What does natural childbirth feel like? (I'm pregnant) - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 30 Old 04-16-2013, 05:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Right now I am trying to decide whether or not to use pain relief drugs in labor. Will be a first time mom in 6 weeks, doing a hospital birth, love my OB, and she is basically leaving things up to me. I am leaning towards no epidural. I just kinda trust my body to get me through this.

 

And I don't want to take anything that is going to make the birthing process harder....it seems illogical to me to numb an area I *need* for pushing. Or is that bad logic, and would my body figure out pushing while also being numbed? I guess it's like asking someone if they could learn to eat after getting a novicaine shot in the mouth....maybe you'd still figure it out? But do you want to chance it on the big day?

 

I am also wondering, would just a pain killer like Fentanyl be best as a compromise.....like take the edge off the pain, but not numb me? Do they do that? Logically, that seems like a preferable option if I am on the fence. My mom told me that with me, she had a painkiller but no epidural, then with her second, she went all natural.

 

My main question is, how can you (as someone who's gone through it) best describe the pain of natural childbirth? In other words, what does it feel like with no drugs, and what, of that, is blocked by the epidural?

 

My understanding (really, what I've assumed....since I haven't taken my birth class yet) is that you have contractions, which feel like bad menstrual cramps. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Is the pain similar in "type" to period cramps, just worse? And that the contractions come and go. So you just kind of ride them out, and you aren't in constant pain. But then they get closer together, but even then, you still have some breaks between?

 

I kinda feel like if it's bad menstrual cramps and I just have to ride things out till I get breaks, that is okay with me. The kind of pain that scares me would be like meningitis in your upper neck, migraine type pain...something sharp and never-ending, that makes you squint so you don't collapse (I realize the pain will be in my pelvis, just comparing types of pain).  But if it's crampy, I feel I can handle anything for "spurts." Cramps at least feel productive and not mysterious. So is that what the epidural blocks, those spurts? Or is the pain people talk about something totally different? I am not trying to make light of it, because I'm sure it's bad!!!! Just wanting a frame of reference.

 

Then at the end, I assume everything is more intense. But we're still talking cramping type sensations in the uterus, just on a whole 'nother level, right?

 

Are there any other types of pain? Like when the baby starts moving down the birth canal, is that a separate type of pain? And does the epidural block that too, or is that not blocked by the epidural, so there's not much of a point in getting the epidural for that?

 

One thing I will say, is that I had a D&C in the hospital at 12 weeks for a miscarriage, and they gave me Pitocin before the surgery to help things along, and so when I woke up from surgery, I could feel that cramping and I told them it was bothersome. And it did feel just like menstrual cramps. They offered pain meds, I told them I could take some Motrin and I'd be fine, but they told me in the hospital that they could only give me the IV pain meds, because for whatever reason I couldn't have Motrin. So I said, fine, I'll take that, and my logic was that I just had to go home and rest; I wasn't trying to give birth! So I do know what Pitocin feels like, in a way.....if that would help with explanations.

 

Thank you!

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#2 of 30 Old 04-16-2013, 05:31 PM
 
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I have had four kids. The first was the easiest/least painful, and it got more difficult with each child. All women are so different. Some describe it as bad menstrual cramps, for me it was REALLY painful. The key for me with #1 was staying on top of the contractions. I never had pain meds with any of my births but sometimes I really wondered if an epidural would have been so bad LOL These weren't "waves" or whatever other people call them. These were painful contractions of my uterus, and I was extremely "vocal" (meaning I yelled through them towards the end).

 

The good thing, no matter how painful it is...there is not pain between the contractions, and the contractions are not forever. And for me...when I felt like I just couldn't do it anymore and would rather die, that was called transition and then it was time to push.


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#3 of 30 Old 04-16-2013, 05:39 PM
 
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I can't say what "natural" childbirth is like because I had pitocin but with no epidural. That said, I found it a lot more doable than I had expected. Mostly I would say that I felt that it was overwhelming and that might have been because the pitocin didn't allow me a break between contractions. I always say that it is never a bad idea to be prepared for natural childbirth because there are many instances where pain relief just wouldn't be possible.

 

Have you read Ina May's guide to childbirth? Reading the birth stories in there helped me have a better idea of what to expect but really, it IS very different for every woman.


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#4 of 30 Old 04-16-2013, 05:50 PM
 
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My labors are quick and on the "bad menstrual cramp" side of things. I have had much worse pain, like a kidney infection and a gallbladder going bad.


Really, its just one day in your life and the pain has purpose. The drugs pass to the baby and that's not okay with me.
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#5 of 30 Old 04-16-2013, 06:14 PM
 
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A really interesting thing about pain is that it is not only very individual, but your experience of the sensations will be deeply affected by your attitude about them. (I am not saying that people who have very painful experiences are causing the pain, though.) There is a very good book called "Mindful Birthing" which neither advocates nor villifies medical (drug) management of pain during labor. Although the book is about birth preparation using mindfulness, it has some really excellent chapters on what the sensations/pain of childbirth are and how to make decisions about how to handle them. These chapters give such a fresh, non-"natural birth"-biased perspective. I would particularly recommend it for someone who is open to using drugs or other medical treatments during birth.

 

Personally, I found the pain of labor very manageable and for me the risks of drugs (particularly  dreaded "the cascade of interventions" and side effects for the baby) were not tolerable. I used hypnobabies hypnosis for my first (and only) birth, which definitely helped a lot, but during the parts where I did feel pain and extreme intensity (Ina May describes it as riding on the front of a train moving at 150 mph, and needing to just give in), I felt acutely aware of how it was temporary and that I would not be destroyed by it. I felt very powerful during birth even though I was exhausted, and this new experience of being empowered outweighed the fear of pain and to some extent the pain itself.

