Waiting to go into labor with your first baby can be downright terrifying.
You have no real idea what to expect, but you’ve heard about 462 birth stories that all have one general theme – PAIN.
(Even your friends that had an epidural – their stories are still about pain. They say “the pain was so bad I couldn’t handle it, you NEED to plan for an epidural, it’s the best thing you’ll ever do!” Right?! You’ve totally heard them say that!)
I am very high anxiety, and I’ve developed some seriously concrete coping mechanisms for dealing with my anxiety over the years… but I still really struggled with severe anxiety surrounding the pain of childbirth and not knowing what to expect from labor.
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It’s true that having a baby hurts.
The reason everyone talks about the pain is because it’s painful. There’s no way around that.
(It’s also messy, emotional, and life changing. And it’s amazing. Just as much so as it’s painful – I don’t know why our stories don’t focus on those aspects as strongly.)
I didn’t have an epidural, but I did have some intravenous painkillers a couple times. They just took the edge off. I also had laughing gas, which was AWESOME.
Regardless of what sort of pain management you’re planning (epidural, just the basic pain meds, or nothing at all but positive thinking), there’s bound to be a point when you’ll think, “hmmmm – not really a walk in the park!”.
And it’s good to know that going in.
You’ve probably heard that it’s all worth it and you’ll forget the pain as soon as the baby is born. That stuff is totally true…
People told me that.
But there’s something else you should know going in, and if I had known this thing, it would have made the whole labor easier. I just wish someone had said:
It’s probably not going to be as bad as you THINK it will be.
As long as everything remains uncomplicated, what you ACTUALLY go through might not be as bad as you THINK it will be.
I think this might be because it – the pain – has a purpose, and you know it. It’s not comparable to pain where the cause it unknown, or pain where your suffering seems so totally pointless.
Also, the pain only gets to a certain level, and then it really doesn’t get any worse.
I wish I had known that for me the laboring part, the contractions BEFORE the pushing part, THAT is worse than getting the baby OUT.
I know this doesn’t sound like a crazy revelation, but at one point when I was in labor, after I had already been in significant pain for quite a while, I broke down and cried to my husband that I couldn’t do it – not because I couldn’t live with the pain I was already in… but because I was 100% certain that it was only going to get worse, and the anxiety of that thought was overwhelming.
But, looking back on the experience, it didn’t.
There was different pain after that, but not WORSE. The anxiety was worse than the pain.
Once pushing started, it was actually a relief of sorts. It was a relief to know I was that much closer to the end, it was a relief to be able to DO something, and to feel like the pain had a purpose now.
Even the pain that women describe as the “ring of fire” wasn’t an unbearable pain – in fact, I focused on the fact that the longer you feel the “ring of fire” the less likely you are to tear. (More time for stretching slowly!)
I really wish I had known that it wasn’t going to be as bad as I THOUGHT it was going to be. That would have saved me so much stress and I could have relaxed more and just focus =ed on getting through the present moment. That’s what’s important. Just get this THIS moment – don’t worry about the next moment.
How knowing this will change my next labor
I’m not as afraid to go into labor this time. (I’d be crazy to say I was looking forward to it, but it’s not scary.)
I know every labor is completely different, but I’m confident that this time I’ll be able to relax more during labor; to focus on getting through the contractions one at a time – rather than the letting anxiety build with each one.
Having my attention on the present moment, instead of worrying about the next moment, will be significant.
I’m all for a few drugs here and there (I really want to avoid epidural if possible though), but I also REALLY believe that our mindset can help us through labor – and this time I’ll have so much more brain power to put towards pain management!
This article from my friend Jamie on how she handled the pain of natural childbirth is one of the most useful guides I’ve ever read.
This time, not being consumed with dread, I’ll be able to put the techniques she mentions (like relaxed hands, controlled breathing, and helpful thoughts) to work!