What does labour feel like? A question asked by new mums the world over as they prepare to meet their babies. Here Daisy teacher Fi Hennessy gives you the answers you’ve been searching for.
What is labour like? What does it feel like? What do contractions feel like? Does it hurt? How will I know I’m in labour?
The answer? You’ll know!
But HOW will I know? Why can’t anyone describe a contraction?
Do you know something? You will. Trust me. Here’s why:
Your baby, your body
You and your baby are in perfect synchronicity. You’ve made this baby by whatever means and are growing this baby, perfect for your womb to carry and your body to birth. Sometimes it might not feel like that with all the scans, growth charts, tape measures and weeing into pots, but you are perfect together.
Your body knows how to give birth, instinctively. Your baby knows how to be born, instinctively. Even if mum can’t move, she can still birth. Check out this article about a mum in a coma giving birth – while incredibly rare it goes to show how much of this amazing thing called birth is powered by our bodies and minds and not our rational thoughts and action.
Coping with labour
By tapping into this intuition and listening to your body and your baby, you will know when you are in labour. Think about other bodily functions that you do – perhaps a bowel movement – you know what it feels like to need to go to the loo, you follow that nudge and off you go.
It’s worth pointing out that it doesn’t usually happen like it does in the movies or other people’s stories. There isn’t usually a dramatic gush of waters, a mum clutching her stomach with agony rippling across her face (usually!). As the delicate interplay of hormones and endorphins gently nudges you and your baby towards your birthing day, the back ache becomes a little more insistent, the period type ache becomes noticeable and Braxton hicks become even stronger! Your discharge changes, your baby moves, the tightenings of your belly are increasing in duration and frequency, you move gently to your chosen rhythm of birth, whether staying at home or moving to hospital.
The feelings of labour
It is difficult for most mums to remember the actual feelings of labour – most of labour is lost to the wonderful hormones and endorphins which drench your body and mind to help you through this process, switching off the rational neocortex where memories are made. Unfortunately if this delicate balance is disturbed then mum can become more aware of what is going on and perhaps more aware of the feelings and intensity of contractions. This not only might make it harder for mum to cope at the time but perhaps makes her more likely to report labour as being painful, hard and that she was unable to cope.
So when you are asking mums about their labour experiences be sure to bear in mind that it was their personal journey and feelings involved in the process. Many things can happen during labour and not all of them will happen to you.
As Ina May Gaskin put it so eloquently,
“Don’t think of it as pain, think of it as an interesting sensation which requires all your concentration”
How bad is labour really?
In my own opinion which is the only one I can give honestly and completely, the first time for me was intense, scary, out of control, emotional, hard work, wonderful. The second time I was more prepared as I had opted for a home birth, I researched more, read more, invested more time and energy in knowing my options. I knew second labours could be quicker and the midwife nearly didn’t make it as I was certainly quicker second time.
I birthed at home in a labour which was honestly quick and easy. It wasn’t pain free but the feelings were manageable, there was a point to each contraction. I knew the journey I was on and I trusted my body and baby to achieve it OR to let me know if something was wrong. I absolutely loved my second birth, it rocked. I was awesome and I knew it.
One thing that commonly unites mums is the feeling afterwards of being the cleverest person in the whole wide world! Outside life continues, normal, boring, mundane – but here, in this room, this ward, this theatre suite – you have given birth – and my goodness! What a feeling that is! Your world will never be the same because of that day, it really is something pretty special.
Top Tips for labour
1) Prepare yourself and your birth partner
2) Know your choices
3) Move, breath and relax
4) Stay hydrated and nourished if you are able to eat
5) Write your birth story afterwards as soon as you can – it will be a wonderful memory or a valuable practice if you need healing.
Love Daisy x