As birth workers, we tend to get this question all of the time, "what do we do during the early phase of labor? "Many times, whenever labor begins, especially with first time parents, we feel the need/urge/desire to time every contractions, contact our family members, start bouncing on our birth ball, stay up all night, and do everything we can to get the baby out QUICKLY. Three words.....DON'T.DO.IT. When I was in high school, I was on the track team and I remember, in particular, a guy named Oliver. He was a football star, had dreamy green eyes and muscles for days. Because he was a star athlete, Oliver thought that he could excel in ANY sport. He tried out for the track team and made it. Oliver's was placed in the 1600 meter and he thought he knew exactly how to pace himself for it. Even though his coach advised him against it, he would sprint, as fast as he could, right off the block, passing everyone on the first lap. On the second lap, you would see him lose steam and by the time the fourth and final lap came around, he was limping to make it to the finish line. That happened in three consecutive track meets. Oliver never made it to the fourth one.
The scenario often times plays in my head whenever I have a mom trying to "speed things up" or not resting, eating/hydrating, or doing labor "self-care." Believe me, I KNOW it's hard not to get all excited ,or post an announcement on every social media site and stay up all night in anticipation. I've been there. I was 23 when I went into labor with my first born and you better believe I was up all night timing contractions. Little did I know....
You've heard the old adage "Birth is a marathon" and, indeed, it is. It takes time. Lots of it. And patience. And rest. And letting go of expectations.
So what are some things that an excited, adrenaline- fused mom to do in early labor? I'm glad you asked!
If you start feeling contractions at night, REST, REST, REST as much as you can. Your body is used to resting at night, so it is imperative to rest and sleep through as much as you can. Can't sleep? Then take a bath or shower. The key is to "Rest Smart." You will probably not get the best night's sleep, so get into a comfortable resting position and sleep in between your contractions.
Continue doing life during the day. Please do not sit on your couch all day long and hit the "START" button every time you have a contraction. Once active labor begins, you will need to pay closer attention, but during the early phase, resist the urge to hyper focus.
Activities you can do to pass the time:
-go for a walk
-go to the park
-get your nails done
-get an adjustment at your chiropractor
- have your partner give you a massage
-rest some more
-watch a movie
-bake some lactation cookies
-wash the baby's clothes
-pick up the house
-take care of any last minute needs of older children
-do some yoga poses
-pack your bag
~EAT AND HYDRATE~
Typically, a laboring mom does not have a huge appetite. It is so important for your body to have fuel throughout your labor. IT IS A MUST. Eat several small meals instead of 3 big meals and make sure to hydrate. Your body needs the reserve.
~PROTECT YOUR SPACE~
As a doula, I cannot stress this enough. Your birth is very sacred and it is a special bonding time for you and your partner. Be careful who you invite it. We hear all the time from second-time parents, " this time we don't want ANYONE in the labor room." In fact, we have many parents who say in subsequent births," we will tell our parents and friends AFTER he/she gets here." Many have lived the scenario of grandma, grandpa, random cousin, and snoring uncle in the labor room. It is a hot mess. As labor progresses, mom will want less distraction, noise, and stimuli. It is hard for labor to continue smoothly with everyone staring a mom like a monkey in a zoo. Trust me, if you have the whole crew, or even a well-meaning grandma or two, it can often times be distracting and have less-than-desirable effects. The best scenario is you, your partner, and your birth team.
~STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA~
I have been in situations where a family member of the new family posted on their page or feed the "big news" BEFORE the new family had the chance to do so themselves. Focus on one another and your new babe, not on 4 or 500 of your "best friends" waiting on the latest update. Nothing can be more annoying than the constant "bing!" notifications. Everyone will find out soon enough, no reason to rush.
This is your birth, your baby's big day. Your body will be working to bring your little one earth side. This is the big day that you have been waiting for. Give in. Let it happen. Work with your body, not against it. Breathe. Relax. Work. Love. Enjoy. Rest.
Dallas Birth Doulas