 

I found the early parts of labor, when I had menstrual-like cramping, more challenging than the more intense parts, I guess because I was scared at first and then settled into the process. (The birth was 26 hours long, so I had time to adjust.)



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#6 of 30 Old 04-16-2013, 07:13 PM
 
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My understanding (really, what I've assumed....since I haven't taken my birth class yet) is that you have contractions, which feel like bad menstrual cramps. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Is the pain similar in "type" to period cramps, just worse? And that the contractions come and go. So you just kind of ride them out, and you aren't in constant pain. But then they get closer together, but even then, you still have some breaks between?

 

No, at least for me contractions feel nothing like cramps. I've had 3 kids, they got easier with each one.

With my first, I won't lie, the pain was horrible. I had back labor, if felt like a sharp pain in the front and the back was a burning pain like someone was trying to scoop my kidneys out with a rusty spoon. I had no breaks. I believe it was because of his position, he had a nuchal arm and his head was crooked. 

With my second, muuuuuch better. Healing. Pain was still sharp and towards the end I was loud but I was able to stay on top of things and never lost it. 

With my third (5 weeks ago) I never had to do anything more than breathe deeply. Never even had transition-like feelings. The pain was still sharp but easy to deal with. I was able to joke in between contractions right up to pushing and pushed him out in one push.


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#7 of 30 Old 04-16-2013, 08:06 PM
 
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Pain is such a personal experience.  I think it's a good thing to explore your own relationship to "pain".  Do you find pain tolerable or intolerable?  Are you willing to experience pain in labor?  If yes, for how long?  If no, what are your options?  Are you open to the idea that you might not yet know how much pain you can tolerate?  I've found parenting to be an incredible learning experience.  I thought I could never function on less than 8 hours of sleep, much less years of barely getting 2 or 3 hours in a row.  But, wow, I have gone waaay beyond what was possible before having kids. 

 

Personally, my first birthing experience is not something I relate to as painful.  (hopefully this 2nd experience will not be much different)  I don't have a high pain threshold so I'm ever so grateful that I didn't really experience pain, except in two instances:  the first one was when I had to hold my body in a position to rotate the baby.  Body did NOT like that position and shook so hard that I could not hold it on my own (even though it was simply lying on my side with one knee bent).  Dh had to hold my knee in place or there was no way my body would have allowed me to stay still in that position for 20 minutes.  It gave me enough experience to understand how birth could be painful and I'm grateful for that because it allows me to relate to mamas who had pain with their births.  I never felt like I needed pain relief, though, even if it was very painful.  The pain went away as soon as I could move however I needed to.  The second time I felt pain was when baby was crowning.  One spot really burned.

 

Other than that I can only describe the early contractions as strong Braxton Hicks . . . I had to stop doing whatever I was doing and concentrate.  My heart and breath rates went up.  When the contraction ended I could go on doing whatever I was doing (mostly staring at the texture on the wall).  Didn't feel painful at all, just like really hard work requiring a lot of focus.  Like lifting weights and getting to those last couple of repetitions where your muscles are so tired you have to will them to function.  By the time the midwife considered that I was in active labor I felt exhausted.  I just wanted to sleep, but there were hours of more hard work to do.  The active labor contractions are hard to describe.  Still not painful, but I could feel the potential for pain if I lost concentration.  My bad menstrual cramps were much more painful than labor, but a lot less work.  (if that makes sense) 

 

The best thing anyone said to me came from a friend before I went into labor.  She said:  Don't worry if you have a contraction where you lose concentration, or get panicky or feel pain, there will be another contraction after that to practice again.  Just take a deep breath and get ready.

This helped me so much when I had to hold that painful position.  I took each contraction as if I was starting all over again and it did help.  If I did lose my cool for one contraction I was able to regain it before the next contraction or the one after that . . . the pain was not a permanent condition so I did not go into any contractions expecting pain, just dealing with it if there was pain and preparing for the next one.

 

What an interesting question to explore!

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#8 of 30 Old 04-17-2013, 05:07 AM
 
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For me, my first birth was quite painful. However, I was not in a comfortable situation (being constantly derided and fought by nurses who wanted me on my back with an epidural, and literally mocked me for doing it without one as I rode through the contractions; they also refused to let me have anything to drink). I didn't trust my obgyn, who had also pressured me to get an epidural and said I had no idea what I was doing. Finally, I was fighting the pain and clenching up, and had been going through prodromal labor for days at home.  The pain was an intense, intense pressure on my cervix that radiated through my entire body; definitely NOT the same as period cramps. By the time it came to push I was emotionally and physically exhausted. At the end of the pushing phase, though, I had an amazing ecstatic experience, which was completely undescribable (and, as a bonus, completely weirded out the judgmental nurses and obgyn!).

 

For my second birth, I was MUCH more comfortable and I had learned to deliberately relax through the contractions, so birth was easy. I would say it hurt less than period cramps, and was (again) downward pressure on my cervix. The pain is cyclical, so you just need to relax and ride out the waves. In my second birth the worst part was the burning during the end of the pushing phase, and that was over like *snap*.

