Now that football season is upon us, we’re sure you’ve heard of The Big Ten. Today, we’re here to talk about The Big Four: the 4 main things we recommend parents focus on when they experience their first labor contractions. It’s definitely possible that your baby will decide it’s time to make the journey Earth-Side before you’ve had the time to finish all of your preparations. Don’t panic! Do what you can, conserve your energy, and reach out to your support system if you need a little extra help putting together frozen meals, a hospital bag (if you’re having a hospital birth), or buying diapers. Raising a baby is a team effort (football pun intended), so once you’ve called your OB/midwife/doula/support system to let them know your baby is coming, here are The Big Four to focus on:
1. Stay calm
So your contractions have started! Congratulations!! For many parents, their first instinct is to switch into “Go Go Go” mode. All of the excitement, preparation, and anticipation has led up to this moment, and now your baby is finally on the way! Some parents may even feel stressed, anxious, blindsighted, or like they couldn’t possibly prepare enough! All of these reactions are TOTALLY normal. And even though it seems counter intuitive, the first thing we tell parents to do is to stay calm. Labor is exhausting, and even more so if you have a long birth. We’ve seen many parents use up a ton of energy and strength with that initial excitement/ adrenaline rush, which leaves them even more exhausted for the rest of the labor process. Save as much energy as you can for when you’re pushing your baby out! Although contractions will feel jarring and uncomfortable, please don’t forget that they are completely normal and they will not harm you. So whether it’s meditating, cooking, knitting, watching reruns of your favorite tv show, or going on a date with your partner. Do whatever you can during early labor to stay as calm and relaxed as possible to conserve your energy!
2. Eat a big meal
The next big thing we tell parents to focus on is eating a giant meal in whatever capacity works for you and your body. Whether you feast on the biggest burger you can find, or just eat a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and peanut butter. What’s important is filling your stomach and making sure your meal has lots of protein! Once contractions really get intense it’s common for parents to feel nauseous, exhausted, or to lose their appetite from everything that’s going on physically. This is all totally normal, but it also makes eating early on in labor SUPER important. Not only will it keep your energy and blood sugar up throughout labor, but a protein-packed meal will allow that meal to last you longer than a carb-filled meal. That way you don’t have to worry about eating as much if you do experience nausea. Plus, that extra boost can honestly make a HUGE difference when you start to tire out. Not only will you be giving nutrients and strength to your baby, but you’ll be less likely to experience complications related to calorie deficiency, you’ll have more energy, and as a result you’ll have more options for your birth experience. One of our rules of thumb for childbirth is: the more nutrients you put into your body before and throughout labor, the higher your confidence, strength, and endurance will be!
3. Take a nap
You read that right! When your contractions start, TAKE A NAP. This one also probably seems counter-intuitive, but it’s so true! If your contractions start in the middle of the night, roll back over and try to go back to sleep for as long as possible. And if your contractions start during the day, take a little snooze! Napping is along the same lines as our Stay Calm tip in the sense that you’re conserving energy for later in labor. Labor can be unpredictable. Some parents have births that last 2 hours, and some parents have births that last many days. Since you don’t know the next time you’ll sleep, resting as much as possible during the early parts of labor will help keep your energy up during the hard parts, and make sure you’re well-rested for as much of your baby’s birth as possible.
4. Take a shower or bath
If you’ve done the other 3 already, or if you’re just someone who feels more comfortable/calm when you’re clean and smelling like soap, try to take a bath or shower before active labor kicks in! Taking a nice warm shower can be exactly what some parents need to clear their heads, prepare for the journey ahead of them, and go into labor with positive mindset. Depending on where you give birth, you may have access to a shower or birthing tub, but it’s unlikely they’ll allow soaps if your water has already broken. Then after labor you’ll honestly be so exhausted and wrapped up in the beautiful little bundle you just gave life to. So lord knows the next time you’ll get to bathe! We honestly cannot sing enough praise for soaking in the tub or shower during early labor. Taking a warm bath/shower allows all of the muscles in your body to relax which makes it so much easier for your uterus to contract and your cervix to dilate. When your body is tense, your muscles hold your baby up further in your abdomen. So get in that tub, or step in that shower, and give yourself the relaxed, fresh start to labor you deserve!
