I was very excited - and a little stunned - to experience a nice and easy labour with Layla. I won't get into the details now (I'll share my birth story soon to kick those off), but I will share these really simple tools I used to make it a really positive, not too painful and even rather pleasant. Yes, pleasant. I was laughing, talking and completely relaxed in-between contractions. And even sometimes during them.
This time around I didn't do any classes and while I told my midwife I had been practising my breathing, the only time I actually did it was when she asked me to show her. Oh and to stay alive... I did, however, read a book. Well part of a book (I didn't get to finish it). Birth Skills by Juju Sundin with Sarah Murdoch was great. A friend of mine had taken her class and I remember her talking about some of the skills she learnt and how much sense they made. I'm not going to give the whole book away, but I will tell you the main thing I learnt from it and what should be made common knowledge: distraction helps relieve the pain. All the breathing exercises in the world won't help if you're still focused on what you're feeling. So, here's what worked for me.
* Stress balls These guys became my best friends. As soon as I felt a contraction coming, they got banged together and I stared at them like a crazy person as they came into contact with each other. By concentrating so hard on what I was doing with those, the contraction seemed to come and go mighty quickly. If I stopped (which I did just to test if this theory was working), all my attention went to my stomach and the pain overwhelmed me.
* Banging my foot Another distraction. I did this while in bed where the contractions started (I was too lazy to get up and grab the balls). They were relatively mild, but again, half asleep I managed to detract my attention away from the pain. This tool became even more essential as the contractions got stronger - I banged my heel on the floor and the stress balls together in time.
* A sports bottle of water It's important to keep yourself hydrated during labour. I remember this being a problem last time. I was threatened with a drip if I didn't keep up my fluids. This time, my handy Tupperware bottle was basically glued to my hand (when the stress balls weren't being used) and cool, refreshing water was just a squeeze away. No fussy screw-top lids to worry about (seems silly, but honestly, the easier things are when you're in labour, the better).
* A hot water bottle My saviour during the last few weeks of pregnancy and still now. I had the worst back pain ever in the last few weeks and this was the only way to relieve it. It also helped having the heat applied to my lower stomach area during a contraction. And even better paired with a hot shower running on my back pain.
* A shower Water restrictions don't apply to pregnant women. I don't think this is technically a rule, but it should be, cause a hot shower in the middle of labour is a great pain reliever and even better way to relax you. I honestly think that's why Layla came so quickly. In-between contractions I was completely normal. I just swayed under the water and chilled out, enjoying the warmth and relaxing. I was in the shower for about 10 minutes before I felt the urge to push.
* My Birth Skills book This didn't make it out of my bag, but the three big messages I got out of it certainly stayed with me the whole time. They were:
1. Keep yourself distracted: march around, stare intently at a picture, bang stress balls together, say "ahhh" really loudly, count or chant some keywords out loud - anything to take your thoughts off the contractions.
2. Externalise your breath during contractions: Deep breaths in, loud breaths out. No use trying to be quiet in labour - leave that to the Scientologists. Expelling your breath with a huge big "ahhh" sound seems to take the pain away.
3. Internalise your breath during pushing: Basically, when it comes to pushing, instead of blowing the breath out with a big ahh, you need to push it down deep into your body to push the baby out. You need to make your insides work the same way as a coffee plunger - strong internal pushes to gently move the baby out into the world.
And that's it! No CDs, no candles, no yoga balls, no aromatherapy and no massages. These might work for some, but this is what I found worked for me. But while we're sharing, what worked for you?