These are easy to read and understand and are beautifully presented.
OK, I'll give it a shot since I opened my big mouth, but I'm thinking you
might have misunderstood and thought I meant DRUGS, when I don't. Oh, the
docs now think narcotics are wonderful during labor, they don't take away
the pain, but they allow you to rest and they let you push when the time
comes. (And why do you need drugs to help you rest in the hospital? Because
of the fear and anxiety their hypervigilance and attention to clocks is
engendering!) Just what I always wanted, to be all doped up for the most
awesome, most powerful, most inspiring moments of my entire life! I'm not
kidding, for those of you out there who are gearing up for the pain. Giving
birth undrugged was a peak experience. Out of this world. I wouldn't have
missed it for anything. There is nothing else I can ever do that will compare.
(But then I am a writer; masochist is part of the freaking job description.)
Comfort measures to get through labor without an epidural (not an exhaustive
list!): (these are pain management approaches, not pain relief)
Movement (walk, rock, dance, sway, squat, change positions, heck, bounce!)
Water: shower, bath, big tub in the yard, hose, whatever you got (though
I still think too early in labor might not be a good idea for everyone;
did me no good, but then the lights were off by that time)
Drink and urinate frequently
Ice, juice, cool clothes, warm socks, fan
Rest: many books and people recommend trying to rest, especially if labor
begins at night or if you are not very well-rested beforehand. I wasn't
extremely active in early labor, and I've often wondered if labor would
have been quicker if I'd jumped up and moved around more. Then again maybe
I would have worn myself out; as it was, I napped a lot both nights and
felt great when it was all over, 54 hours after I first called the midwife
(who was 3 hours away and whose car broke down over 2 hours away even before
the thunderstorm knocked the electricity out for 8 hours--talk about drama).
Massage: a personal thing, but my feet got a lot of attention
Acupressure: for more effective contractions: the uterus spot on the outside
of the foot; for pain: earlobes, constant pressure for 30-60 secs at a
time; palm points: use a narrow comb curled in your fist. Ask around about
these techniques; they're more effective if demonstrated to you.
All the mind/body techniques: meditation, hypnosis, etc. RELAXATION however
you can consistently get there. (aromatherapy for fear, anxiety, etc.)
Groaning, low and deep
Environmental comforts: music, lights, etc. as you desire them to be (when
I was pretending to be planning a hospital birth with a CNM, I told her
I was going to bring one of those little wedges to shove under the door
when I needed privacy. And a big sign for the outside of the door that
said: NO. Just NO.)
An external focus: a picture, a collage, something you've made that has
meaning for you, a candle, your lover's eyes, a flower
Sexual stimulation. I know, you think I'm kidding, but I'm not. The human
brain cannot experience pleasure and pain at the same intensity level at
the same time. Trick your body into ignoring the pain by having some fun
for a while. Might also stimulate labor.
Breathing: breathe deep, breathe slow. This is the only technique I ever
use at the dentist, because I DESPISE novacaine. (I'm allergic to cocaine
so Probably to the other caines too, another reason to avoid an episiotomy.)
Acceptance: be prepared to accept what happens, because as most of us realize,
labor is less like it says in the brochure than just about anything on
earth. I mean, the unexpected will happen, the labor will be unique. Be
prepared to be flexible.
Concentrate on the notion of healthy pain: when you burn your hand on the
stove, it has a definite purpose: it is your body telling you DON'T PUT
YOUR HAND ON THE HOT STOVE YOU MORON. Well maybe your body isn't so disrespectful
but mine's out of control, talks back like that all the time. Anyway, labor
pain is your body telling your brain GET READY, WE HAVE THIS REALLY IMPORTANT
ENGAGEMENT COMING UP (pun intended). Also remember that the more you let
go of your attachment to the idea of pain, the easier it will be for you
to slip into that different consciousness where you need to go in order
to give birth. Read Michel Odent and Suzanne Arms for more.
Language matters: for some people more than others. If you are influenced
by words themselves, retrain yourself to think "rush" or "energy wave"
rather than "contraction."
Deal with what happens: new fears can crop up even during labor, and if
you have the right companions, it is never too late to talk about them.
Give yourself permission to verbalize anything. Get the negative out of
your way, go on with positive attitude.
Choose the right companions. Then don't feel shy about telling them all
to get away from you if that's what you want. I did my most effective laboring
alone, in that other place. Tell them ahead of time what you think you
might need: praise, encouragement, touch, information. Whatever's right
for you. My one request was to be reminded to touch my baby's crowning
head. They remembered! I was so awed, I remember using all my powers of
expression honed by four years studying English literature in college:
"Wow." (Reminds me of hearing myself singing to my newborn son, Fat cheeks,
fat cheeks, bebe has fat cheeks, and thinking, jeez, I went to college
Stall: you know how they tell smokers to quit one craving at a time? If
you can just get through that three minutes or five minutes, the craving
will fade. Use this technique for labor. If you get to the point where
you're going to ask for pain relief, just go one more contraction, or one
more half-hour, or whatever you decide. Remember, the epidural is always
an option if you're in the hospital, but once you take it, you've taken
it. Like I tell my son, who I'm trying to teach to cook, you can't bake
the cake LESS than you've already done it, but it can always go back in
the oven if it needs to.
Focus on the babe. The baby is going to be born, this is going to be over.
You will never have a nicer reward for hard work in all your life. Sing
to, talk to, visualize that baby, who couldn't be luckier with a mother
like you who is concerned enough to do all she can to make this birthday
Cooking up this list sent me to some very nice books and now all my assignments
are even later, and I'm so very glad! I got to sit and read Suzanne Arms
this morning and look at her lovely photographs and remember how joyous
it was to give birth in my own bed. How gloriously simple it was after
all my planning and worry. But back to Suzanne, who tells us that labor
pain has been demonized in the last 75 years or so as somehow less endurable
that other kinds of pain. It's not true! Not only is labor pain endurable,
uncounted women have accepted and survived it! My take is that if you have
the courage to bring a child into the world with all that entails, you
can discover the courage to labor and give birth ... all alone if you have
to. What if you were trapped in a natural disaster? You'd give birth, you'd
know what to do, you really would! You would not die just because there
were no painkillers available. You know this is true in your heart of hearts.
Remember: Courage is hanging on for one moment more. One moment.