body is doing during labor to eliminate fear that can cause pain and get a good support system – all of which you are already doing.

Best of luck to you and thanks for taking us all along with you!

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25 colleen April 19, 2012 at 9:56 am

Oh yes, labor and delivery is, in my opinion, more mental than physical. I too was scared as heck about a needle in my back and the side effects (not being able to move, go to the bathroom, etc.) that I went without one for all three of my deliveries. However, I had to mentally prepare myself for the pain and discomfort – similar to starting a new exercise or training plan. For me lots of yoga, stretching, and breathing technieques during pregnancy and during L&D helped so much. I strongly believe that is what make my recovery easy – minus the sore arms from gripping the bar too hard and the nether region soreness. Like you said, L&D pain is “pain with a purpose” and at the end of it you have an amazing little person that makes it all worth it.

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26 Angel7 April 19, 2012 at 9:57 am

I never used to like needles, and still don’t. However, I just turn my head when they stick the needle in my arm, and I am fine.

Actually, I was scared of the epidural needle going in my back when we had our first child. But for some reason, I do not remember feeling it. I think the pain I was in masked the jabbing of the needle, and I knew that I wanted instant relief!

So cool that you found a doula!

http://faithfulsolutions.blogspot.com/

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27 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More April 19, 2012 at 10:00 am

One of my really good friends in NYC teaches yoga and is a doula! There’s got to be a link between the two where they’re really able to help you! :)

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28 Lara April 19, 2012 at 10:13 am

So glad to hear that Jen will be your doula! In prep for labor, I did so many practice squats when gardening, in the warm water pool (helps when you have an August baby like I did), and the hip opener (abductor?) weight machine at the gym. You will get more flexible as your pregnancy progresses as the relaxin increases. I also had alot of cramps/charlie horses (in the middle of the night!) during pregnancy despite my efforts to include potassium. Anyways, I consciously breathed through those like mini contractions (cuz they hurt!). Rock on mama!

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29 KERF April 19, 2012 at 10:14 am

I already think my squats are improving! Need to keep working on them though :)

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30 Kim @ girlevolving April 19, 2012 at 10:18 am

The difference with labor is you know you can’t stop it and you have to just engage it. With a squat, you know you have the option of standing up. With labor, that’s not an option! I think that difference changed it for me, making me more willing to just push through and work it out (I went without an epidural and don’t remember wanting one even with the pitocin).

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31 Averie @ Averie Cooks April 19, 2012 at 10:49 am

Kath, I think you will do wonderfully in labor. You are tough, both mentally and physically, you are a determined and a focused person in general, which I think can only help you during your labor. I predict you are going to be a laboring champ :) I actually loved it. I know, crazy to say, but I loved mine!

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32 Allison April 19, 2012 at 10:58 am

I’m sure labor is different for everyone – I’ve have three kids. One with drugs (my first) and two naturally. I can say that I had pitocin with the first and it was horrible. The contractions were so unnaturally strong, I threw up through the whole thing and caved in to the epidural because the pain was too much for me personally to bear. The next two deliveries I avoided the pitocin like the plague and while it still hurt, the pain was managable and I was able to deliver without any medication. For me, the best thing about not having the epidural is that after the baby comes out, you feel completely normal. You can get up, walk around,. . . . the epidural numbs you so that’s you can’t feel your legs or walk for hours. Plus I shivered uncontrollably for what seemed liked forever – the nurse said that was common with epidurals.

But everyone is different . . . the most important thing is a healthy baby and mom!

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33 kristin April 20, 2012 at 11:32 am

Its so weird I shivered uncontrollalby before my epidural. Its crazy how every labor is different. Also, my epidural was turned off to push so I was able to get up and walk, back to normal right after having my daughter.

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34 Lori April 19, 2012 at 11:02 am

I think you are smart to be as prepared as possible, knowing all your options. My first labor I had nothing and it was not what I wanted or expected so the second time around I opted for an epidural and it made all the difference for me. It was so much calmer and less stressful. Of course I think the first time the doctor who did the delivery was too old, not patient and just wanted to go home. The second time around everyone was so much more encouraging and it was like nite and day. The prize at the end is all worth it!

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35 Kate @ get up and flow April 19, 2012 at 11:43 am

While I don’t have any babies (yet), I think you’re smart to be thinking about the connections between things like squats and childbirth — I imagine there are a lot of similarities! I know the feeling of wanting to get out of a difficult yoga pose, and you’re right that the mental component is huge. I try to shift my perspective from thinking about the “pain” as just another physical sensation. The body is capable of incredible things! That said, sometimes you just need a break :)

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36 Johanna B April 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I don’t believe you can be too prepared for the experience of labor. It’s true that no two are alike. I do believe that practicing your breathing and learning to focus will help you.

