The quote above, by Laurie Stavoe Harm can ruffle feathers because women who chose pain relief sometimes think it means that they aren’t strong. To me it means something different though. My unhindered births were hard, yes, but they left me feeling like I could conquer the world. My epidural / caesarean births left me burned and broken. I survived that because I’m strong, I gave birth without drugs because I planned carefully, not because I was superhuman.
To me this saying means that women are strong. Fullstop.
Women know the risks posed by an epidural. That’s why so many of us plan drug free births. In pregnancy some women speak about having low pain tolerance as if they are somehow not as strong as other women but this is simply untrue. No one LIKES pain (ok, so some people do but let’s leave them out of it for now) but everyone has a good pain tolerance. Complaining about pain doesn’t mean you are weak, it just means you are verbal. It’s ok to complain about pain!
Labour is strangely anticipated as one endless pain, hours of nonstop agony, but between contractions there is a complete break. Space to smile and laugh, grab a drink and brace for the next one. The early stage of labour is generally the longest, and fortunately it’s also the most manageable and enjoyable stage.
If your contractions are 5 minutes apart for two hours and they last for one minute. That’s 20 minutes that you will be contracting. Bear in mind that they start out small and get bigger, they reach a peak for a short period then taper off. So a one minute contraction isn’t one solid minute of agony, it’s a sharp peak that lasts a few seconds with a pulling, or tightening pressure on either side of it. Let’s say that the peak lasts for 10 seconds. That’s a mere 3 minutes and 20 seconds you’ll spend at the peak of contractions in a two hour period. When we look at it like that it seems more manageable!
Support can make or break a natural birth plan. Only choose people who believe that you can give birth with their help, not people who will pat you on the back and say you tried your hardest as they buzz for an epidural. Think of a football coach. If the team does badly at half time do they say “well at least you came” or do they refocus the team and remind them of the strategies. You want a football coach. not a back-patter. The back-patter might be friendly in the heat of the moment, but it’s the coach you will thank later.
Your body can most definitely give birth without drugs, it’s your mind you have to keep reined in. If drugs are available it will be harder for your support team to get you through, and harder for you to stay on course. It’s very important to remember that some women never experience transition, and for those that do it is the shortest stage in the whole process. Get through it and you will be pushing.
Don’t let the fear paralyse you so that you feel defeated before you even start. Use the fear to plan. Read about how other women enjoyed the early bits, how they stayed active, what they ate and drank, how their support worked when the going got heavy, how they felt when they pushed, look at their faces when they first set eyes on their baby…. that moment is magical, it makes it all worthwhile! Birth is hard, it’s a challenge like no other, but you CAN do it because you were made to. Women are vulnerable in labour and they need support teams that aren’t afraid to stand between them and the drugs for half an hour of transition.
Have realistic expectations of yourself and the challenges of birth, choose your support team well, and above all, if you do opt for an epidural make sure you know all the risks of it, and don’t beat yourself up. There’s no comparison between mass murder and requesting an epidural.
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