I have a few friends currently “with child” and in the not too distant future will find themselves with a baby on the outside. Going from baby-inside to baby-outside can naturally be a very scary thing to think about. I’ve been asked about my experiences a few times and thought I’d type up some birth hacks (there’s no such thing, that just makes it sound nicer) that might be handy for you store in the back of your mind.
It took us 7 years to become pregnant with Autumn, and one month to become pregnant with Piper. Two very different experiences from start to finish; egg to human baby both times which means a whole lot of learning on my part. These are just my experiences, thoughts and feelings. It’s up to you what you do with them.
To begin with you’ve got to ignore what you’ve seen on TV.
“PUUUUUSH! *SCREAMING* WAH WAH WAH!”
You know exactly what I’m talking about. Giving birth is not going to be that chaotic, that dramatic, that noisy, or that clean, and those babies are usually HUGE. Your waters might not break, you might not lose your mucus plug, and you might not have much in the way of contractions. The other side of the coin though is that you will have your waters break, you’ll lose your mucus plug and you could be in labour for a week. There’s no way of predicting it.
9 hours active labour with Autumn.
4 hours active labour with Piper.
Contractions 15 minutes apart with Autumn for 2 days.
No contractions until I woke up in labour with Piper.
It’s different for everyone.
I think though, that it can be calm and spiritual for pretty much everyone but it takes some mental preparation.
How to prepare for something when you have no idea what to expect, other than a human squeezing itself out of your own body through a hole that logistically makes zero sense.
Nothing about getting pregnant, being pregnant, having a baby makes sense to me even after having two babies. I’m hoping that that fact alone, and that I’m able to tell my tale is encouraging to you. I’m constantly surprised that I’m raising two humans and they’re turning out pretty awesome.
With that in mind, these are just my thoughts, my unsolicited advice – because you haven’t been getting plenty of that already.
Here goes, deep breath…
Tip number 1
Choose who is going to get the baby out of you.
The who is usually attached to a where, ie. a doctor in a hospital, or a midwife in your home or birth centre etc.
That narrows things down and will really shape the rest of your decisions.
We chose the non medicated route, with a midwife both times.
Autumn was born at 38 weeks at home on our ikea couch.
Piper was born on her due date at our local birth centre.
Part of the appeal for me in choosing a midwife is that I didn’t have any family here. I need to be mothered, and midwives are exactly that – the nurturing, caring, unconditional loving women that I need. I enjoy the bond I have with both the women who delivered my babies. It’s something I cherish and will last forever.
Tip number 2
However you decide to get the baby out you’ll possibly (guaranteed) experience some discomfort. If I were you I’d start thinking about how to deal with this sooner than later, but I have control issues.
Autumn: contractions 15 minutes apart for 2 days
Piper: no “warning” contractions. woke up in full blown labour at 2:30am
Autumn was born after 9 hours of active labour
Piper was born after 4 hours active labour
When I had Autumn my midwife, Treesa recommended Hypnobirth for me which I embraced. She had a class where she went over methods of pain management and we tried them out. We listened to music, we tried figuring out if talking/encouraging phrases etc would help, if touch would be soothing etc.
Take a look at this link and specifically the “Put Ice on It” section at the end for some things I found helpful.
When I was getting ready to have Piper it was really cool to ask Treesa if she thought I should try a different form of pain management. I really value her opinion – she said it worked well for me so I stuck with it and it worked even better the second time around.
I never quite managed to visualise a “Happy Place” with Autumn. With Piper I awoke one night early on in pregnancy after having a dream – it won’t make sense to anyone else but it worked for me, and that’s really all that matters. My Happy Place had me as a cloud, accumulating mass and power until breaking into rain – the whole cycle to me was symbolic of labour and birthing. It worked for me. “I am a cloud” was my mantra all those months. You should try and find something for yourself that will help you focus. I even drew out a picture of it and kept it by my bed. I would add to it every now and again until it turned into this whole thing that would make absolutely no sense to anyone but every sense to me.
I thought with Autumn that it would just come to me. I didn’t search very deeply to find that relaxing visual that would help me focus. I don’t know if things would have been different if I had but I do know that Piper’s birth went much smoother than Autumn’s and I believe the “happy place” helped me feel more in control. The first time around the pain did make me panic a little because I wasn’t able to really focus. I hadn’t prepared as well as I should have, perhaps because I didn’t know what I was preparing for.
Loosen up mentally by meditating and focusing, literally loosen up physically by trying to keep your chin tucked down and making low humming/mooing noises. Try it. Notice how loose the muscles throughout your body feel? Now try the opposite, strain your neck, like you would if you were screaming at the top of your lungs, feel how tense your whole body is?
