Try this little experiment to learn how you’ll cope with labor and practice techniques that will help you during the real deal.
No matter what you call them; contractions, surges, sensations, waves, etc., it’s pretty likely that you’ll experience them during the birth of your babe. Whether you want to give birth without pain meds, or you want to get the epidural ASAP, you’ll inevitably experience contractions. I found this fun (I say fun lightly here!) little exercise to help you learn how you’ll cope with labor, and give you some practice with techniques that can help you through the worst of it!
The Ice Cube Challenge
The idea here is to see how you cope with discomfort by making you uncomfortable for one minute at a time. Obviously holding an ice cube doesn’t feel like a contraction. But the things you do to cope with the discomfort are things you’ll probably also do in labor. Here’s how it works.
Hold an ice cube in one of your hands for 1 full minute. (Have someone time it!)
Hold it for as long as you can. If it doesn’t feel uncomfortable enough for you to try to get out of it, try putting it on the inside of your wrist. Whoever is with you can just watch and time, unless you ask for help.
You can do anything you want during that minute to help you cope with the discomfort.
Repeat this and try different coping techniques, and you can try playing loud music or having distractions to see how you’d cope with changes in your environment. You can even get your partner to try it with you!
How Did You Cope?
There’s an acronym doulas use to get you thinking about how you’ll cope with labor, it’s B-R-E-A-T-H-E. After you’ve done this exercise, think about how you coped using the following:
Breathe – what is your breathing like? Did you slow down or speed up your breathing? Did you hold your breath?
Relaxation – how were you able to relax through it? Touch? Movement? Sound?
Emotion – what kind of emotional support did you need? Someone to hold your hand or rub your back, or someone to quietly support you but not touch you? Did you want encouraging words or reassurance?
Activity – Did movement help you cope? Small movements or whole body movements?
Touch – Where, if anywhere, did you want physical comfort? A shoulder rub? Foot rub? A comforting hand on your back?
Hearing – Do you want a quiet space? Do you want your favorite music or nature sounds playing? Are noises distracting to you?
Environment – What was important to you about your surroundings? Think about your senses of touch, taste, feel, and smell and how you’d like to experience them.
If you focused on your breathing while holding the ice cube, you’ll probably focus on your breathing in labor. If you used distractions, you’ll probably find distractions or a focal point helpful during labor. If you jiggled your arm around like a lunatic or danced around the room, movement is probably going to be your friend. If you moaned, yelled, hummed, sang, whatever, that’s probably going to help you in labor. You get the idea, right!?
So how do you use this information to prepare for labor? You start researching and practicing the techniques that you were naturally drawn to or that worked best after trying different ones. Add your coping techniques to your birth plan. Let your partner and your doula know what worked best for you and how they can best support you. But also, know that the way you cope may change as the intensity changes.