I agree, to an extent, there is no such thing as easy labor, but with careful planning and learning what and what not to do, the labor pain can be reduced and you can have an ‘easier labor’ than if you would’ve otherwise had. After giving birth to three children, three different ways, I can tell you all the scary, funny, yucky stories of labor if you want me to, but I will leave that for your imagination and I’m sure you’ll have your own stories to add once you actually give birth to your little baby too.
Just to share with you the bare minimum, my first son was supposed to be born in the middle of a hot summer day. Well, the problem is that he didn’t want to come out of his happy place according to our schedule, so after few days of waiting for labor pains, we had to give a little nudge and ask him so nicely to please come out so we can see his beautiful face. Even with an epidural on my back to ease the pains, I can tell you, I knew the moment he was ready to push out, I was in so much pain I couldn’t even call my sleeping hubby few feet away from me, so I gently threw my teddy bear at him to wake him up in the middle of the night to tell him ‘it’s time’. The second son couldn’t wait to get out and explore this world – he’s seven years old today, an extremely curious little boy, still makes me worry about his safety – almost came out right on the couch at home, so we had to rush to the hospital and had an emergency C-section. The third, we planned a C-section because of pregnancy complications. Between my first and the second, I carried a baby for four months before having a painful miscarriage. So, as you can see, I’ve seen and been through it all and would like to share with you few tips to make this journey as easy as possible from what I learned along the way.
- Ask for a good support person:
Your partner obviously is the best support person in this journey. But remember, he is also going through an emotional roller coaster just as you are during the labor. So it is a good idea to have a doula (a person trained specially to help pregnant mothers during labor, most of them have experience that can be very useful for first time mothers) or a close relative to support you. Make sure to discuss clearly with your person of choice about expectations and preferences from each side. If you do have a birth plan, it is good to discuss the birth plan with the doula or the support person.
- Walk the pains away:
During the full nine months, I walked daily for exercise. Even while waiting at the hospital during labor pains, I walked around to distract myself from the pains. Most first time mothers have long labor periods, sometimes about ten, twelve hours long. My friend went baby gear shopping when she was already dilated!! She had planned to go to the nearest Baby item store on the way to the hospital. It was a great way to distract herself from the pains. She was with her husband and they were less than two minutes away from the hospital. The store was inside a shopping mall which made it easier for her to walk around and, talk about distractions, what else can you do for fun in a shopping mall other than people watching?
- Eat small meals or snack often:
Don’t worry now about the weight gains. You have done all that careful monitoring of your weight gain during the nine months. Right now, you need to focus on the birth of your child. Avoid fatty food or heavy meals that might make you nauseated during labor. Choose health snacks and pack some for hospital in case if you do not like what is offered to you. I even had a bar of chocolate in my hospital bag!!
- Stay home and rest until the right moment to go to the hospital:
One thing you do not want is to wait at the hospital for hours before the labor begins. If you have a comfortable and reliable way to get to the hospital within five to ten minutes, you can stay home until you feel the contractions within 4-5 minutes apart. For most mothers, it takes about an hour from this point to actual labor. When the contractions are getting closer and stronger, you know it is time to get out of the house. Until then, it is better to take it slow, breath, drink water, rest, put your feet up and relax. This is not the time to run around packing the hospital bag, so make sure to have that ready few weeks ahead.
- Take a shower:
You can actually take a shower while having contractions and it is a good idea to do so because you never know when is the next time you get to have a shower on your own, in your own bathroom. So, make sure you are safe and that the hospital bag is ready, and go take that shower or even a soak in a bath tub would be helpful to ease the pains.
- Welcome the unexpected:
You might feel embarrassed having all those people around, about the unexpected bodily functions, noises you make, the lunatic behavior that you show, but remember, they are trained professionals to do the job right. They have seen in all. Your doctor might recommend pain medication or tips to help you at the moment, and you need to trust your doctor. Ask questions but remember you have trusted this individual through nine months of taking care of this baby. I remember when I faced my emergency C-section, my doctor wanted to explain me the procedure and I told her very clearly that I trusted her with my whole heart to do the right thing for me and my baby and that is all I needed to tell her. This trust makes everyone’s job much easier including yours.
- Take your unfinished crochet project to the hospital with you:
This might seem odd to you, but I actually had my project in hand during labor pains and the long waits felt much shorter with each new row I add to my project. The urge to finish the project kept me busy and distracted enough to ease the pains. I also benefited from the sitting position between contractions. In between contractions, I’ll forget all about the next contraction and add few chains or fillings to my baby blanket I was making for my baby. Years later, my son still brags about how his mom made this blanket while he was being born, it truly was labor of love!! You can take small coloring books, short stories, magazines to read if you are not into projects like I was. Something that you love and can’t wait to finish will keep that focus away from the contractions and pains.
As with anything, things don’t always go in the direction you planned it to be. So, the important message here is to take it easy. Rest and less stressful is the best way to ease the pains of labor. I have been reading a small book called “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. If it is not going to affect you at this moment, don’t worry about it now. If you hear about political crisis happening in the other side of the earth, thought it might affect you in the long run, at this moment, it belong to the ‘Small Stuff’. Try to stay away from any potentially stressful discussions unless you must engage in such conversations. Enjoy the moment and tune out any negative thoughts. Listen to music and read a good book. There is no way to predict how your labor will turn out no matter how much we want to know.
Dr Ganga Fernando received her PhD from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and currently teaching at Cottey College – a four-year University of liberal arts and sciences for women – as an Associate Professor of Chemistry. In her role as a faculty member of the BS in Health Science program, she offers research and internship opportunities in the field of Global Public Health disparities and health care in rural South East Asia. She is a mother of 3 and a world traveler with vast experience in women’s health and maternity.