Posts Tagged ‘Labor’

Sex After Baby

Vaginal or c-section, sex after a baby will be different.  The doctor won’t let you have sex for 6-8 weeks after your baby’s birth, so you don’t have to think about it immediately anyway.  But when you do, it may be easier (or more difficult) than you imagined.

Your physical discomfort from your vaginal delivery may make it hurt for some time.  The achy-ness of your c-section incision may also be a physical hindrance.  What else?  Your boobs used to be just for fun – now they have a (very un-sexual) job.  Your baby is sleeping in the crib right next to you.  Your baby is crying in the crib right next to you.  When your partner talks dirty and says, “I want to *&^% you on the beach”, you think, “But who will take care of the baby??”  You may also have left over consequences of having a baby, like your hemorrhoids, vaginal discharge, and your hair is falling out.  These things make you feel terribly un-sexy.

And you’re so tired!  You’re so tired that the last thing you want to do is slip into sexy lingerie (like your husband asked you to) and act like you’re young and frisky again.   You may just have to go easy on yourself.  Maybe you won’t have sex for another month.  Or another month after that!  This won’t mean that your relationship has fallen in the pooper.  It means that you have other priorities (but you still love one another) and you’re tired (but you still love one another) and you’re thinking about the baby (but you still love one another) and you just want to go to bed.

And if you want to take a whack at it, remember these important things:

  1. Lube
  2. Patience
  3. Don’t wake the baby

Am I in Labor?

How will you know you’re in labor?  Much like life, labor isn’t usually what it looks like in the movies.  You already have plenty on you mind, and now you have to wait around, often beginning a whole two weeks before your due date, wondering, “Am I in labor??”

Here are things that may happen leading up to you going into labor:

  • Dilation (opening of the cervix)
  • Effacement (ripening of the cervix)
  • Bloody show (loss of mucous plug)
  • Nesting (suddenly wanting to paint the nursery)
  • You water breaks (rupture of membranes)
  • Contractions

In the movies, a woman will be walking through a department store, when suddenly a gallon of water falls from somewhere up her skirt, and onto the floor.  This is certainly not common.  For most of us boring folk, we first noticed we were in labor when we had contractions.  The confusing thing is, though, that you’ve probably been having contractions on and off for a while, so how do you know this is it?  Here are questions you can ask yourself:

  • Are the contractions regular?
  • Do they start to last longer, get stronger and closer together?
  • Does walking make them stronger?
  • Do they continue, despite moving or changing positions?
  • Did they start in the lower back and move to the front of your abdomen?

If you answered yes, then you’re in labor, friend.  If you answered no, then go take a walk through a department store and see if you can make a splash.

The Scoop on C-Sections

Some women opt to have a cesarean weeks in advance, and some have a surprise one at the last minute.  There are many different reasons to have a c-section, including: convenience; wedged in baby; backwards baby; upside down baby; previous c-section; and baby in distress.  Many women get a complex about having a c-section; like their baby’s birth doesn’t count as much as another woman’s, or that other people tell her how “lucky” she is to have had her baby that way.  But the truth is that c-sections aren’t cheating, and there’s nothing “lucky” about them.

My optometrist planned her daughter’s birth.  Tanya works hard at her job, and she doesn’t have the time to wait around on maternity leave for a possibly late delivery.  She scheduled a c-section to happen right around Evelyn’s due date.  She worked until Friday, took the weekend off to finalize the nursery and get her bills paid, etc., and went in at 9am Monday to have Evelyn.  Some women opt to have c-sections for medical reasons.  Sometimes the baby is exceptionally big, and the doctor will tell the mother she should schedule a c-section before the baby gets too big to squeeze out.  Occasionally, a woman has physical problems, like scoliosis, that may cause a doctor to encourage a non-vaginal birth as well.  The rest of the c-sections, for the most part, happen on the fly.

No matter why you have a c-section, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re a real mother, who had a real birth of a real baby.  And as for you “cheating”?  The recovery for the mother is usually more difficult for a c-section than a vaginal delivery.  You’ve had major surgery – you’re gonna be a slow walker for a while.

Here’s how a c-section might go for you:

  • Anesthesia.  This will completely numb you from the middle of your back and down.  You will be totally awake for the surgery.
  • Operation.  Once you’re all numbed up in the operating room, the doctor will take about 10-15 minutes to make the incision and pull your baby out.  You’ll barely feel anything – most women feel a slight painless “tugging” sensation.
  • Baby’s here.  The doctor will take roughly 45 minutes to stitch you back up.  During this time, your baby will be weighed and checked out.  They will probably put your baby on you at some point during this time, so you can hold him or her.
  • Home sweet hospital.  With a c-section, you spend twice as many nights there after the delivery, as you do with a vaginal birth – usually four nights.  You may feel like you live there by the time you leave.
  • Bedridden.  For the beginning of your stay at the hospital, you will stay in bed, and pee through a catheter.  After a day or two, the nurses will force you to get out of bed and use the toilet like a big girl.  Walking from the bed to the toilet could very well be the hardest thing you’ve gone through yet.  But eventually, you’ll get there.
  • Recuperating at home.  For roughly two weeks, you should lift very little, and go for easy walks around the neighborhood.
  • Having feelings.  The area around the incision may remain numb for months after the surgery.  Thanks to modern medicine (and the popularity of bikini bathing suits) your incision will probably be horizontal and so far down that only your partner will ever see it.

