Labor will demand a lot from you. It is intense. It can push you to your very limits. One way to ensure you can endure what labor throws your way is to ensure you have a firm mental & spiritual foundation. Ensuring your space is calm is a huge way to ensure you are mentally coping well. As a seasoned doula, these are the tried & true methods I have seen work:
- Stay at home as long as possible: obviously this applies to those who plan on leaving their homes to give birth. Once you enter the hospital or birth center, no matter how homey it can feel, you will only be focusing on having your baby, which can lead to stress, especially if you are still earlier in labor when you arrive. Ideally, you are arriving when you feel you will have the baby soon after or if you planned on an epidural and seem ready to receive it. Staying home allows you the freedom to move and do what you want. Instinctively women know how to have their babies and being at home allows you to fully embrace that intuition. You will also not have to worry about navigating the staff and the stress that can come with that. When you are in active labor, the change of environment is less likely to affect your labor. But please know that it can take a bit of time to acclimate once you have arrived. Follow the steps below on how to establish the environment once you have arrived.
- Keep your space dim/dark: Even if you are in a hospital, the lights can still be kept dim. There are a few medical procedures that may require light, like having an IV started or an epidural placed. But otherwise, ensure that the staff and/or people present know to keep the lights dim or off. This will allow your body to know it is time to relax and sink into the work you must do. If the monitors or IV pump lights bother you, stack towels over them and turn them away from you. Pack a sleep mask to make sleeping easier.
- Ask everyone to keep noise & talking to a minimum: Privacy is key to relaxing during labor. And extra noise can make it hard to ensure you feel you have your privacy. Have it on your birth plan that you would like everyone to speak softly while they are in your room. And ask that they only speak to your partner and/or doula if questions need to be asked. Eliminating all extra noise, especially in a hospital, can be tough. If you feel the need, bring noise cancelling ear plugs.
- Play relaxing music and/or tracks: If music helps you relax or you have been listening to certain tracks during pregnancy, in prep for labor (like Hypnobirthing) you will want to ensure you have a way to listen to it. I suggest my clients either use a waterproof bluetooth speaker or waterproof bluetooth earbuds. You can build playlists on Spotify. Youtube also has a good selection of free relaxing birth tracks. I also have had Christian clients love the Christian Hypnobirthing App.
- Add in hints of yellow/amber lighting: Yellow or amber light is the light your body associates with going to sleep, as it what is natural in the evening, compared to the blue light of day time. If you are having a home birth, candles are perfect for this. But if you worry about the risk of fire or having your baby outside your home, these flameless LED candles are beautiful alternatives. Twinkle lights can also add to a relaxing ambiance, no matter where you are birthing. You will definitely want battery operated ones if you are in the hospital, as they may have policies about lights that can be plugged in.
- Use essential oils: Certain oils can help you relax. Diffusing them is not a good option for everyone. I suggest keeping the oil in the bottle and smelling for a few minutes, to ensure it does not make you feel bad. If you would like to diffuse, I would suggest keeping it to small spaces, like your bath room or use a small diffuser right next to you, so the room is not filled with the oils. Not all oils are safe to be in the air once baby is born. You could also just put a few drops on a tissue or cotton ball to keep by you, that way you can throw it away if it does not work. I also had a client suggest putting it on a maxi pad and sticking it to a wall near you, that way it stays in place but can be thrown away if you do not like it. These are some oils I have found to be helpful:
- Affirmations: Reading or having affirmations, read or spoke to you can help crate a calm space. It can be as simple as you memorize a few that resonate with you & remind your partner and the other people in your space to say them to you. But if you want, you could write them on notecards to display. Or you could ask those that come to your baby shower to write their favorite affirmations down on a notecard and even decorate them. There are plenty of beautiful pre-made ones that you can purchase as well. And if you are Christian, you can get these scripture cards. And these lights help you display your affirmations.
- Have a team that you trust: For you to fully relax & allow yourself to ease into labor, you will need be surrounded by people who respect you and that you feel you can truly trust. It is very important to ensure that you with the right people well before labor begins, so make sure you are asking the right questions during pregnancy. You will also want to ensure your birth place staff will be supportive. While you have a little less control on which nurses will attend know that you can get a new one. Simply ask for the charge nurse and request a new nurse. You do have control over who enters your space.