It might be the fact that it’s been a year and a half and the fact that your body is designed to help you forget what it’s like, but if you ask me what giving birth is like I usually answer, “it’s incredible. It’s pretty wild.”
Does it hurt? Sure. But for most of it, during your pre-labour and the long hours it will take you to get to seven centimetres, it hurts for 30 seconds or so and then you get a break. You’re not in pain for hours and hours on end.
That was the lightbulb moment for me. Sitting in a VBAC class at my hospital trying to make up my mind between having another caeserean or attempting a vaginal birth, the midwife leading the class says reminded us that there's all this time between contractions.
A girlfriend of mine had her baby not long before I fell pregnant with my second. She did a Calmbirth course during her third trimester, laboured mostly at home, arrived at the birth centre at the local hospital in the middle of transition, got into the bath and three quarters of an hour later welcomed her baby daughter into the world. She tells me not long after that she didn't experience pain. She experienced pressure, but not pain.
I found her story so compelling that when I fell pregnant with my second baby I knew I had to think about attempting a vaginal birth, out of sheer curiosity if nothing else.
And so, I approached labour with an open mind, determined to joke my way through the pain.
Angela Gallo is a birth photographer and doula based on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. She encourages her clients to rethink pain and fear in birth.
Angela says, "Fear, anxiety, stress - these emotions cause real physical reactions in labour. As soon as a woman is frightened, her body responds with the 'flight or fight' response. Her body pumps large amounts of adrenaline, and redirects blood meant for the uterus, straight for her hands and feet. It does this as a last ditch effort to survive, giving her the energy to literally 'fly' (run away) or 'fight' (fight back). So as blood flow to uterus is interrupted, labour stalls or stops entirely."
She advises women to approach challenge their fears with education, enthusiasm and empowerment.
"Do your own research, ask questions, get excited, take ownership of your experience. Honour your feelings, whatever they may be. And remember to continually challenge your fears with positive thought and energy."
"I recently attended a birth of one of the most wonderfully positive women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She made a very conscious effort to be happy, excited, educated about her options, the entire pregnancy.
"She smiled through her entire labour. And I mean, she smiled her baby out. Two small pushes, one huge smile, a big roar - and out came baby. And my fondest memory is of her in the birth pool, between contractions, grinning ear to ear. So I say, ' You are so beautiful. How wonderful to see you smiling!' She responds, ' What is there not to be happy about? I'm having a baby! I am about to meet my baby!'
"Her attitude from the very beginning was positive. No fear. She really manifested an amazing experience. It really moved me, and reaffirmed my beliefs in the fundamental importance of attitudes towards birth."