It would be easy for me to look back on my labour with disappointment, but in all honesty whenever someone asks me about it, the first image that pops into my head isn’t the 48 hours of unbearable pain and the birth plan that went wrong, but the image of Jacob being placed on my chest. Labour is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before, even if you’ve had children. Every labour is different.
I won’t go into too much detail about my long labour, as there’s already a blog post about it. But to set the scene, my birth plan was a nice, peaceful home birth using hypnobirthing techniques. Instead, it involved 40 hours of me mooing like a cow at home, getting in and out of the birthing pool, vomiting from too much gas and air, going to hospital for an epidural after 40 hours of intense labour, an episiotomy and Jacob being pulled out by a vontouse. Dramatic, I know. Here are some of the things that helped me get through what can only be described as the biggest battle of my life.
Try to have an active pregnancy
I know that I was very fortunate to have a healthy enough pregnancy that I was able to continue my training until 37 weeks, but I genuinely believe that even a 20 minute walk every day will help prepare you for labour. Whether you experience a quick labour or not, labour requires stamina and strength. Some people refer to it like training for a marathon. A very intense, painful marathon with the biggest gold medal at the end. If you can, stay as active as your body will allow you to be, your body will reward you in the end. Even after 40 hours of contractions and zero sleep I was still able to find the strength to push Jacob out.
Do your Kegels
Kegels should be like brushing your teeth, but so many of us only consider doing them when we’re pregnant or post-birth. Doing 24 tiny squeezes a day whilst eating your breakfast can build up enough strength in your pelvic floor to a) use it to push the baby out and b) recover quicker after birth and not wee yourself every time you laugh.
My labour turned out to be pretty much the opposite of what I wanted. I always said that I was terrified of epidurals and would never want one. 40 hours later and I was begging for anything that would just take the pain away. My advice is to create a birth plan so that the medical staff have an idea of what you want. But bear in mind that the baby and their health is your priority so if things don’t go your way, keep an open mind about changing your plan to get the baby here safely.
Pack your bag 1 month before
This might sound extreme, but you really never know when baby will come so why not put your mind at ease? I had my bag ready to go a whole month before. (I’ll list some of the bits I had in my bag below). Even though I wanted a home birth, I packed my bag for the hospital just in case. Also show your husband where everything is, you’re in no fit state to go rooting for things when labour starts.
Create a playlist
I created a playlist called ‘Baby Hale’ with a mixture of relaxing songs, songs that made me happy and songs that I used to play to Jacob in my tummy. It helps distract you from what’s going on.
Practice your breathing
It may feel silly but I practiced 2 different types of breaths before my due date, a calming breath and a pushing breath. It will feel more natural to you when you go into labour and you’ll be able to control your breath better, which really helps in getting through your contractions.
Choose the right birth partner
Luckily, I had 2 birthing partners, my mum and my husband. I knew that my husband would be a calming influence on me as he’s so laid back, and my mum would provide practical advice having been through it 7 times. I would not have got through that labour without them. Do what’s right for you. Don’t just ask people to be a birthing partner because you feel obliged, ask people who you genuinely want there and someone you can rely on to get you through.
What kept me going during such a long labour was when the midwife and my mum and husband kept reassuring me that I was nearly there, that I was close to meeting my baby. The whole time I just kept visualising that moment when I would meet him, and it got me through. As someone who has been through it, I can promise you that all of the pain is worth it. It will all go away as soon as you meet your baby. And life begins. So never lose sight of why you’re doing this.
Hospital bag essentials for mama
Birth plan and hospital records
Nighshirt/PJ’s for after labour
2 Nursing bras/maternity bras
Disposable breast pads (even if not breastfeeding)
Muslin with Lavender or Clary Sage on
Headphones and phone
Hairbush/mini dry shampoo
Makeup (optional, I didn’t wear any post-birth)
Going home outfit (something comfy)
Plastic bags for dirty clothes
Towels for shower
Hospital bag essentials for baby
Going home outfit (1 in first size, 1 in 0-3 months)
Formula and sterilised bottles if bottle-feeding
Home birth essentials
Diffuser with lavender oil
Something funny to watch on TV (I recommend The Office US)
Plenty of towels