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#9 of 30 Old 04-17-2013, 06:24 AM
 
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You know, five years out it's actually really hard to remember what it felt like.  Because of where I birthed, pain meds weren't an option, so it was either do it or...well, there was no other choice.  lol.gif  I was one of those wacky people who slept between contractions - or maybe not actual sleep, but I really was zoned out.  I didn't have a lot of awareness of the people that were there around me, it was really an interesting experience.  It was just me and the waves (and yes, it did kinda feel like waves for me-waves that hurt certainly, but I thought it was a good analogy).  I started having double-peaked contractions fairly early on in labor, which probably should have been my clue that it was going to go faster than I had thought, but at the time I was all "WTF?!?"  But after the first few, I guess you just kind of get used to them and I was allowed to find whatever position I wanted to make me feel comfortable since there were no "rules".  I found the constant shaking (and a couple of vomiting sessions) to be way more annoying than the contractions because at least contractions had a purpose!  I won't say it didn't hurt, but it was a completely different kind of pain than I've ever felt.  More like a really, really intense pressure that you had to put your full attention on.  I also think it helped that I was surrounded by people I knew and loved and knew that I could say or do whatever I wanted, even if it was a little vulgar. I didn't have to concentrate on being a nice patient.  orngbiggrin.gif 

 

When my son was crowning...yeah, that was uncomfortable to say the least.  But that part was over pretty quickly.  He had a nuchal hand, but other than that he was positioned well, so I think that helps immensely.  Make sure you're doing your pelvic rocks (just google it) and be mindful of your posture these last few weeks, I think it helped get baby into a good place.  Or I got lucky.  shrug.gif

 

I think I have a fairly high pain tolerance.  But I've never had gallstones or kidney infections or anything like that to test my perception either.  It's just so hard to tell someone else what they're going to feel because everyone is different, and every birth is different.  I think the best philosophy is knowing that there will be a squishy baby at the end and it won't last forever, even if it feels like it when you're in the thick of it.  Each contraction is one more closer to meeting your child.  I think that's what they call "faith in the process". :)


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#10 of 30 Old 04-17-2013, 06:41 AM
 
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It depends.  My cousin had a 15 minute tummy cramp then coughed and had a baby.  I went for a bajillion hours (3days) and questioned my sanity for ever considering going natural.  So I got an EPI.  Next kid was only two hours of awesome pain so I decided to wait it out, kind of felt like a ring of fire.Once she was out and all the back pain stopped I felt relief.  Third one was an induction due to very little fluid left so I opted for an epi at the end.  As much as I wanted natural births back labor was too much for me to be able to enjoy my labors naturally.

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#11 of 30 Old 04-17-2013, 07:42 AM
 
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There are so many factors that will play into your pain level and how you experience the 'pain' and labor in general.

 

I think the biggest thing to remember, is that for most people, labor isn't one big long day filled of agonizing pain until you have a baby. It's important to look at your labor in stages. I've had two natural labors and births, one in the hospital with midwives and one at home with a midwife. The actual sensations I felt and the course my labors took were very similar. But my second labor was definitely easier and less traumatic for me. For me labor starts out very easy. It's definitely comparable to menstrual cramping. The sensation is very familiar, but keep in mind that even for someone like me who has had very painful periods, even early labor pains were more intense than what I've experienced during a period. The difference is that they come and go. And you're also filled with the excitement of knowing your baby is coming! My early labor lasted hours.....almost a full day. I did normal things. I cleaned my house, I got ready for the birth, I even went grocery shopping and stocked my kitchen while in labor! It was very easy for me to breath through the contractions. They came about every 20 minutes at first so I had LOTS of time in between. The second faze of labor for me was when I had to 'stop' normal life and focus more on what my body was doing. That was the time where I got out the birthing ball, tried new positions, walked, rocked my hips and started vocalizing during contractions a little. In both cases the first stage of labor lasted about 20 hours. The second stage lasted about 2, and then transition hit for another hour or so and then baby was there. (It's important to note here that even while in transition my contractions were never closer than 5 minutes apart. I had lots of time in between to re-group). Anyone who has experienced transition without pain meds will likely agree that it's not really something you can explain. This is the part of labor you hear about in the horror stories. This is the part of labor we see go down on movies and T.V. This is the part that has generalized labor as being unbearable and painful. It's kind of silly, because generally it's also the shortest stage of labor. This is also the part where it becomes VERY important that you trust your body, you trust the people around you and you do whatever you can to make yourself as comfortable as possible. For me that meant being able to use a tub or shower for warm water, have a fan blowing on me and a cold wet wash cloth for the back of my neck, lights dimmed, music playing, something to grip onto, a good support person or two who reminded me how great I was doing and not to give up. It was also EXTREMELY important to me that I was able to move around, change position and basically feel in control of my own laboring body. Squatting and hands and knees position really improved the pain level for me and made me feel like I was working with the contractions and bringing my baby out. The point is that, transition is only part of the labor, and once you get there chances are it'll be over soon.

 

Another part that I never expected was the ring of fire and the actual pain of the baby coming out. Up until I had my first, I had only ever heard women talk about that sensation as being relieving (because they were finally able to push and work with their contractions) but for me it was intense and scary. I think this is because my babies come really fast all on their own. With my second I did have more of an 'urge' to push and felt relief when I could feel him coming into the birth canal. But it still invoked a form of panic in me and there is kind of a voice in my head that said, "This is totally imposable! How in the world will a baby fit out of there!" I remember feeling like it would break me, like I would tear in half. This, for me was a separate pain then the contractions themselves and it was prominent. It really is the ring of fire in every sense of the word, and I even yelled out that it burned. BUT....when people say that the pain is totally gone in one instant as soon as the baby is out....they mean it! At that moment there is no turning back and just when you think you can't do it you realize you're holding your new baby in your arms and all the pain is gone and you're filled with wonderful birth hormones and accomplishment for what you just did! I promise, it is the best feeling in the entire world.

 

I hope non of this scared you. I wanted to be as honest as possible because I remember really wanting that when I was preparing for labor. Remember that it is possible. Our bodies are designed to do this! Everyone experiences it differently too, so keep in mind that your labor could be super easy, super fast, long and steady, etc. I know when it was all over for me, I looked back and couldn't believe that I had had a 24 hour labor. It seemed weird because it wasn't particularly hard or exhausting. In fact, out of those 24 hours that I knew I was in labor, I would say it was only hard for about 2 hours. So, the hard part is short lived and the rest is totally manageable. Whatever you decide to do, you're making the right move by seeking out information now and preparing yourself for what's to come. Also, remember that nothing is final. For my first labor, it was soothing to know that the epidural was available if I needed it. I considered it back up, and their was some comfort in that even though I never ended up asking for it......it was like a life line/escape route. Good luck and congrats on your soon to be newest member of the family!!!


