Although I am pregnant with my sixth child, I still fear the labor pain. I think about the labor since the day I got my positive pregnancy test result, which is besides having tremendous joy about being pregnant again of course! When I shared this fear with my friends, they often looked at me in disbelief. Their reactions would be, “You have done this a lot of times already, you should have got used to it!” Well, I could not imagine how one can get used to this kind of extraordinary and overwhelming experience. And I am really not sure if one can actually get used to this kind of pain! However, I do remember the joy I had after the baby was born.
To be honest, the joy was not so much about the baby at first. I kept saying, “Thank you Lord, it’s OVER! IT’S OVER! GOD! THANK YOU!!” Such a relief!!! Then, I started to figure out what they were doing with the baby!
I had the last 5 births at the same hospital with the whoever on duty obstetrician. I had different nurses attending my labors each time, and almost all different obstetricians each time too. I found that I could not always had the same support from the nurses during labors as some were supportive and caring while the others were quite withdrawal or lack of experience. Also, they do have to come and go! Once, I had to go to the hospital alone with the ambulance. It was quite scary to be left alone in the birthing room during the intense stage of labor! I remember that I even grabbed the hand of the nurse and begged, “DON’T GO PLEASEEEE!” while she was heading out for the door! However, it turned out to be the easiest and the shortest labor that I had! How amazing that God took care of me with extra blessings when I needed Him the most!!
Several friends shared with me about ,their wonderful experiences with midwives, or even how wonderful a homebirth is. I hesitated at first since I already got so familiar with that hospital and did not want to change that factor. If I see a midwife in my area, I would have to register to another hospital. For homebirth, me and Derek were not quite sure too as we live a good 30 minutes away from the hospital, should we take the risk? Finally, I made up my mind to see a midwife. I concluded that the most important factor for me is actually having a continuous professional and yet personal and caring support during labor. We did consult the midwife for her opinion about homebirth, she said they won’t take the cases where the homes are more than 30 minutes away from the hospital! Therefore, we did not even need to make that decision! =)
You may ask, why not just take the epidural and the fear problem will be solved!? Well, it’s hard to explain. From the bottom of my heart, I always believe that the natural way should be the best. I believe God’s design is full of wisdom and meaning that I should honor it and respect it. Therefore, if the labor process should be painful, there must be a meaning to it, and I should experience it instead of avoiding it! Somehow, I believe it is a spiritual experience as well, an experience to train me and to lift me to another level! Or simply say, to experience God! I did have epidural once, my third labor. That labor went on for over two days, I got so exhausted as it was too painful for me to fall asleep. And I got so scared because I kept thinking back of the pain I had during my first two labors. Therefore, I decided to have epidural, but only to regret it afterwards. Only 30 minutes after the epidural was injected, I was fully dilated and the baby was ready to be born. However, I could not push her out since I could not feel anything! It turned out that the epidural had to be unplugged and we had to wait for another one and a half hour to push the baby out. I felt bad because it was me that Sonia did not born at a time that she meant to be. And what if I got paralyzed and could not take care of my girls anymore just because of my unwillingness to endure just 30 minutes more? I wouldn’t forgive myself for that!
Yes, logically I totally believe that I should aim for a natural birth without any medication. Just that the fear is still there. I have to prepare myself emotionally for the birth. There is a little library with resources of childbirth inside the midwife office, so I started to read books about childbirth. I never read any books about childbirth before! Not even after 5 pregnancies! And I am glad that I have read this one book called “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin.
I cannot say I highly recommend this book as the author is not a Christian, and I do have some reservation for some of her opinions. However, her experiences and professional observations do give me a clearer picture of how to have a more “enjoyable” labor! There are a few things that I would try to remember when I am in labor in a few weeks, and maybe these points can encourage you as well!
