Alright, I’ve talked a lot about epidurals, pain medications, and C-sections in my last few posts…but NATURAL MAMAS, this post is for you! My natural-laboring mamas have a special little place in my heart, because I, too, rode the no-epidural train.
I was a labor and delivery nurse before I had my son, and I’m going to admit, I thought I had my head wrapped around the whole “going natural” thing. I was confident in myself, and I had seen countless moms do it without epidurals. I knew it was going to hurt, BAD. I knew it was going to probably be long, and tiring. I knew I was probably going to lose my mind at the end. I knew that most women have a perception of what “going natural” is like, beforehand, just to find out the experience is a lot more painful and intense than what they originally thought.
I had seen that breaking point many women go through during transition, and at what point many of them call it quits and scream for the anesthesiologist.
I thought I had it all figured out. I had read books, talked to many moms who had done it before, and done my research.
Well…NEWS FLASH…my perception of what I thought it was going to be like versus my actual experience was just a little bit more intense. Okay, A LOT MORE INTENSE.
In fact, I’ll start off this list with saying…do as much research as you can but be aware that your experience will most likely NOT match your expectations!
But that’s okay!
That’s part of it all. And, that’s part of the mentality of having a natural birth. Letting go of that control factor, and letting your body just do its thing!
Before I get too deep, one resource that I feel helped me IMMENSELY was Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Seriously, this lady and this book is a godsend for any natural mama out there. A MUST-READ if you are trying to avoid an epidural.
I also would recommend reading it later (but not too much later) in your pregnancy. I read it when I was around 6 months pregnant, but by the time I was nearing the end of my pregnancy, I felt like I had forgotten a lot of what she had to say. I ended up re-reading it around week 37, and I got much more out of it! Here’s the link, if you’d like to purchase off Amazon. 🙂
Alright, so I’m going to go over some mental tidbits, tips, and notes I personally used to help me get through my labor, and what I tell my natural mamas during their labors!
These are in no particular order!
PREPARE AND DO YOUR RESEARCH
Labor is no easy feat (natural or not). I can’t tell you how many people I talked to, how much I read, and how much I mentally tried to prepare myself for my labor.
I will say, the women I care for who have done their labor research, are usually the ones who rock it!
That goes for anything in life, also! Usually when you do your research on something, your experience tends to be much more positive, and you tend to be much more mentally ready for it, because you have an idea of what to expect.
So, read lots of books, take a prenatal class, and talk to lots of your friends and family members! Basically, try to learn as much as you can about going natural! You will not only be much more educated on pregnancy and birth, but doing research WILL ABSOLUTELY get you excited about doing it!
Before you read any further, CHECK THIS OUT! I found the best resource for my natural mamas! Hillary from Pulling Curls is a fellow labor and delivery nurse, and she created a fantastic ONLINE PRENATAL COURSE. That’s right, she goes over EVERYTHING, and you don’t have to even have to leave your couch!
You get all the benefits of a traditional in-class style course, but you get to enjoy it from the comfort of your own home, on your own time. There’s 3 price points (one is only $20!), so pick which one works for your life, your budget and your needs. There’s something just right for you! Pretty brilliant if you ask me! 🙂 Check it out here, and tell her I sent you!
YOU CAN DO ANYTHING FOR 10 SECONDS
Even though contractions last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, the PEAK of intensity roughly lasts about 10-15 seconds. So, if you can think about it this way, you may be able to mentally get through them better. Sure, the whole contraction is going to last awhile, but the terrible, awful, gut wrenching part really only lasts 10-15 seconds. You can do anything for 10 seconds!
YOU DO GET BREAKS
Yes! You do get little breaks in between, to ready yourself for the next one. I don’t think women could get through labor if there were not small breaks in between contractions! Value these breaks and use them to your advantage. Savor them.
IT’S ONLY ONE DAY OF YOUR LIFE
Okay, sometimes two, but generally the god-awful part of labor lasts much less than a day. Usually hours. You’ve been alive for how many days? This is only one of them! Think of it this way.
DON’T THINK ABOUT HOW MANY MORE CONTRACTIONS YOU HAVE
Think about how many you’ve done, and how each contraction you have is one step closer to you being DONE and meeting baby. This is a very common “defeatist” attitude I see women have during labor if it’s not going as fast as they want it to. And, a negative attitude is not something you want during labor! Instead of clinging on to how many hours you’ve been 4 or 5 centimeters, congratulate yourself that you’ve made it this far. Celebrate each contraction as one less you have to deal with!
