Virtual Doulas Always Have Clean Hands
June 12, 2013 6:14 PM   Subscribe

We've had a bumper crop of gorgeous babies on the Filter lately. Let me learn from your experiences - hit me with your best advice for childbirth and labour itself. We've only got a week or two to go and the better prepared we can be the better.

Due to a variety of factors (scheduling and limited class size being at the top of the list) Dr. Jilder and I have missed out on antenatal classes. My midwife has been fantastic in providing good information re. the actual birth part of the procedure, and between my mum and my vast array of sisters I've got the basics covered, I think. I'm not terrible anxious about things, and I have a high pain threshold, so we're good on that front.

However, I'd love to see what the Hivemind has to add (besides IANAD, IANAM and IANAG). What resources would you recommend online to a pair of scientifically minded university graduates about to hit the birthing suites? Pain management advice, breathing advice, that sort of thing would be lovely. We're in Australia, too, so any videos will need to be accessible over here.

We've already got a birthing pool, some sort of stool and one of those big yoga ball dealies sorted as standard in the birthing suite. Also massage oil, a wheat pack (for heat) and some medatitive music (Dead Can Dance, because we're starting this kid off right, after all). Also midwife-assisted births are standard at the hospital, with ready access to obstetrics if things get hairy. We're not really in a place to get a doula at this late stage, and frankly I think the majority of the aftercare stuff will be covered by my mum, who after four kids and a raft of grandkids is more than capable of helping out with new mums and new babies.

While more science based stuff is preferred, I'm not adverse to a bit of metaphysical assistance if you've personally found it to be of use.

Special interest is things for dads! He's been super supportive and I can't see this changing just because we're up to the business end. Most resources I've seen online so far have been geared to mums, so if we can broaden that out all the better.

Any other encouraging advice will be gratefully received.

You will be rewarded in baby pictures once he gets here.
posted by Jilder to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
You labor may go on for a long time. You'll get nice drugs to sleep but Dad will be trying to catch Zs on a pallet on the floor. Bring him a benedryl so he can sleep.

Bring your phone chargers. Have friends standing by to bring nice meals to you. Our maternity hospital has a McDonalds. Um, YUK!

I gave my friend's daughter Reiki through her feet during contractions. She said it helped.

It's also really boring between the time you check in and the time your baby arrives. Kindle, magazines, etc.

Mazel Tov!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:30 PM on June 12, 2013

I procrastinated on signing up for childbirth classes and ended up taking the Babycenter (US) classes online. Here is the US version and here is the UK version -- they don't appear to have an Australian version yet. My husband and I liked the US version because you could skip around to the chapters that were most relevant. I thought the sections on the stages of labor and pain relief techniques, plus the videos of women recounting their experiences with various pain relief options, were pretty helpful. I'm due in 3 weeks though so I can't fully vouch for the classes quite yet!
posted by k96sc01 at 6:44 PM on June 12, 2013

Congratulations on the upcoming arrival!

My only advice would be to be open to whatever path your birth might end up taking, even if it takes the intervention route. I know a lot of ladies who were dead set against interventions ended up with C-Sections (the mother of interventions!) and were extremely distraught about how things turned out, partly because it's major surgery but also because their birth plans went out the window.

With my second, I was fully expecting a vaginal delivery, but baby girl was not tolerating things well and we decided to have a c-section. It wasn't my preferred route, but getting her here safely was more important.

That being said, I sincerely hope that you have the birth that you want and plan for. It's an amazing experience!
posted by Leezie at 6:48 PM on June 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

Hey, you sound like we were. You'll do great.

My biggest piece of advice is to not tie yourself in too firmly to any one image of how your birth will be. A lot of small and large things happened differently than I thought they would, but I worked really hard on not placing values on what did and didn't work for me.

A small unexpected dad-related thing: my husband, who had been a student EMT and is a general keep-his-head-on kind of guy, was way more traumatized by the birth than I was. Like, couldn't listen to me talking about it for a year or two, that level of trauma.

My best story about having a somewhat more scientific approach to life was the point where I said "Hey, cool, I'm having all these thoughts about how I can't do this and am going to die, this is transition, huh?" It was, but I freaked my doula right out by being able to analyze it like that.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:49 PM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

They will probably have you on a fetal monitor. One word of hard-won advice for dad: don't watch the monitor. If he does, he will be able to see your contractions on the strip chart before you can feel them. Most men, especially those of us of a more technical bent, won't be able to resist saying "Here comes another one!" or something like that as each contraction begins.