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37 Britt April 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I had a c section so my epidural was necessary and I had the best experience. My anesthiologist was super nice and the actual shot didn’t really hurt..and I even jumped a little when it stabbed me. I almost cried whenever they drew blood throughout my pregnancy but the epidural wasn’t bad at all ! Not being able to move your legs though is the craziest feeling ever and after the surgery I couldn’t move them for 4 hours

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38 Caitlin in MD April 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm

My son was posterior (“sunny side up”) so I had back labor – horrible. And constant – no breaks. Made worse by pitocin, which was administered after my contractions weren’t registering on the monitor, due to that belt thingy being set up wrong. When they finally hooked me up right, the contractions were one on top of the next, on top of the next. I didn’t even feel the epidural needle going in – not even a pinch.

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39 Jessica April 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Obviously every women’s experience is different, but for me I found that natural childbirth definitely is a mental game… I was in labor over 50 hours without any medication. For me, early contractions (the first 50ish hours) were on par with the worst menstrual cramps I had. The worst of that really was the sleep deprivation (of course, I’m used to the sleep deprivation now, ha!). The pain increased as I progressed through my labor, and I mainly felt the contractions in my legs (my thighs felt like they were on fire – not in a “my legs are burning due to an intense workout” pain, but like they were actually on fire) and the only way I could get through them was to stand, which I did for the last 8 hours of labor. But the good thing with contractions is that there is a break in between them! If I had contractions one on top of each other like some women do (I heard it’s very common with Pitocin, etc.) I couldn’t have done it without any pain meds.
Pushing, however, is a whole different ballgame… for me it was a very “unnatural” pain as you put it, and I could feel myself ripping open each time I pushed (not to mention the inevitable defecation that comes along with pushing! Fun times indeed). The best thing I can say about going through pushing and the “ring of fire” naturally is that the pain won’t literally kill you! :) I ended up with a third degree tear because my water had never fully broken and the pressure of the fluid behind my daughter’s head was more intense than normal. But, ironically, none of that was as painful as getting stitched up afterwards – for that, I asked for pain meds! I wasn’t expecting all of the pain initially after birth, it’s not really mentioned in the pregnancy books. Breastfeeding can also be painful right after delivery because it starts up contractions again (another thing I wasn’t really prepared for).
To be honest, unless you are 100% committed to a medication-free childbirth, I imagine it would be very, very easy to cave and get an epi. And more power to you if you do! My mother always says that the biggest lie women tell each other is that the pain of labor isn’t all that bad. Although some women here obviously disagree, ha! But for me it was as painful as I could imagine. It was totally worth it, though; my doc said that my little girl was the most alert and calm baby he had seen in a long while, and we had no issues at all with breastfeeding, and my recovery was shockingly easy despite the tears. I credit all that to a natural birth!

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40 Sara April 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

The thing that got me through both of my natural deliveries was the knowledge that the contractions last for one minute at a time. (So don’t think that you’ll be squatting for 30 minutes straight!) I would tell my husband when the contraction started, he would mark the time and tell me when 30 seconds was up, and then I knew I was on the down-slide of the pain. It made such a huge difference to me in my ability to deal with the pain. I’ve always had very bad menstrual cramps and it basically felt like that. Except there was relief between the contractions – can’t say that about my menstrual cramps!

The other thing that helped me was just laying in a luke-warm bath. I went through my whole first labor in our bathtub and waited until 5am to call the midwife (because I thought it was a more reasonable time to wake her up than 3am), but while my husband was talking to her I sort of off-handedly told him, “uh, yeah, tell her I think I might feel the urge to push”. After enduring an ear-full from the midwife, my husband drove me to the midwife’s office and sure enough, I was fully dilated and ready to push. Our son was born about an hour later. Oops.

Most importantly is to educate yourself about the whole process. By the time I had baby in hand, I felt like I could have written a dissertation about child birth. …and I STILL forgot about the final step in the process (delivering the placenta) with both kids. It’s amazing how the rush of adrenaline and hormones afterwards while holding that perfect little baby make you forget about everything else. *sigh* :)

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41 ashlynn April 19, 2012 at 1:59 pm

When I ran cross country our coach had us do wall sits everyday after warmup. Every now and then he’d have us lift our heels off the floor making it even more difficult. And, he’d never tell us at the beginning how long he was going to have us sit on the wall. He would just tell us when we could stand up. So, there was an element of not knowing how long it was going to last. But, it was all because he wanted to build up our endurance and to teach us to focus on something other than the pain at that moment in time.

