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Pacing yourself - the art of coping with contractions.

It is Easter weekend and luckily for us in West Lothian, it has been nice and sunny. Unlike some places who are guaranteed consistent good weather, we really do embrace any day where we see the sunshine and blue skies as you never know how long you are going to stay lucky.

Like most of my neighbours, we headed out into the garden to tackle the spring tidy up; the grass needed cutting, the patio needed cleaning and plant pots needed sorting. I also decided, now was the time to paint the raised beds we had installed a few years ago to seriously spruce things up.

I eagerly bought the paint and brushes and set about changing the unpainted wood into a beautiful light green colour. A couple of hours in, I looked around the garden and realised what I had done looked great, but there was just so much more that needed painting. I began to wonder just how long was this going to take!

Perched on my mat on the floor, I changed painting position every so often as my bum went a bit numb or my legs ached. I swopped the paint brush from my right hand to my left hand and back again. I stood up from time to time and stretched and moved my hips a bit to loosen off my joints and then I went back to it.

It was as I was painting, I realised how my job was a bit like labour. Looking around my garden at all the woodwork I had to paint, the job seemed huge, and it was going to take me ages. I have psoriatic arthritis, so I was concerned about remaining comfortable and not aggravating my joints too much. At times, the task seemed never-ending.

When labour starts, it is common to get a rush of excitement and perhaps feel some nervous anticipation. You then get into a rhythm of managing your contractions; perhaps breathing through them, moving your body because it feels good or finding a position that feels comfortable. You focus on coping with one contraction at a time. That was me with my paint brush as I swept it back and forth across the woodwork, shuffling my body about in ways to make myself feel okay.

Labour can start to feel overwhelming when you think about the time, and worry about how long you might have to manage the physical sensations. I can be mind-over-matter when you feel that time and place you are in now is taking all your physical and mental resolve so how will you be 2, 5, 10 hours from now.

I felt a bit deflated looked around my garden thinking I had been working hard for so long, yet there was still such a long way to go. During labour, such thoughts could make you worry or feel anxious and as a result your body starts to increase adrenaline production.

Anxiety during labour = Adrenaline

Adrenaline = slows / stops labour

Worrying about how long labour / or having a long labour becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Throughout labour, it is better for your body and mind to focus on the here and now. Try not worry about how things may be in an hour or so but to focus on what you need to do to work with the contraction you are having at that moment in time.

Sometimes, trying to grasp the whole picture can be too big.

Be in the moment and when a contraction comes, roll with it:

Suck on your gas and air

Use breathing techniques

Sway your hips

Make a noise

Listen to hypnobirthing tracks

Use aromatherapy oils ….

Do whatever you need to do to manage that one contraction and once it is over, catch your breath, take a drink, mop your brow, kiss your partner, sing a song … do whatever you want before composing yourself for the next one.

By taking taking labour one step at a time, just like I painted one piece of wood at a time, eventually you will be holding your little one and you will have got there without panicking or feeling overwhelmed.

I managed two coats of wood paint on my beds, and I am really pleased. It took a long time, but it was worth it. I am having a nice relaxing day now as I am tired and achy and in true Scottish style, just as we have finished the garden, the rain is back!






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