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#12 of 30 Old 04-18-2013, 01:23 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for the wonderful comments! They were exactly what I was hoping for. I haven't read any birth stories, because I suppose I was worried about psyching myself out. Maybe I will look into some of those books! Everything that everyone said makes perfect sense. I wasn't even aware of "transition"....but now I've read up on it a little. It helps to hear it from a "real" person vs an article. A couple questions come to mind....

 

For those who said the pain was moreso nonstop and/or sharper ("rusty spoons digging into the back")....I'm guessing at that point, it is still not too late to get an epidural? So that's a good thing, for my peace of mind.

 

Also, once you are in transition, do you want the epidural, or are you in too much pain to want anything done to you (that whole, "don't touch me!" thing)?

 

I am guessing that once you are out of transition, you don't want an epidural? So is it really just a matter of making it to transition, then most women don't want it anyways, because of either the pain during transition or then the hope after transition that it's almost over? (I am sure there are exceptions, but just wondering for "you"...)

 

As someone who has gone through it....what are your opinions on epidural vs no epidural? I honestly don't mind if you all give your opinions!

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#13 of 30 Old 04-18-2013, 02:27 AM
 
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Labor pain is not like "normal" pain (the type brought on by an injury or illness) but more like muscle pain after having a long, exhausting workout. You know that feeling of soreness thats like a deep throbbing ache? Thats what labor is like, at least for me.

The muscle ache comes in waves. At first the waves are short and far apart then they get closer together, stronger and theres a noticeable peak to them. Once you get into the rhythm of it, you can almost predict when the next contraction will start, reach its peak and gradually end. If you've ever watched waves slowly build up, reach their peak, crash onto the shore and then slowly go back to the ocean, that is exactly what its like. I wouldnt say they are necessarily like bad menstrual cramps because your uterus is much bigger than when not pregnant, which means the contractions cover a much larger surface area, thus you're going to feel it over your entire abdomen (pelvis to ribs) and possibly lower or mid back. Theres also the wave like motion i mentioned, which menstrual cramps definitely do not have. Some women experience early labor as bad menstrual cramps but typically they turn into the full-belly wave-like contractions for active labor.

Dont worry, you can handle it, just breathe deeply, move freely if you can and remind yourself that your body was made to be able to do this. Its simply a physiological process that when left on its own and the mother is calm and acting instinctually, will usually go very well. Nothing to be scared of or worry about although i know thats easier said than done.

Being in water helps a lot of women as does hypnobabies, moving around, changing positions, saying or thinking a mantra over and over, for me i enjoyed biting a pillow when i'd reach the peak of the harder contractions.

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#14 of 30 Old 04-18-2013, 05:57 AM
 
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I have one child. A boy. With him, came back labor. I didn't have an epidural either, and only had low dose tylenol for pain relief late in the transition period because the L&D staff were on my back about doing this, and doing that... and stressed me out to the point I lost my focus. Natural childbirth was....exhausting. Very exhausting. But I didn't then, and even now I wouldn't say it was painful. Uncomfortable? Yes. But not painful. I labored for 8 hours and I was all over the bed. I'd definitely look into counter pressure methods, honestly. Those probably would've made it better. Instead I'd ask my fiance to rub my back, then 10 seconds later have him stop because it was suddenly bothersome. LOL. But I'd do it naturally all over again next time around. :)

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#15 of 30 Old 04-18-2013, 02:24 PM
 
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Originally Posted by bobcat View Post

Thank you for the wonderful comments! They were exactly what I was hoping for. I haven't read any birth stories, because I suppose I was worried about psyching myself out. Maybe I will look into some of those books! Everything that everyone said makes perfect sense. I wasn't even aware of "transition"....but now I've read up on it a little. It helps to hear it from a "real" person vs an article. A couple questions come to mind....

 

For those who said the pain was moreso nonstop and/or sharper ("rusty spoons digging into the back")....I'm guessing at that point, it is still not too late to get an epidural? So that's a good thing, for my peace of mind.

 

Also, once you are in transition, do you want the epidural, or are you in too much pain to want anything done to you (that whole, "don't touch me!" thing)?

 

I am guessing that once you are out of transition, you don't want an epidural? So is it really just a matter of making it to transition, then most women don't want it anyways, because of either the pain during transition or then the hope after transition that it's almost over? (I am sure there are exceptions, but just wondering for "you"...)

 

As someone who has gone through it....what are your opinions on epidural vs no epidural? I honestly don't mind if you all give your opinions!

With my first yes I really did want drugs, I broke out the code word and everything. But alas it was too late. With my 2nd and 3rd I had the epidural fantasy in early labor but it was short lived.Just be aware that things can go a number of ways when it comes to pain. Here are my birth stories for reference..if you read the 1st be sure to read the others. :)

 

First Boy: http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1022542/the-updated-edited-and-corrected-version-of-corbins-birth-story

Second Boy: http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1275481/awesome-homebirth-of-riley-x-posted

Third Boy: http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1376222/noahs-home-birth


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#16 of 30 Old 04-18-2013, 05:39 PM
 
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Also, once you are in transition, do you want the epidural, or are you in too much pain to want anything done to you (that whole, "don't touch me!" thing)?

 

I am guessing that once you are out of transition, you don't want an epidural? So is it really just a matter of making it to transition, then most women don't want it anyways, because of either the pain during transition or then the hope after transition that it's almost over? (I am sure there are exceptions, but just wondering for "you"...)

 

My understanding is that generally once a woman is in transition they don't want to give you an epidural; the idea (again, my understanding) is that they want to give you the epidural early enough that you don't feel much of anything during active labor but time it so that the epidural has basically worn off by the pushing phase so that you're capable of pushing. Transition would be too late for that.