But, childbirth is painful, and even though there’s a purpose to it, it’s still hard as heck to get past it. The wall sits were nothing in comparison. But, I think it’s important to know that the pain won’t last forever and to have something to focus on that can help you ride through the pain rather than trying to fight it. If you fight it in your mind and all you think about is the pain, it’s just going to feel longer.

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42 Diana @ frontyardfoodie April 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Labor is really nothing at all like workouts because you have to mentally convince yourself to keep a position or run longer but during labor your body is doing something completely out of your control. You have to definitely mentally prepare for that but just know that the pain of labor isn’t overwhelming and it’s so incredibly productive and powerful that it’s a wonderful to be along with the ride.

My labor was by far the best part of my pregnancy and going through it naturally was incredible. I hope you can have a good experience too! Keep the work outs going because they’ll definitely keep your body in good shape for enduring labor!

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43 Jessica Flemming April 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm

The big mental leap for me was learning to embrace the pain and let it wash over me. I tried to mentally dilute it by picturing the sensation/energy of the pain moving from the spot that hurt through my body and out through the top of my head or the tips of my toes. It sounds so new-agey now, but it totally worked for me. I pictured the pain like an ocean wave, rising and peaking and then settling down through all my muscles and out of my skin. “Birthing From Within” suggests practicing with your partner by holding ice cubes in your hands for one minute at a time. It hurts, but if you can mentally disperse the pain and let your partner talk you through it, it is a good exercise. I think it is natural for your body to want to flee from avoidable pain, which is why you want to come up from a squat when it is killing you. But if you can learn to embrace it and dilute it with your mind, you can endure it for a lot longer.

P.S. I was so deep in my own head/thoughts during my natural labor vbac that I didn’t open my eyes to see my son come out! I felt everything from deep inside, but I wish someone had gently encouraged me to open my eyes at the moment! I worked so hard and missed the visual image! oh well. It was still so amazing.

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44 Beaty April 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Every birth experience is different. You are doing a great job of preparing and being open to options, that is important. You don’t have to decide before if you want drugs or not, there is no way to know. But you are prepping yourself for it with exercise, healthy nutrition, yoga and a great outlook so you will be able to handle labor and delivery fine. I have two daughters, one with epidural and one all natural. I preferred the natural delivery, but I needed the help from the epidural the first time. We are just lucky to live in a time where we have so many options and can have medical help if needed in the process. Yoga breathing was what managed my pain during my natural childbirth. It was very powerful. Keep feeling good!

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45 Kelley April 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm

haha Those squats are the worst!! But such great training for labor! I hear giving birth is an endurance sport. =)

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46 Lisa @bitesforbabies April 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I used to think the SAME thing before giving birth (which I did naturally!!) You seriously need to mentally prepare yourself NOT to give up! Now when I hit the gym or go to yoga class and I want to quit a pose, I think, “pretend it’s labour and you have no choice!” and that usually convinces me!! lol!

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47 Lauri April 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I went into L&D with the mindset of going as far as I could and as long as I could without any interventions. My water broke before having any contractions, which I read only happens in about 8% of pregnancies. I asked for my IV to be placed heplocked (They were pretty insistent on having IV access just in case of an emergenc) and I got up and walked around as much as I could. My contractions started out really mild and easy and I started to think that I would be able to make it through without any intervention. Then the contractions got harder, and closer together (they were coming every 2-4 minutes) and I was only 3cm dilated. I was completely effaced and she had dropped into position… But I still had a long way to go. I made it 5.5-6cm dilated before I was literally begging for an epidural. I was scared of the needle and of not being able to feel my legs/lower body to push, but the pain was simply more than I could tolerate anymore. I never felt the needle and I never lost the ability to move/feel my legs. And I didn’t feel ANY more pain after the epidural was placed. It did make me sleepy and I found myself nodding off in between pushes, but I was wide awake and ‘in the moment’ when Brantley arrived. I was worried that the epidural would make her lethargic and unable to breastfeed right away, but she was alert and she is a breastfeeding champ!

In the end, I’m SO SO SO proud of myself and my body for all its been through this week. I have absolutely no labor/delivery regrets and I am happy I got the epidural, as it was most definitely the right decision for MEl. As I mentioned before, I don’t think you will know what you do or don’t want until you get in there, who knows how you will handle the pain?!. So many people would give me their opinions–> “you should get induced so you can schedule it, You MUST get an epidural, just have a c-section”, blah blah blah, I was so sick of hearing everyone else’s opinions!! I just wanted to get in there and see what my body could do!! Our bodies are simply amazing and I am still in awe of what it was able to do, even with the epidural!

