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I was at the doctor's the other day when she brought up labor classes. She gave me a list of refresher classes that the hospital offers. But I confessed that I never took a labor class with either Julia or Elise, nor did I have plans to this time around.
She was fine with that, and I am too.
With Julia I did actually attempt to follow a birthing method. I ordered a hypnobirthing program online and followed the plan right up until my labor. Hypnobirthing teaches you how to relax your body and mind in order to create a calm and comfortable birth. My program came with a great set of CDs that I loved listening to. I practiced wonderful visualizations of myself turning into a balloon and floating away from earth. I practiced tensing each part of my body and then subsequently releasing the tension until it melted away like butter. And I listened to beautiful new age music that helped me quiet my busy, worried mind.
When labor day finally did arrive, I made sure I packed my hypnobirthing CDs into my hospital bag. And when active labor kicked in, I ordered Nelson to cue up the CDs for me. But the moment he put the earphones on my head, my entire body recoiled at the sound of the hypnobirthing instructor reciting those relaxation scripts. I ordered the headphones off and never thought about them again. Instead I relied on my own sense of what I needed to do to survive the pain that had taken me over. I found that I mostly wanted to be quiet and do my own thing. I focused on the nurse when I needed reassurance. I practiced controlled breathing just fine even though no one ever taught me how to do it. And I screamed and cried and complained and mumbled that there was no way I could do this. Yet I did it. I gave birth to a beautiful little seven pound girl.
When it was time to prepare for my labor with Elise, I decided that, for me, the best approach was to just let the events dictate what I needed to do. With Elise that meant an epidural as quickly as possible. Even though I didn't get the pain relief I had hoped for, I did feel more relaxed and in control. I did what I had to do to be as comfortable as possible. And again, I got another beautiful little girl.
So this time around, I'm following the same philosophy. It's not that I don't see the value in classes. For most people preparation is empowering. But for me, it was empowering to figure things out as they occurred. I also feel that there is truth to the whole "ignorance is bliss" theory (although I would never use the word bliss to describe my labors). Not knowing what to expect can free our minds to focus on the moment—instead of worrying about a specific outcome. No matter how your birth unfolds, you get a baby in the end. For now, that's all the knowledge I need.
Shelley Abreu is a freelance writer and mother of two. She also writes on her new blog at www.parentgood.com.