It's been nearly 20 years, and Mrs. Deadmessenger still won't let me live that one down.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:07 PM on June 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

They will probably have you on a fetal monitor. One word of hard-won advice for dad: don't watch the monitor....Most men, especially those of us of a more technical bent, won't be able to resist saying "Here comes another one!"

Ahhhhhahahahahaha, bingo. I had to tell my husband at one point, OK STOP WITH THE MONITOR ALREADY, I HAVE A DECENT SENSE OF WHAT IS GOING ON.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:18 PM on June 12, 2013 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Congratulations! You sound pretty well prepared. You'll do great.

I just gave birth 3 weeks ago this past Monday. I took a childbirth class at the hospital and read a few natural childbirth books, and read a lot of birth stories, especially those on Birth Without Fear. Learning how to breathe and relax through contractions was very helpful too. It's basically just a deep cleansing breath out. I was able to take a break in the middle of pushing by breathing through a couple of contractions!

I can't emphasize enough that it helps to remain flexible and to not be too wedded to your expectations. Based on the videos I saw in birth class, and on many birth stories I had certain expectations about how it would go. I thought it would take a while to progress, I would have time to walk around and ease into it, and that sort of thing. My labor ended up being super fast and got intense really quickly. Even though it turned out how I wanted and planned, with no medication or interventions, and a perfect healthy baby, I had a hard time reconciling my actual experience with what I had imagined. It took me a while to get over it, to be honest. While I do think it is important to have an idea in mind of your ideal birth don't let it become too entrenched. You won't know how you'll react or what will happen until you're doing it.

Going from an inside baby to an outside baby is also an adjustment so be ready for that!
posted by apricot at 7:27 PM on June 12, 2013

Best answer: My tips (I did it 4 months ago):
- read on C sections and be prepared for one even if you do not think it will happen.
- EAT when you can in early labor if things aren't moving too fast
- your husband should learn sacral counter pressure. Prior to being in labor I did not think it would be helpful... Once I was in labor I panicked at the thought of a contraction without it.
- have your hair securely out of your face (it's the little things...)
- school your husband as hard as you can on what transition is. I really wanted my husband to alert me when I was in transition so I taught him the signs and quizzed him a few times. By the time I was actually in transition I was screaming and trying to focus on not losing control completely, and he was terrified and forgot everything. If I had it to do over I would give him a flash card! Especially because that was when I requested an epidural, and by the time the epidural came I was almost fully dilated but too scared to turn it away. I don't regret the epidural but by the time it came, transition was passing and I felt better, and I would have liked to keep walking around or standing at least at that point but could not with the epidural in place.
- maybe set a few specific intentions to think about during the process and have your husband prompt you with them. I read a bunch of birth stories online because I was a week past dates and bored, and when I was in the throes of pain I kept thinking of stupid stuff I read about how feeling the baby descend was "orgasmic" (it was the worst thing I've ever felt in my life, so... No)
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:10 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

My doctor told me to call him when contractions were coming at regular intervals...I want to say 4-5 minute intervals, was what he asked for. In my birthing class, though, the instructor said to call the doctor when you couldn't talk through your contractions. My contractions never became regular (even when pushing!) so I was really glad I'd taken the birth class as otherwise I'd have stayed at home. It is unlikely that this will happen to you! But not impossible, I daresay, as I am living proof.

Despite the wonky contractions, I had a pretty fantastic labor. It went on for thirty hours but only the last eleven or so were at all difficult. The only thing I'd change would be to spend more time in the bathtub while I was laboring at home. Being in the water makes contractions so much easier, and my hospital's tubs were terrible. I think I would have been more relaxed and less worn out by the time I got to the hospital if I'd labored longer in the water at home.

You may or may not have a philosophical objection to epidurals. I was open to the idea of getting one if I felt like I needed it. I ended up doing it and am so glad I did. My parents came in when I was like 8cm dilated and I could have a pleasant conversation with them. I was lucky enough that it didn't interfere with the progression of my labor at all, just made everything much less painful.
posted by town of cats at 8:14 PM on June 12, 2013

Best answer: (IAADoula, IANYDoula) One of the hardest things for particularly rationally-minded people to do in labor is to let their brains quiet down. Birth is largely an involuntary body function, but it's the most intense one humans do. We are really used to living in our heads and having a lot of control over our bodies and what happens with them. This is a situation where it really helps to try to relinquish that control as much as possible and let your body lead. This sounds ridiculous, but birth is in many ways like having a giant poo.

