Yup, my labor was four hours. Four incredibly intense hours. I always love a good birth story so I’ll include some of my actual labor and birth story but this post is mainly about what I did to manage my labor at home. As a doula, I went into pregnancy and childbirth with a lot of knowledge and I was very prepared. I’m happy to be able to share that information with you today!
It’s important to recognize that my pain management and labor management started months before the day my baby was born. So I’ll start with my pre-labor preparations. These lists aren’t exhaustive but may give you a good start if you’re planning a home birth. If you have any questions after reading this, let me know!
Mental Pre-Labor Preparations
I started by doing the home study of Hypnobabies. I have a Master’s degree in Clinical Health Psychology which is included a lot alternative pain management including hypnosis. So I knew that hypnosis would work well for me and I believe that Hypnobabies is the best clinically based childbirth hypnosis available. In addition, I also read and watched many birth stories that were similar to the one I was envisioning- mostly with the use of hypnosis and birthing at home. I hung up a “Born at Home” onsie in the living room and every day I pictured my sweet girl being born safely and comfortably at home when it was the right time. This was my mental, emotional, spiritual getting ready for birth.
Physical Pre-Labor Preparations
I also prepared physically for birth in several ways. I walked regularly when I was pregnant, at least once a day. I found a short prenatal exercise video that included affirmations and did that every day as well. I did some prenatal yoga as well as just some prenatal yoga moves and stretches throughout the day. As soon as I was cleared for a home birth, at 37 weeks gestation, I also added in high step walking (this sometimes caused cramping so I chose not to do it earlier). I did belly mapping through spinningbabies.com and also The Miles Circuit to make sure that my baby was aligned in the perfect position for birth. If you’re doing your own research for labor and birth, Spinning Babies will be an excellent resource overall on ways to make sure that your baby is in the optimal position for birth. I worked as a doula for several years and can tell you that this will be one of the most important parts of ensuring a more comfortable, easier and quicker birth – if baby is in the optimal position.
Other Pre-Labor Preparations
I drank iced red raspberry leaf tea at the “medicinal dose” level my midwife recommended which was a large handful of the tea leaves steeped for at least an hour in a quart Mason jar. I drank about a Mason jar or a little less everyday for the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I was instructed I could have started the higher dose earlier but that’s when I felt comfortable starting. Also, I think this really helped with my breastmilk production and it’s good for uterine toning which is also important after birth so I kept drinking it after baby was born.
I read affirmations daily. I created affirmations on cards and decorated them a bit. I made two sets: one for pregnancy and one for birthing time. I also made my lock screen an affirmation with a picture from an ultrasound and a little outfit I looked forward to baby wearing.
I organized everything for my birth prior to 36 weeks. This made me feel safe, knowing I was going into my birthing time prepared and organized. I had the supplies from my home birth checklist from my midwife all lined up in the baby’s room and ready to go when needed. The midwife and my husband knew where everything was. Although I didn’t have an official birth plan printed, I had some of my general wishes written down on a card and hung up on the fridge. Everyone knew everything I wanted and what to expect and that gave me a lot of peace going into my labor.
When Labor Started
For several days I had some contractions on and off. They’d pick up and slow down. Then all of a sudden I knew something was different. I had a little leak that showed up as not amniotic fluid on the little strip test but my contractions seemed to be getting a little more noticeable. I called my midwife and she said basically relax and maybe I’ll see you later. So I immediately sat on the toilet backwards. I wanted labor to progess, it was daytime and I had energy. Had I not wanted labor to progress I may have done something else like rest or lay down. But I wanted labor to move forward. Sitting on the toilet is one of the best ways to get contractions to be productive and help move things forward if baby is in the right position in my experience. So that’s what I did. I also said to my husband, “Under no circumstances let me get in the shower any time soon. Just help me in other ways for now.” This is because water can actually act as “nature’s epidural.” Water can be so soothing that if done early in labor it can slow things a little versus later in labor it can help relax the body and move things along. For this reason, I always recommended women attempt to save hydrotherapy as a pain management technique for active labor and not early labor. About 5-10 minutes later, I gave my husband a serious look and sad, “turn on that water!” He started to say “But…” but did not get much out as I told him – “NOW!”
My contractions were very close together, I had essentially very little break between them. This took me by surprise but I was prepared. I got into the shower and used a birth ball in the shower to take short breaks whenever I could. A birth ball (exercise ball) provides great positions for labor and so it was better than a shower seat. I used towels to help stabilize and prevent slipping. I could easily stand up, lean on the wall in the shower, have my husband do counter pressure on my lower back, etc. I had my Hypnobabies tracks playing in the background but mostly I was in my own zone. I used a mantra in my head to keep myself focused and calm. I went very “inward.” It was as though the outside world was very present. I stayed focused and talked to my baby regularly in my head. While I was doing this my husband called my midwife and she rushed over. When my midwife got here, I had just gotten into our bathtub. I labored in the tub for a about a half hour with my husband and my midwife pouring water over my belly or back depending on my position. I moved into a more upright position and a few minutes and a few pushes later our sweet girl Elodie was born in our bathtub, caught by her daddy.
Elodie was born
It was the 4th of July in the evening. The midwife and her assistant helped me move to my bed so I could be more comfortable. They performed the belly massage which I didn’t even notice much of – the adrenaline high was so high. They did the newborn exam in our bed while we listened to the 4th of July fireworks outside. Like magic fairies, the midwives cleaned up the bathroom and bedroom so it looked like nothing had happened except leaving some towels and sheets still drying when they left. We snuggled up with Elodie, I ate a hearty pasta meal and we drifted off sweetly into our new life as a family of three.