Friday, March 22, 2013

Relaxing While in Labor

Today is the beginning of World Doula Week - Happy Doula week to all the amazing doulas out there!!

So, I was reflecting on birth and babies this morning, because - you know - I reflect on birth and babies a LOT. I am a doula, birth options advocate/activist, and working on my Childbirth Education certification, afterall. Anyway, I was reminded of something that happened last week that made me think about birth. Because, well, you know...

So, we were all sick last week (except for hubby). We suspect it was Influenza A because my sweet baby nephew and his older sister (my darling niece) got diagnosed with it and we spent the previous weekend with them (they didn't know that's what it was at the time). Anyway, bottom line is that the kids and I felt like crap most of the week. Thank goodness we know some home remedies and have good friends who help me with stuff like this!

One of the things we did was take regular Epsom salt/baking soda/peppermint oil baths. On the particularly bad days I gave the kids a couple of them a day. They always felt better afterwards. Since it worked so well for them I decided to take some too. After they were in bed I would run mine and spend as long in there as I could.

One of the evening/nights I did this, Randall wasn't working late - he was home. Usually we have the radio or some kind of music going, and my husband particularly likes his music loud so he can immerse himself in it. Well, for some reason when I got in the tub, the whole house was quiet...I don't even remember what he was doing, other than that it was quiet.

So....I got my relax on. And I mean relaxation to the max. I was definitely tired from fighting for my health all week. My nasal passages were just beginning to clear out/swelling to go down, so I was finally able to breathe out of my nose (almost completely). I sank into the tub and just let my body go. I was in such a state that I was reminded of those tubes that I've heard about where you float in some warm water and it's completely dark and comfortable...I think they are supposed to replicate the feeling of being safe in the womb or something. I don't know...there I go again bringing pregnancy into it ;)

Anyway, you get the idea. I was r.e.l.a.x.e.d. It felt so good. Clearly I needed it.

Then something happened. Randall turned on some music. It wasn't even loud. It was a nice song even. I wasn't expecting it, though, and it jarred me. And I do mean jarred. I jumped, my heart started racing, and no matter how hard I tried to go back to that relaxed state, I wasn't able to - completely, anyway - I was still feeling good, just not to the point I was before he turned the music on. Then he started doing dishes - good for me so I don't have to do it, bad for me while I'm trying to sink into the water and let my body heal. Then he did the most jarring thing. He came into the bathroom to talk to me. Don't get me wrong - I love talking to my's just that him opening the door and coming in to talk to me completely and totally killed any remaining relaxation left in me.

So this whole experience got me thinking. About birth. Specifically about hospital birth.

You know how you've heard that it's SO important to relax during labor? That it helps you have less pain, it helps your baby move down, and generally over-all helps you birth your baby? Well, all that is true. It's *super* important to be able to relax in labor and throughout your birth.

Me in my "birth zone"
So, what if you are in your own "labor-zone" during labor, lights are dim, you are doing a great job at not tensing up during contractions, etc, etc. Your room is quiet with only your awesome support team (husband/partner, doula, etc), maybe some soft music, and everything is going beautifully.

Then something happens. Your nurse comes bustling into the room, flips on a light, and starts talking to you and asking questions, hooks you up to a monitor, and has to take your blood pressure.

You are jarred. Just like I was last week. Your adrenaline starts pumping, and guess what? Your contractions get more difficult to handle because the adrenaline counters the endorphins and hormone cocktail that your body creates and  uses to reduce the pain during labor/birth. After all the bustling around you (and to you) is done, you are allowed to get back into your zone, which can definitely take awhile - honestly it depends on how much practice you have getting into that deep relaxation "place". Depending on your provider, different risk factors you have, etc, you might go through this up to every half hour. Hopefully it's not that often, but it certainly could be. If labor gets more and more difficult because you aren't able to get back into your zone, it's pretty easy to ask for an epidural...

Now, imagine how much quicker and easier labor would be if you were just left alone and if something did need to get checked, there were no physical interruptions (like lights flipped on, monitors beeping, talking above a whisper, etc)...or at least minimal ones. When Randall turned on the music, it really snapped me out of my relaxed state, but I was able to get back almost to where I was relatively quickly. It was each additional thing he did that made it more and more difficult to get back there, and I finally gave up.

I know not all nurses do the "bustling thing". Many of them are totally respectful of laboring mamas. They still have a job to do, though. There are certain things they need to record, hospital protocols to follow, etc. I guess all I'm saying is that if more of them would be a little more gentle in their approach to care for laboring women, it could go a long way. I would go so far to say that it could actually contribute to lowering c-section rates - you've heard of the domino effect of interventions, right? If there were less epidurals, there would be less pitocin augmentation (epidurals often slow down contractions), which would lead to less babies in distress, which would lead to less cesarean deliveries.

Yes, I know it seems too simple, but I wonder what true impact something so simple could actually make. At any rate, I think it would be worth it for your birth to talk to your provider and when you go into the hospital, your nurse(s), about minimal and only gentle interruptions when they need to do something. Because in a state of relaxation and "birth zone", interruptions to mama can be a very big deal.


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