it worked for me: getting through labor

As a companion to this post on books about laboring, I want to give you a quick cheat sheet to some labor pain management techniques that worked well for me.

1. Keep it simple. Be a guided missile, not a shotgun blast.

With Chicken's birth, we took a class that armed us with an arsenal of coping strategies. Aromatherapy. Mandala wheels. Yoga. Acupressure. Visualization. Different positions. Props. When the moment came, I was so panicked and overwhelmed that I remembered nothing.

With Buster's birth, I picked 3 or 4 tools and focused on really investing in them. For me, at least,  the more streamlined, focused approach worked a lot better. 

2. Verbal affirmations.

I picked a handful of verbal affirmations - short, positive, meaningful sentences that I could repeat through contractions. 

"I can do one more."
"How easy can it be?"
"Go to sleep."

3. Physical relaxation aka "go to sleep."

Not really. I dare you to try actually sleeping when you're in active labor. But I've found that when someone tells me to "relax," I only get more tense. I think the insinuation is, "You are tense. You need to relax," which primarily reminds me that I'm tense. 

But when you're getting ready to fall asleep, you naturally relax. Your breathing slows. Your mind slows. Your body releases tension. Ryan reminded me to go to sleep, especially between contractions. There comes a point when it's not really possible to stay relaxed during a contraction, and that makes the release of tension so much more important when you have a short break.

4. Music

I made a playlist of mellow songs that I really like, songs that make me feel good, songs with a positive memory attached to them. No Enya. No Mozart. Just regular music I like.

Holocene - Bon Iver
Get Me Through December - Alison Krauss, Natalie MacMaster
Sweet Baby James - James Taylor
Trouble - Ray LaMontagne
Homeless - Paul Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Stick with me Baby - Alison Krauss, Robert Plant
April Come She Will - Simon & Garfunkel
The Scientist - Coldplay
The Long Day is Over - Norah Jones
The Only Living Boy in New York - Simon & Garfunkel
Heartbeats - Jose Gonzalez
Kathy's Song - Paul Simon
Landslide - Fleetwood Mac
These Arms of Mine - Otis Redding
Both Sides Now - Joni Mitchell
Runaway - The National
Wagon Wheel -Old Crow Medicine Show
Stubborn Love - The Lumineers
To Love Somebody - Bee Gees
Baby I Love You - The Ronettes
On the Radio - Regina Spektor
I'm Yours - Jason Mraz

5. Change it up/Move around

Change positions every 20-30 minutes. Even if what you're doing is "working," in the sense that it's helping you to manage your pain, change it up. Because here's the kicker. Being in labor is a process, and that process requires forward motion, and that forward motion hurts like a bitch. But there is no way out but through. So change it up. 

My favorite position was definitely sitting in the glider. My back was supported. I was able to "go to sleep" between contractions, and Ryan was right there next to me. We also did a few other positions:

- Lying in bed (THE WORST. Get out of bed if at all possible. I found that trying to "be still" through contractions lying in bed was fucking impossible, and I just clenched and got more and more tense. It feels so much better to be standing and moving through the contractions.)
- Standing, swaying back and forth
- Standing by the bed, bent over the bed, moving hips back and forth
- Standing with Ryan behind me, leaning back against him
- Sitting on the floor (that one was a little involuntary...)

6. Set short-term goals

Can you do one more? Can you do 10 more minutes? Yes. You can.

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