As the whole medical field can attest, though, our bodies don't always do their involuntary functions the way they're supposed to. This is where some flexibility around the process can be nice, as regards interventions. I'm based in the US, but I'm pretty sure this holds for Australia, too: you can say no. If they're encouraging you to do something you don't actually want, you don't have to say yes just because they're medical professionals. By that token, you can ask for anything. They may not say yes, but you can ask for the lights to be turned down, the heat to be turned up, no student practitioners, a different nurse, whatever.

Penny Simkin is the founder of DONA, one of the major doula organizations in North America. Her website has some great articles that I can't link directly to because they're PDFs, but you can find them here. The one titled "Comfort in Labor: How You Can Help Yourself to a Normal, Satisfying Childbirth" is like a doula primer. Your partner particularly should read it. Simkin's book The Birth Partner is a longer version of that document, and one of my favorite books on birth support and childbirth in general. I have no idea where you'd look for it in Australia, but it might be worth investigating.

Staying out of the hospital during early labor may help you have a vaginal delivery, if that's your goal. The general guideline for time to go to the hospital/birth center is when your contractions are 4-5 minutes apart, lasting one minute long, and they've been doing that for an hour. But town of cats' comment about when you can't talk through them is also a good one -- generally, if things feel like they're getting intense, go.

Congratulations! Babies are exciting!
posted by linettasky at 8:19 PM on June 12, 2013 [10 favorites]

Discuss with your midwife when to head to the hospital. For a first pregnancy with no complications it's usually not for several hours after contractions start. You and your partner should read up on the stages of labor, what they are, what to expect in each stage.

Every labor and delivery is different. For me, laying down sucked and was super painful but the tub was heaven. However I just couldn't push in the tub and had to get on the stool get him out. If your partner familiarizes himself with the options that will be available he can help assist with remembering and suggestion new positions.

Remember that every medical intervention from monitors to IVs narrows down your options later. You want the option to use the tub? You'll need to avoid getting IVs.

Our bodies or meant to be in motion for this, not laying back. Swinging, swaying and wiggling babies down using gravity to help move them through into the delivery. When squatting our pelvises open up wider alowing the tiny human through.

Even if you do not want a c-section, learn what happens when they occur. Do you want the doctor to stitch up the uterus inside you or set it on the side of the insiscion? Do you want the doctor to operate in a way to maximize the chances of a future vaginal delivery? Learn about what youll need for recovery. Be knowledgeable so you can make an informed decision if need be.
posted by HMSSM at 8:42 PM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

Lots of fiber and water every day so you're not constipated.
The Dad/partner should be an advocate for the Mom.
Labor was work, and it was better when those around me were calm, encouraging, and let me do that work. It was a nurse who kept looking at the monitor and saying "Here comes another one!" sheesh.
You might have a surgical delivery. I ended up having a long labor, then a C-section, then a post-surgical infection. I'd have preferred a vaginal delivery, but was not surprised at the c-section, as my son was large, with a large head, and the cord firmly wrapped around his neck several times. We had discussed it, and my son's Dad went to the nursery for skin-to-skin bonding with the baby while I was being stitched. I was totally unprepared for going home, then coming right back to the hospital with a high fever and needing to be re-admitted.
A friend took photos through the OR window of my son being delivered. I'm so happy to have those pictures, and when my son was little, he loved looking at them.
Caring for a large baby while I healed from abdominal surgery was difficult.
For us, nursing was pretty easy. Took a couple weeks to deal with the soreness, and then it was a joy.
You'll have your own unique experience; please follow up later. Good luck!
posted by theora55 at 9:19 PM on June 12, 2013

When the contractions come, deliberately relax your whole body. Relax your shoulders, your hands, your legs, your face, everything. The natural tendency is to scrunch up. Just breathe and relax. Don't squeeze your hands or anybody else's. Just try to let it flow. Obviously this is not as easy as it sounds but be conciously aware of what you are doing with your muscles. During pushing and delivery, then you get to use those muscles but for most of labor, try to relax.
posted by tamitang at 9:35 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's no way to really internalize this beforehand, but the strangest thing to me about childbirth was how enormous it is when it looms ahead of you and how tiny it is in the rearview mirror behind you when you have your tiny person in the world. I devoted so much mental and emotional energy preparing for this moment and things went mostly fine, and only kind of according to plan, and in the end none of it mattered except that the most remarkable person has been with me ever since.
posted by judith at 10:42 PM on June 12, 2013 [10 favorites]