EVENTUALLY IT WILL END
Yes, it will! This pain you are dealing with isn’t going to be everyday for the rest of your life. Eventually, the labor process is going to be over, and you will have your baby, I promise!
I like to use this mantra when I’m swamped at work, or I have something really stressful going on, too. I used to wait tables, and I remember it being so busy some nights that I would be running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Simply remembering that the night will eventually end, and I’ll get to go home and go to sleep really helped me look at the bigger picture, and gave me the little pick-me-up I needed during my shift. I know that’s a weird analogy, but truly just reminding yourself that eventually labor will be over can help you push through and make it!
15 MINUTE INCREMENTS, OR 4 MORE CONTRACTIONS
This is a mental exercise I like to do with my natural patients, and one I personally used as well. When you are on the brink of exhaustion, and thinking you can’t do it anymore, I like to suggest we keep going for either another 15 minutes, or 4 more contractions. After that time frame is up, something changes. We either change positions, get a dose of medication, get in the shower etc. Sometimes by simply setting a time frame, and changing something at the end of that time frame, it helps women have more control over the setting. For some reason, getting through four 15 minutes increments sounds much easier to me than doing something for an hour! Agreed?
Be sure to head over to this post to learn more about alternative pain control methods during labor as well!
LITERALLY TAKE IT ONE CONTRACTION AT A TIME
This goes along with every thing I’ve said thus far….just take it one at a time! Focus on only the one you are having. Don’t think about how horrible the last one was, or how horrible the next one is going to be. Just FOCUS on the one you are having now, and getting through it.
CLEAR ANY MENTAL BLOCKADES YOU HAVE
I am a firm believer in positive energy, and I think negative energy has a way of impeding labor progression. I’ve seen it! Really, if you’ve got any mental blocks you are focusing on during labor (money stress, family affairs, etc.), your body is going to have a heck of a lot harder job doing its thing. Try and focus on the here and now. Clear your personal stressors for the time being, and focus on the job you have to do, LABOR!
ACCEPT THE PAIN
Don’t fight it, accept it. Embrace it. It’s easier said than done, but this is one key element every natural mama must face. Any other time our bodies are in pain, our natural response is to fight it, fix it, bandage it. Well in labor, you truly must just deal with it, and accept it…and then it will be over!
BREATHE AS SLOW AND AS DEEP AS YOU CAN
Those breathing exercises in prenatal classes can actually work! It’s true. The slower and deeper you breathe during a contraction, the more oxygen your uterus is getting.
One of the reasons contractions are painful is because your uterus is a huge muscle, and when muscles contract, they tighten and restrict blood flow and oxygen to their surroundings. A lack of oxygen causes pain! So, BREATHE DEEP to get more oxygen pumping to that uterus!
BE A RAG DOLL
Limp, loose and relaxed during contractions. IT’S WAY HARDER THAN IT SOUNDS, I KNOW! Truth is, tensing up during each contraction is only keeping baby in there longer. Doing your very best to relax your muscles during each contraction can make a world of difference in terms of progression. And, I’m not just talking about relaxing your bottom. Relax your face, shoulders, arms, legs, entire body!
YOU’RE PROBABLY GOING TO LOSE YOUR MIND AT THE END
But, that’s okay! Everyone does. Almost every laboring pregnant lady completely loses their state of mind at the end. Maybe you snap at your partner, scream at the top of your lungs, whatever it may be. It’s totally fine, and it’s expected! Don’t worry, this usually means you’re almost done.
PUSHING IS THE END
I remember thinking during my labor, “I can’t wait to be pushing, I can’t wait to be pushing”. Yes! Keep this in your head. Once you’ve made it to the point of pushing, TRUST ME, you’ve made it through the hard part. Some may argue that pushing is just as bad as contractions, but I say different. Most women feel much more in control of their labor once they hit the pushing stage. And, just think how far you’ve come, you’ve made it to 10 centimeters, now to just push baby OUT!
AND, FINALLY, YOU GET A BIG REWARD AT THE END!
Keep that baby in your mind! During each contraction, remind yourself what’s about to happen, you’re about to be a mom. You’re about to meet the little love of your life, and see his/her face after 9 months of waiting. Don’t get too consumed with the pain that you forget why you’re actually there in the first place. 😊
Labor is about KNOWING you can do it, and taking it on like a BOSS. Remember, it’s a mental game more than anything. With that said, what other tips do you have that helped you through labor? I’d love to know. These are some of the methods I personally used, and what I use in my practice to help my natural mamas cope with labor pain. I know there are plenty more out there! Leave me a comment, and happy laboring!
Be sure to check out my post on what happens at delivery too!
Founder, Labor Teen