As for the complex some women get about not having a vaginal delivery – you and your baby are healthy… that’s all that matters.

Plus, your baby doesn’t come out looking all squished and wrinkly.

Should your Partner View the Birth?

Every man is different, as are every set of eyes.  How your man will respond to seeing the baby born from a front row seat is dependent on a few different variables.  Should he view it, or should he stick by your loving smile?  Here are four questions that will answer yours.

  1. How’s his stomach?
  2. How’s his comfort level with your sex life?
  3. What’s his role in the birth?
  4. What does he want?

For the first question, it’s a simple matter of how good he is at holding his lunch.  He is going to see a side to you he (a) didn’t know existed and (b) wished he didn’t know existed.  He will see your hoo-haw stretched across the room and, quite possibly (though not necessarily), excrement making its way out, just underneath.  The gross-out factor may take away from the joy of the moment, or he may be able to shrug off those feelings for the thrill of seeing his baby arrive into the world.

What does this have to do with your sex life?  Two men were asked how they felt about viewing the birth of their child.  One said it was the most wonderful thing he’d seen.  The other man said he had a hard time having sex with his wife for a whole year after that.

Question three may just take care of the situation all together.  Birth isn’t always how it is on TV (can you believe it?)  In many cases, the man has a job to do, in addition to holding your hand and saying “breathe”.  Oftentimes, the man will share the job of the nurse.  Each of them will hold one of your legs as you push.  Though he may be able to peek his head around to see the action, he may be too involved with being the leg-carrier to get to see the show.

And the final question to ponder is whether or not he wants to.  Because of questions one and two, this should be his decision to make.  And no matter what decision he makes, he just may change his mind at the last minute.

When it’s all said and done, no matter what he saw, he’ll think you’re a goddess… his beautiful, magnificent, heroic, kinda gross goddess.

Top 6 Tips For Creating a Birth Plan That Works

As you draw closer to your due date, your caregivers might have asked if you have written or created a birth plan.  A birth plan is a communication tool that is used by everyone involved with your labor and the birth of your baby.  Your birth plan effectively puts everyone on the “same page” when it comes to you and your partner’s preferences regarding the different options available to you during the course of your labor, birth and even after-care of your baby.

Why write a birth plan?  First, it allows you and your partner to get in sync with one another before your baby’s birth.  Creating a plan will give you a chance to bring up any fears, strong desires, etc. that you may have not talked about up to this point.  It also allows you to create a “team approach” with your caregivers.  More than likely, different people involved with your labor, delivery and aftercare.  As new caregivers join in to assist you, they will be able to know your preferences no matter what stage you are in.

Of course, a birth plan is not a set of orders to be followed, but it does give you reminders as to what is important in an ideal birth situation.  To get started, make sure you and your partner have some time to talk about your ideal birth story.  Read up on the subject and/or take a childbirth class with your partner so that you are aware of all options available to you.  Once you have a rough-draft, schedule time to review your birth plan with your care provider.  They can suggest any changes based on hospital guidelines, etc.  When your final birth plan is complete, make sure that you have copies for yourself, additional support persons/doula and your caregiver.  It is also helpful to pack an additional one in your hospital bag for the caregivers that will be attending to you.

A birth plan should include the following:

  • You and your partner’s names and baby’s name if already selected
  • A brief list of your strongest preferences during the labor process, including lighting, music, visitors, conversation with caregivers, etc.
  • Your preferences for managing the pain of labor.  Notify the care staff if you intend to labor without medication and what kinds of other tools you would prefer to use to deal with the discomfort.  If you remain open to using pain medication, specify at what point you would like to be offered pain-relief options.
  • Your preferences during the birth/arrival of your baby.
  • Indication of whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding the baby
  • Any newborn care preferences. You should also include the baby’s pediatrician name and number here so they can be contacted to arrange for a baby check up.

Your birth plan will be best received when it is kept short and sweet.  Too much wording is hard for caregivers to read and discern what is truly important to you.   Short and direct sentences or “bullet points” allow all of those involved to quickly reference your preferences at each step.  Keep in mind that a birth plan are your wishes under normal birthing circumstances.  Labor is unpredictable and the birth plan should not be a list of orders that restrict the caregiver’s ability to keep you and baby healthy.

Not sure where to get started?  There are some great birth plan templates available on the web to choose from.  Because they can get lengthy covering so much material, it is a good idea to print one out, make the selections you desire and then type those preferences to create your own birth plan.