Best answer: The birth is just one day of your life (hopefully) so I hope you don't mind if I go on a bit of a tangent here. In retrospect, the things I wished I'd thought about before the big day were more about what happened when I bought the baby home.
Here are a few other thoughts...
- The birth is really out of your control, so if things don't go the way you expected, it isn't your fault. If you have a natural birth and that's how you wanted it, then that's great. If you don't? Then it isn't because you weren't prepared or ate the wrong stuff or didn't do a birthing class or didn't read an Ina May Gaskin book, it's because birth is unpredictable. I had a c-section and I'm often amazed that people seem to think I should feel unhappy or guilty about the fact. I'm good, the baby is now a massive thriving toddler, and I barely think about the c-section at all.
- Breastfeeding, (if you want to do it), can be really hard and if you do want to do it, you might need support from a lactation consultant etc. Oh and mastitis can strike very quickly. I had it three times in eight months, I hope you don't ever experience it, but if you get a sore breast and flu-like symptoms, get yourself to a doctor stat.
- If you don't end up breastfeeding at all/as much as you wanted/as long as you wanted etc, that's ok too. It really is. Conversely, breastfeed as much and as long as you want. If you feel the need to have your baby on a three hour routine, awesome, if not, that's awesome too. I started out being quite anti-routine but my daughter thrives on it even now, so we did the Eat-Play-Sleep thing for all our sanity. Whatever works, do it.
- Hormones. The baby blues is a real thing and PPD is a real and surprisingly common thing. Don't be afraid to seek out help for sadness/anger/feelings of not coping.
- Sleep. If you have some strategies beforehand for how to get enough sleep this can be very helpful. We didn't think about this beforehand and I ended up doing all the night wakings for a while and become very exhausted before I realised things needed to change and my other half stepped up. Also, if you are having sleep problems, there are resources available to help you, your GP can be a good place to start.
- Babies go through a lot of changes in the first months and years and it can be really useful to have a rough idea of when developmental stuff is going on - though I'm not a big fan of some of Ask Moxie's less science-y ideas, her posts on developmental spurts helped me cope when my baby's sleep/moods/routines went to hell at various points.
- My favourite parenting blogs pretty skeptical and science-based, so maybe you'll get something out of them too: Science of Mom, Breastfeeding Without BS and Red Wine and Apple Sauce.
Good luck and enjoy all the new baby snuggles.
posted by jasperella at 11:24 PM on June 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

One word of hard-won advice for dad: don't watch the monitor...Most men, especially those of us of a more technical bent, won't be able to resist saying "Here comes another one!" or something like that as each contraction begins.

It's been 24 years and 2 days since my first was born - still remember telling my ex to STFU already about the monitor.

Re getting through labor, I told myself that I could handle anything for 3 minutes, so I started counting seconds when the pain got really bad. It helped keep me focused on the fact that the pain would soon/eventually end—even when I counted well past 3 minutes.
posted by she's not there at 11:28 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Enjoy the nitrous oxide! I had a natural birth and really all I can remember is flashes of lying on the bed gripping my bestest friend ever, gas and that there was a really painful bit at the end. It was only nine months ago but it feels like years.

Now if I think about the experience at all it’s to remember the moment I met my daughter. I can’t even type that sentence without tears filling my eyes. Congratulations!
posted by Wantok at 11:28 PM on June 12, 2013

posted by John Cohen at 11:28 PM on June 12, 2013

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted; sorry guys, but we won't have a reiki debate in this thread. You can head over to Metatalk, or you can answer the OP's question: Let me learn from your experiences - hit me with your best advice for childbirth and labour.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:13 AM on June 13, 2013

Response by poster: OP here: Yes, I am aware of the lack of hard science backing up reiki. I doubt the physicist father of my child is going to be too keen on applying energy manipulation during labour.

I'm finding the responses pretty useful so far - carry on!
posted by Jilder at 12:28 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Advice for this is really specific to your personality, I think. The most useful thing I read was to tell your partner not to say "are you ok?" But instead to ask specific questions like "would you like some ice" or "can I do something". If he asks are you ok enough eventually you will think you are not ok. Or you may want to smack him because, duh, labor hurts and is not really an ok (ie normal in the sense that it is not regularly felt) thing.

We never did birth classes because I knew my anyilitical husband would see thàt as a linear path for what to expect and if I or my doctor had different ideas he would flip. So in that sense, I think lack of classes helped with the flexibility.

