With my first, I had a very long labour (about 46 hours I think) and it was very hard not knowing what to expect. So, now that I am pregnant again, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what I need to remember once the big day arrives.
Looking back on that first time, I really was completely clueless and there were a couple of things that I had no idea would be an issue. Maybe the pregnancy baby brain had just got the best of me but I felt like there was a lot I wasn’t prepared for.
Below are my top tips for labour and delivery that I will be keeping in mind, when preparing to do it all over again very soon!
1. ISOTONIC DRINKS
“Pack snacks” everyone said! “Soft food that’s easy to digest” they all told me.
Who are these people that are happily munching away throughout labour?! Not me that’s for sure!
Once labour hit, my body wanted to do the exact opposite of eating and just get everything out, by whatever means necessary! Gross, I know, but unfortunately very true.
So then how do you keep your energy at a semi reasonable level when you’ve been awake for 40 hours having contractions?
The only way I could do it was with heaps of isotonic sports drinks. If the hospital vending machine didn’t sell them I don’t know how I would have got through labour. They’re not as good as actual food but they were the only thing I had any real chance of keeping down.
Don’t get me wrong, by the time that last push came, I was seeing three of my partner and slurring my words but I got there. This time round, I’ll buy isotonic drinks in bulk and pack them in my hospital bag. They were worth every cent but the vending machine sure made a good profit out of us that day!
2. HOT WATER
A few friends had told me that hot water bottles on the lower stomach, where contractions happen, are a must. Personally, I found that it did nothing for me though!
The water bottle was either too hot or, I’d wrap it in something, then it wasn’t hot enough. I just couldn’t seem to get the temperature right and it drove me crazy.
What DID work for me was hot water straight from the shower. I could set the temperature and hold the shower head right on my stomach where I was feeling contractions and it felt like such a huge relief!
In fact I used hot water so much that when I go to the hospital the midwife showed me my stomach and I’d actually burnt myself! It was only minor but the hot water had been so helpful that I hadn’t even noticed…….as soon as I was in the birthing room I had the shower head pressed to that same spot
3. DON’T MAKE NOISE
We didn’t get the chance to go to antenatal classes, so I think there were a few things I just missed out on hearing in preparation and this was the biggest.
“Stop making a noise” the midwife told me over and over again, as I tried to deal with a watermelon pushing it’s way out of me!
After the third time she said that, if I’d had the energy I’m pretty sure I would have slapped her.
What I FINALLY realised, after an agonising 30 minutes of pushing whilst screaming, was that she didn’t just want me to shut up, she wanted me to hold my breath and push!!
When you are “pushing” and screaming, or making any kind of noise, at the same time you are actually letting all that energy and pressure out through your mouth. I didn’t realise then but I was pushing really ineffectively and getting absolutely nowhere.
Once it finally clicked, I held my breath, didn’t make a noise and pushed and I was finally focusing my energy in exactly the right place and it all became a million times easier!
4. SPEAK UP
Whilst I was pregnant, I was adamant that I wanted a water birth. Fast forward to the big day. I’m in the bath, getting exactly what I wanted and I hate it!!
There were no handles to hold, I couldn’t get traction with my feet, didn’t know how to push and everything was just far too overwhelming. However, in my labour hazed mind, I was terrified of telling the midwife I wanted out!
I had been so set on having a water birth I felt like I just couldn’t admit it wasn’t for me. I was sure she would be annoyed with me or think of me as a clueless, emotional, pregnant wreck (which I absolutely was anyway)
I mumbled something about it to my partner between contractions. God love that wonderful man, he stood straight up and told the midwife I needed out and that was that.
In reality, she couldn’t have cared less if I was in the bath, on the bed or wherever the hell else I felt like having it but labour does strange things to a woman and I was not thinking straight. As soon as I was out of the bath, I felt so much more comfortable and things were much easier.
If something is bothering you, make sure to speak up. Everyone is there for you and the baby and all they want is to make things as easy as possible for you!
5. KEEP LOOSE
THIS!! Quite possibly the most difficult tip on my list but also the most beneficial! Yes, trying to remain loose during labour is super helpful but remembering that when a contraction hits is another story.
When we’re in pain it’s natural to clench muscles and try to counteract those feelings by squeezing everything, gritting teeth and basically bracing against the pain. However, all this tension in the body can actually focus the pain and makes it feel much worse.
On the flip side, if you make a conscious effort not to clench those muscles and to release all those tensions, it can help the pain pass much faster and should help the cervix to open more effectively.
It can be helpful to talk with your birth partner about this beforehand and practice letting go of tensions in your body. Have your birth partner remind you during labour to shake out arms and legs or let your mouth and jaw hang loose. The thing that helped me the most was checking what my bum was doing!! It seemed to be the part of me I clenched the most when a contraction hit and I would have to make a conscious effort to stop myself.
These are the 5 main tips that took me by surprise and I found helpful during childbirth. I’m hoping my next labour experience will go much smoother (and faster) by remembering these bits of advice.
Everyone has their own tactics and advice and circumstances. For example, if you are giving birth to twins you may need a whole different strategy.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is just to try and remain as calm as possible, relax into it as much as you can and try not to dwell too much on what is to come. Going into the experience full of anxiety, before you’ve even begin, is not healthy for you or your unborn baby!