 

But to be honest, once most people get to transition, I think we're pretty out of it. I know I found it difficult to concentrate on anything. What I was doing made sense to me, but it took extreme effort for me to focus on anybody else or put together a coherent sentence. That wasn't from pain, I was just in a totally different head-space. If your experience is anything like mine have been, you'll be interpreting that pain totally differently by the time transition hits.

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#17 of 30 Old 04-19-2013, 12:19 PM
 
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Also, once you are in transition, do you want the epidural, or are you in too much pain to want anything done to you (that whole, "don't touch me!" thing)?

 

I am guessing that once you are out of transition, you don't want an epidural? So is it really just a matter of making it to transition, then most women don't want it anyways, because of either the pain during transition or then the hope after transition that it's almost over? (I am sure there are exceptions, but just wondering for "you"...)

 

As someone who has gone through it....what are your opinions on epidural vs no epidural? I honestly don't mind if you all give your opinions!

 

For me, I never 'wanted' the epidural, but when transition hit I felt like I couldn't do it. I repeated things like, "I can't do this", "I need something", "SERIOUSLY, I can't do this, DO something!" lol.gif  I don't think I ever actually said the word epidural, because I knew I didn't want that. But I recall looking at my mom (also my doula) with terror and begging her to somehow fix it, give me something for the pain, nock me out, pull the baby out, or something! But I agree with a previous poster that I wasn't really in reality at that point. I wasn't thinking with rational thought. Transition is said to be a more emotional time in the labor for most women, and it's typically when women will doubt themselves or their ability to birth. It's a very normal reaction and that's when it becomes important to have the support people to remind you that you're not dying, and you're doing a great job.

 

Once you're 'out' of transition, you have a baby wink1.gif So no, you won't want an epidural then. Transition really just stands for the part of your labor when your body goes from having contractions that are dilating your cervix, to having contractions that are pushing the baby down and out of the birth canal. So technically speaking once you've finished that transition you're done.......or at least in active pushing stage.

 

Here are some of reasons I decided not to get an epidural:

1) I'm a control freak and the thought of being immobilized was much more terrifying for me than the thought of pain.

2) I wanted to avoid the need for constant monitoring during labor, iv's, catheter, etc.

3) Having an epidural can cause inability to push effectively which can lead to complications with the baby and or emergency C-sections.

4) I wanted to avoid 'purple pushing' (when hospital staff tell you to hold your breath and count to ten while pushing) because it causes drops in oxygen which is bad for mom and baby.

5) I wanted to be able to use the shower and birth tub during labor.

6) I wanted to move around and use positioning to help bring the baby down.

7) I wanted to make sure I could listen to my body while pushing to avoid tearing (laying on your back is the worse position to be in for tears and since you can't feel anything it's possible to push too fast and tear. A mom that feels the ring of fire natural holds back and can 'breath' the baby out which is much more gentle on mom's body).

8) I wanted baby to be born alert and ready to bond and not sleeping from the epidural.

 

I would highly recommend doing a little research on how epidurals can cause a cascade of interventions. I'd also recommend that if you decide to go the natural route to look into getting a doula. They are not trained medically, but they are there to support the mom during labor. It give you someone who you know is there just for you and making sure that they are helping you be as comfortable as possible.


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#18 of 30 Old 04-19-2013, 12:40 PM
 
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Think of menstrual cramps, unpleasant, sometimes slightly painful, then think of bad menstrual cramps, quite painful, very unpleasant, now think of extremely bad mentrual cramps that get worse, not better, more intense, and finally, closer and closer together so you dont get a break, then wanting to vomit,  being in a constant sweat, getting a sore throat because you have been moaning for hours to manage the pain...or maybe its more like  really really bad nausea and cramping you get with a stomach bug, but much much worse...that kind of pain. 

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#19 of 30 Old 04-19-2013, 05:46 PM
 
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I found waves to be how it worked for my two. By no means comfortable. But it is things working.

No one told me contractions don't get more painful once they get going which was a nice surprise.

I could handle them well and when I felt like I could ride them, mostly in the tub, it was really fine. Where it was hard was when they were really lose together and it was hard to catch my breath.

Pushing was fun in a ring of fire kind of way with my first and was more or less sneeze and catch with the second.

My plan was always no drugs unless I was not OK. Only I could decide that. First was induced and I got really close to not ok, but they turned pit down, we both felt better. I had a shot of Nubian for a rest. It dulled things and have me two hours. Not how I would want all of labour, but a nice flotation device after being battered by pit.

And remember to ask for local if you need stitches afterwards.

Mama to Monkey (Jan '09), Bee (May '11), and Cat (August, '13)

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#20 of 30 Old 04-20-2013, 10:42 PM
 
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My second baby was a natural birth, and up until transition, the pain was pretty darn tolerable, it wasn't the best feeling in the world, but I could handle things, and my thoughts were "Well, this is easy! I don't get why people say birth is the worst pain in the world!" And then I ate those words once transition hit. 3 years later, I have yet to forget what transition was like,that was the worst pain of my entire life, I felt like I was going to die, I even told the midwife at one point I rather die then and there vs. continuing on with that pain. Luckily, I had maybe 10 minutes of transition pain until I started pushing, and while that wasn't fun, it was a way better feeling and didn't necessarily hurt.

Obviously, I'm either stupid or the pain wasn't bad enough for me, because I'm due tomorrow and planning a home birth haha!

Wife to DH dh_malesling.GIF(12.10.2009), Anchorage based doula joy.gif, Proud mama to Autumnblahblah.gif (09.03.2008), Sylas bouncy.gif(04.25.2010), angel1.gif(06.11.2012), Callioperainbow1284.gif(04.23.2013)

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#21 of 30 Old 04-21-2013, 04:54 AM
 
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My contractions definately got more painful as time went on. They start out menstrual cramp-like then towards the end it's...indescribable. Especially to a first time mom lol I think I had some positioning issues, maybe, with the two most painful ones. Honestly, after I first had my last baby, I thought to myself if I was ever to be pregnant again, it would have to end in a c-section bc I couldn't go through that again. We are "done" though.


drowning in hormones with 4 daughters and an understanding, loving hubby. also some dogs. my life is crazy and we are always learning.

