Tuesday, June 24, 2008

need-to-know labour skills

My labour kit: not much to it, but each an incredibly useful tool. Also essential but not pictured: a shower

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?


Chantal Butcher said...

Hi belinda, while reading this post i had a chuckle to myself, although i havnt "given birth" i had two c-sections, i bang on my foot in time to the music at a gym class that i go to called pump when my arms are in so much pain that i think they are about to fall off i start tapping my foot.
So yes it does work.

Penelope Boyd said...

This book made a big difference for me. For most of my labour I stomped my feet and my fists like a mad woman, but it absolutely worked. I brought along the stress balls and a few other bits and pieces, but in the end my hands and feet were my best weapons against the pain (ooh and a lovely little bit of pethadine!). I also found myself focusing on the head of a bolt in the bed - I called it my dot. At one point, the midwife got in front of it and I screamed at her to move - I needed to concentrate on my dot! Your little ones are beautiful!

leslie said...

i'm due in a little less than five weeks so i'm loving this post! thanks for the tips, i'm off to find me some stress balls : )

Belinda said...

Hi Bel.
I love you website and Ive been meaning to tell you for some time now.

I bought the butterflies shown in one of your postings... Im yet to paint them, actually Im yet to do anything, Ive only a bassinette ready and some pink baby clothes, not even a baby room.
Ive bought some dye to re-colour all the blue baby clothes, singles & wraps. But Ive yet to dye then incase the ultrasound is wrong.
I've also bought some chocolate and pink/grape coloured dye's to dye some sheet sets as this is the colour Im aiming for in bub's room - then i saw the dwell's studio garden couloured linen and loved it, but not prepared to pay that much. I have a sewing machine/overlocker, so Im heading to spotlight tomorrow to make my own.

As for the birth announcement cards, ebay! Am i allowed to advertise that?

Sorry for taking up so much space on ur blog.

Hope all is going well.
All the best, love from...

..the other "friend from my mother's group is being induced next week"


PS. oh how i wish for a natural labour as it's less painful than an induction.

Anna said...

They are some great ideas. Distraction is definitely the key. I had to have an emergency c section last time after labouring for about 6 hours. Its all too easy to focus completely on the contractions, particularly when you are bound to the bed by monitors for blood pressure etc.

I'm due in 3 weeks, and really hoping its a natural birth this time as well, I agree with belinda (post above) the prosta pain of induction is very unpleasant.