So You’re In Early Labor. Now What?
One night, you are awakened from slumber at the beck and call of your compressed bladder. No, wait. That’s not it. There’s a crampy tightness that feels familiar. Where have you felt that before?
Menstrual cramps! It feels crampy. Weird. You decide to get up and move to the bathroom. After a few minutes, you get back and bed and feel more cramps. Hm. Weird.
Could this be it? It could be! This is it! You’re finally in early labor!
You know this because the contractions are coming, no matter what you do. You’ve had a big glass of water. You’ve gotten up to pee. You’ve had a snack. You’re content to let the rest of your house rest while you anticipate the birth day to come.
So you’re in early labor. Now what?
You think back to what your midwife told you, and you remember that she gave you several things to do during this slow building time.
- Let Your Midwife Know. As soon as you know you’re definitely in labor, she’ll want to know. She or her assistant might swing by to check on you and baby, or just triage you over the phone, depending on what’s happening and your needs.
- Rest. This is not the time to try and “get things moving” by taking a long walk, doing nipple stim, or anything else that is supposed to speed things along. This is the time to conserve energy. If you can talk through your contractions, you can sleep through them.
- Eat & Drink. Whatever time your labor starts, eat normally. One good meal is often enough to sustain you through the work to come. No food is off-limits, though it’s wise to keep in mind that you may throw up, so avoiding choking hazards or harsh foods might be a good idea. Comfort foods are wholesome, nourishing, and encourage happy hormones. Also, keep drinking. Water, juices, herbal teas that you enjoy, smoothies, and broth are all great candidates. Whatever sounds good.
- Do Life. There is no reason to put off that quick trip to the store to get milk and bread, or going to the movies. There is no reason to go out if you didn’t plan to, but just going about your day, doing your best to ignore what’s happening. At this point, it’s really no big deal, and it helps your progress if you can be content, happy, and moving.
- Distract Yourself. Sometimes, especially when it’s your first baby, it’s so hard to keep your mind off your contractions. But the rule of thumb is that you must ignore them until they demand all of your attention, whether you like it or not. Conserving energy in early labor is paramount! Don’t use breathing or coping techniques from your classes yet either. They contribute to the sense of time, and can make you far more tired than you need to be. Instead, watch funny movies, go to the park, go out on a date with your partner, bake a birthday cake, start a slow cooker meal for after the birth, or call a friend to chat.
I like to tell people to “be in denial” about their labor until their labor gets all up in their face! Just take care of yourself, pretend like everything is normal, that nothing is going on, and let your body keep the secret just a little while longer. You will be shouting to the world in your own way soon enough, so save your breath. Smile.
“To move into active labor, a woman must give up ideas of how she thought labor might be; in other words, she must surrender.” ~Elizabeth Davis in Heart & Hands
Open up to the path your labor has chosen, and surrender time.
Grace & Peace,