I will always remember a story told by another mama in our natural childbirth community. She was a labor doula, and was studying to become a midwife. She had coached countless women within our community during their births, and she was valued for her calm and encouraging exterior. When you were in labor, she was your rock.
She became pregnant and decided on an HBAC – a homebirth after Cesarian. She had always felt traumatized by her first birth, which was a planned hospital birth that ended in an emergency C-section. For a doula and homebirth professional, her plan for the second birth was the natural extension of her life’s work.
She did not give birth at home. After laboring for over 48 hours, she insisted on going to the hospital, where she delivered her second baby. When she told the story, she explained what happened.
She was completely unprepared and overwhelmed by the intensity of the pain of labor. Her baby wasn’t positioned well, giving her lots of “back labor” and a long, drawn-out early laboring period. She became very scared. She was afraid if she couldn’t handle the pain of labor, she would never be able to handle the pain of delivery, so she insisted on the transfer.
In the months she was preparing for the birth, she clung tightly to the notion that positive thinking and calm affirmations were all she needed to get through labor. She could mentally reframe contractions as “peaks” and pain as “pressure.” In the end, she was woefully ill-prepared for her difficult birth.
When your birthing day comes, how will you be prepared? If you haven’t yet, read up on our Ways to Calm Your Fears of Childbirth During Pregnancy. These will help set the stage for a smoother labor.
When you’re in the thick of it though, if you start to feel afraid, try these actionable steps for stepping down from the edge of fear and back to calmer waters.
Own Your Environment
Whether it’s at the hospital or at home, until the doctor or midwife is ready to catch the baby, you are the boss of your labor environment. Dim the lights if you wish. Refuse visitors you don’t want to see. Turn on meditative music. Enlist your partner or doula to guard the space for you.
Remember to Breathe
Sometimes when our fear sets in, and we realize we aren’t in control of these contractions, we forget to breathe. This will tense up your whole body and make each contraction hurt worse. Remind yourself to breathe, and remember that the calming power of breathing happens on the exhale. Stretch out each exhale as long as you can. Lengthening your exhales will also prevent hyperventilation.
Count Out Loud During Contractions
This is a powerful way to remind yourself that the contractions don’t last forever and they are somewhat predictable, while simultaneously taking your mind off the pain and onto the ritual of counting. Counting can bring back an immediate feeling of control if you become overwhelmed by feeling out of control.
Touch Your Baby as Soon as She Crowns
Touching your baby can bring you out of a fear place and back to the moment immediately. You will receive a renewed sense of purpose and find reserves of strength you didn’t know you had. Midwives will often ask a mama who has stalled during pushing to touch her baby since that action can remind us that birth isn’t a solo event. Mothers have amazing strength when they are protecting their children.
Hopefully, you will keep these ideas at the ready for your birthing day. If fear rears its ugly head, you can find your power within to let it go.
Julie Stockman spends her days baking, gardening, keeping chickens, listening to the nature around them, practicing gratitude and faithfulness, and stealing minutes to write about it all.