Warming up or slowing down… The language of early labour

Just relax, and wait and see. If you’re not sure you’re in labour, there’s slim chance of your baby popping out any time soon. You don’t need to ‘do’ anything. It’s a chance to practice your relaxation and breathing techniques. Keep your oxytocin high.

All of this is my stance on the mysterious twinges and sensations that come at the end of a pregnancy, when my clients ask how to handle them, how they will know if it’s ‘real’. Of course, it doesn’t stop the temptation to analyse them, to fantasise that baby is coming, to mentally review the to-do list just in case we are not quite baby-ready (DO WE HAVE ENOUGH COTTON WOOL?!).

Experiencing it myself this time round, I’m feeling thoughtful about the labelling of our experience, and how this might affect how we cope. This is all prompted by a discussion with my mum over the weekend. My lovely mum lives 3 hours away and works full time. We both hope she will make it for the birth, but are keenly aware of the “second babies can take us by surprise” wives tale style rhetoric, and with this in mind, she is keen to be updated about every tightening, back ache or bowel movement (she’s a nurse…) as a way to decode proceedings.

As I told her I didn’t remember the warm up surges (Braxtons Hicks for those unfamiliar with hypnobirthing chat) being so intense in my first pregnancy, that they are waking me in the night, and nudging me to change position regularly to remain comfortable, stopping me in my tracks, encouraging me to be upright and mobile, she made a declaration, “sounds like you’re in SLOW LABOUR.”

Immediately brought to mind tales of women being in labour for 2 weeks before their babies arrived. You’ve heard people talk about it right? Probably more commonly heard, 3 days. You can imagine that this would be difficult, less than ideal, tiring and a frightening prospect, particularly for first time mums.

SLOW labour. In a world that merits efficiency, immediate gratification, next day delivery, and cannot tolerate it when our iPhones are on go slow if there’s no 4G, it seems anything that’s ‘slow’ is undesirable. The phrase gives us the impression that this experience of labour is flawed somehow, ‘we just can’t get going’.

Say we have 3 days between the beginnings of these sensations and a more active labour. And say we spend that time thinking and affirming, “I’m in slow labour”. My labour is slow. My labour is long. My body can’t get going. It’s a fairly negative mindset to adopt. We are erecting for ourselves a mountain to climb, and convincing ourselves that this whole process is so draining we are going to be too exhausted to cope when things go up a notch. After all we’ve been in labour for 3 DAYS ALREADY.

What if, instead of slow labour, an experience we consider to have been slowed DOWN, we are warming UP?

It changes our perspective significantly- instead of losing time, we are gaining it, what we are experiencing is a head start on our labours. Covert work being done by our bodies, so that when ‘proper’ labour begins, we’re optimally prepared to embrace it, to perform well, as we are so warmed up to it.

If we choose this positive frame of mind, quietly telling ourselves that it’s wonderful to feel that our bodies are warming up, allowing ourselves to rest in between, staying well fuelled, spending time doing things we enjoy and knowing this opportunity will soon pass, we can cultivate a sense of confidence in our bodies. Isn’t it great that they know it’s almost time?!

Much better than focussing on a frustration that things aren’t progressing more quickly, and that our bodies are disappointing us with their faffing about.

So am I in early labour? Will I be in labour for 2-3 days? Or weeks? Depends on your point of view, it’s subjective and impossible to properly define, especially as I would never agree to be examined just to see what my cervix is up to. Even so, the work of the body can be productive without the cervix immediately indicating it, preparing instead for a sudden and speedy change in condition.

I choose to be warming up. I choose to be thrilled that my body is getting itself ready. Preparing, easing itself in, remembering what to do. Giving me the opportunity to practise my breathing and relaxation. I’m welcoming the sensations, knowing each is productive in some way I might not understand. Reminding me to check my list- still haven’t finalised my labour snack box *panics then remembers tesco open 24 hours*.

My message is this- choose the language of any part of your pregnancy and labour experience carefully- it defines our perception, and therefore our experience.

I am off to the park with toddles in the sunshine, to continue warming up. And to update my mum…



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