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48 Erin Motz April 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm

I love this post because I totally agree with you! Natural pain I feel like a champ, but stubbed toes, cooking burns, bumps into furniture… another story! I’ll totally collapse in a heap of dramatic tears with no shame at all and I’m TERRIFIED of what a weakling I may be in labor. I so badly want to be a super-tough trooper, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. I mean, I teach hot yoga, so that’s gotta count for something in the non-wimp department, right?! ;-)

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49 Pam April 19, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I was the same as a commenter above – what got me through naturally was embracing the pain and contractions rather than letting my mind get involved with questioning my ability and thinking about it as pain. Its amazing what a women’s body can do! I spent my entire labour on all 4’s (cat pose pretty much) and delivered my daughter like that as well with my eyes closed the entire time…. Deep in the zone.

Another good way to practice contractions is to hold an ice cube in your bare hand for one min, then rest and then do the other hand for another min – you can even do this while being in a pose you might feel you’ll use during labour. Get Matt in on it too so he lnows what its like.

Most of all, have fun preparing for the greatest moment of your life!

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50 Lou April 20, 2012 at 3:12 am

My only words of advice would be to TRUST your body… we women are designed to give birth, let your body do the work, and don’t fear the pain… the more fear, the more tense you are, and blood gets pumped away from the uterus ( to the limbs ie flight or fight ).

It’s the most mind blowing experience… seriously straight after giving birth I wanted to do the whole thing again :)

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51 Emily April 20, 2012 at 7:08 am

I too, had an unmedicated birth and also agree that each labor is different. With that said, I do not think you can compare squatting for extended periods of time and contractions. They are completely different sensations. There is nothing like child birth. Just continue to keep an open mind about options and if possible document birth preferences that they not offer it to you unless a.) b.) etc occurs.

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52 Ashley M. [at] (never home)maker April 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Hahah. Constant pain over here — no breaks. But I only felt nausea once. It was funny. I had actually grabbed a bowl for the car-ride to the hospital. My midwife thinks that when I felt the urge to throw up that I had dilated a lot in a short time. THE SQUATS HELP SO MUCH, PS. I did them all the freakin’ time. You’ll get more and more used to them . . . and also that’s why I like that prenatal workout DVD because you do them a lot without the sustained ouch, but it helps work up to being able to do them longer and longer if necessary.

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53 Laura April 20, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Having a Doula will help so much. Mine got me through until it was obvious that intervention was going to have to happen.

For what it’s worth, the thought of an epidural TERRIFIED me. I mean, it’s a needle. In my spine. No thank you. I labored for 36 hours (!!) with no intervention (my Doula gave a mean back massage!), but he was just not progressing, so I finally had to have a c-section. I was SO upset. I mean, all that time with no medication and then boom! However, when they handed him to me, all that upset went away. Just like that. The baby at the end. That’s all that matters.

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54 Stephanie April 21, 2012 at 4:55 am

I just gave birth to my first child this past Tues and I have to say that it didnt go as planned at all. I have a really high pain tolerance and pretty much never take meds (unless it’s necessary) and can usually handle just ‘toughing it out’. My hubby and I took Bradley classes and I walked and stayed active throughout my pregnancy. I had a super healthy preganacy (no Grstational diabetes or blood pressure issues, Group B strep neg – basically the perfect pregnancy). I felt super prepared and looking forward to the ‘marathon’ of birth. Well, I went 10 days overdue and had to be induced – but only with the sweeping of my membranes and one dose of prostaglandin gels. After the gel took affect, my contractions came right away at < 2 min apart. My water broke 5 hours later on its own and contractions got steadily more painful and still < 2 min apart. I was starting to fall apart at this point from the pain – I felt like my uterus was being ripped in two with each contraction. At that point my midwife noticed baby's heartbeat decelerating at the end of each contraction and decided to start pitocin to move the labor along since I was only 3 cm dilated after 12 hours of actual labor. Pit + lying down for constant monitoring made the contractions unbearable so I opted for the epidural. 4 hours later I was pushing and 30 minutes after that baby arrived. Epi was a lifesaver for me and I dont know how anyone could handle that type of pain for so long. I'm not upset I didnt get the 'natural' labor I had thought I wanted and I would do the epi again in a heartbeat! I just truly believe some women's pain during labor is way more intense than others. (Sorry so long!)

