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#1 of 16 Old 06-27-2006, 02:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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A friend of mine who's due at the first of August emailed me asking about Braxton-Hicks contractions. When I described them, she asked "So are labor contractions a lot more intense?" - she's really trying to figure out if she can handle labor without an epidural.

I ended up writing a rather lengthy reply, describing my experience with labor contractions. Now, I know everyone's experience is different, but I thought it might help some of our first-time mamas have an idea of what's ahead of them.

====

Yeah, intense is a good word. When they're real, they'll take all your focus. Your world will narrow down to just what your body is doing. That's why labor coaches (your DH) have to remind you to breathe - you may get so preoccupied that you forget. And the uterus is just like any other muscle - it needs oxygen to do its work. It feels totally counterintuitive to make yourself ignore this contraction long enough to move your diaphragm, but it's the most effective thing you can do. And it really does help you cope with the contraction, too.

Just remember to take it one contraction at a time. They're only about sixty seconds long at their worst. You can get through anything for a minute, right? Then you'll have a few minutes to relax before the next.

You do any reading on Bradley birthing? I'm not hugely impressed by most of it, but one thing really stuck with me - the emotional signposts. The important one is when you get to the "I can't do this any more!" stage. It's a panic/escape kind of feeling, and quite uncontrollable. That's actually a GOOD thing - it means you've hit transition, the last couple of centimeters, and it's almost all over. It's not actually a reaction to the pain - it's a last-minute surge of hormones that really messes with your brain. Emphasize to your DH to look for this - he should LABEL it as transition to you out loud, and remind you that means it's almost over. That's usually enough to get a woman to refocus enough to get through it.

Oh, and when you get to that point, it's too late for an epidural. It won't take effect before it's time to push. Kind of a dirty trick, if you ask me LOL.

I did labor both ways - drug free for 44 hours, 12 hours of an epidural, and drug free for pushing and delivery. This time around, the epidural isn't even in the plan. I knew drug-free was better for the baby and that's the way I wanted to go, but I hadn't realized how badly I'd hate the epidural itself. I couldn't move my left leg at all - couldn't even shift in bed, DH and the nurse had to move me around like a lump of meat. And my leg tingled like it was asleep the whole time, and of course it was on the side where DH was standing, so he wanted to touch/stroke it a lot. That was so uncomfortable, and he just couldn't stop himself. It's honestly the one thing I actually YELLED at him about during the whole thing! No, I'm fully convinced that the pain relief wasn't worth it.

How's that for an unusual opinion? Ha!
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#2 of 16 Old 06-27-2006, 02:37 PM
 
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I do think everyone's perception of contractions is different. Alos, the need for labor support varies too. I did not want anyone touching me or talking to me. And certainly no one had to remind me to breathe, if anything I was breathing too much! I just concentrated on relaxing every part of my body through contractions, because the instinct is often to tighten your muscles against the contractions instead of relaxing into it, which would only serve to prolong labor.

Definitely there's a feeling of "I can't take any more of this" during transition. For my second birth, that's ALL there was. So sometimes it's possible not to notice contractions until you're quite dilated already, or until your water breaks.

Braxton Hicks feel mildly uncomfortable to me, are just in my belly, and cause me to pause whatever I'm doing for 20 seconds. Real contractions take my total concentration and feel like they encompass my entire middle body from ribs to thighs.

For me, labor contractions are absolutely unmistakable, but I know that's not the case for everyone.

- Krista

milk donation : mother to Ryan (6), AJ (5), Nate (2), Maia (1) all born at home, I have a kid-friendly food & bento blog, : :
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#3 of 16 Old 06-27-2006, 04:14 PM
 
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Thank you so much for those descriptions. They really help. I think the worse part of being a first timer is worrying about everything because you have no idea what is going to happen.
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#4 of 16 Old 06-27-2006, 05:30 PM
 
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Agreed 3angels. I am not actually nervous about birthing but then I have a moment of panic thinking, what if I am not nervous cause I have NO IDEA how bad it is going to be, I am caught totally unaware of how bad the pain is and I am screwed cause I don't have an option for drugs (homebirth).
I was just thinking about 1/2 hour ago that I could probably endure anything for 60 seconds. But then I thought what if the contractions are right on top of each other so they seem never ending cause you really don't get a break? That scared me.
Very helpful suggestions ladies on breathing through and relaxing into contractions...and it might help me to have hubby remind me when I am desperate that it means I am almost done.
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#5 of 16 Old 06-27-2006, 06:18 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SummerTwilight
I am not actually nervous about birthing but then I have a moment of panic thinking, what if I am not nervous cause I have NO IDEA how bad it is going to be, I am caught totally unaware of how bad the pain is and I am screwed cause I don't have an option for drugs (homebirth)..
That's exactly how I felt the first time. And the only time I remember thinking "can I really do this?" was during transition and the beginning of pushing.
The second time, and this time, I KNOW it's going to hurt. I know it will be excruciating pain for a time, but...I also know that I can do it! So in some ways I'm less nervous because I've done it before, and I know it's just a short span of time to endure in the grand scheme of things. And the high at the end is AWESOME.

milk donation : mother to Ryan (6), AJ (5), Nate (2), Maia (1) all born at home, I have a kid-friendly food & bento blog, : :
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#6 of 16 Old 06-27-2006, 11:13 PM
 
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Thanks KC, that description is really helpful.

