Thursday, May 1, 2014

Convo in a lift: tips for labour

I was in a lift at work the other day with a colleague who is about to give birth for the first time and is petrified of pain. She asked me if I had any tips. Having had three kids (two of them at home), I believe I have a healthy relationship with labour pain and I wanted to say something truly inspiring to her – to empower her for a positive birth, to change her fearful approach to birth....

But I wasn’t prepared. I ended up saying negative things about the epidural leading to c-section and that she didn't have to do everything the midwives told her to do. My comments were a bit pointless and I kicked myself afterwards for the lost opportunity to help her.

What should I have said, with the benefit of hindsight? What would you tell a first-time mum? How can we empower our sisters to have positive births when it seems that the odds are stacked against them in risk-averse Irish hospitals?
I’ve come up with my “elevator sales pitch” for a positive labour experience – the one piece of advice I can offer to a first time mother. If we could each share one tip, this is what we would say:

"Stay positive, you can do it. You'll be surprised at what your body can do. Pain can be overcome with deep breaths, concentration and moving. Try to realise that pain is necessary to get your baby out. It's not a bad thing, it’s just the way your body works to open up for the baby to come out safely. The biggest fear is of the unknown so that’s why your body tightens up in fear. To give birth, you need to do the opposite, open up and relax to let it all happen naturally. Preparation is key: do your research – own the experience.
If you don’t learn about your birth options, you might end up having a birth that you regret, one what traumatises you for years. Education can make a difference. One of the best books I ever read in preparation for birth was Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, it just tells you how amazing natural birth is and what the body is capable of. It doesn’t always work out how you plan.
The main this is follow your instincts, don’t be railroaded into doing everything the midwives suggest; do what feels right for you, it’s your birth, you’ll never see that midwife again, you can say no and opt to wait, ask for more space, less monitoring and then wonderful things might happen.
Brace yourself for your life changing forever, you’ll be challenged to the very core of your sanity and you’ll never know exhaustion like it, but you’ll find hidden reserves inside you that you didn’t know you had and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how you cope. Enjoy the journey."

How does the thought of birth make you feel?

To read more tips on birth, here's some more advice from my colleagues at

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