Harper’s Birth Story – Lessons Learned
This is a sort of bonus last part to Harper’s birth. Now that I’ve had time to think through everything, I wanted to write out some lessons learned.
1. Fear can play an enormous role in your birth if you let it in.
This first one is the biggest pieces of advice I can give you.
I spent half of my life (no joke) knowing I wanted kids and fearing childbirth. That was 16 years of revving myself up and building my fear around the unknowns of childbirth.
What would it feel like? Can I handle the pain? Would I tear (my biggest fear)? All of these questions filled my head any time I thought about childbirth. And then we got pregnant, and I knew that I now had a timeline as to when those questions would be answered.
Fear was the largest factor in why my labor took 33 hours and I pushed for nearly 4 hours. I was scared! Scared of how much worse it could get, that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, and that I would tear. I could even see that fear in the pictures our doula took: the midwife had to physically hold my leg open as I was pushing because I was holding them together.
And you know what? I made it through. No drugs. I even had a second degree tear. As crazy as it sounds, I did not feel it happen. I was also scared of the suturing that went with the tearing, but that wasn’t even as bad as I thought it would be.
All of this goes to say that your fear will hold you back in labor. It will make it longer and more painful. Your body was designed to do this and knows exactly what to do. You don’t have to do anything, even push! Your body can handle it. Your job is to push fear aside and stay on top of your fears and thoughts.
2. If possible, only listen to and read positive birth stories centered around the birth you want to have.
This can play into your fears as well. If you hear traumatizing stories of “I almost died”, “I had to be rushed in for an emergency c-section”, or “the pain was so unreal, it was unbearable”, you will start to believe those things will happen to you.
I made it a point to listen to uplifting and positive birth stories on a few of my favorite birth podcasts. The more positive stories you hear, the more that mindset becomes your norm.
3. If you are feeling discouraged during labor, you are likely near the finish line.
Remember in the last part of Harper’s birth story, when I mentioned that I was getting extremely discouraged? Did you catch how far along I was at that moment?
I was 7cm, which was the beginning of transition. That is universally known as one of the most challenging points of childbirth, when you dilate from 7-10cm.
I had read it so many times before, that many women want to give up when they hit transition. For some reason, that didn’t register in my mind when I wanted to give up.
As an aside, I asked Alex what some lessons learned for him as a coach/partner through labor were, and he had some input on transition. His advice for the coach/partner: be prepared for transition, when the laboring mother says she can’t do it anymore. Have some things to tell her in your back pocket for this moment of weakness.
Someone on your birth team needs to give you reassurance, especially when you say you want to give up. Hopefully that reassurance will amp you up that your baby is almost here.
4. Take a childbirth education class.
I can’t stress this enough! We ended up taking the Bradley Method childbirth class, and it was invaluable. You attend the class with the coach you choose for labor. Many times, this is your spouse. Alex came with me as my coach, and the things we learned about labor and postpartum were so helpful.
Alex also used a lot of the pain coping techniques on me during labor. As much as we loved our doula, she didn’t have to do much because Alex was such a rockstar. She did end up coming in to relieve Alex at times and reminding him of some techniques throughout labor. But all-in-all, that class was incredibly helpful during labor!
5. For the birth partner: be prepared to be flexible.
Alex’s biggest piece of advice for the birth partner is to be flexible. Throughout pregnancy, you will likely talk to your birth partner a few times about what you think you will like during labor. Whether it be hip squeezes, massage, aromatherapy, water, or whatever you think relaxes you.
The birth partner will know they have these relaxation techniques in their back pocket, and might be comforted knowing what they should do. “She wants massage, so that’s what I will focus on!”
And then, just like that, when you’re in labor and your partner tries to massage you, you whip around and slap their hand. As it turns out, you don’t like massage when you’re in labor. Weird.
For me, I loved the hip squeezes in labor. Until I didn’t anymore. And Alex had to just figure something else out at that point. He wasn’t offended that he suddenly “lost the touch”, he just accepted it and moved onto the next thing!
That’s where some flexibility comes in. Try things that she said she would like you to do, but be prepared to throw it all out the window and learn/do new things while she’s in labor.
I hope these lessons learned help you in some way for your labor!