I once did an interview with a mother of twins, who baffled me. She had given birth to twins naturally, without pain relief, and was hesitant about using the term “painful” when talking about the process. She was in labor for less than three hours, and she walked out of the delivery room with her babies.
This was not a story I could relate to. The delivery of my daughter was long, tough and painful. Based on my reflections on my daughter’s birth and my interview with this awesome twin mother, these are the six things I will do differently during childbirth the second time around.
1. Learn how my body works during labor
I knew the basics. At least, I thought I did, but to be honest, looking back, I had no idea how to work with my body once the contractions set in. I knew how to endure pain, but I didn’t know how to respond to it and how to help my body along.
I think I had a longer and tougher birth than necessary because I wasn’t aware of how to work with my body. I’ll definitely prepare better next time.
2. Practice my response to pain
During the birthing class I attended, I had to hold an ice cube in my hand to practice enduring pain. As unpleasant as that felt, it didn’t teach me anything that I could use in the delivery room. I didn’t realize that pain’s unconscious response of tightening and cramping up is really working against your body.
Obviously, you can’t keep your uterus from cramping up – your uterus will and should contract during labor – but you can learn how to relax other muscles in your body simultaneously. Next time around, I’ll focus much more on relaxation techniques and practice them continuously.
3. Learn how to breath optimally
I always thought that long, deep breaths were good for just about anything. Yoga teachers have always backed my belief. However, deep breaths are apparently not the way to go when you’re contracting. Deep breaths enable your respiratory muscle to put pressure on the top of your uterine muscle, causing more pain. Short, superficial, rhythmic breaths are the way to go instead.
Think about how a dog breathes in the summer heat. Mimic that. Between the contractions, take deep breaths. That’ll help your body relax.
4. Ask my partner to take an active part
My daughter’s father was present during her birth. His presence was a big comfort. Nevertheless, he couldn’t take away my pain, and besides from bringing me something cold to drink and telling me that I was doing fine, he wasn’t really included in the birthing process. That made him feel quite helpless.
Next time around I’ll ask him whether he’d like to take a more active part. If he does, we’ll attend a birthing class where they encourage and teach partners how to assist in the delivery room.
5. Cultivate a flexible mindset
When I was pregnant, I had an idea in the back of my mind, that giving birth without pain relief was the best way to go. I wish I had been more flexible during labor. A few hours in, the midwife noticed that my daughter was in a posterior position which made the birthing process more difficult because she had trouble descending.
The contractions continued relentlessly, the labor dragged on and on, and I was completely worn out and desperate in the end. I wish I had let go of the ideal of giving birth without pain relief. I believe that an epidural would have given me a welcome pause from the pain, and that might have given me a better overall experience.
6. Practice standing my ground
I found the delivery room very cold, and because I was freezing, I curled up on the bed instead of being active. I asked my midwife to turn up the heat, but she didn’t know how, and I left it at that. I didn’t want to be perceived as being difficult. I wish I had stood my ground and insisted on it, because I’ve learned, that a woman who is active during labor gives birth faster than someone who’s in a stationary position. It’s also less painful.
There’s no doubt about it. Giving birth can be scary and tough, but it can also be wonderful and empowering. I hope you get the birthing experience of your dreams – good luck!
Kate Phillipa Clark is a journalist writing about twins and their parents on about-twins.com. She’s interviewed many mothers about their twin birth stories and loves to connect with twin parents on Facebook. Kate graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an Executive Master in Corporate Communication. For some years, she worked in the private sector, before launching About Twins in 2016. She is an identical twin and so is her father.