I have found this post very difficult to write. Labour pain is such a personal thing. My experience will have been different to yours in some way or other. I don’t want to be preachy and say “This is how you should have your baby” because, clearly, that would be stupid. On the other hand, I would like it if my words made someone think differently about how birth can be, and why.
When I decided to have a home birth and therefore restrict myself to only gas and air for pain relief, quite a few people told me I was ‘brave’. It didn’t seem that way to me. I didn’t make this choice because I had a terrible fear of hospitals or had any major political views about how birth is controlled (that came later). I just never really had any fear of labour or labour pain. I figured I would be able to deal with it. Maybe it was the reading material I had around me during pregnancy. Maybe it was because my Mother never made a big deal of it (despite having what I would consider to be a grotty 1970’s birth). Maybe I rationalised that if it WAS that bad, I could get help, I could transfer to hospital and scream for an epidural.
Do I look fed up? This was just before we called the midwives at my second birth. Three hours later I had the Middle Miss in my arms.
Luckily for me, that was never necessary. I think these are some of the reasons why:
1. My first two babies were in the best position possible before birth. If your’s isn’t, see here.
2. I wasn’t fearful. Fear increases pain. This theory has been around for years. If you are fearful about birth, you can bet your system will be swimming in adrenaline. Adrenaline is generally the enemy of progress in birth. You can read more about this here and here. It is possible to overcome the fear of birth (tocophobia). Some women find talking to a trained counsellor helps, some find hypnotherapy is the answer. If you want more information on this, click here. May I also recommend reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Yes, she’s an old hippy, but she’s funny too and makes a lot of sense.
3. I had good midwives (I wish I could post a picture here but I don’t think they would thank me for it) and a great husband supporting me. I didn’t know the midwives but they had an air of confidence that told me ‘everything is going well’. That contributed to my lack of fear (see above).
4. I was able to use my yoga experience to breathe deeply through labour and I wasn’t inhibited when it came to using sound. If you want to learn yoga while you are pregnant, find a teacher by clicking here.
5. I had a beautiful, deep, warm pool of water available. Although water will not take away the pain of labour, it does provide comfort. It’s buoyancy allowed me to stay in an upright, kneeling position for far longer than I could maintain on ‘land’. Upright positions generally aid progress in labour and can be less painful.
It’s not obligatory to move house between each birth, but it does make siting your pool more interesting.
6. My labours went at the ‘right’ pace. Very fast labours can be a shock for both mother and baby, whilst slow labours are undoubtedly tiring. Labours that are induced or augmented artificially in hospital can be harder to deal with. It’s not as easy for your body’s natural pain killers to keep up with the progress of the birth. Think carefully before you agree to induction. The NICE guidelines say that induction should be offered if you are overdue. There is little evidence to suggest that it is necessary.
It saddens me that so many women fear labour and the pain it brings. I get fed up of people saying “Well, you wouldn’t have your tooth out without anaesthetic so why have a baby”. The answer is that these two types of pain are NOT comparable. I think you could compare being stitched up after giving birth with having your tooth out, but I’m only guessing, from what other people have told me.
Having a baby can be one of the most exciting, exhilarating and empowering things you can ever do. Ask anyone who’s had a good birth.
I was lucky enough to hear Davina McCall speak about her birth experiences a couple of years ago. She too has had three home births. This is what she said, more or less – sorry Davina, wish I’d recorded you:
“Have you seen the Lion King? You know the bit where they take the baby lion up to Pride Rock and show him to all the other animals? That was what I wanted to do after my births. I felt so strong and a bit wild. I wanted to hold up my baby and shout, ‘Look what I did'”. (I can’t find the exact clip of her saying that but if you want to see her interview childbirth expert, midwife and author Ina May Gaskin, click here, Ina May is well worth it)
Wouldn’t it be lovely if all mothers felt like Davina did, because in a good birth, that is the bit you remember, not the pain.
Oh dear, all that house moving. I can’t find pictures of baby one after his birth.