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55 KERF April 21, 2012 at 7:00 am

Congrats on your little one! Don’t be disappointed. I think that if you need pit, you probably do need help with pain management. I’m sure many women would have done the same thing. You were getting harder than regular contractions and still handling them well!

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56 Anna @ On Anna's Plate April 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Haha…if it makes you feel any better, I was AWFUL at doing squats in my pre-natal yoga class, and I was able to give birth without drugs. You just never know!

Congrats on hiring a doula– of all the things we did to prepare for natural childbirth (Bradley classes, pre-natal yoga, etc.), hiring a doula was hands down the biggest factor in giving birth naturally for me. My doula was absolutely awesome, and I have no doubt that she was a big part of the reason why I was able to do it without drugs.

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57 Nicole April 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Moms rarely throw up throughout labor–usually only in transition and then not always then (I never threw up in any of my three labors). Not sure if this handout will paste here successfully but it’s one that I give to my childbirth couples to show that the average first-time 24 hour labor really only has a little over 3 hours of discomfort in it and I don’t know about you but I can do ANYTHING for 3 hours–especially if I get built in breaks every 4 minutes :)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Discomfort in Labor Does Not Have to Be Intolerable
A 24 Hour Labor may have about 3 1/2 hours of discomfort or pain and I will prove it.

Contractions start at 20 minutes apart lasting 45 second. This goes on for 7 hours. 3 contractions an hour for 7 hours is 21 contractions.
• 21×45= 945 seconds or 15 minutes 45 seconds of discomfort
For the next 5 hours contractions are 15 minutes apart lasting 45 seconds. 4 contractions an hour for 5 hours is 20 contractions.
• 20×45 =15 minutes of discomfort
For the next 3 hours the contractions are 10 minutes apart lasting 45 seconds. 6 contractions an hour for 3 hours is 18 contractions
• 18×45 =13 minutes 30 seconds of discomfort
For the next 3 hours contractions are 8 minutes apart lasting 60 seconds. 8 contractions an hour for 3 hours is 24 contractions.
• 24×60 =24 minutes of discomfort
For the next three hours the contractions are 5 minutes apart and lasting 60 seconds. 12 contractions an hour for 3 hours is 36 contractions.
• 36×60=36 minutes of discomfort
Then for 2 hours the contractions are only 3 minutes apart lasting 75 seconds. 20 contractions and hour for 2 hours is 40 contractions.
• 40×75 =50 minutes of discomfort
In transition the contractions pick up to 1 every 2 minutes for 30 minutes and last 90 seconds. 15 contractions in that half hour.
• 15×90 =22 minutes 30 seconds of discomfort
Mama is finally complete and is pushing. Since pushing can be so tough and there is pain on and off throughout, let’s count the whole 30 minutes it takes for her to push as pain.
• 30 minutes of discomfort

Now, total it all up and it equals: 3 hours and 26 minutes of discomfort or pain in a 24-hour longer-than-average labor. And anyone can cope with something for less than four hours!

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58 KERF April 22, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Cool!

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59 Sari April 22, 2012 at 9:28 pm

I recommend a book called “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”. I read it in preparation for my second childbirth after being induced and basically tied to the bed (not literally, just lots of tubes and needles and c-section scares) for 26 hours with my first.
Parts of the book felt too spiritual for me (I’m a very practical person), but parts of it really helped me prepare myself. I went through the second birth completely naturally and felt so much better and healthier for it.
Two tips:
1. Childbirth is like running a marathon. It hurts, but it’s not a bad kind of hurt, it’s something you can work with and be proud of after.
2. Move around as much as you can while in a contraction. I found that wiggling around and almost dancing through the contractions made it much more bearable then when I was on the bed.

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60 KERF April 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I have that book and am looking forward to reading it! Love the marathon analogy (although I’ve never done one :) )

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61 Tracy April 24, 2012 at 9:16 am

You are really on to something! I have two children, now 18 and 21, and went through both births without any pain medication. It was truly awesome. Although I was not opposed to having an epidural, if necessary, I think that for me it was actually easier without it. My firstborn was especially and unusually alert when he was born which made it extra special. That said, I would never presume to judge anyone else’s birth choices or experience. Every person and set of circumstances is different and you and your husband can only make the best choices for yourselves and your baby in light of what happens at the time–no one else’s opinion really matters. For me, breathing through the contractions in a controlled and conscious way and envisioning that each contraction brought our baby that much closer into the world and our arms made the birthing experience calm, spiritual, and joyful in spite of the discomfort. It truly was a form of nirvana.

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