There are so many factors you can’t control during labor. It can sometimes make us feel out of control or even scared. But there are a few things we can bring into our birth space (or leave behind) that can dramatically affect the way we feel during and about our labor.
In our everyday lives, we can be very sensitive to visual clutter. We get very easily over-stimulated by our surroundings and some of us have begun learning how to design our space, in a way that best suits what we can handle. It is very possible that some women don’t have the urge to take complete control of their space, and that is totally fine. But for you mommas who want to cultivate the best space for yourself as you bring your baby into the world, we have curated a list of some aspects you have mostly total control over! These aspects are broken up by “Who, Where, and How” and “Your Senses”.
Who, Where, and How
Who will be invited into your birth space? A significant other? A family member? A friend? How do they feel about the way you are choosing to birth your baby? And how do they make you feel on a regular basis? Sometimes we tell ourselves this lie that our closest friends and family should have a right to be a part of our labor. When in reality, it’s ourselves we owe it to to be sure we have the most supportive team for such an intimate and raw moment. The people we invite into our space need to not only fully support your decisions but be readily willing and able to take up the responsibility of supporting us in any way we need. If they are not going to add peace or purpose to your birth, it would be a disservice to yourself to have them there.
Where are you planning on giving birth? There are essentially three options: a hospital, a birth center, or your home. This is probably one of the larger factors to consider that will impact the amount of choices you have control over and there are pros and cons to each. Hospitals and birth centers both might have regulations and policies that just simply can’t be avoided. At home, you mostly have complete control over your environment, however if you’re not completely comfortable and confident in your ability to birth at home it would be better to go where you feel the most safe. Being sure to tour a hospital or birth center prior to deciding is crucial. Be sure to start first by creating a birth plan, which also includes doing your own research on all your options. This will help to outline what questions you need to ask each location. For example, can you labor or birth in the water if you wish? Can you bring in your own essential oils or have the lights dimmed? Limit the amount of cervical checks or nurses coming in and out of the room? Are you able to have a doula or birth photographer present if you wish? All of these are choices you get to make. Remember momma, you have every right to birth the way you want to.
Are you having a natural birth? A planned cesarean? Opting for induction or an epidural? There is no one way to birth a child, but it IS your choice. You have complete say over your body, from the time you find out you’re pregnant to the moment you are finally alone with your newborn. This all comes down to research and preference. In labor, I personally had a very detailed and specific birth plan, including things I did not want to happen, things I would consider, and aspects I definitely wanted available. The first thing I did when I found out I was pregnant was look up a sample birth plan and begin looking up each option individually. I decided that an unmedicated, natural labor was what I wanted but that for my first child I wasn’t completely confident in my ability to birth at home. Before choosing a hospital, I made sure that the OBGYN that would be delivering my daughter completely supported every desire I had for labor and was comfortable allowing me to birth that way. Because of this, though I wouldn’t choose a hospital birth again, I felt very respected and in control during my labor.
Your Five Senses
Visually control your birth by bringing items with you to the hospital or carving out a beautiful space in your home. Wherever you plan on birthing, some things you could consider bringing are:
- affirmation cards (make your own or find on etsy)
- soy candles
- salt lamps
- twinkly lights ( if you’re having a home birth these can even go under the liner in your birth pool )
- favorite photos
- love letters
- art that moves you
- a vision board
- anything that brings a calm over you- for me, that’s my hanging plants and my candles
Noise in your birth space can act as a distraction or an anchor, depending on what stage of labor you’re in and your own preferences. In early labor, when contractions were more of an inconvenience than anything, I loved chatting with my birth team between contractions and FaceTiming my friends, worshiping, and swaying to my favorite music. But when hard labor came, the same voices and chattering became a huge distraction during my contractions. In the moments I was trying to get out of my body to get some relief, the talking would bring me back to a state of pain. Having a receptive birth team surrounding you who won’t take your rash and sometimes stern requests for silence personally is so important. Here are a couple of ideas for controlling your birth through sound.
- make multiple playlists (either music or podcast), I suggest at least three: one for early labor when you’re excited and energetic and still feeling light hearted. A second for when labor starts getting hard and you need an anchor, these songs would probably be more emotive, allowing you to fully concentrate on the purpose of the pain. And finally a third for the time between pushing, baby being born, and your first hour together, something that allows room for just silence and reentering and focusing on this new moment.
- create a code word with your spouse or birth partner. You can use this to communicate a need for quiet without having to announce it to the whole room. From there, let your birth partner ask the room to remain silent-this can even extend to the nurses or hospital staff, just have a chat with your OB prior to birth.
- use a sign. If you’re having a home birth or have an OB who is supportive of it, ask for minimal people to come in and out of the birthing space so you can receive the quiet you need through contractions.
- ask your spouse or birth partner to read to you. This could be letters he’s written you through pregnancy, scripture you wrote down, or poems that remind you of something beautiful.
- audio books
FOOD! It’s not just the way to a man’s heart, but truly the way to a pregnant woman’s heart! You may or may not have much of an appetite during labor and many hospitals have very strict rules when it comes to eating, so be sure to talk to your OB or midwife before making any plans for food in labor. However, here are some things that can help curb some of those cravings and give you some much needed strength and energy for labor:
- honey sticks
- coconut water
- red raspberry leaf tea
- bone broth
- the very filling….very flavorful….ice chips (these are less for fuel and more to pass time
We are so sensitive in labor, something as simple as a touch can help us through a contraction or cause unnecessary pain. Here are a couple things to keep in mind when it comes to your sense of touch:
- wear something you feel comfortable in, whether that’s a bralette and panties or completely nude
- your partner or doula can help with pain by doing hip squeezes
- consider getting a microwaveable rice bag or two for hot/cold therapy
- palm cross or birth comb
- use a shower or bath for pain relief
- purchase a labor sling
- be vocal when physical touch is wanted/unwanted
This one is pretty obvious…no one wants to smell something they hate…in labor. Here are some things you can use for better smells instead:
- essential oil diffuser
- wear an oil diffusing necklace
There you have it! So many ways you can create and control your labor space, even when birth can feel so wild and unpredictable. I hope you find a new idea here you can incorporate in your next birth and you feel empowered and loved as you birth your babies.