Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer for 10 years. As with any athlete, there was as much time spent in training my mind as was in training my body. When at the meets, I would close my mind and picture my race. How I entered the water, the initial speed that I began the race, how many strokes before I would breath and the exact moment that I put in all my effort and speed to leave it all in the pool. I knew that I had to work for 1 min, that was all, it would hurt, it would push me to my limits and I would be proud once I touched the wall.
Many of you may be thinking how this story pertains to childbirth, but it is so similar. Birth is a mental and physical marathon. A lot of the preparation is up to the birthing person and their partner, a doula can guide/educate them, but we cannot do the practice for you.
One tool that I use during labor with clients is counting to 30 seconds. It is important to not obsess about the length of labor and how many more contractions you have till your baby is in your arms. All you need to do is be present in the moment and get through the current contraction. A way I like to aid in that is by counting to 30, slowly and in an even tone. This allows the birthing person several things: 1. My slow monotone voice can help put them into a hypnotic state for the duration of the contraction 2. They can do anything for 30 seconds, they just have to make it to the number 30 and then the contraction is on its way down and they have a brief moment of relief 3. It gives them a semblance of control, they don't have to worry about the length of their labor only the sound of my voice.
I let them know of this tool during one of our prenatal visits so that they are not surprised when I start utilizing it during their labor. It is also not something I start using immediately. I typically wait to use it in late active labor, when their focus begins to wain and they are struggling to cope. It is often used in conjunction with physical comfort techniques such as slow dancing with their partner, double hip squeezes, laying in the bath or sitting on the toilet. I have also found it helpful to do while they are getting an epidural, it takes away some of the fear and helps them to stay still. It also has worked in a C-Section, when my client was panicking and scared of all the movement and tugging, I was able to count to 30 a couple of times and they were able to relax enough to recognize that they were not feeling pain.
In almost every labor that I use this technique, the birthing person reminds me to start counting, if I was not aware of the contraction. It becomes something they must have and it ends up being used until the baby arrives.
Try it out, hold a piece of ice in your hands and count to 30 slowly, remind yourself you can do anything for 30 seconds.