Occasionally I realize that some of the phrases I use when supporting parents are surprising and not fully understood. That’s why this series exists, to explain some of the meaning behind doula sayings and better prepare parents for what they can expect when they talk to their doula.
Today’s saying is:
“Ignore it until your body won’t let you ignore it anymore”
Most moms know the feeling. Contractions have finally started. You can feel the surges and the tightening in your belly and maybe some pressure in your butt and/or vagina. It is different than the Braxton Hicks that you were having a few days ago. It is more than uncomfortable-it’s painful. It means that you might be in labor. Maybe today you will get to meet this little person that you have worked hard to create over the last 40ish weeks. This means that it is time to do all the things that you learned in your birth class. You can finally use those coping tools. And those positions that were guaranteed to get things progressing? Now is the time for those too! You begin putting energy into movements, position changes, and exercises to keep the contractions coming. You begin working hard to breath slowly and calmly through each contraction. This is what you have been preparing for and you feel so ready!
An hour or 2 pass and things don’t stop so you feel even more sure that today is the day! You call your doula and after asking you some questions she says something like, “It sounds like your body is working and things are getting started. I want you to have a snack, drink some water, and go take a nap or watch a movie. Ignore it until your body won’t let you ignore it anymore.”
“Ignore it!?! How can she say that?” you think. “I am in labor! My body is working hard!My baby is ready to be born! I am too excited to relax! Why does she not believe that I am in labor and want to help me progress?”
But she does believe you. She knows that your labor has started. That is exactly why she wants you to rest and ignore it until you can’t anymore.
In fact, your doula knows a lot:
- Your doula knows that labor can be looooong. Especially early labor when your body is devoting a lot of the power of the contractions into thinning your cervix and helping your baby to make last minute adjustments to his position and not necessarily to dilating your cervix just yet. Sometimes it even stops completey for a day or two to allow you to rest.
- Your doula knows that early labor, the part of labor that you can typically ignore pretty easily if you let yourself, can go on for more than 24 hours.
- Your doula knows that you only have an inkling of the strength that you possess and what you are capable of and that even when early labor is intense, the most intense part is yet to come. You need to reserve your resources for that time.
- Your doula knows that even though you think that if it gets more intense you won’t be able to handle it, you will soon prove yourself wrong.
- Your doula knows that this may be the last time for many hours that you are able to rest and relax.
- Your doula knows that your body will tell you when you need to pay attention and get to work helping birth happen.
And your doula wants to help you by reminding you to help yourself:
- Your doula does not want you wasting your valuable physical and emotional energy trying to force labor to progress quicker than your body wants it to.
- Your doula does not want you to get frustrated and burned out before active labor has even begun.
- Your doula does not want you to rush off to the hospital where they are trained to “fix” things that may not need to be fixed.
- Your doula does not want your partner’s energy to be used up in early labor and prevent him/her from supporting you to the best of their ability in active labor, transition, birth, and beyond.
- Your doula does not want you mistaking the normal, slow progress of early labor for a failure.
- Your doula does not want you to miss out on these last hours with your baby inside of your body. Feeling every movement and being the closest that you will ever be to him.
Of course there are some things that you should be doing as you try to ignore the contractions.
- You should stay hydrated and eat small healthy meals and snacks frequently
- You should use the bathroom regularly to keep your bladder empty and out of baby’s way of moving down and/or getting into position.
- You should let your doula and midwife/OB know you are in early labor.
- You should talk with your doula about what you are feeling so that she can suggest the best resting positions to give baby plenty of room to wiggle and move as he needs to.
- You should spend some quality time with your partner snuggling, kissing, talking, etc. All of these things will gently promote oxytocin production and will help you both feel more prepared as a couple before baby is born.
- You should follow your intuition and trust your body.