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#22 of 30 Old 04-21-2013, 03:58 PM
 
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I haven't carefully read all the comments (because my kids have not given me much of a break), but I wanted to point out that just saying "no drugs" is not a good way to have a natural labor. If you want to have a birth without an epidural, definitely, please, take a very good natural child birth class and read up on positions and things your partner can do to help you. Consider hiring a doula. I can't count the number of people who have told me, "I tried to go natural, but it hurt too much," and on further questioning, I find out that they thought they had to just stay in bed, on their back, and grit their teeth through the contractions. If you can move, or labor in a tub, or any number of other things, really, it isn't so bad...but I can't imagine doing it in bed.

 

For me, for what it's worth, it was like very bad menstrual cramps. Transition didn't exactly hurt more, but it was the point where I told my husband, "I don't want to do this any more." With our second, he tried to give me a high five when I said that, because he knew it was almost over (this did not go over well). With my first, my MW said, "I think you're totally in transition now, and you'll be holding your baby really soon." Knowing that it wasn't going to get any worse was what made it possible to go on--I thought, "Well, I can do *this*. Just as long as it's not going to get worse than this."

 

Good luck!


Mama to Silas Anansi, born 9/9/10 and Petra Eadaion, born 10/1/12.

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#23 of 30 Old 04-21-2013, 07:27 PM
 
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I'm pregnant now with twins, my first was a vaginal, drug-free singleton birth. Contractions started off so subtlety for me I wasn't sure at first and then thought they might be BH that I never felt (I have felt them this pregnancy though) since I was 38 weeks. Eventually, they got a bit more crampy and were regular and then I had bloody show so I knew it was the real thing. In the beginning I could pretty much ignore them or distract myself from them with about anything, but as they got more intense I had to focus on relaxing my body to get through them. If I could relax and move freely, they weren't painful really, just very intense and the breaks in between are very key for giving you time to get ready for the next. The only time mine were really painful was in the car on the way to the hospital and anytime they were doing something (IV, checking dilation) where I had to sit still and couldn't move to where I needed to go.

I went into birth planning no drugs, but open to them if I was having a particularly rough time. I've read many birth stories with Mom's with awful back pain and really long labors and I was ok with doing an epidural if I had something unusual pain-wise. I didn't feel the need for one in my birth though, even during what I realized was transition where I had the classic "I don't know if I can do this" feelings, I knew from my reading that it was transition and I was almost to pushing. Pushing didn't hurt for me at all, no ring of fire or anything like some experience and I did tear because of DD's nuchal hand (hand by the face as she was born). I wasn't sure how to push, I didn't get an urge, but my body was pushing and after a couple attempts I was able to add to that effectively. Afterwards I was on a natural high that was so great smile.gif I felt like I could go climb a mountain or something, it was pretty amazing! I'm very glad I was able to birth without drugs and minimal interventions (just the IV & some external monitoring).

I think for your first birth you should prepare some ways to cope with contractions regardless if you plan on an epidural or not as you never know if there will be time for you to get one or how long you will have to cope before you can get one. While I said I didn't choose to have an epidural for my birth, honestly there would not have been time anyway as I was only at the hospital for ~2 hours before I gave birth. I don't think it is bad to be open to pain relief options if you are having a rough time, though I personally would not go for the narcotics, but I have had them before for dental stuff and they just make me loopy and it is not pleasant. Definitely read some birth stories, the ones here are great IME.

Good luck to you, I'm still hoping my babies will both get head down so I can have a repeat vaginal birth!

Katie trekkie.gif - Married to Mike 06/02/01, Mom to Sydney Anne born 11/21/09 and Alice Maeryn & Oliver Thomas born 04/24/13  hug.gif 

 

 

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#24 of 30 Old 04-23-2013, 12:20 PM
 
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I always find the phrase 'bad menstrual cramps' misleading. What if your cramps dont hurt, or are so vague , that  if they were bad,  they wouldnt be 'that' bad.

 

In any case, for me, transition was aweful but shortlived. The pushing stage was the worst for me (3 times over) Each time it  lasted only 20minutes (thank Gd!) but during that time, i felt i would rather die than continue. All my babies were on the big side (apparently 8lbs, 9lbs is considered big), my 2nd two were homebirths and i didnt even tear, my first was in a hospital and i had an episiotomy (very small, so probably didnt even need it, my midwife told me that  i  shouldnt have got one) 

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#25 of 30 Old 04-23-2013, 01:47 PM
 
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It was very helpful to me to

  • think of childbirth as an extreme sport, like a marathon, and "train" for it.  The exercises in Active Birth by Janet Balaskas were excellent.
  • remember, "At this time tomorrow, this will be over."
  • recall various images, bits of music, etc. that I had "stored" in my mind because I thought they might be useful during labor.  Most of them were!  Some inspired powerful feelings; others were funny.

 

I agree with those who suggested thinking about your past experiences with pain and how you managed them.  I had many migraines before pregnancy.  When doctors would ask me to rank my pain on a scale of 1 to 10, I had never ranked anything higher than 9, figuring it was probably possible to hurt worse than I ever had--and indeed, when my son was almost 6 I had a Level 10 migraine and found out I was right about that.  Migraine pain typically peaks for about 20 minutes to an hour.  During labor, I never had a pain peak that lasted more than TWO minutes, so that made it quite manageable by contrast.  A lot of those peaks hit Level 6 or 7, but I didn't get to 8 until transition, and I don't recall hitting 9 at all.

