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Monday, June 6, 2011

What Hurts in Childbirth and What it Feels Like

I think one of the scariest parts about labor is the mystery. Some people say it's the worst pain you've ever experienced! But in my case, this wasn't true . . .

I will share what labor/delivery FELT LIKE for ME (and I know many people have very different experiences), but I also do hear similar reports from other well-researched and well-prepared natural birth Moms (with an anterior head down baby).

Contractions: Feel like bad period cramps. I only used to get cramps every few months, and never very serious. This was similar to early labor. Once labor got underway, they did hurt more, but some people describe having to take Motrin around the clock for period cramps--turning white from them, not being able to work--this is pretty much exactly sounds to me like the worst contraction--basically the worst cramps you've ever had on your period, or the way people describe it who have bad cramps. This lasts for the whole time you are in labor, BUT it's only really bad like that at the very end. Early labor, the part that usually lasts for hours, it really does feel almost exactly like period cramps--but they only last for a minute at a time! No biggie.

Crowning: The "ring of fire". Okay this was the worst part (for me). But to plug the water birth, it basically erased the pain after I got in the tub! But yeah, a lot of people describe crowning as the ring of fire, and it's the pain of your cervix stretching over the baby's head. It feels like Indian Burn (when someone twists the skin on your arm in either direction). Exactly like your baby is giving your cervix Indian Burn. This did hurt a lot, and it was the only moment I felt like asking for an epidural. HOWEVER, crowning does NOT last a long time. I was squatting through my crowning, and it literally was less than 5 mins of bad pain. Squatting opens the pelvis by 30% more than laying on the back, so it will help you get through the crowning stage FAST if you are able to do it! Even in a longer labor, though, crowning is pretty fleeting most of the time.

Pushing Out the Baby: Least painful part of all. I tore, so that hurt when he came out, but the actual pushing him out part, seriously just didn't hurt really. You are just so excited to meet your baby and everything is totally opened up by then that it's not painful. You are still having contractions, so there is still that pain, but by then it's like old hat, and sometimes contractions even slow down in the pushing part! It feels like doing a big poop. With the same satisfaction at the end, haha, but without the burning part since that happened already during the crowning stage.

When you aren't having contractions, you usually aren't in any more pain than you were in before you went into labor, LOL. Meaning your back and belly are sore from being pregnant, but even when james' head was outside me and his body was inside, unless I was having a contraction, it really didn't hurt.

So fear not, Moms to be, it's all sensations you are already somewhat familiar with, just all together and wrapped up in the intensity of bringing forth life. But it's a miracle and a regular day all at once. A big deal but not a big deal. The way (almost) every child is born.


DNineMoons said...

Thanks, A - I think you're right, the worst part is the mystery - at least I hope so!! Just like the scariest part of skydiving was waiting to jump out of the plane. Thanks for writing this!

Alyssa said...

My labour hurt like HELL!!!! LOL!!!! I nearly passed out a number of times from the pain. The ramping up of the contractions were the worst, especially when they were right on top of another and I didn't get break. I remember saying "Not ANOTHER one! Not yet...I'm not ready...not yet..." a number of times :S Gah. Next time (if there is one), I'm getting an epidural.

Megan said...

Hi, a friend of Emily's here and saw her link on FB to your blog.

Oh man, contractions were unbearable for me by the end when I had my second daughter. (My first daughter was an epi after 16 hours of labor, but that's a whole different story.) I went from very easy, non-painful early labor that lasted about 3 hours (4 if you count from when I woke up to my water breaking), to the kind of pain you describe for about an hour, to insanely intense OMG-i'm-going-to-die, screaming, crying, couldn't get a handle on myself contractions while I was in transition. I literally squatted clinging to the head of the bed, which was inclined up, moaning and screaming with contractions right on top of each other for about 40 minutes. That 40 minutes felt like hours and after about 10 minutes of it I begged for an epi, but the midwife took one look at me and said it wouldn't be long at all and I could tough it out. I definitely agree that squatting REALLY helps with pushing. I had her out in about 3 big contractions. The pushing was painful for me too though, once her head was out I felt better, but then the shoulders hurt too. They were both 14" around.

That said, as painful as it may be, I felt AMAZING afterward. I honestly did not feel like I had just had a baby at all. After my first daughter was born, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I'm sure part of it was that I hadn't slept more than a catnap after the epi for about 40 hours, but I also think that having had the epi really did a number on me. I felt so good after my second daughter was born. The nurses were all in shock when I was in "regular" clothes (yoga pants and a tee-shirt), walking around my room jiggling a fussy baby a few hours later, lol.

Megan said...

I meant to mention, I also had an anterior head-down baby and had a totally drug-free birth, minus penicillin for GBS+ status. If I have another baby I'm pushing for the water birth, I hear it is so much better, particularly if your water broke before labor started.

By: Kate Nadeau said...

I think the hardest part of my labor was the speed, it was scary how fast it was, and scary not thinking we were going to make it to the hospital.

The back to back contractions (which were far worse than any period cramps I've ever had, and I've missed work because of them) was no joke either. I think if I had a break between them, they might have been more tolerable.

No ring of fire, that I can remember, and pushing was the best part.

Christine said...

I have had 5 births and they were all quite different. I have had mild contractions and then the kind of contractions that make you wish you were dead. I had an easy pushing experience and then the kind where you can't stop screaming because the pain is unreal. Every birth is different even natural ones.

justadrienne said...

Wow everyone this is awesome!! Thanks so much for sharing! I know that I was VERY lucky because my labor was SUPER short. The difficult labor part was less than 3 hours. I think if the transition stage or the crowning stage had lasted longer, it would have been a lot harder to handle!

But seriously even the worst pain doesn't kill you, and I think it's helpful to hear: Yes it hurt like hell, BUT it only last X time and then I was holding my baby!

Like Megan, I think I would have felt GREAT after my home water birth, but I had like a 4th or 5th degree tear soooooo, that was the "sore spot". o_O

Anonymous said...

I wish I had heard more stories like yours! My water broke, but contractions didn't start so I was induced. The pain wasn't bad at all and I made it to 8cm without even considering pain medication by moving and changing positions. By 8 cm I was feeling nauseated from the cramps. Nauseous is my body's go to reaction for anything different going, so this was pretty normal for me. When the doctor told me that it was "now or never" for an epidural, I agreed to it. I was *terrified* of natural child birth, my mother had extreme tearing and complications. I happily discussed emergency c-section options with every obgyn I saw even before going into active labor. So, I had the epidural, my labor slowed, I took a nap. After a couple of hours they uped the pitocin in an effort to speed up labor. It worked, but I had to lay on one side due to the epidural. This caused my cervix to dilate more on three quarters of the way around. When I felt ready to push, the nurses said I had to switch sides and wait until the rest of my cervix thinned out. This was 20-25 minutes of the worst pain/discomfort of my life. Plus I couldn't find my stomach muscles to actually push her out. I think that the slower pushing allowed me to stretch slowly and avoid tearing. I expected the epidural to dull all sensation, but I could feel her crowing and the ring of fire sensation. With my next child I would still take the pitocian, but I would want to avoid the epidural if possible.

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