As I neared transition during Nettie's birth I was reminded of how tough contractions can be. "Damn this is hard!" I exclaimed, at least once. I remember feeling awed by the strength necessary to sail through labor and aware of the power all women hold. So here is what helped me manage the pain:
My gospel music! Gospel music is my connection to God. It helps me experience the presence of the Divine, a space that words cannot do justice. I made a CD of my favorite gospel songs for Fen and Nettie's birth and those songs really helped get me through the tough spots. Interestingly enough both Fen and Nettie were born to songs packed with meaning. The song Fen was born to spoke of healing, and that is exactly what a VBAC is, healing. As Nettie was born I heard the words "Open up your heart," so appropriate for it is not merely your body that must open during birth.
My Love: During my first birth I expected Matt to play a roll that was impossible for a first-time male parent to play. During my second birth I was wary of looking to Matt for my needs during childbirth and really looked towards my doulas and midwife. During the third birth, I didn't need Matt to be anything more then my love, my rock, which is exactly how it should be. He was very present during the birth and leaning on him, burying my face in his back, carried me through the tough contractions.
My Comb: Do not under estimate the power of a comb. The small blue plastic comb with white and pink teeth (pictured above) was better then an epidural! There are pressure points in your palm that help with pain relief in labor. As a contraction built, I would squeeze my comb as tight as feasible, the teeth digging into my palm, hitting those points and providing immense relief. I couldn't have done it without that comb!
My Tube Sock: I filled a tube sock (the kind you can buy six pairs to a pack at Target for next to nothing) with flax seeds and sewed it shut. As my labor grew close, I added a very high quality lavender oil to the sock (I do not recommend cheap essential oils as they are often blends instead of pure oils). I heated the sock in the microwave and used a rebozo tied around my waist to keep it in place (see above picture). Warmth is a great pain reliever in labor. I suggest having two socks so that when one sock is reheating in the microwave, you still have that delicious warmth on your belly or back.
My Breath: I took deep belly slow breaths through contractions.
I began my labor just using the tube sock and my breath and added Matt, my music, and the comb one by one as contractions grew stronger and stronger. Don't use all your coping tools in early labor. Save the best for last, when things are toughest and you really need them.
Interestingly enough I did not moan at all with this birth. Vocalizing can be a great labor tool (helps keep pelvic floor relaxed) and I used it during Fenimore's birth, the deep moans moving through my body helped my baby down. I moaned once or twice during Nettie's birth and then, because I didn't want my mom to perceive that I was "in pain" opted to labor in silence. Although initially it was tougher to handle the contractions without vocalizing, I quickly became more internal, more connected to the contractions and less in my head during my silent labor. A friend's sister who labored silently made the same comment, that the silence kept her out of her head.