Sunday, February 26, 2012

Can't see the forest for the trees

I just went to a baby shower yesterday & now that I think of it, I've got a few friends who are at various stages of pregnancy at the moment. It seems like 80% of my social circle has had kids in the past two years or will have one this year. I've been thinking about labour & birth lately as a consequence. It seems to me that many women focus a lot of their energy on learning about & planning for the birth. This doesn't really make sense, because aside from the fact that your memories of it will last a lifetime, it's such a small part of parenting. If you're lucky like I was, it'll only be eight hours. I'm pretty sure I spent at least double that amount of time in prenatal classes & who knows how many hours reading about birth beforehand. I wish I'd spent half as much time learning about breastfeeding as I did about birth--feeding Sprout (at first) was way harder than pushing him out.

That said, birth is an emotionally huge milestone to pass. When I was talking it over with Oli, I started to realize that focussing on the temporariness of labour & birth is a powerful coping mechanism. It was something I think our prenatal instructor emphasized: just get through the labour one contraction at a time. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, but I think that when I was in the throes of a powerful contraction, knowing that it would be over in a minute or two helped. Recognizing the peak & then trough of each wave, rather than focussing on how much it hurt or how many more of them were to come was beneficial to me.

Talking to my midwife Laura Willinganz,
about six hours into labour.
I suppose all that reading & those prenatal classes did prepare me in the sense that I was confident in my body's ability to handle the pain & to push this little baby out. Learning as much as possible about normal birth made me less afraid. Fear makes pain so much more intense. I think that's why losing my first little baby, Arrow, at 18 weeks seemed so much more painful than giving birth to an eight-pound Sprout. The contractions I was feeling not quite halfway through my first pregnancy felt wrong & extremely scary; I remember it as excruciatingly painful.  My labour with Sprout, in comparison, was quite calm & although I did a lot of moaning near the end, I didn't cry or complain about the pain.

I think if any of the first time moms out there want some advice about birth, I'd say try to be in the mindset where you can't see the forest for the trees. Don't think about long you've already been in labour or worry about how many hours of contractions you have left to go, just breathe through them one at a time.

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