Goof luck! I hope your delivery is as smooth as mine were.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:49 AM on June 13, 2013

I'm reiterating the recommendation to learn to relax in the face of pain. I studied the Bradley Method via book before my first (didn't do classes or LaMaze or have a formal birth coach), and the relaxation techniques that are part of Bradley were very valuable during the birth process and have been a useful tool in my general pain management repertoire ever since.

If you can get the Bradley book in Australia, or a Kindle version, give it a look. If not, just pick a progressive relaxation audio cast from the Web that sounds soothing to you, and practice relaxing a lot between now and then. Bonus: learning to relax is the best homework ever.

Being able to relax in tense moments is a bit of a learned art, but it's something I recommend that everyone learn to do!
posted by drlith at 3:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I learned the hard conscious of straining your face when pushing or you can end up with some really nasty broken blood vessels in your eyes.
posted by kinetic at 4:21 AM on June 13, 2013

I vocalised a lot with the birth of my second son. It pissed off everyone around me (apparently - I didn't give much of a shit at the time) but just letting out a well modulated, full diaphragm hrrrrrrrmmmm when the contractions really hit felt very satisfying and helped a little bit with taking my mind off the pain.
posted by h00py at 5:19 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We took a birth class and the biggest thing my husband remembers: COMFORTABLE SHOES (for him of course). It was one of those things you don't think of until you have been pacing around for 16 hours. You mentioned a tub is available so don't forget his swim trunks. Even if he doesn't get in the tub you may enjoy the shower and he can be in there with you. Don't forget to pack him a big snack & drink bag too. Everyone will be focused on helping you, but his job is just as hard because he is tasked with watching you go through this and keep a level head. As someone mentioned above- you may get help to sleep- he may be up for 3 straight days. Things to keep his energy up are really helpful and hospital food may not cut it or the cafeteria may be closed.
Don't forget a change of clothes for him too.
Many congratulations!
posted by MayNicholas at 5:25 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and stool softeners for you a couple days in advance. That first one is a doozy no matter how the baby comes out.
posted by MayNicholas at 5:28 AM on June 13, 2013

If you get to a point where you just cannot take any more and you want to beg for drugs, any drugs, it generally means it's almost over. And yell if you feel so inclined. And encourage your husband to watch some birth videos with you so that he has some sense of what it's going to be like. Dads do faint!

The best advice I was given as a grandmother was to help in any way I could except for caring for the baby. The new parents have to learn how, get accustomed to taking care of the baby. They need to build up their self-confidence as parents. Yes, I'm an expert at babies and I love to hold them, but really my job is to stay out of mom/baby/dad's way and make sure they're well fed, that their house is clean, that they have everything they need for the baby. If they asked for specific help with baby or advice on something to do with baby I offered gladly.
posted by mareli at 5:52 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have to be monitored, demand intermittent monitoring with a wireless monitor so you can move around.

Try to get some sleep in the hospital - send the baby to the nursery if need be.

Labor is the short and fun part of having a newborn!!
posted by yarly at 6:30 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

In two weeks you can practise hypnobirthing 10 minutes a day. It was fantastic help for both of my home births. Get a CD and just follow the instructions.
posted by Dragonness at 7:06 AM on June 13, 2013

Oh, another thing I wanted to mention: The hormone that governs birth is oxytocin, and the natural stuff is way better than the synthetic stuff (known in the US as Pitocin, but I think called oxytocin elsewhere). This is the same one that is involved in good sex, good snuggles, and other calm, loving activities in your life. When I'm working as a doula, I consider it my job to facilitate the production of oxytocin. This is something your partner can also focus on particularly: his job is to make you feel loved and safe. If the two of you aren't already very knowledgeable about what makes you feel loved and safe in a physically and emotionally demanding situation, that's probably an important conversation to have.

This is a place where we can actively use our giant brains to consciously manipulate our mammalian nature.
posted by linettasky at 8:51 AM on June 13, 2013

I (not on purpose) gave birth on the living room floor. Didn't use any particular coping techniques, and just let my body take over. For me that meant laboring on my hands and knees, and lots of moaning. Really, your body knows how to give birth, try to get out of your head and just do what feels right. I don't know how they do things in Australia, but if standard procedure is to chain you to monitors with you flat on your back, do what you can to avoid that.

