There are generally two schools of pregnant women; those diligent ones who have dieted on every birth book ever scribed; and those who are the more chilled variety, who’d prefer not to even think about it.
I was a little more aligned to the latter. A small dose of attention deficit and a naive but secret desire for a C-section would offer me my preferred escape route.
Of course, there was to be no ‘escape’ when labour commenced spontaneously and I had NO CLUE what was going on. Hilarious, now I think of it.
Rescued by a gracious midwife and an ever-present husband, I birthed with relative ease. I was later to learn the irony of the situation – that I’d, in fact, had a total ‘textbook’ delivery.
If you’re looking for a saviour, I’m not the one you’re looking for. However, I can offer you some crib notes to get you up to speed. Take a look at these, muster your inner-mum and you’ll be set.
PRE-LABOUR – the warm-up
Not all women experience pre-labour. Those that do, might experience it only for a couple of hours, whilst the lucky ones, might bed-down with it for a week.
You’ll be experiencing contractions, but they’re not particularly painful and they are irregular in rhythm. They’ll rise gently, have a peak, and then ease off. You’ll be able to continue to do your regular things across a day, although pre-labour is renowned for messing with your sleep a little.
LABOUR – FIRST STAGE – get your game on
You’re experiencing surges around every five minutes, and these little suckers grow in intensity. You can feel a definitive peak to the contraction; a period of intensity and then a gradual drop until you have a dulling of all sensation… before you get to do it all again…
These contractions are the ones you’ve been waiting for. They will be having a good effect on moving baby closer to the moment of birth. Your cervix begins to dilate and over the course of the coming hours, will stretch to an unfreakin’-imaginable diameter of 10cm – making for baby’s perfect descent.
This is the longest and most persistent stage of labour. Get clued up, but there are no medals here for martyrs – there’s no shame in taking the resources you need to get the job done.
Your support person will need to offer encouragement, safety and protection in order for you to feel most comfortable and remain in-the-zone (and it is a zone).
LABOUR – SECOND STAGE – TRANSITION
This second stage of labour is when your cervix will be close to 10cm in dilation (go Elastagirl!) and baby’s head comes right down into the birth canal.
You might notice a significant mood change and may feel like you’re losing the plot! You very well might be. Your support person needs to stay close and remind you that baby is close and that this is normal and will end soon… with the birth of your baby… although you might not care about the notion of a baby at all right now.
You might start making involuntary barnyard noises and with these comes an urge to push. Birth is a very primal force and it will be playing out within your very being.
It’s very common for a woman in birth to do a poo. Know that if ‘it’ does happen, it will be whisked away and not mentioned again. Note to your partner: No new mum wants to talk about her birth-poo.
THE BIG PUUUUUUUUSH
With a cervix at 10cm dilation and an urge to push, your body’s natural desires will take over.
You’ll be typically encouraged to do two or three pushes with each contraction. It can be a little tricky to work out how exactly to do these, but a hand-held mirror and a bit of adrenalin naturally entering your system will aid your success.
Push 101: As a contraction arrives, take a nice big breath in, block off the air in your throat (and any sound!) and push down long and strong with the contraction.
Sorry to bring the ‘poo’ word up again – but you’ll need to push like you’re doing one. Most women think they should be pushing out of their vagina, but in fact, because the baby borrows space from the bowel, the sensation and the requirements to get baby out are quite the opposite.
Your body will know where it’s most comfortable to birth baby. Go with what you feel is best but make sure you have gravity working for you.
Baby’s head will arrive first, then his shoulders and the rest of his body will deliver. Make sure you have your camera-ready! (second thoughts – get your support to do this). This moment is a total show-stopper, culminating in your most anticipated and precious little arrival.
You’ll be astounded at what your body can achieve. It’s often with a split personality-like combo of invigoration, exhilaration, astonishment and complete exhaustion, but you will have done it, birthed life from within, and that’s totally miraculous.
THE THIRD STAGE – aka the ‘other’ baby
Just a little more ’til you’re done…. that magnificent placenta, that’s been sustaining your baby’s life until now, is yet to be delivered also.
It will require a small push only to deliver it’s warm, squishy self, at which time, you’ll be totally captivated by the little one that now lies warmly across your breasts.
The chord will eventually then be clamped and cut and baby will be relying now on her outside world to provide all she needs.
It’s natural to protect ourselves from detail when we feel a little freaked. But in fact, as you learn more about the wonder of birth and how your incredible from was created for it, you’ll become more empowered, encouraged and excited about your birth.
Mums often talk about their bodies post-birth, with a new-found respect and admiration far beyond what they’d imagined, and so they should, it’s wonderful.
Birth hugs into the ether…
Mum of six fabulous kids and foster-mum to numerous others. Event manager, doula, childbirth educator, lactation counsellor, owner of Sydney Birth Support, Mamaway Advocate and an encourager of all mums out there giving it their best crack!