Monday, December 27, 2010

The Gift of Days-Long Labor

Having a baby is such an exciting time, not just for the new parents, but for the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, sisters and brothers.  There are so many people that are invested in this new little person.  They all want to be called the minute you start labor so they can rush to the hospital and wait.

But what if labor isn't like the movies?  We know how often that happens, right?  First contraction and the baby's practically falling out.  Regardless, everyone is rushing around to get out the door and races to the hospital.  There is this idea, even subconsciously,  that if we head to the hospital, the baby will come. 

I recently had a couple start good contractions on a Sunday.  We thought for sure she'd have her baby and would not be in class Tuesday night.  We'd text or talk every several hours.  I knew her mom was nervous and wanted her to head to the hospital.  This woman knew it wasn't time.   She visited her chiropractor, and while it didn't seem to necessarily help speed things up, she didn't have back labor after that.  A success, for sure! 

I finally talked with her husband who had been a fun guy to have in class.  He said everyone was asking if this was normal -- labor taking so long.  All their comments were getting to him and he was starting to doubt their decision to stay home as well.  The pressure from family and friends can often lead to going to the hospital too early, which can lead to interventions that the couple didn't want in the first place.  Most people have never seen labor "take so long" because women don't labor outside the hospital very often.  And in the hospital, time limits are enforced.  So two days is unbelievable!  Surely, something must be wrong!

I believe that we'd see this so much more often if women:  a) waited until labor was very well established to go to the hospital, even if it meant days, not hours; b) were not dying to get an epidural, and thus, rushing to the hospital; and c) were not induced and simply allowed labor to start spontaneously.   If this couple were to go to the hospital, labor would likely be augmented either with pitocin or breaking water.  Were they ready to interfere with the natural process? 

Needless to say, they made it to class Tuesday night.  It sure was fun watching her contract all through class!  Some were super intense and she handled them beautifully.

This type of labor continued for a couple more days.  Baby B was born on Black Friday in the early morning.  I got news while I was in a line at Staples, or was it Sports Authority?  No drugs, no augmenting labor.  Just trusting that this labor was just what mom, baby, and even an emotional new father needed.  They are on cloud nine.

Another one of the couples from the same class has had a very similar week.  Contracting every 3 minutes, lasting about 60 seconds.  Still getting some good sleep.  Eating, resting, walking.  The story from the first couple has bolstered their confidence that this is normal.  They have had to remove "the family" periodically as well for the same reasons.  Both these women have amazing husband-coaches.

Like I always say, the baby will come out!  Labor will not last forever, although you may get to a point that you can't imagine it ending.  It will.  Enjoy your labor.  Take it as it comes.  Don't rush through it.  You'll treasure these hours -- or days! -- down the road.  Do something memorable with your labor.  Get creative.  Stay in a hotel, see a movie, take some long walks, build a fire, enjoy a warm bath, eat a yummy candlelight dinner, get a pedicure, eat chocolate, get a massage.  All these things can release endorphins that encourage oxytocin to get flowing.  Remember, oxytocin is a feel-good hormone.  It's hard to feel good when you feel rushed or watched.  So when I say enjoy your labor, I really mean ENJOY YOUR LABOR!


Mychel said...

I had an OB laugh at me when we were discussing my birth plan and I said labor could take days and I wanted to labor as long as necessary. I didn't stay there.

Jamie said...

100% agree - great post! The "outsiders" that a couple has to deal with (grandparents,friends, etc - who haven't experienced a natural intervention free birth) are often the reason couples I work with are ready to go into their birth location much earlier than they need to. I often joke that sometimes I doula the "outsiders" more than I doula the laboring mom - assuring them that this is normal, to calm down, to please not ruin the birth for the parents!! Their concern is coming from a place of love, for sure, but it has a huge effect on the labor. I usually add an hour onto the labor time for each person that is present during the labor, or that calls/texts/etc!

edc1951 said...

I would not have minded my labor lasting for days but I was 45, this was my first (I had always wanted 12 but started a tad too late) and the first sign was my membranes rupturing. That was 4am. I stayed home, called the midwife and spent a lot of time walking around the neighborhood. But, by 10 pm I was still having mild to moderate contractions and she asked that I come in. I was only 2 cm dilated so she regrettably said I would have to go to the hospital for a pit drip as she didn't want it to go too much over 24 hrs "at your age" :-) I trusted her implicitly (I had done a paper in nursing school about her newly opened birth clinic 20 years before) so I went. He, the perfect child, was born 26 hours after I started and I was out of the hospital by late that morning. (The pedi knew better than to mess with me:-)and fully supported my decision to go home)I had wanted a water birth at her beautiful new center but would not have second guessed her. He is 14 now and doing adolescence as well as he did his birth-mostly well, with a few road bumps to keep me on my toes.

Kaitlin @ More Like Mary said...

Thanks for the encouragement!

Toni said...

Thanks for this post! When my first labor was rushed it resulted in a c/s. I have 4 children and now know that my labors are about 3 days long. But they are slow and easy and let me know what's happening and give me time to get prepared. Now I know not to tell anyone but my husband and midwife though until day 3, lol! That's just the way my body does it!

Faedemere said...

YES!!! Such a great post! Love this post and I'm so happy to have found your blog.
As a doula I spend a lot of time reassuring moms that what they are going through is "normal". Especially the early labor/pre-labor contractions that people used to call "false labor". (A term I HATE btw) I love to encourage moms (and families) to revel in the process! To make it special.

My most recent birth was a mom who was determined to have a normal, natural birth and chose hypnosis as her pain coping technique. She knew she was in labor, but chose to take her step-son to the zoo to see the lights anyway! She labored for 3 hours at the zoo, enjoying the lights and the delight her little man had in all he saw.
She called me when they got home, I found her in the tub when I got there, we moved to the hospital. She checked in at 9cm!!! It was lovely! 3 hours later without any interventions she was holding her beautiful baby boy. It was glorious.

Anonymous said...

My labor was 2 days and even though I told myself I would stay home, I made 2 unnecessary trips to the hospital and was sent home both times! I wish I'd waited longer for the 3rd trip but the hospital was an hour away. Looking into homebirth next time.

Abigail Garratt, CD(DONA) said...

I laboured for just over 50 hours, then pushing 3 hours... My poor husband thought there is no way this is normal. I said normal or not we are doing this my way not your moms! I got the home water birth I wanted <3

Mommypotamus said...

Great post!I puked and labored for days with both of my children. It was hard and yes I hope the next time things will go more quickly, but I am SO GRATEFUL that I was surrounded by an amazing birth team that gave me space and let me trust my body to finish what it had started without intervention.

When my daughter was born I remember noticing that her head was perfectly shaped as she passed through my body. That kind of clarity in the moments before I met her is priceless. I LOVED laboring at home with my son and bringing him into the world in the exact same spot his sister had joined us. It took WAY longer than anyone I know of for a second time birth, but it was worth it!