Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Preparing for Labor

A woman on one of my internet birth groups recently posted these thoughts about how she prepared for labor:
When we decided to have a homebirth with a midwife, I (being an intellectual) bought as many books as I could, went to my childbirth class very early, read the corresponding book to the class, went to homebirth meetups, watched every video I could, including the ones on TV with hospital births. I wanted every possible tool in my bag for when the time came, uncertain which method would ultimately prove beneficial once in labor.

The last video I watched was at my childbirth class. It was, yet again, another South American video. I was disappointed with this after so many videos, because I couldn't understand what was being said in labor. I knew everything I felt I needed to know about the actual birth by then, but I wanted to know more about a natural LABOR at that point.

Well, as was typical in the Latin videos, the woman had her family there with her, both in and out of the tub, and she QUIETLY gave birth to her baby while her children watched her normal, natural birth. Then suddenly the video switched to an American home birth in a blow-up pool in the family's living room. The woman moaned and cried and wailed and had that typical wild-eyed, American labor look of "Who Is Going to Rescue Me Now????"

The stark contrast was what helped me know that every tool in my bag was completely unnecessary and useless. I was looking to trust everything but my baby and my body. I threw away my bag of birthing tricks. I understood then that we Americans are heavily convinced that birth is super difficult and have been indoctrinated into the mindset of we weak women need to be saved by the knight in shining armor. I was NOT going to be that. I believed thoroughly in the natural process of birth. I believed that my body was made to give birth. And, most importantly, I believed that just as my baby and body knew when it was time for my body to labor, my baby knew how to be born.

I was very quiet during the three days I was in labor. My midwife did not even come over until late the third morning. By then I was finally in active labor. I was quiet throughout the entire day until transition. After an hour of transition, during the last 30 minutes of transition I began to ask if I could really do this. My husband and my midwife's apprentice talked to me after every contraction and reminded me that I could and to stick with just one contraction at a time. (The transition contractions were the worst for me, because I thought I would throw up. What they didn't know was that I would rather have contractions any ole day than be forced to vomit. Just a personal preference thing.)

All at once I felt a wave start from my head and flow through my body and out of my vagina, and my body pushed with it. It did it again on the next contraction, and I felt the ring of fire. I jumped up out of the bed and headed for the tub. My midwife reminded me that I didn't have to have a waterbirth just because that was what I had planned, but I didn't even listen for a second. I KNEW the water was where I needed to be.

The water eased the contractions remarkably. My friend, husband, midwife, and midwife's apprentice were all in the bathroom talking to each other while I was in the tub with my head at one end and my feet touching the other end. Absolutely NO ONE knew I was pushing (actually not even I knew). I asked for a rag that I instinctively held with my hand between my legs.

Suddenly I felt a "pop" and asked my midwife what it was. She turned around and looked down at me and said, "Oh! The head is out!!" She insisted that I pull my legs up then (my knees were still together when the head was pushed out), and Ania was born a few seconds after.

My point is that I turned into myself. I listened to my body. Found the position that worked for my body. Walked when my body knew I needed to walk.

It was the closest I've ever been to God. The world went quiet and faded away. I was in touch only with each breath of each second of each contraction. Two months of third trimester discomfort and swearing I would never ever never have a baby again had me wanting another almost immediately because of the childbirth.

Was it painful? Yes, in all honesty it was painful during that 1-1/2 of transition. Was it my mindset that got me through it? Absolutely. I welcomed the pain, knew it was natural, knew it was not permanent, knew labor pains would not be listed as the cause of my death. I just fell into labor, didn't fight it, didn't question it, didn't question the process. I trusted birth. THAT is the only real tool you need.

Posted with permission from M. Morrow.


  1. Rixa...I love your blog. The more the read, the more excited I get for your labour. You know what you're doing and your body knows it too, just listen. Keep it up! Can't wait to see your new little one. Give the lady from Church a kick in the crotch for me :).

  2. Aah, that was beautiful and inspiring.
    And it's true, there really is no method. That's what I found out, too.

    I've also read about (home)births in other cultures and various US subcultures, and how the moms act differently, sound different, assume different positions etc. I find this fascinating!


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