Before I begin this post, I’d just like to point out that I am in no way a labour expert. I’ve birthed two kids, and that’s the only qualification I have! But both those labours I found to be a really empowering and amazing experience. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt, A LOT! Labour is painful.
I’ve met a lot of pregnant ladies who are scared at the thought of giving birth. And there’s certainly a lot of bad birth stories out there to make this even more scary. So, I thought I’d share my own tips and advice for a calm labour, based on my own experiences.
- Don’t get stuck on a plan
I remember going in to hospital when in labour with Ella, and being asked what my birth plan was. I told them I hadn’t given it a second thought! I think in hindsight, I should have had a few ideas about the way I wanted it to go. But I think not having a plan really helped me. I kind of fancied getting in a pool. There wasn’t one available. So it didn’t matter. If I’d had that written down, and I’d been reading over it nightly in the run up to the birth, it probably would have bothered me a lot more. With Sienna, induction was never part of the plan, and I did have a proper wobble when I had to be induced. But I calmed down, and it was absolutely fine!!
2. Take the drugs if you need them, don’t if you don’t
Don’t feel forced in to taking any drugs (which is probably a good rule for life too!!). It was one thing I was pretty sure on, that I would avoid drugs as much as I possibly could. I remember going to only one antenatal class type thing with a midwife. I really didn’t enjoy it, as it was about labour, but the midwife spent most of it talking about drugs, as if was the biggest thing about giving birth! She said you should take everything offered, and that there’s no way she’d have given birth without an epidural! I left feeling a little downcast and wondering if I would be able to cope after all. I wanted to experience birth, to be present, to not be spaced out, and to have a quick recovery. My girls were both back-to-back, which makes the labour even more painful, if that’s possible! I had gas and air with both. Yes the pain was intense, but I found other ways to cope through it, and found just acknowledging that it was painful helped in a way, rather than pretending it wasn’t.
Having said that, we live in a wonderful world of modern medicine. If you want drugs, have them! Don’t feel ashamed of your choice. Do what’s right for you, and don’t let any midwife push you in to one option or the other!
3. Prepare ahead
I’m not very good at being prepared. In fact, I’m terrible at it! But for both labours, I did get a little prepared. For Ella’s, I bought an active birth book. To be honest, it got pretty boring, and I didn’t even finish it. But I did pick up the gist that being active during labour, rather than laid on your back, is much more effective. I also did a bit of pregnancy yoga, which taught me a few breathing techniques and helped me to chill out a little. When I was pregnant with Sienna, I did the Calm Birth School online course. It’s a hypnobirthing course, but it really changed my views on what I thought hypnobirthing might be. It gave me a lot of tools to help me during Sienna’s labour, and I managed to zone out for a lot of the earlier contractions (and I applaud anyone who can zone out for the later ones!!).
4. Stay active
This goes for both pregnancy and labour. I’d have loved to have exercised throughout both my pregnancies, but I let tiredness take hold and possibly used it as an excuse. But one thing I did do was walk the dog every day. That little 30-40 minute walk really helped to keep me semi-fit! In labour, I really feel like I had no choice but to be active. I don’t know if it was subconscious, having (half) read the active birth book. But I just could not lie down. With Ella, I spent much of my labour pacing around upstairs before going in to hospital. With Sienna, I was swaying at the side of my bed on the induction ward! With both girls, I did lots of squats and hip rotations as labour progressed towards the pushing stage. This helped both girls go from back-to-back to being delivered the right way. Rest when you can, such as in between contractions. But otherwise, I’d definitely recommend being upright.
5. Don’t panic
This is definitely easier said than done. But the vast majority of babies are born healthily no matter what occurs during the labour. Have faith in the midwives. They do this daily. Ella’s heartrate was slowing down at the pushing stage. There was a red button moment and the room filled with lots of midwives and a doctor. She did her mucous poo during delivery, and had to spend a few days in special care, but absolutely thrived as a baby and now as a toddler. You would never know there was ever an issue during delivery. And actually, I kind of didn’t acknowledge that there had been. I remember the midwife saying to me after how scary it must have been for me. But I just felt quite calm about it all, like it would all work out ok. Or maybe I was just so intent on getting her out, I didn’t really acknowledge the situation.
6. Trust your body
Your body is designed to birth babies (unless you’re a man reading this…). If your body is telling you to push, there’s a reason!! With both my girls, I dilated pretty fast at the end. It took me about an hour to go from 5cm to 10cm with Ella, and about 45 minutes to go from 6cm to 10cm with Sienna. The first time, the student midwife was keen that I got checked for being ready to push. The second time, they didn’t check as I was adamant. I have no idea how anyone could fight that urge! The pushing stage was almost enjoyable, as it felt like I was on the home straight. It also meant I could actually do something rather than just fight the pain.
7. Rest assured that it’s all worth it
Everyone says it, but no matter how painful it is, it is all so worth it. The pleasure when the baby is born is immense. There is no euphoria like that moment. Not to mention the first smiles, giggles, words and all the other wonderful experiences that motherhood brings.
I know not everyone’s labours will go as mine have. I know that every labour is different. Every pregnancy is different. Every woman is different. But I really wanted to share what worked for me, in the hope that it can for you too.
You can read the birth stories of my daughter’s here:
And here are those first photos with both girls!