Something that every mom seems to remember about their birth is how long they were in labor. It’s a number that rolls off the tongue as easily as the baby’s birth day or what color his eyes are. But knowing when your labor started is not an exact science, and it usually has something to do with when it became obvious to you, whether that was because your water broke or contractions became harder to manage, or even the time you entered the hospital. In my experience as a doula, one of the biggest mistakes that moms make is paying attention to labor too soon – at the first sign of contractions (even if they are 15-20 minutes apart) or perhaps if your amniotic fluid starts to leak, even without other signs of labor. It is also common for labor to go in spurts- starting and stopping; preparing the labor and the mother for when things gear up; allowing her to get some rest. The challenge with telling yourself you’re in labor at this point is that it can be hours, even days (yikes!) until the baby actually arrives. And as the hours tick by, a mother’s confidence can start to wane and she can tire of the idea of being in labor, even if she is not physically tired.
So how can you avoid getting stuck in the “I’ve been in labor forever" trap? Here are some ideas to help you get through early labor!
1. Take a nap. If labor really is starting, you’ll be glad you got some extra rest.
2. Read a book. It’s relaxing, it might take your mind off things, and if you’re close to the end of the book, you can keep encouraging yourself to go just.one.more.page.
3. Go for a walk. Get your blood pumping, see the neighborhood sights for one last time in a way that you may not have the opportunity to in the future….After all, the next time you take that walk could be pushing a stroller or carrying a baby and may not have time to appreciate the little things like weeds growing in the sidewalk cracks, pavement pushed up by tree roots or little birds’ nests.
4. Go shopping! Who doesn’t love to browse the racks, flip through the pages of books you’ll probably never buy, or people watch?!
5. Have lunch with a friend. A supportive friend who won’t freak out when you stop to take a deep breath or close your eyes through a contraction. Bonus if the friend won’t make jokes about you potentially breaking your water.
6. Call your mom, or better yet, your grandmother. If they are still around and won’t worry you to death with stories of a friend’s sister’s neighbor’s long lost cousin’s terrible labor, have a little chat, knowing it may be a couple weeks (months?) until you may have an uninterrupted moment.
7. Daytime TV! Game shows! Lifetime movies! Trashy “he cheated on me” talk shows! Re-runs! Infomercials! So much good TV, so little time!
8. Plant a garden. How cool would it be years down the road to tell your child about the garden – or tree! – you planted as you waited impatiently patiently for their arrival?
9. Play a game with your older child/children. If you have older children, they may feel a little forgotten about or lonely after the new baby comes. Spend a little time with them, making them feel special and reassuring them how much you care for them.
10. Bake some bread. Chances are, if you’re in early labor, you’re going to have some time on your hands, so baking bread may be a perfect, timely distraction!
11. Get creative! Grab a paint brush, charcoal, watercolors, whatever you have handy. Express your emotions through art. Paint your birth vision. Make a little memorial of your early labor that you can share with you babe in years to come. Lat that brush sway with you as you move your body in response to the contractions.
12. Get lovey. Did you know that intimacy is a great way to get labor moving? Some people may not be up to full-fledged romance, but that’s ok – physical closeness in any form helps prepare the body (and mind!) for labor. Enjoy lying together, maybe some smoochin’ or whatever you’re up to (unless you’re on pelvic rest, and then you’ll have to go for a hard stop before things get too serious!).
13. Clean. Having some anxiety about all the visitors you’ll likely be hosting after the little one arrives? Get ahead of it by doing a little tidying up. Already have a spotless house? Eh, move things around- rearrange, organize, toss some stuff out. “Nesting” is common as mothers take one last opportunity to get everything ready to the baby to arrive.
14. Prepare the baby’s clothes. Have a superstition that prevents you from doing too much preparing too far in advance? Or are you just plain good at procrastinating? Either way….now that baby is almost here, maybe it’s a good time to get some of those adorable onesies scrubbied up.
15. Soak up some sun. Everyone knows that a little splash of sun can lighten any mood, so get some rays to boost your spirit...
16. What? It’s 3am? Well grab your baby daddy and go for a moonlit stroll. Gaze at those stars, breathe some cool crisp air and enjoy the sound of silence.
17. Make lasagna. You’re going to need lots of yummy nutrition to help recover from birth, and to sustain your energy to care for your little one. Even more so if you’re breastfeeding. So grab some grub and cook up some meals that freeze well so you’ll have plenty to choose from in the coming weeks.
18. Car Seat time. If you haven’t already installed the car seat, now may be a good time to do that. And if you really want to pass the time, read the manual cover to cover. It’s a good idea to do that anyway (tons of safety information that is too easily overlooked!)
19. Journal. For the same reasons mentioned in number eleven. Every day that you move further away from an event, the less of the detail you will remember. Get all the details down on paper – your hopes and fears for your little bean sprout – so you’ll always remember how you’re feeling right now. You’ll thank yourself a year – or even 10 years – down the road.
20. Angry birds. I was going to include this one as a joke, but then I got to thinking….a game as addictive as this could be a great way to pass the hours!
21. Nosh. You’ll need lots of energy over the next couple of hours and days. Pack in some protein, some high energy carbs and some refreshing fruits and veggies. Having a hard time keeping things down? Go for a small bite every couple of minutes or go for liquids. And remember to hydrate, too.
22. Wash the car. Feeling a little hot and flush? Get outside, turn on the hose and suds up the car. The up and down motion of sponging off the car will force you to squat and help engage the baby’s head against the cervix. Too cold out? Windexing the patio doors and shower doors will accomplish the same thing. And as a bonus, you’ll have something shiny to admire your glowing self in! (Yeah, I said it, you’ll look like a rock star in labor!)
23. Cat! Cow! Pigeon! Warrior! That’s right, get your yoga on. Not only can going back to your tried and true poses in early labor take you to the same calm, meditative place you always get to when you’re practicing yoga, those that rotate and open up the pelvis can also help engage the baby.
24. Go swimming. It’s refreshing, relaxing and can help keep your joints feeling nice and loose. Pools are also a great place to do some hip-opening stretches like lunges and squats since there’s less pressure on the knees and ankles. (Check with your care provider if your waters have already broken, as pools can be a breeding ground for less-than-pleasant germs.)
25. Take some pictures! You’re embarking on a brand new journey, one whose beginning marks the distinct end of another (pregnancy!) Take this opportunity to snap some last minute memories of your beautiful belly and your family before baby comes. You may feel less than gorgeous, but everyone else thinks you’re stunning and radiant and you’ll love looking back at those photos later.
If you’re reading this because you are in early labor: Congratulations. We hope you have an awesome birth experience and that you’re little bundle of joy is as perfect as can be! If you’re with us remembering back to your labor, what were ways you kept distracted during early labor?
Image courtesy of adamr, FreeDigitaPhotos.net