This Is How I Handled Pain During Natural Childbirth
Let me start by getting a few home truths out of the way: everyone's labour is different, nothing can predict the type of birth experience you will have, no matter how prepared you are, and some things are just out of your control.
Once you have that clear in your head, and you are planning on having a natural birth, there are ways in which you can prepare your body, of course – perineum massage, keeping your body strong (if you can) while pregnant. Then there are the tools for labour – heat pads, TENS machines, little hand fans, even spray water (which is brilliant, by the way). But hands-down the most important tool of all when it comes to giving birth is.... drumroll.... your mind.
I can safely say; there is no other moment in your life where the adage 'mind over matter' applies more than when you are in labour. And there's also no other moment in your life where it's so unbelievably difficult to focus your mind – on account of the fact that your body is in the throws of some crazy-ass powerful contractions sweeping through you like an external force.
So how do you focus when the contractions are coming fast and furiously, and you can hardly catch a breathe between them? Hypnobirthing CDs were my life-saver, they calmed my mind, help me become aware of how incredible my body was, and always reminded me that what was about to happen was what my body was designed to do (although, I think whoever designed the birth canal must have been a man).
The CDs got me through the initial stages of labour, keeping me calm and focused as I bounced up and down on my big blue bouncy ball. But when the contractions really got going, the CDs, the endless books and online forum advice, the bouncy ball, the heat packs, the TENS could not help alone, a concentrated mind and this simple method got me through every contraction:
When I could feel a contraction coming on, I took a deep, deep breath as far as I could inhale, in my head, I said "REeeeeeee" while inhaling. And as I began to let the breathe go, I imagined a red ribbon floating and twirling across the room as I breathed out as slow and controlled as I could through pursed lips (bearing in mind your contraction could be in FULL swing here, so it can be hard to blow gently), as my mind was truly focusing on blowing out as slowly as I could, in my head I was saying, "LAaaaaaaX"
That is it. The yoga classes, breathing advice from pals, the books, and all the visualisation through HypnoBirth culminated in this simple breathing and focusing tool. You're busy focusing on your red ribbon and saying RELAX in your head and it takes your mind off the pain and strength of the contractions.
As the labour progresses and they come quicker and more intense, you might need to breathe in and out a few times during one contraction, but all the time imagining the red ribbon twisting and floating across the room in the (imaginary) wind.
Both of my labours were so completely different, but this method took me right through to the end on the second birth, with a top-up of 'gas and air' to get me through the pushing stage. Just remember, everyone's labour experience is different, there is loads beyond your control, all you can do is your best, try to stay calm as you can (hard, I know), and at the end of that red ribbon is your beautiful baby.
This labour is only one day out of your life, and the prize for doing it is a lifetime of love. You got this, mamas. Good luck!
More about the benefits of HypnoBirth from Emily McElarney, a Hypnobirthing practitioner and yoga teacher.
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