If you were to get a group of doulas in a room and ask them some of the "realist" things about what happens in the labor room, you might be surprised! We want to share some light on what birth professionals know over years of attending pregnant people in labor and delivery.
Real Labor #1 - It's great to move in labor, but you may not want to.
Many people have a fear that they are going to be "tied to the bed" by the various medical instruments that come with having a baby in a hospital. There are heart rate monitors, contraction monitors, blood pressure cuffs, and IV line, and maybe more depending on the client. But for a lot of laboring folk, moving does not look like the long walks down the hallway and the active dance routines you see in online viral videos. For most people, when a laboring woman is going to the hospital, they are ready to focus, and rest when possible. Both of those things can be done in the hospital bed.
AND the hospital bed itself moves into various positions that can help with positions such as hands and knees, supported squatting, and more.
Key Points: Movement in labor is possible. Even small adjustments and shifts are helpful. You may not be interested in leaving the bed.
Real Labor #2 Not everybody poops, and if you do, we aren't going to tell you.
Another common fear for laboring parents is pooping while being in the 2nd stage of labor: the pushing stage. Pooping is common because as the baby moves through the birth canal, his or her head is physically pushing against the colon, helping to move any fecal matter that is still in the bowel out of your body.
For some people, they have emptied their lower bowel before entering this stage, and there is nothing for the baby's head to move against. For others, some poop may be present.
Surprise! Either way, you get good news! If a laboring person is pooping while pushing, it is a visible sign that they are pushing well and that they are making progress! And if there is no poop, well, then there is no poop!
Key Points: The fear of pooping is common. If you have some small bowel movements while pushing, your nurse is extremely discreet and will help clear it away usually before it is noticed. And, we aren't going to confirm anything if you aren't sure yourself.
Real Labor #3 When they say you can't eat in labor, it's okay because you won't want to.
Having a food restriction is a standard hospital practice. Having access to a clear food tray, or liquids only sound horrible to most people! But when we are talking with our clients, we want to give some reassurance about this fear of not being able to eat - once you get to the hospital, most likely you aren't going to be hungry.
Getting your body ready for labor may mean that in early labor while still at home, you are having nibbles and bites of food that sound good, and keep you energized. As your contractions start getting stronger and closer together, your body goes through a natural shift that begins to open your core and focus your attention and energy into giving birth to your baby. Bites of food can feel like whole meals, tasty snacks can quickly turn unsatisfying and dry.
Staying hydrated starts to become the focus, as does conserving energy in between contractions, and of course, actively managing pain and tension during contractions.
Your body too, will focus it's resources into your uterus, making eating sound unappealing altogether. Nobody wants to eat a cheeseburger while in labor.
Key Points: Hunger during labor can be satisfied with very little and is often not as overwhelming as it sounds beforehand. Once active labor has started, the idea of eating may not be attractive as your contractions get stronger. The first meal you eat after you deliver will taste incredible because of both your renewed awareness of your hunger and because you will have exerted so much energy giving birth
Real Labor #4 - Having a plan for your birth is great, but being connected to the birth that is happening is better.
So much talk about birth plans and how to have a good birth, when really what has been shown to make a difference on birth satisfaction is being supported without judgement, and being able to participate in making decisions during birth.
And not even getting what that person wants, just being included in the conversation.
And this isn’t to dissuade anyone from thinking about options and making a birth plan. Quite the opposite. It’s to allow each family some space to recognize birth is unknown, even in this day and age. Birth is unpredictable. And how a person feels during this unknown and unpredictable time is what should be taken into account even more.