1) Believe in God’s Design and Pray Specifically
Believe that God’s design is beautiful and amazing. Everything that we experience during the labor is working beautifully together for the birth of the baby! The four kinds of hormones released, the contractions of the uterus, the opening of the cervix etc….this is a symphony designed by God! Pray specifically for the opening of the cervix and the vagina. There was a woman who just said that she wanted to open up and let the baby out, then the cervix opened another two centimeters right at that moment! And once there was another woman who just kept thinking “I’m going to get huge” while pushing, her vagina actually enlarged very significantly even before the baby getting there! Therefore, I believe that if we work with God and ask God for the opening of the cervix and the vagina, the result will be even more unbelievable!
2) Have A Joyful Spirit
It’s interesting that if the woman is tensed or having fear, her pelvic muscles will be tensed too. In some cases, the women’s cervix stop dilating for more than a day at a certain point or even close again! On the other hand, if the woman remains relax and joyful, the cervix will dilate faster and the level of endorphins will rise accordingly. Endorphins are a kind of hormone released during labor that can block the reception of pain and give us a feeling of pleasure. There was once a woman that her cervix kept dilating in a very fast fashion while she was hearing the loving words from her husband! Laughter surely helps too, so some jokes might not be a bad idea!
3) Keep the Environment Private and Peaceful
If there is an unwelcome or upsetting presence, a labor could be stalled or even reversed. The situation is just like having difficulty to relax and pee when there is a stranger standing beside you. This is most likely the reason why a lot of women found that homebirth experiences are much more pleasant and easier than hospital births.
4) Have the Right Expectations
If you expect it to be very painful, then it will really get very painful. There are some cultures and countries that the women do not fear the childbirth at all. They do not perceive childbirth as an extraordinarily painful experience, and therefore they do not really need any medication for pain!
5) Let the Primitive Brain Works
A French physician, Michel Odent, said that the human brain can be distinguished into two parts: the neocortex (the rational part) and the primitive brain. The primitive brain is the part that releases hormones. During labor and birth, several hormones will be released to regulate the process. However, if the neocortex is stimulated, it can actually inhibit the primitive brain to release those hormones properly. Therefore, it is best not to stimulate the laboring woman’s neocortex. How? Do not make her do any rational thinking, avoid making her feel self-conscious, use dim light, avoid strangers…….
6) Keep Abdominal Breathing Slowly and Deeply
Having deep abdominal breathing by relaxing and contracting the abdominal muscles helps relax the muscles of the body. It is also relaxing to the heart, the nervous system, and even the mind. Moreover, it brings in large amount of oxygen to help the mother and the baby function properly.
7) Enjoy the rest periods between contractions
Appreciate and enjoy these rest periods! Make a smile! Drink and pee!
8) Relax the Mouth and Throat
It is interesting that Ina May observed that if the woman can keep her mouth and throat open and relax, so will her cervix and perineal tissues. Therefore, after taking a deep breath, exhale and relax the mouth and throat muscles! It is even better if one can vibrate the chest by making a sound pitched low enough, or even singing a low pitched song! Ina May also observed that, during the most intense stage of labor, a woman’s cervix would relax and open more when she speaks out thankful and loving words!
9) Massage, Hand pressure, and Muscles Shaking
A lot of women shared the same experience that having their thighs being massaged and their lower backs being pushed against by their supporters can give great relief during labor. If these are not sufficient or if the labor is long and difficult, shaking the large muscles of the woman’s bottom or thighs side to side rhythmically can help too! Some even feel good when being shaken all over the body vigorously by two or three women!
10) Let the Gravity Do the Work
Changing positions and moving around can greatly help the cervix to dilate. Almost all women in different traditional cultures around the world choose the upright positions in labor. Having something like a rope for the woman to pull on above her head is even better! Also, positions like squatting or kneeling can increase the pelvic diameters.
Last but not least,
Surrender, Trust the Lord, and Go with the Flow!
This coming labor, I am going to enjoy the hymns that my husband and girls recorded for me, and several symphonies that I love. Also, I am going to have my husband reading to me several passages from the Bible too! For the past labors, I used to meditate Psalm 23 and some other Psalms. It worked pretty well as long as I kept myself meditating! =)
Pray for me!
Please also read Some Maternal Info that You Might Want to Know