Disclaimer: If you are in early labor and your water has already broken, do not take a bath unless your midwife or OB has said you’re in the clear!
All in all, these four things will help you start labor off strong so that you can get as close to your ideal birth as possible. So whether you’re a football fanatic, or someone who couldn’t care less about The Big Ten, just remember The Big Four! And above all else, if your contractions have started, remember to breathe. YOU CAN DO THIS.
We’re all rooting for you!
Who’s hype for August’s Childbirth Education Classes? THESE DOULAS ARE!!
At Tree Town Doulas, we HIGHLY recommend taking a Childbirth Education Class of some shape or form before you give birth. Whether it’s an online course, a hospital tour/class combo, a condensed course for busy parents, or the full 8-weeks complete with demonstrations. No matter how many books your read, or how many tutorials you watch, these classes are truly invaluable. So if you’re on the fence about whether or not to take a Childbirth Education Class, here are some of the amazing benefits they bring parents:
- Learning about your options. We fully believe that you should have your baby on your terms and no one else’s (except maybe the baby’s because babies really do have agendas of their own). The key to this is knowing your options and alternatives. Because, ultimately, YOU are in control of your body. A childbirth education class walks you through the options/alternatives you’ll have available during different situations in childbirth. And while you might not remember every little detail, classes give you the tools to ask the right questions so that you can get the information you need to make an informed decision in the moment.
- Addressing fears and concerns. Everyone’s body is different, and for this reason every birth is different. This ambiguity can be a huge source of anxiety for parents, and understandably so! Attending a childbirth education class provides the unique opportunity to ask questions real-time right as they come up, and receive validation from other parents who are also going through the same thing. Childbirth books and literature are incredibly helpful and necessary, but they tend to be geared towards the general public. A class will allow you to address concerns and ask questions that are geared more towards you specifically!
- Building confidence. Confidence is key! And every parent deserves to trust in themselves. Classes not only boost confidence by creating a more concrete image of what labor can look like, but they can also teach you strategies to make your labor your own.
- Building community. Finding out you’re pregnant can be overwhelming for some parents. For this reason, one of the greatest benefits of childbirth education classes is a sense of community. Whether that’s through having fears validated by another parent, or making a new parent-friend. Never underestimate the comfort that can be found in knowing that someone understands what you’re going through!
- Tailoring to your specific needs. On the flip side, parents can also feel intensely anxious about the social aspect of childbirth education classes. But don’t be discouraged! Many birth work agencies offer online courses or one-on-one childbirth education classes that you can tailor to YOUR needs (here you can check out the classes offered by Tree Town Doulas!).This is also a wonderful option of you have specific medical conditions or social identities that are often overlooked in classic childbirth classes. EVERY parent deserves to feel validated and seen, so this can be a wonderful option for LGBTQ+ parents, Parents of Color, and parents with disabilities who might not otherwise find the representation they need and deserve.
- Enhancing communication skills with your labor partner. Childbirth education classes don’t just prepare parents and their labor partners for birth in “theory,” they also give you the opportunity to explore methods of support together in practice. Communicating verbally is one thing, but supporting and communicating can be very different when a person is in physical pain. Many of the exercises in childbirth education classes are geared towards enhancing this communication and increasing your bond with the person supporting you through labor.
- Hands-on learning. Childbirth naturally comes with a lot of adrenaline. That means that when your contractions actually start, it’s easy for all of the information you learned about childbirth to just fall right out. In a childbirth ed class they’ll have you practice comfort strategies and labor positions in person, so that when you’re actually in labor it’ll already be committed to your physical memory. That way, you won’t even have to think about it!
- Exploring hospital facilities and their go-to practices. One of the perks of taking a class at the hospital where you plan to give birth, is that you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with the location. That way it’s less hectic when you’re actually in labor! You’ll also be able to ask questions about the hospital’s go-to procedures. This is of the utmost importance because birth philosophy is everything. Whether you’re planning to give birth with minimal interventions, or through a planned C-section, it’s so important to make sure that your providers will support you along the way when it’s time to birth your baby.
