Labour is terrifying for a mother expecting her first child. It’s the fear of the unknown, not to mention the potential excruciating pain as the baby rips its way into the outside world. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not that bad.
Most woman who have gone through it love sharing the dirty, appalling details. I remember years ago listening to one horror story after another. Having a baby sounded like an awful, terrifying thing that I wasn’t interested in doing any time soon.
Now, I know we aren’t sharing the stories to scare anyone. We share all of the traumas of child birth because we did it and we survived! It’s like a badge of honour. It’s an empowering feeling. We went through all of this and made it out to tell the tale. We are amazing! It’s not that we are bragging. It was a memorable day full of new experiences. We are just sharing stories.
Personal, detailed stories. All sense of modesty is lost when delivering a baby. You are exposed for all of the world to see (or so it feels) and it doesn’t seem so personal. So we talk about child birth in detail!
It sounds horrific to anyone who hasn’t gone through it. The stories used to make me squirm and send terror shooting through me. Now they don’t. Everything seems different having gone through it.
Next time you’re listening to someone describing their experience of giving birth don’t pay attention to what they are saying. Pay attention to their tone and how they are saying it. They are usually explaining it in a very calm and matter-of-fact way. There’s often very little stress or anxiety when recalling it. Let their tone and attitude about it be what you listen to.
As someone who has gone through it I want to assure anyone who is pregnant or thinking about having kids in the future that labour is not that bad. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only woman on the planet beating this drum. But it’s what I experienced.
I’ve included a link to a birth video called “Welcoming Theodore“. This is a happy birth video that helped calm me down after watching the ones in prenatal class. Watch it. Childbirth doesn’t have to be scary.
I had Hailey at home in our living room. It was a natural birth so I didn’t have any drugs. Yes, I did this on purpose (several people have asked!). And I had a water birth.
My labour started on a Friday afternoon with my first contraction around 3:30pm (even though I wasn’t sure it was a contraction at that point). Hailey was born at 9am on Sunday morning. So that’s 30+ hours of labour including about an hour and a half of pushing.
My contractions were close enough together to warrant a visit from the midwife Saturday morning. The contractions then spread out to 1 every half hour to an hour for a good chunk of Saturday. Active labour started around midnight Saturday night. I had 2 partial water ruptures during that time but my midwife ended up having to break my water around 6am Sunday morning.
Contractions are hard work (a.k.a. labour). I had back labour (felt the contractions in my lower back instead of my abdomen) right up until the transition stage. I would describe them as a stiffening and tightening sensation, like a powerful muscle spasm. The pain can be intense – I won’t lie to you. I found that the contractions would be over rather quickly even when they were lasting well over a minute. I didn’t really have an awareness of time as I was going through it.
When you think about it, the majority of time in labour is actually spent resting between contractions. You just have to get through the contraction itself. It helped me to know that there was an end and I would get a break.
Mentally, getting through contractions was like getting through a hard workout. When you feel like you’ve given it your all and someone says just 3 more reps and you power through it breathing deeply and willing your muscles to respond. That was how I got through it. I used my breathing to power through it knowing it would be over shortly.
After each contraction I heard a voice in my head saying “that wasn’t so bad”. This was not me trying to convince myself but rather an automated response that played in my head after each contraction. I still don’t know where this came from. It happened even after contractions that had me crumbling to the floor in pain (there were only 2 of these). The contraction would finish and I’d hear “that wasn’t so bad” play in my head. Really??? This inner monologue still surprises me to this day. I will admit that after the final contraction before I started pushing my inner voice said “that wasn’t so bad…but I hope it doesn’t get much worse than this”. And it didn’t…that contraction was the worst one.
Even as the baby was crowning and I was experiencing the dreaded Ring of Fire it wasn’t that bad. I was in the water, which I know helped me a lot. It lessened the pain and took the pressure off my tail bone. Plus, I find water relaxing so it was nice to lie there floating between pushes.
After the labour was over, I was like “I could do that again. That wasn’t so bad.” I’m not saying this to brag. I’m telling you this to explain my mental state.
I experienced pain. It was exhausting. But I remember it as “that wasn’t so bad”.
Sidenote: Be nice to your husband. It’s hard to watch someone you love in pain. It’s a helpless feeling. And remember all those dreaded birthing videos? Well, they get to see the live version! I can honestly say that I was happy to be the one giving birth rather than watching. I think it would have been more traumatizing.
And watch the vid