 

Mostly I felt that the HARD WORK was more difficult to manage than the actual pain.  It was a very intense and tiring experience.

 

I slept through the first stage and awoke in active labor.  Most of the labor felt like menstrual cramps that gradually increased in intensity; this increased the peak pain, but the rest of the contraction around the peak was more just intense than it was really painful.  What I mean is that as the labor went on, I became less and less able to do anything during a contraction but feel it working and work with it.

 

One thing I don't think anyone has mentioned is that labor contractions "feel like menstrual cramps" only BIGGER because, of course, your uterus is bigger.  The cramps come all the way up to your ribs.  It's weird!

 

In transition, basically the baby is turning the corner from the uterus (which angles toward your back) into the vagina (which is straight down or angled a little forward).  To me it felt like a team of movers who've gotten a sofa stuck in the stairwell and are arguing about which direction to push it!  Instead of the predictable, crampy contractions I'd been having for hours, this was like a lot of random shoving with sudden (but brief) flashes of sharp pain.  I changed positions a lot because nothing was comfortable.  I threw up suddenly when the baby whammed against my stomach.  Whenever it let up for a minute or so, I'd collapse sort of bonelessly and almost lose consciousness.  It wasn't fun, but there was an undercurrent of excitement because of the very definite sense that now I was really getting somewhere!  Then suddenly it was over--lasted only about 20 minutes--and I felt really cheerful and ready to have a baby.

 

Pushing was not any more painful than the contractions in the last few hours before transition--like I said, Level 6 and 7 pain.  Getting tired was more of a problem than pain.  The nurse told me to "punch down" with the top of my uterus, which didn't sound like anything I would know how to do, but after a few tries I found that I did.  Being able to try pushing in different positions (which is harder to do, if not impossible, after epidural) was very helpful.

 

I had an episiotomy, so the outside of my vagina was numb, but I was able to feel the actual moment of birth on the inside.  The best I can describe it is that it felt exactly like losing my virginity only inside-out and much BIGGER.  I am glad I was able to feel something.  That made it seem very "real" and was also a little bit sexy-feeling, although I didn't get close to the orgasmic birth some women describe.

 

Overall, I felt unmedicated birth was very feasible, and I'm really glad I did it!

 

MammaB21 wrote:

 

Quote:
BUT....when people say that the pain is totally gone in one instant as soon as the baby is out....they mean it! At that moment there is no turning back and just when you think you can't do it you realize you're holding your new baby in your arms and all the pain is gone and you're filled with wonderful birth hormones and accomplishment for what you just did! I promise, it is the best feeling in the entire world.

gloomy.gif I looked forward to that moment from before I was even pregnant, and (assuming I don't have another baby someday) I'll always be devastated that I missed it.  My son released meconium before he was born, so the hospital people swooped in and cut the cord the instant he emerged and whisked him away without letting me see or touch him for even one second!!!  They didn't bring him back for almost two hours!!!  And the kicker is, what they were doing for the first 15 minutes or so was just suctioning his nose and mouth with a rubber bulb, which they totally could have done while I held him!!!  (My midwife had just recently switched hospitals because the previous one closed its maternity ward; I was his [yes, male midwife] first birth at this hospital that had any complication; if he'd known what they were going to do he'd have told them to do it differently; he apologized a LOT.)  I reacted physiologically as well as emotionally, I think; it felt like falling backward into cold darkness, and it may be the reason I had excessive blood loss.

 

I mention this to caution all expectant mothers: ASK about your hospital/birth center/midwife's procedure for complications, and make it VERY CLEAR that you want your baby kept with you immediately after birth unless it is truly impossible.  Tell your partner that if it appears the baby is separated from you only for the staff's convenience, he/she should try to get the baby to you ASAP.

 

Another important thing for your partner to do is, when the baby is about to crown, ignore all the medical stuff and focus on giving you super-happy excited big encouragement.  Mine lit up so I couldn't take my eyes off him!  It was one of our greatest moments of connection ever, like all that excitement was flowing into me, and it gave me energy just when I needed it. love.gif


Mama to a boy EnviroKid treehugger.gif 9 years old and a new little girl EnviroBaby baby.gif!

I write about parenting, environment, cooking, and more. computergeek2.gif

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#26 of 30 Old 04-23-2013, 04:22 PM
 
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With the first child I went on  for 18 hours. I started to hallucinate from pain. I could not imagine pushing like that and my service at this point was just stuck. My soul was living my body.  I was so surprised that I, after years of yoga and meditation practice ecountered pain that I could not handle. I was brainwashed and delusional.

 

Epidural was a a sweet relief and push my baby out in 30 mins.

 

I accepted the fact that either my pain is too strong or I have low pain tolerance and with my second chl I got an epidural right away. I pushed him out in 15 min.

 

Both times I felt pressure while pushing and I was able to push very effectively.

 

I say things to all my friends , "Plan, nothing, expect nothing and see how it is"

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#27 of 30 Old 04-23-2013, 05:06 PM
 
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I had very bad menstrual cramps growing up.  I remember sitting on the toilet constantly, feeling like something was going to come out, or something was being shoved in, or, I don't even know.  The cramps made me want to vomit, they hurt, they didn't stop, I would roll around and cry.  I hated menstrual cramps.  I figured labor would feel like that, but stronger, but I can't even say how it felt.  It wasn't the same. By the time I had children, though, my menstrual cramps had lessened, and I took ibuprofen at the first sign of my period and kept it up for a couple of days every month, so maybe that was part of it, but I hadn't had the bad menstrual cramp experience for at least 5 years going into childbirth.