This really helped me during Piper’s birth. It helps with the focus as well as obviously getting the baby out. You want your muscles to be as relaxed as possible or those contractions are going to hurt more than they need to. Breath and moo through them.
Tip number 5
Your muscles create contractions on it’s own so you don’t even have to push the baby out – that is the purpose of contractions. It’s amazing. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll want to push, your brain will tell you and your body will urge you to do it but when it comes down to it, that baby is coming out whether or not you push.
I had planned to have Autumn in the birth tub but things didn’t go to plan and I didn’t have a Plan B. I ended up on my back and getting stuck like that until after she was born. It was hard. Hard hard hard! Laying on your back is not a natural position for giving birth. It’s modern tradition but it’s not natural. I felt like I was being suffocated. If you’re not into that, let gravity help you out.
With Piper I was in the number 9 position on this list and it felt like every contraction was effective, paired with my mooing. Walk around, sit on a birth ball, squat, stay upright. If you decide to have a rest, sleep on your side with a peanut ball between your knees to keep your pelvis nice and open.
Tip number 6
Do what you’ve got to do in order to cheer yourself on. You are in charge of your own thoughts, your own will power. Pain isn’t fun, I know BUT the pain will end and it will end quicker if you believe it’s going to end.
Do NOT let the words, “I can’t do this,” “owie owie ouch,” or “this is too hard” come into your mind. Don’t say them. Instead say, or shout (in MY experience) “I AM doing this!” Tell your partner that “you’re doing so good!” is NOT enough, change it to “you ARE AMAZING!” and “YOU’RE doing it!” instead of “you can do this.” The difference between “can do” and “are doing” was huge for me!
Tip number 7
Don’t be scared to be vocal.
Everyone around you will be taking cues from you. This is your experience, your body, your baby! Don’t be shy. If you need something you have to say it, everyone is there for your comfort. Don’t have your baby and then think to yourself, “I wish I’d asked for counter-pressure...” Just do it.
With Autumn I was a bit embarrassed by the idea of being noisy. In the end I pooped in front of everyone, I was completely naked, and I was out of control which made having Piper all the much easier. I haven’t been shy since having Autumn.
Tip number 8
Focus and timing
I’m not sure where I picked this up from but when it came to focusing on contractions I found it helped if I started to say the alphabet at the start of a contraction. I could tell how long they were depending on what letter I was getting to. This helped when I didn’t have a visual in my mind whilst labouring with Autumn.
Finding focus will help you from freaking out.
Having a baby is intense. It’s hard – that’s why it’s called “labour” and not “a dawdle” but it ends. Labour lasts just a teensy while especially compared to the 9 months you’ve just gone through. My biggest tip is to practice and prepare relaxing now. In my online forum I was a part of for mothers birthing in March many of them said “I plan to go natural but I’ll take the epidural if I need it.” With that attitude you’re going to end up taking the epidural. “Going natural” isn’t just something you do if you feel like it. I don’t think anyone “feels like it” when they haven’t truly decided and there’s an alternative on the table. Make up your mind, do your research, decide what you want for your baby – look into what pitocin (for induction) does to the body, look into oxytocin, research positions, relaxation techniques, and decide for yourself what YOU want.
So it’s kind of a continuation of tip number 8 but a bit different. Ask your care provider questions and for their opinions. Some things to consider that aren’t quite mainstream practice at the moment are things like delayed cord clamping, skin to skin and breastfeeding right after birth (not separating mother and baby), waiting to give baby a bath – massaging the cheese (vernix) into the baby’s skin rather than washing it off, saying “no” to the antibiotic eye goop they put in baby’s eyes if there’s no chance of you having STDs to pass on. These are things I hadn’t heard of until I was preparing to have Autumn. Make the decisions yourself and you’ll feel so empowered. Ask questions, research, and make the choices.
Everyone will have an opinion, and a horror story to go with every choice you could make. When it comes down to it you do what’s right for you and your baby.
I had two very different drug free births – Autumn’s birth was rough, things did not go to plan, recovery took a year. Piper’s birth was smooth as can be. Don’t be pressured into anything you don’t want to do. I’m grateful for both experiences I had, but especially glad for the closure and empowerment that Piper’s birth brought.
It’s different for everyone.
You will do fantastically! Holding that little baby as your lungs slowly expand back to full capacity, and your heartburn and nausea disappear is the most amazing feeling ever! Not needing to pee every 3 seconds, and accidentally peeing every 2 seconds is wonderful.
We can talk about engorged boobs and all the rest of that another time 🙂
If you want to read about my background a little more and my experience with becoming with child you can do so here.
Got a question? Go head and ask. I’ll tell you straight!
Photos of Piper’s birth taken by The Perfect Moment Photography do not use without permission.