Monday, April 16, 2012
The Effects of a Crowded Room
For years I've been talking about emotional relaxation. Emotional relaxation is how you feel about your laboring environment. For example:
Are you confident in your care provider?
Do you feel that your nurse is supportive of natural birth?
Is the on-call doctor respectful of your birth plan?
How is the temperature in the room?
Are people talking during your contractions?
Do you feel supported not only during contractions, but between them as well?
Are your needs anticipated by those around you?
Do the people at your birth really know how to help you?
How is the lighting?
What does the room smell like?
Are you hungry? Are you encouraged to eat/drink?
The answers to these questions will impact your labor. Someone posted on my Banned From Baby Showers Facebook page wanting to talk about prodromal labor and someone else about "longer than normal" labors. When I hear about a woman having a very long labor, there are some things that pop into my mind, the first one being how many people were in the room? What did she do in early labor? Did she watch the clock and wait for contractions to get closer? Or did she announce it on Facebook and deal with phone calls for the next 3 days? Did she feel like a watched pot?
My two bits of advice for all my couples in early labor are: 1) Depending on the time of day you realize contractions are regular, SLEEP. 2) Depending on the last time you ate, EAT. Eventually, you may want to do both of these things and will likely not be able to.
The 4 top things that women worry about for their labor:
1) The sounds they will make during labor and birth
2) Modesty and being/feeling exposed
3) Fear of tearing
4) Fear of pooping during the pushing phase
Let's look at this list further. The only one that is actually a physical fear is #3, the fear of tearing. The other 3 have more to do with how she is perceived by others in the room. There are few times in a woman's life where she is more vulnerable than when she is in labor. She may act like a wild animal, making sounds that might be embarrassing otherwise. Or, her sounds might be low and sexy -- and she may stop when her mother or mother-in-law comes into the labor, even though those sounds were her "rhythm" and helping her through contractions.
Very carefully consider the people you invite into your birth. Often, women feel the need to "perform" for their audience. Maybe it's for your mother or best friend who never had a natural birth and has been very negative about you having a homebirth. You feel like you have something to prove. Maybe you have "media" at your birth, a photographer or are recording a video. The pressure to "perform" can really hurt a labor. I feel strongly about recording your birth, but not at the cost of not being able to give in to your labor. It's just another thing to evaluate and be flexible during labor.
As hard as it may be, you may need to banish these people from your labor. Most women labor best in dark, quiet, undisturbed places. The more people involved in your labor, the harder these conditions are to achieve. Mom needs to feel free to move and vocalize. We have this idea that if we are vocal, we are not doing well. This simply isn't the case. In fact, the opposite may be true.
Of course, there may be physical reasons for a long labor, but the people in the room is something that each couple has direct control over. Even in a hospital birth, if you don't like your nurse, request another one. Have your doula or midwife do it if you can't. If they suggest it, acknowledge that they may able to see something you can't see in the throngs of labor. Many people don't want to believe that having their mom or sister in the room is slowing their labor, but I've seen it many times over the years. Hindsight is always 20/20 too. Often, women can't see the effects of the "spectators" until after the birth.
If you feel self-conscious about how you will sound, act, or look, you might consider not having anyone not crucial to your birth team at your birth. Birth is not a spectator sport!