Friday, January 23, 2009

what I meant by "not painful"

In my last post, I said that my birth experience was not painful. I thought I'd better clarify before you thought I was a flake or nuts or lying.

I spent much of my pregnancy telling myself that birth is a natural (not medical) process, talking with women who believe the same, and reading birth stories of all varieties. I visualized, in the limited way that anyone who has never actually given birth can, the birth that I wanted; and I adopted hill and wave imagery, thinking they would get me through the contractions. During my runs, I learned to check in with parts of my body: relax my shoulders, unclench my fist. So, when a month before my delivery I began waking up at night with contractions, I practiced relaxing and breathing calmly and deeply.

And I decided to think of contractions as strong sensations - which, I know, really does sound kinda loopy.

But that's why my labor wasn't "painful." I think if I expected pain, that is what I would have experienced. My contractions came strong and fast - I never even timed them because my labor didn't really build up. I was just in labor, occupied enough. Ha ha. There was one point in my labor, though, when I felt overwhelmed. My body was beginning to push and that's what it felt like: not "I was" but "my body was." Wildly powerful. I had to tell myself I was able. Go with it.

And, as I said in the last post, endorphins are amazing. I was singularly present and focused. The downside of being so turned inward was that I didn't expect to also be so, well, unaware, I guess. For example, my doctor did not ask permission to give me an episiotomy and it didn't even register that I'd had one until after, when he was stitching me and I said, "Wait a minute, did you...?" And while I know Justin was around during my labor - he held my hand, brought me water - my labor didn't feel like a shared experience until, during pushing, I realized the magnitude of the moment: we were bringing a baby into this world.

I approached my due date hoping for a drug-free, natural birth but knowing that the birth process is unpredictable. "At the end, you'll have a baby," my sister-in-law said. That was about all I really knew for sure. And she was right: at the end, I had a baby.


N.D. said...

I'm getting into all of this stuff now. Initially I was terrified. Overtime I have been getting better and better about it and looking at it as a challenge. Then last night I just got overwhelmed and completely terrified again. It is so hard when you don't know what to expect. Let me know if you have any tips for relaxation.

DC Running Mama said...

You must have a strong ability to meditate! I spent weeks practicing hypnobirthing trying to gain control of my mind's interpretation of sensation...but it certainly didn't work during my labor. I think some people are better at relaxing than others...