I got some good tips about the post-birth period from my childbirth class. Get a peri bottle (squirt bottle) and squirt water on yourself when you pee, to take the sting out if you've had any tearing or abrasions. Soak pads in witch hazel and stick them in the freezer, place in underwear as needed. Buy large, comfy cotton underwear you won't feel bad about throwing away. If you're sore downstairs, make a sitz bath - chamomile and lavendar is soothing, or you might be able to buy a special post partum sitz bath blend from an herb store.
posted by Safiya at 9:06 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read this on Mefi, but rather than using those mesh panties they give you with giant pads, just get yourself some Tena/Serenity/Depends underpants.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:41 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

In terms of for the dad, personally, I took some vacation immediately after. My wife had a rough couple of weeks right after giving birth and had difficulty getting up from the bed/sofa/chair what have you. You will be in constant demand from your newborn and your mobility will be limited. You will also be lacking sleep, and possibly taking Advils and stool softeners at regular intervals. If he doesn't mind taking a week or two as your go-fer and general helper through that period, that is a good thing for the dad to do and my wife really appreciated it.
posted by Hoopo at 10:00 AM on June 13, 2013

Best answer: I read this on Mefi, but rather than using those mesh panties they give you with giant pads, just get yourself some Tena/Serenity/Depends underpants.

You may have read this from me -- I got this advice before my first kid and it was ACES. Also, it meant that when my water broke at home, I could wear them to the hospital and not drip amniotic fluid all over my car.

The best childbirth advice I got was "There is no normal in childbirth. However, there are a lot of things that are OK." I planned for a long, slow labor, going so far as to make a 24-hour iTunes playlist; as it was, my water broke at home, throwing me instantly into hard, active labor (contractions so intense I couldn't even think through them every 2-3 minutes). Baby was born roughly four hours later and we never even unzipped the birth bag. It was almost exactly like a sitcom birth, the kind that everyone says labor isn't really like. Labor isn't USUALLY like that. . . but it can be.

For the first hour or so after we got to the hospital, I loved having a reflex ball rolled across my shoulders; then that abruptly became not-OK. One thing I was completely NOT prepared for was the shakes, violent whole-body tremors that greatly affected my ability to relax into the contractions. That was what influenced my decision to get an epidural almost immediately, more than anything.

The epidural is strong medicine, and it can have unwanted effects, including slowing or stalling labor. HOWEVER, it is also amazing how much more pleasant labor can be with one available! As long as you follow your care provider's guidelines, you don't have to need an epidural in order to get one, it's ok to just want one. Apart from anything else, having an epidural in place can let you "labor down," letting your contractions push the baby into the birth canal without you doing active pushing. This can result in less perineal trauma and tearing than pushing the minute you're complete, as long as baby is tolerating labor well.

After my experience with my first child, I chose to have my second one out of the hospital with no pain medication; I am a big fan of pain medication, but I was not a big fan of the aftercare we got at the hospital, and the hospital is where they keep all the drugs, so that was that. This may be the very essence of woo, but I used birth hypnosis to manage my second labor, and it was AMAZING. My second labor was even more rapid and intense (78 minutes) than my first, and I am not sure I would have been able to manage it well without the hypnosis. It was quite far from painless, but I felt like I found my place in it -- which I definitely did not with my first birth.

If you yell, try to yell low, like bellowing, rather than yelling high, like shrieking. It is much more effective at managing the intensity of the sensation.

Last of all, labor is nearly impossible to describe if you haven't been through it. I'll give you the two metaphors that I personally found most apt. The first is that a labor contraction, with one very profound difference, is quite a lot like an orgasm; it's an intensely physical experience, it takes you out of time and space and conscious thought, you sort of transcend sapience, you will make any noises and any faces and any movements that you will make and it is all OK. The difference, of course, is the presence of pain. Some people claim that the sensations can be perceived as pleasurable rather than painful; I'm not one of them.

The other is that a labor contraction is very much like a waterslide. As soon as you start to go down that waterslide, that's it; you can't stop, you can't go back, you're riding this puppy to the end. However, if you are afraid, if you tense up, if you fight, you can make the experience much more intense and frightening -- and, yes, painful -- then it has to be. If you relax and go into your body and accept that the waterslide is whipping you around corners and over bumps and is going to shoot you out into the water, it's a lot less scary and a lot easier to handle.
posted by KathrynT at 10:15 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm only 4 months along, but I asked my midwife whether I should take a childbirth class a couple days ago, and her opinion was that all childbirth classes, regardless of the philosophy, are about getting women to trust that their mammal bodies are designed to take care of the birth process, but only when the body is not experiencing a fight or flight type response. The purpose of childbirth class, therefore, is to give women confidence that they can handle birth and that they don't need to be afraid.

