Labor is work. Hard work! The tools women use to get through childbirth are various. In my two experiences I used everything from essential oils to epidurals. I listened to Australian women speak hynobirthing stories (somehow every hypnobirthing track was narrated by someone with an Australian accent), attended childbirth classes, and read and read and read things on the internet. All the things I learned weren’t valuable, but, the ones that helped sure did their job! And the story of those tools and the births they assisted are valuable and I’ll write them some day.
But today I write about the tools and how they continued their jobs after my babies were here. In the birth of my second babe I used a mantra, visualizations, and my doula (along with my partner, of course) to get through the experience.
My mantra: Slowly, deeply
Okay, so none of these tools are brilliant or new, but definitely not the idea that you should breathe slowly and deeply during labor . There are multiple and various methods and cues for breathing during labor. For me, the second time, I used, and asked my partners in birth to use, “Slowly” on the in breath and “Deeply” on the out. It helped me visualize baby coming lower and lower. I asked my team to repeat it, LOUDLY for the entire labor. It helped!
It also helps when things are chaotic around the house. Both kids crying at the same time? “Slowly, deeply.” Baby not sleeping at 3 am? “Slowly, deeply.”
Really anything would work, but this is what is now cemented in my brain.
My visualization: Go with the flow
Literally. The imagery of waves is a classic birthing class image. This is what contractions are, a wave. Do you fight the wave or go with it, allow it to wash over your, recognize it is temporary?
This is also helpful while pacing up and down the baby’s room as she cries or refuses to sleep. Babies can sense our tension and anxiety. If I am all worked up about babe not sleeping, she will continue to not sleep as she senses my worry. Postpartum I use this visualization a lot. I am a rock at the bottom of the sea, the waves crash above me, but I am calm.
I also sometimes pivot and imagine myself on the beach listening to the waves with a big sun hat on, no one needing anything from me, and a large tropical cocktail in hand. With a drink umbrella, obviously.
My doula: “Take your breaks”
My doula said this to me at one point during labor. I remember listening, processing, and realizing that actually in that moment, I wasn’t having a contraction. In labor, feelings are so intense that it can sometimes have an echo that reverberates, but the echo is not pain.
My goodness is this hard to put into practice postpartum. There are alway dishes to do, laundry fold (my god! the laundry!), and projects I’d like to accomplish. But sometimes it’s more important to nap, yoga, or, honestly, rewatch the episodes of the Great British Bakeoff on Netflix. Because recharge time is so necessary to my mental health, but also, then, my children’s wellbeing. Happy wife, happy life is the saying, but I think it’s more Happy(ish) mom, happy(ish) kids.
Labor is hard, but so is parenting, y’all. Use all the tools in your toolbox to get you through.