It's so hard as a first-timer to wrap my brain around what's really going to happen. We just had our 2nd birth class tonight where we practiced various pain coping techniques, and did so in a manner timed to correspond with contractions. It was helpful, too, but without knowing what it really feels like, it's still a bit unreal.

--k
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#7 of 16 Old 06-28-2006, 09:51 AM
 
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I'm a first timer, too, and I'll admit, I'm scared. Really scared. I don't like not knowing how it'll be, how I'll cope, if I'll be begging for drugs at 2 cm, etc, etc...

I'm not really ready for the baby to be here, but I'm definitely ready for labor to be over with!
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#8 of 16 Old 06-28-2006, 10:48 AM
 
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I was trying to explain to DH last night the difference between knowing (since the age of 4 or so) "where babies come from" and actually understanding, knowing deep down, bone deep, that this wonderful belly baby only has two ways out, and they're both pretty painful. I've just come to this realization, and it's just... unbelievable.

Keep the tips coming... we're gonna need 'em!
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#9 of 16 Old 06-28-2006, 11:29 AM
 
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You know what else I often tell people....that I hate riding roller coasters (even though they totally fascinate me)....and giving birth reminded me of being on a really wild roller coaster ride....I knew it wasn't going to be enjoyable, but all I had to do was ride it, and then I'd be so proud of myself for what I'd done. My body can do it just fine, but my mind can get in the way. Just gotta sit back and observe what's happening with my body and give it whatever it needs to finish the ride. (And try not to ride it again in the too near future!! )

- Krista

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#10 of 16 Old 06-28-2006, 03:38 PM
 
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I have to agree with KC and vegan about transition. Dh and I took the Bradley classes and we both read through the emotional signposts and even tore them out of the book to take to the hospital.

BUT, when transition hit - I was completely clueless that THAT's what it was. Now, dh knew - and appropriately got the nurse. BUT, I was in PAIN and because I had no clue it was transition - I told dh I couldn't do it, I needed DRUGS, started crying, etc. Not to fault him, but if dh would have told me that it was transition and transition was the SHORTEST part of labor, I think I wouldn't have lost it there for a few moments.

And, I wanted to descirbe my labor contractions since, well, they were not what I expected at all.

My labor contractions were very gentle, just AF-like cramping in the lower part of my uterus (my whole uterus contracted, but I didn't feel uncomfortable anywhere except down low.) I was able to talk/walk/eat/drink/shower through them until I hit transition. I gave no pause at all to each one - they were just a little bit uncomfortable - but not enough so that I couldn't talk with dh and doula. When transition hit, it was a whole other ballgame and the contractions were intense and all-encompassing. Definitley took my full attention and it seemed that time stood still. I was barely aware of the fact that dh and doula were coaching me through with deep breaths, concentrating on relaxing every muscle in my body, and changing positions (I hated laying on back or side-lying.)

Pushing actually felt good and right to me. I definitely had the instinctive pushing, it was definitley not something that had control over at all, my body just did it.

One thing I want to recommend for first-timers is this - don't get into the bath/shower until you are far enough dilated that it won't slow down labor. I did this - and my labor was incredibly long (36 hours). Thankfully, because of my ctx weren't painful, it wasn't bad - but I think it would have been much faster had I of stayed away from the water until I was at a 5 or 6.

Steph, wife to C, mama to O :, E , and I :.
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#11 of 16 Old 06-28-2006, 07:34 PM
 
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Thanks KC & Steph- that's really helpful! The unknown is such a hard thing...
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#12 of 16 Old 06-28-2006, 09:00 PM
 
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Why does water slow down your labor early on? I never knew this.
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#13 of 16 Old 06-28-2006, 09:53 PM
 
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LOL, well, not if your water breaks first (like mine always seems to), but it often will if you're in early labor.

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#14 of 16 Old 06-29-2006, 02:35 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by veganf
LOL, well, not if your water breaks first (like mine always seems to), but it often will if you're in early labor.
Well, my water broke before I went to the hospital, and I didn't get into the shower until I got to the hospital. Looking back, I just assumed that the water slowed me down, since my water was broken and I was 90% effaced and 3cm dilated...

Steph, wife to C, mama to O :, E , and I :.
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#15 of 16 Old 06-29-2006, 02:42 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peilover010202
Well, my water broke before I went to the hospital, and I didn't get into the shower until I got to the hospital. Looking back, I just assumed that the water slowed me down, since my water was broken and I was 90% effaced and 3cm dilated...
I have to also say that maybe I have no idea I'm in labor until my water breaks, so maybe I'm just odd!

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#16 of 16 Old 06-29-2006, 04:04 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SummerTwilight
Why does water slow down your labor early on? I never knew this.
Summer, I think it's because of the relaxing qualities (both psychological & physiologically relaxing your muscles). Lots of midwives say "if you're not sure if it's really labor, hop in the bath. If contractions continue you're really in labor, if they peter off, you were just practicing".
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