I remember my ninth month of pregnancy. I felt uncomfortable, round, and ready. I can’t say that I felt particularly frightened by labor. Instead, I felt curious. What would labor feel like? What kind of pain was it? Would I scream or breath methodically or retreat “inward”? Would I rock on the birthing ball or walk around the hospital or watch DVD’s (as some of the birthing books advised)?
In early September of 2006, I learned the answers to those questions when I awoke at 11:00 p.m. in the heat of labor. And I certainly wasn’t watching reruns of my favorite TV show.
Labor was the most intense and overwhelming pain that I have ever experienced. The contraction “waves” took my breath away; toward the end, I screamed. But, looking back, I am acutely aware that it was also a beautiful process, a magical rite of passage in my life that I will never forget.
Although the contractions were hard to manage and the pushing was excruciating, I was able to make it through. I was surprised to find that my body knew exactly what it was doing. I just had to “give in,” to watch with wonder as a little life forcefully entered the world – and was dropped into my arms. I still remember her soft skin, her sweet expression, her perfect shape with pinpoint precision.
I had a “birth bag” with gads of labor aids, but I didn’t use any of them. Objects proved to be worthless in the process, but there were several techniqes that helped alleviate my discomfort.
Here are the top 6 “techniques” that I utilized to manage the pain:
1. Reassurance – I continuously asked, “Will it get anymore painful?” My nurse would say, “It’s going to get much more painful, but you can do it.” I would say, “I don’t think I can do this.” My husband would say, “you can do it. I’m right here.” This might sound trite, but those comforting words pulled me through.
2. Heating Pad – If there was one tangible “tool” that actually helped, it was the makeshift heating pad that my husband crafted out of towels placed in the microwave. He’d place counter pressure with the pad into the small of back during contractions and this helped immensely.
3. Changing Positions – Movement was my friend in labor. It helped to walk, to squat, to lean, to do anything other than lay down or sit perfectly still.
4. Stool – There was a low stool in my room and I spent a large portion of “middle labor” sitting on the stool. It was much lower than a chair and I think the almost-squatting position was ideal. Naturally.
5. Shower – I enjoyed the heat of the water – the pressure of the drops. Something about the shower soothed me. I wish there would have been a tub in my room. I would have liked to try that.
6. Breathing – I forced myself to breath in and breath out and then relax. The “routine” of that sequence was reassuring. Until transition – and then breathing didn’t help anymore. Although maybe screaming did! :)
What techniques did you use during labor? What worked and what didn’t?