Thursday, September 25, 2014

Preparing for labor

I am not ready to give birth. Both in the sense that the babe needs more time to grow (though at almost 35 weeks, not much more) and that I am mentally unprepared to go through labor again. I have known this for awhile, but the depth and reality of my unpreparedness became clear when I came down with the flu last week.

So why exactly did the flu make me dread labor? Because it reminded me of being in labor. As I was doubled over in pain losing fluids at an unnatural rate, I kept remembering how similar I felt during labor with HP, and how I would be going through that process again shortly. I just kept thinking I don't want to do it. I am never getting pregnant again. The morning sickness that lasts for weeks, and then, at the end, while you're in some of the most intense pain of your life, you're also throwing up. It's the worst. Is there any way to get out of it at this point? Maybe an epidural wouldn't be so bad...

Leading up to labor with HP, ignorance was my friend. I did not fear or dread labor. In fact, I had a bring it on attitude. If billions of women have given birth in the past, so could I. It appealed to my competitive spirit. So many people complete the task every day, how hard can it be? Turns out, pretty damn hard.

Before having my naivety shattered by the reality of birth, I took comfort in the fact that I had successfully taken on challenging physical tasks in the past. Not the same thing at all. When I was running a cross-country race or doing wind sprints for ultimate, I was the one pushing my body. When I was in labor, my body was dictating what happened with no input from me. I did not get to decide how far and for how long to push myself; I had to go along for the ride.

This time, I have no such illusions. Labor is painful. Labor is uncomfortable. I am not looking forward to it.

But let's stop the whining. Labor is coming, so I might as well prepare myself. Here's what I'm doing to reframe my mindset going into the birth:

(1) Remember the mantra that I found helpful in labor with HP. I call this one my "Gambian mindset" because I learned and applied it when I lived there. In labor it goes something like this: "Right now I am in pain. It is terrible and awful and miserable. Eventually I won't be." (This can apply to anything. For example, "Right now my toddler is tired, upset, and whining which requires me to use every ounce of willpower I have to remain calm. Eventually he won't be." or "Right now I am biking up a steep hill the heat. Eventually I won't be." Etc.)

(2) Reread the birth stories in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. I read her book during my first pregnancy, but I think I will get more out of the stories after having been through the process once myself.

(3) Remember that this is likely the last time I will experience labor and delivery. Yes, it's painful, but it's also amazing to see what my body is capable of.

(4) Spending time each day focusing on my breath. I cannot control the contractions during labor, but I can control my mind and how I breathe. In order to hold onto that, I need to practice.

(5) Focus on the reason for the process: a new baby. I can't wait to meet this new little person who will be joining our family.

Only a few more weeks!

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