My husband and I are scientists and very much not interested in "woo woo" birth strategies, and the midwife knows this. I didn't find her perspective unscientific. The mind body connection is very real. I've been doing some literature searching on the topic this afternoon as I wait through my own experiments and it seems to be a well-researched perspective.
posted by Cygnet at 11:01 AM on June 13, 2013

I don't know what your pain management options are, but I can personally vouch for Remifentanil (Ultiva). It breaks down quickly (about 9mins I think), so the baby is not all drugged up after delivery. The epidural is IMHO too scary (the needle is how big? and it goes where??) and there are too many possible complications.

Everyone will tell you the first couple of weeks will be hard. You'll say to yourself it will be hard. While in the thick of it, you still won't be prepared for how hard it will be, mostly because you aren't able to imagine the exact nature of the "hard". (For me, it was breastfeeding issues. I dealt with lack of sleep and other things superbly.) Accept this and accept any and all help coming your way.

Also, breastfeeding hurts like a motherf***er. Yet again, everyone will say it will be unpleasant and maybe hurt. I had no idea how much.

If you're breastfeeding, be prepared to spend about half of your day (and night) doing that. Breastfed babies need to eat about 8 to 12 times per day. While they're small, they're not very efficient feeders, so they may need up to an hour to get full (20-40 mins at each breast). By the time you change their diaper and calm them and maybe even get them to sleep for half an hour or an hour, it's time to feed again. Don't get frustrated by this, just find something to do (preferably one-handed) while the kid is feeding.

Seconding the advice for grandparents - help with anything except with the baby. New parents need to spend time with their kid to learn how to, well, be parents.
posted by gakiko at 12:39 PM on June 13, 2013

Food and drink. You may be there a long time.

My wife didn't feel "the transition" or the "overwhelming urge to push". Not that either is imaginary! Just that everyone is different. You may skip steps or feel different things.

Be prepared to not be comfortable with your position and equipment. We had a room with a couch and a birthing pool. My wife found this very uncomfortable. We ended up in a very 1950s style room with a bed with a strong frame and pillows, on her back, propped up: that was comfortable for her and she could push. However, this was much much later: in retrospect, our one wish was that when we arrived, and had had some contractions, we didn't say "hey, does this feel okay? No? Let's try some other positions, rooms, and equipment, while we're still mobile and work out what's best."
posted by alasdair at 2:22 PM on June 13, 2013

I will save you my birth horror story and suffice it to say: Read up on various baby positionings (babies have a way they're supposed to come out, and they can be rotated without being breech, and it SUCKS). If you end up with labor that doesn't seem to be progressing as normal, there's nothing wrong with going to the hospital earlier than contractions every 3 or 5 minutes, but do stay home as long as possible. Getting an epidural is not scary, it was the best thing I did in my labor of 33 hours. At the end of the day, you should think and read much much more about the first month with your newborn than birth, even though I know that you won't because goodness knows I didn't. Breast feeding in general if you're planning on doing that (even if your kid is a master latcher and it's easy for you, it still hurts and sucks for the first little bit). Cluster feeding. The recovery from vaginal labor (which can be incredibly hard even with no other interventions, prepare for possibly weeks on the couch).
I'm glad that I had some books around the house about newborn care. Even with the internet it's sometimes comforting to have it in real writing.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:06 PM on June 13, 2013

A few things to consider for after the birth:

- Program the number of a market nearby that will deliver a fresh, healthy meal to your home into your phone right now. Write down a few things that you want to have delivered the day you come home from the hospital. Don't forget beverages, coffee, seltzer, whatever you like to drink. When you get in your car or into a taxi with your new baby, call the market and have them send over the meal. A friend of ours did this for us after my husband posted that we were on our way home from the hospital on Facebook. It sticks out in my mind as one of the most thoughtful and comforting things done for us during that time.

- If you are breastfeeding, go to bed with your baby and consider that your job. Your job is to feed the baby and sleep. It is your husband's job to feed you. Take turns holding the baby while the other sleeps. Sleep altogether in a pile on the couch, bed, mattress on the floor, whatever. Sleep whenever you want, eat whatever you want, don't worry about answering the door to visitors, returning e-mails, texts or telephone calls, unless you want to.

- Prepare yourself to be very emotional towards the middle and end of the first month. I'd have had a friend or relative sort of on retainer to talk me through what were some of the lowest emotional lows I've ever felt. I tend toward depression, YMMV. Don't be surprised, though, if you find yourself very, very sad when you're rational brain tells you you should be very, very happy. Your mother and husband might not be who you want to talk to about all of this.