 

With my first pregnancy, I had back labor.  My water broke, and then I experienced contractions as overwhelming nausea, to the point that I was on my hands and knees in the driveway in the dark, waiting for my doula to get there.  She was going to ride to the hospital with us.  I hate nausea, honestly, even more than menstrual cramps.  Thank goodness I never had morning sickness.  Once I was at the hospital, the pain mostly felt like someone had one of those big rounded wooden handles like you see on a heavy duty shovel or other yard tool, and they were taking the blunt end and just working it into my spine.  It was like a pressure pain, plus the nausea, and I couldn't get up and move around because they needed that test strip.  So I had an epidural, and at some point, transition, I guess, I became very nauseated again and started dry heaving.  I felt like my stomach was going to come up through my esophagus.  That was the worst part, I just wanted to go home.  Then it was time to push, but I couldn't feel to push, it was dreadful, and I kept trying to make them turn it down.  Then by the time they did, and I could feel to push, I do remember it feeling kind of like menstrual cramps.  Then I got sewn up where I ripped, and that stung like the dickens. I had some retained placenta, so that got pulled out by hand, and that hurt and was really, really strange.  Strange.  And the uterine massage after delivering the placenta?  I would say it was indescribable, but really it was getting a massage in the crampiest muscle you've ever had.  It was exquisitely painful, I almost jumped off the bed.

 

I had a miscarriage after that, at around 11 weeks.  That didn't hurt at all.  I have no idea why.  It just didn't hurt, not even like a mild period.

 

My second birth was a home birth and the positioning was good, so I didn't have back labor.  I can't remember what it felt like, honestly.  I didn't like it.  I think when it started, it just felt like gas pains, strong gas pains, but when it was the worst, I just can't remember it clearly the way I can the first pregnancy. But I have issues with having what I think is bowel pain when I have my period, and getting shooting pains after the fact.  I'm guessing prostaglandins provoke more than just the uterine muscles in that area. My sister had 6 kids all with epidurals, and the one epidural didn't take.  She described the feeling of the baby coming out as feeling like your bones are being ripped like in a chicken.  She thought it was horrible.  At one point when I was near transition, I was standing in the shower, and I decided to squat.  Oh, that hurt like heck, so I said no way and stood back up again.  That WAS like my bad menstrual cramps magnified, like maybe something was ripping.  And when I first started to push, it was even more painful than just a normal contraction.  But the feeling of the head moving down was really cool, it didn't bother me, I didn't feel like anything was ripping or tearing (even though I did tear and needed stitches because her shoulder got wedged). In transition my doula told me, "You're doing very well" and I remember feeling petulant and shaky and saying, "I don't FEEL like I'm doing very well." But I was never out of my mind with pain, thankfully.

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#28 of 30 Old 04-24-2013, 07:07 AM
 
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To me it felt like a team of movers who've gotten a sofa stuck in the stairwell and are arguing about which direction to push it!  

 

ROTFLMAO.gif  What a great description!

 

Hopefully what the OP is learning from all of this is that every experience is so, so different...it's very interesting to read everyone's take on it.


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#29 of 30 Old 04-24-2013, 09:02 AM
 
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I'll go back and read all the responses later.  But I wanted to real quickly say that your question is about what labor feels like, and you seem to be focusing only on "pain."  That's totally understandable. I wondered what the pain was like and if I could handle it.  When pregnant I read a lot of birth stories and as you can see from responses here, it's very different for each person and each birth.  It might be horribly painful or it might be orgasmic. That fact is what I held onto.  Whatever happened, I was one of billions of people who give birth.  I would experience something and then I would be OK. 

 

It freaked me out (before having kids) to see women who were moms walking around as if they were normal people.  Like: Woman, How can you just walk around like nothing happened to you!!  You gave birth!  A huge baby came out of a small place...Aren't you Changed somehow??  Didn't the "pain and force" of childbirth shake you to the core?  Maybe some people have that experience.  But for me it was an awesome and transformative event, but it wasn't as much of a...big deal?...as I had imagined it.  People give birth!

 

Let me say again: Everyone and every birth is different.  But I can't describe my births as painful.  I remember one moment in my second birth where I had tried a position I thought would be good and it was not.  It hurt, so I moved.  Then it was back to experiencing intensity and cramps.  I found the cramps to be more like leg cramps.  So...leg cramps hurt, but not in the way that I had imagined birth must hurt.  And with my first birth I think it was more like menstrual cramps x10. The second birth, it was like menstrual cramps with a bit of leg cramp thrown in.  I was trying to do other things and I'd have to pause and say"ow!" and then I'd go back to doing whatever I was doing. 

 

What I believe helped me was relaxing.  I did HypnoBabies. I gave birth in water and I find water very relaxing.  Like with a leg cramp, if you just breathe in a way that relaxes you, focus on relaxing, make noises that feel good, and move in a way that seems to help- that's the best thing to do.

 

This thing that a PP said is something that helped me too:

 

"If I did lose my cool for one contraction I was able to regain it before the next contraction or the one after that . . . the pain was not a permanent condition so I did not go into any contractions expecting pain, just dealing with it if there was pain and preparing for the next one."

 

I got a bit panicky at the intensity but as soon as I took a moment to focus on calming down, things went better.  And I'm not using "intensity" as a euphemism for pain.  It's just different. I find teh quality of contractions to be the same as vomiting.  It's something that comes over you that you can't stop.  And if you let it, that can be scary.  With my first birth, I had the sense that it could have been painful if I would have let my mind consider it that way.  But at each moment I chose to reframe it or relax.  I hope that makes sense, and I want to say again that I don't mean that in a la la la hippie way. 

 

Also- those tricks to feel what labor is like? The ice cube in my hand- that hurt.  Labor- that was intense and powerful.

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#30 of 30 Old 04-24-2013, 09:06 AM
 
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If I couldn't move around in labor how I wanted, or make noises that I wanted, or feel in control- I don't know how I'd give birth.  Well, I guess I would give birth with pain or with drugs.  That's just me.

 

If you have a sense of what you need to birth safely or comfortably, please listen to your intuition and make it happen.

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