- From a doula’s perspective: Even if you’re thinking of hiring a doula, we STILL recommend signing up for a class! You’ll definitely be able to go over questions in your prenatal visits, but we highly recommend learning as much as you can ahead of time. That way when you show up for your prenatal visits, you won’t have to spend as much time rehashing the basics and your doula can tailor your prenatal visit to your specific needs.
Hopefully by this point we’ve got you convinced of the immense benefits that come with attending a class. Of course these benefits apply to Childbirth Education Classes in general, but if you’re interested in signing up for a Childbirth Education Class through Tree Town Doulas, feel free to take a gander over to that part of our website!
There’s still room in Cynthia’s August Childbirth Education Classes, so mark it on your calendars!
There are plenty of different reasons that parents choose to have hospital births. For some it’s merely out of preference and comfort, while others choose to give birth in a hospital out of necessity due to health conditions. These are all perfectly valid decisions! But regardless of the reasons, one of the drawbacks of hospital births is that they can sometimes feel too sterile. Some people enjoy the feeling of extreme cleanliness, but for many parents it can make room for a lot of anxiety, discomfort, and the feeling of being a “sick patient” instead of someone who is bringing life into the world. Of course, we WANT our hospitals to be sterile, but feeling sterile isn’t always conducive with the feelings of relaxation/safety that are so key to a smooth labor. Thankfully there are a lot of things you can do to make a hospital birth feel more home-y!
Here are a few of our tried tips and tricks for bringing the comfort of your own home to the hospital:
- Play your favorite music – this doesn’t necessarily have to be calming music! We’ve been to many births where parents were dancing around and treating their baby’s birth like a party 🙂
- Scented candles (please don’t light them in the hospital though!)
- Soft lighting
- Sheets/ pillows of your own – make sure you’re okay with them getting dirty because birth can be messy!
- Flame-less candles – especially if you have access to a birthing tub or shower, you can make your very own spa
- A comfy robe
- Movies – fantastic for when you need a distraction
- Your favorite scents/ aroma therapy
- Photos of loved ones/things that make you happy
- Flowers – and if you don’t want the smell of real flowers in your room, Dollar Stores usually have really stunning plastic flowers that you can grab!
- Your own food if your doctor hasn’t requested dietary restrictions for medical reasons – that way you’ll feel less like a “sick patient” and keep your blood sugar up!
- Tapestries to hang on the walls – command strips will be extra handy for this
- Comfy slippers
- Remove the clock from the wall – take the pressure off, you’re not on a time crunch! Birth your baby at your own pace.
- Fun socks
- Gatorade/protein shake to keep your energy up
- Your own lamp if you don’t like fluorescent lighting
- Comfy clothes to wear after birth
- Lotion (can also be a part of aroma therapy!)
- Your own soaps to shower after birth – because who doesn’t like smelling like themselves?
- Your own pillow – this can be a wonderful way to bring the smell and comfort of your own bed along with you
- A colorful or comforting throw blanket
From the outside, all of these things might seem small on their own, but we’ve seen them work WONDERS in helping labor along. Especially if your goal is to have a vaginal birth and/or a birth with minimal interventions! It all comes down to hormones. Feelings of safety, love, peace, and comfort all facilitate the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is the exact hormone that causes the uterine contractions that push your baby out. If the person who is giving birth feels tense, stressed, afraid, or unsafe, these emotions can cause birth hormones to decrease and contractions to slow/stall as a result of the fight-or-flight response. Even if this does happen, do not worry! One of the best ways to keep this from happening, or to start contractions back up again, is to decrease that adrenaline, and get you back into your relaxed, focused birth mode again. What better way to do this than feeling at home in your surroundings? So wrap up in your favorite blanket, put on your favorite music, and look at the beautiful photos of your loved ones that you brought along with you. In other words:
Get that oxytocin in motion!