- +1 to maxi-pads soaked with witch-hazel in the freezer. Also Lanolin cream for your nipples. Can't emphasize that enough.

- If guests in the first two weeks are unavoidable, make it clear to all lovely, well-meaning folks that they are there to help out AND enjoy the baby. Ask them to make a meal. Ask them to throw in a load of laundry. Ask them to run to the drug store or grocery or Buy Buy Baby or whatever. Ask them to hold the baby while you wash your hair and your husband takes a nap. They are not there to read their Kindles and watch television and take pictures and make messes. If your mother is on hand to help you, they are also there to help her help you. Your mother is not there to wait on houseguests. My tone may sound harsh; I don't mean it to be so. I simply know that many, many people do not understand what they are walking into when they walk into a home with a new baby.

- Guests should look into airbnb accommodations or a hotel if they absolutely must come in the first two weeks. You will understand why this is important when you attempt a shower or a bowel movement, or when you find yourself crying uncontrollably for no reason, or when you and your husband want to lie naked in bed with your sleeping infant between you and be amazed. Consider inviting them to come over during set times of day, say, between noon and 3. Again, they're there to help, not become apartment garnish.

- Send an e-mail to friends asking them to text or call before dropping by, or pick a day after which you'd like to receive visitors and be clear in letting people know you look forward to introducing the baby after that date. Again, not trying to be harsh. Just suggesting you might be surprised at your own feelings about visitors during this time. People mean well. But your family's needs are the most important right now, and yours most especially.

I wish you, your husband and coming baby the very, very best.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:28 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Aw, congratulations!

My best piece of advice to you: Whatever happens, just roll with it. Births seldom go according to "plan", so try to be as chill as you possibly can manage.

Elder Monster was late, so we scheduled an induction. At 4AM the day of the induction, I woke up shrieking in pain, with contractions rolling over the top of each other. I was already in transition. What everyone told me could take days was over in four hours flat, no time for an epidural, because it was go-time. Didn't have a choice, had to roll with it. And it all worked out just fine!

Enjoy your shiny new baby. In about a week, they're crowing about how cool it is to be 21. (OK, it only feels like a week. They grow up faster than anyone ever believes.)
posted by MissySedai at 8:26 AM on June 14, 2013

For Dad: Our midwives recommended that I read Fathers at Birth. It's a worthwhile read, and I picked up some good advice from it that I put to use during the birth.

And encourage your husband to watch some birth videos with you so that he has some sense of what it's going to be like.

I heartily second this recommendation.
posted by Otis at 9:49 AM on June 14, 2013

Response by poster: Hello everyone! Thanks again for all the advice!

We delivered our little spawnling on the 28th June, by c section, after a good solid 24 hours labour with nothing to show for it. Little bugger was happy as a clam in there and just did not want to come out. He was a huge newborn - 10 pound 3 ounces, 55cm long and built like a Tonka Truck - so I can't say I blame him for eschewing the confines of my pelvis.

I found the use of warm (actually hot as it would come out of the wall) showers and very focused breathing to be of most use. Visualizing the pain as a grey smoke and exhaling it at the ceiling was surprisingly effective too and we wound up avoiding the strong stuff for two thirds of the labour. I also opted against the meditative music and just rocked out to some old favourites instead for the better part of things, which made focusing a bit easier, as well as timing the contractions themselves. I could start a contraction mid song and focus on whatever was happening musically.

Nitrous, administered at will at my hospital, made me violently ill after a puff of the stuff, and morphine just cut into the pain enough that I could get some rest. We wound up taking the epidural around the 18 hour mark. We left it late because of how slow my dilation was progressing, since I didn't want to further draw things out. We left it as long as we could before I was unable to stay still for the procedure. In retrospect I'd probably bring that bit forward a tad but who knows? A quicker delivery and I wouldn't have had time.

Dad took a bag of snacks and they were invaluable. I'd add some more substantial meal-type things in there next time, like some sandwiches or such. I did take some books but we didn't get much use out of them at all.

What else? OH YES BABBY PICTURES. His name is Theodore Owen but Theo will do. Not Teddy despite any evidence to the contrary. He is, at 11 days old, currently closer to four PS3 controllers long.
posted by Jilder at 6:27 PM on July 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

« Older How does one become a legitimate NFL jersey...   |   Be My Techie: Windows Laptop for Amateur... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.