Positive Labor

When picturing labor, do you think of how it’s portrayed in the movies? Where their water breaks, everyone becomes frantic, rushing off to the hospital, the birther is sweating and screaming, legs in stirrups and being yelled at to push? Or do you know that labor is a long, slow dance? One that begins with light contractions that feel more like period cramps or constipation. Then they start to form a pattern and suddenly you realize that what you’re feeling. Excitement and hope begin to form as you count the length of the contraction and the time between the beginning of the first and the beginning of the second, and the intensity of each one with a contraction counter app you installed months ago, hoping for this very moment. You watch as they get longer, stronger, and closer together, then peter out, only to get stronger again. But when is it time to leave?

You could be at this for several hours, or even days of doing this little dance! If you’re having a birthing center or hospital birth, going in too soon can cause labor to stall or even stop altogether. And if things aren’t progressing as quickly as the hospital staff would like, you’re likely to be told you need augmenting or inducing of labor. It can also feel demoralizing to be sent home when you’re so eager to meet your baby. So how do you know?

Listening to your body, and not your excited heart. Your body is sending you clues and cues as to how far into the process you are. Your baby is talking to your cells, and communicating what they’re feeling, letting you know on an internal level where you are in labor. Tapping into that begins during pregnancy. To learn to listen to that requires quiet moments of just you and baby.

When contractions begin is when you’re going to want your doula to know what’s going on, even if having them come to support you may not happen for a while yet. Sometimes you want them there to support you or your anxious partner sooner rather than later, but often you and your partner may want these first few hours of labor to be a bonding time and enjoying each other’s company for the last time in this dynamic, before birth and a new baby changes the way your relationship works. It’s beneficial to be just the two of you for labor to progress, where you can lean into these contractions in the safe space of home. When to call your doula to join you is between you and them, but you should always let them know when contractions begin so they can prepare for joining you.

When it comes to calling your midwife for your home birth or birthing center birth or giving the hospital the heads up that you’re coming in, what you’re listening for is those moments between contractions, not the waves themselves. Are you able to give genuine smile? Can you have a conversation, or are your words clipped and very to the point? If you’re feeling like communication is too much for you right now, this is likely transition and it’s time!

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