You are approaching your estimated due date and you might be wondering what labor and the birth of your baby will be like. Birth can look different for everyone and it definitely has a funny way of throwing us a curveball from time to time (hello, back labor!). Knowing how you and your baby work together during birth is a great way to understand the sensations you (or your partner) are experiencing. It’s a big day for both you and your baby, so let’s take a look at what you can expect!
1st Stage of Labor
Pregnant Person: This is the first part of labor where you may be feeling sporadic, light contractions or surges that progressively get stronger and longer as more oxytocin is being produced by your body. Your cervix will continue to dilate about 1 cm per hour (although this can be quicker, or take much longer) until you are about 10cm dilated. Towards the end of this stage of labor, your contractions or surges will be very close together and usually last longer than a minute. It’s almost time to push!
Your Baby: I’ve been head down for a while now, but because of the amniotic fluid and oxygen from the placenta, I’m comfortable and sleeping for almost 90% of the time these past couple weeks! I’ve been feeling light hugs called Braxton-Hicks contractions every once and a while, so I don’t think much about this early stage of labor. Zzzz. As the contractions get longer and stronger, they feel more like massages, then squeezes. Time to wake up! I tuck my chin to my chest so the top of my head is pressing against the opening of the uterus (the cervix) and I feel the opening starting to get bigger and bigger. My home is starting to feel a little cramped as it squeezes and pushes me down towards that opening. All of a sudden, during one of those tight squeezes, the water around me goes away and my head presses more firmly on the cervix. I can hear my mom/birthing parent calling out for me, and I know this is normal. In between the squeezes, I turn my head into a better position to come out into the world and duck behind the bony pelvis.
2nd Stage of Labor
Pregnant Person: This stage of labor can take a couple hours or it can be very quick. This is the pushing stage and the birth of your baby! Once you are fully dilated, your body might stop having contractions for a while and allow you to rest and take a break before pushing. It can be a 15 min or a 1 hour break, whatever your body needs at that time. This is called “laboring down” and it’s an important step to a shorter and smoother pushing phase. Then, your body will automatically start pushing during contractions. You might feel the baby’s head start to come out during a contraction and then slide back in during your rest. This is normal and your baby’s way of helping gently stretch your perineum to prevent tearing.
Your Baby: Now I can feel that the door to the outside world is fully open and ready. But just as the squeezes were the most intense and long, now they are stopped for a little while. Perfect! During this “laboring down”, I can rotate my head and body to get into the best possible position to help me and my mom/parent have a shorter and smoother birthing time. It’s amazing how our bodies can work together, even if my mom/parent doesn’t feel anything and thinks they are getting a rest! Now I feel the squeezes starting again. With each tight squish, my umbilical cord gets squeezed as well and a reduced amount of blood and oxygen are being passed to me. This is normal, and my heart rate will slow down to conserve energy until after the contraction is over. Then my heart rate will go back up! It’s just another example of how me and my mom/parent work together during birth. Finally my head comes out into the world and I’m thankful the lights are dim…this is so different than my dark home before! I rotate my shoulders in between contractions and with another squeeze, I am born. Everything feels and smells different and there’s so much more space! I’m so shocked, but I recognize my loving parents' voices as I feel my lungs activate and the cool air rushes into my body. Hello, world!
To Be Continued…
By: Shelli Villagomez
Shelli Villagomez | Holistic Fertility Practitioner and Doula | @shellis_holistic_chronicles