Many of us have seen some movie that has a pregnant woman who goes into labor. It is usually a fast paced event; water breaks, frantic car ride, lots of screaming, perhaps some choice words are exchanged, and then a baby is born.
At what point did Hollywood set the tone for the way we birth? Having a baby doesn't have to be a wide eyed, scary event. It can be peaceful. You are in control of how you birth. It comes down to preparing oneself for the event that is going to happen. Knowing what your body is doing and coming to an understanding of why it is doing it. As the great pioneer of midwifery, Ina Mae Gaskin said "Your body is not a lemon".
Physiology. We're mammals. Birth is a very primal act that women experience. Our primitive mind is more in sync with our bodies during birth than we realize. In my adolescent years I worked around horses. When mares were coming close to foaling, we would monitor them closely hoping to get a chance to experience the wonder of birth. I can't say I ever saw a mare foal. I would leave to take a quick trip to the restroom and come back. Boom. Baby on the ground. They would wait until they felt safe and secure before allowing their precious yet defenseless young come into this world. Now think of the typical birthing mother. She is brought into a new environment with people she has never met, smells that are unfamiliar, and sheets that are not even close to the same thread count as home. Her primal brain is detecting that something isn't quite right. Some ways to combat this is try and make the space you are birthing at your own. Bring your own pillows, wear clothes (or not) that you are comfortable in, dim the lights, play your music. Don't feel bad about not letting people who stress you out come and watch you labor. This is about you and your baby's journey, not their experience. Just make it clear before you go into labor that you will be happy to have them come after baby arrives to avoid hurt feelings.
Contractions. I am not going to lie and say they aren't as bad as you have heard. They are painful. With my second baby, I can remember going through transition and thinking "I can't believe I'm doing this again". What I will tell you is this, you really won't remember how bad they were, hence why we proceed to have more babies. The best thing you can do is go into your pregnancy knowing what these contractions are doing; working with your baby to get into the optimal position for birth. Your baby sits high up in your pelvis up until the last few weeks of your pregnancy, At some point they will "drop" and start the descent. It actually is a fascinating science how your baby moves and positions itself. The optimal position for exit is anterior, where baby's back is towards your belly. Sometimes baby will be back to back, posterior, and the uterus will work to try and spin baby to the anterior position. In these cases, labor tends to be longer and there is a fair amount of back pain as baby moves clockwise in the womb. No one explained this to me with my first baby; agonizing back pain and sitting in a hospital bed. I wish someone had just suggested to get up and move (this girl needed a doula). Vocalizing actually is a good way to cope with the contractions. That being said, low sounds that engage and open the abdomen are helpful. Screaming is not. To scream, one needs to tense up the diaphragm to push the air out. This works against what the contractions are trying to accomplish. Try doing both when you are home by yourself and notice what muscles are being used to create such noises. You may feel ridiculous groaning like a sea sick cow, but you will be happy you practiced this alone in the confines of your own walls before having to do it in front of your significant other. Movement is your best friend when the contractions are coming and baby is making their way down. Upright movement helps your pelvis widen as your baby descends.
As the waves of contractions ebb and flow, just remember, your body and baby are working together. Each contraction brings your baby one step closer to you.
Pushing. For those having a vaginal delivery, baby has one way out. You know you are going to have to push. Then you get to the final moments of your journey and realize that no one told you how to accomplish such a task until right before they ask you to do it over and over again. Can you successfully birth your baby with coached pushing? Absolutely. Though this tends to increase maternal exhaustion and increase the probability of perineal tearing. Here is a cool thing about the female body: we have two reflexes called the fetal ejection reflex and the Ferguson reflex. It is where your uterus just takes over and pushes baby down and out on its own, usually with less tearing and less effort. It does take a little more patience since the body will need to be ready to kick this reflex into gear, but you will know when it is going to happen. With my second, I tested this theory and was very happy with the outcome. I breathed my son down with each contraction and let my body do what it needed. I intentionally pushed three times. He was born and I had very minimal tearing. A stark difference from my daughter where I was coached and pushed for an hour and experienced second degree tearing. Keep in tune with what cues your body is sending. You will know when the time is right.
When things don't go as planned. This is usually at the backs of our minds. The what ifs? Their presence is real. Emergencies happen. Sometimes you can do everything right and something just doesn't work. What do you do? You breathe. Gain the facts as to why a new route is being pursued and make a decision that is right for your family. Even when things aren't going as envisioned, you still have a say as to how you would like the new plan to look.
You can birth your baby beautifully. There is no reason to fear what is divinely knitted into you. Trust your body. You will rock your labor and birth!