Related Podcasts:

Is Labor REALLY as Painful As Everyone Says?: A Single Effective Strategy for Coping With Pain

American pop culture– sitcoms, TV talk shows, and Hollywood movies, in particular—all tend to portray labor as the single most painful experience a woman can ever have. The pain is depicted as both inevitable and total, best dealt with by taking a generous dose of a drug that will dull the pain and make it bearable.

It’s all rather anxiety-producing, especially for a woman who will be giving birth for the first time.

In the months leading up to the birth of our daughter, Mariel, my husband and I watched one documentary after another about labor and delivery. I wanted to try to understand exactly what I was in for, and whether any alternative experiences of the birthing process were available. The goal wasn’t to deny that giving birth was painful; rather, it was to learn how the pain could be managed in a way that wouldn’t overshadow the singular moment of being present to bringing our child into the world.

It was helpful to watch “The Business of Being Born,” “Orgasmic Birth,” “Gentle Birth Choices,” and “Birth Without Violence,” all of which portrayed women responding to pain without drugs– and seemingly enjoying the process. I spent an hour thinking about how one particular woman in “Orgasmic Birth” could have seemed so…well, orgasmic. Her ecstasy in labor was utterly contrary to everything I’d ever seen about the pain of giving birth.

And yet, I was under no illusions that the head of a child squeezing out of a comparably small birth canal would not be painful. “It’s called the ring of fire for a reason,” said the woman who taught the birthing classes we attended a few months before Mariel was born. “But,” she continued, “there are natural ways to decrease the pain, and they’re really effective—maybe even more so for some women than an epidural.”

You could almost hear the “sure they are” retorts echoing in the room where women in various stages of pregnancy sat on pillows and leaned back on their partners’ legs. But all of us were in the class because we intended to give birth in a birthing center rather than a traditional labor and delivery ward, and this meant that we were voluntarily foregoing any interventions like an epidural. In other words, we had to give these natural pain management techniques a try.
The teacher walked around the room with a cup of ice, and placed a cool square cube in each woman’s hand. She asked us to be present to the feeling of the ice cube in our hand, and over the course of a minute, I experienced a searing pain that seemed to dig deeper into my palm with every passing second.

“Stop,” the teacher called after a minute. The collective clatter of cubes hitting the wood floor could be heard, followed by sighs of relief and several of us wondering aloud how an ice cube in our palm could be so painful.

The teacher smiled, didn’t say anything, and circled the room with another round of ice cubes. “This time,” she said, directing her instructions to our partners, “I want you to be present to this pain with her. Rub her shoulders, run your fingers through her hair, talk with her, encourage her.” She looked at her watch again. Each couple retreated into itself, the intimacy of encouragement between couples making a low buzz. “Time,” the teacher called. “That wasn’t even 10 seconds!” I said, almost protesting. She laughed. “It was a full minute, just like the first time.”

Again, the cubes dropped, but the remarks this time reflected a similar perception shared by all the women– the full minute had seemed like only a few seconds, and those seconds were totally bearable.

“Labor,” the teacher explained, can be just like the ice cube in the hand. If you’re totally focused on the pain the ice cube is causing, then you’re going to be attuned to the pain. But if you have someone with you to provide active support, then the pain becomes manageable and the entire experience is usually more pleasant.”

As I labored and pushed our daughter into the world, my husband on one side of the bed and my mother on the other, I thought about the ice cube melting in my hand. Yes, I went through the ring of fire. Yes, the birth was painful. But this single coping strategy for managing that pain was extraordinarily effective. It just doesn’t make for nearly as dramatic a story as a Hollywood movie.

Related Podcasts:

Orgasmic Birth: The Link Between Pregnancy, Birth, Nursing and Sex

I knew that would get your attention!

Debra Pascali-Bonaro is a childbirth educator and a doula, and she has done a documentary promoting the idea that childbirth can be a pleasure!

A real pleasure. ;)

Imagine that? Imagine the idea that you could go through your pregnancy without fear of labor! Imagine that some people may even enjoy it so much they have an orgasm.

I haven’t yet seen the documentary, but I’m sure Pascali-Bonaro isn’t suggesting labor is not work. I’ve spoken with many experts who say it’s called labor for a reason. It’s hard work. I’m also sure she’s not suggesting that labor is not painful, although several experts tell me the pain you experience is exacerbated by fear, because if you’re afraid of the pain, you are more likely to be tense. Muscle tension makes the birthing process more difficult. Your body begins fighting against the very thing that will ease your pain…the birth of your baby.

But she is surely suggesting there is the possibility of pleasure during your birth experience.

Orgasmic pleasure…

What a revolutionary idea!

Some people are bound to find this icky. Heck, some people won’t even nurse because they claim “my boobs are for my spouse/significant other!” But we can’t help but acknowledge the parts most closely associated with your erotic life are also the parts with which you give birth and feed your baby. They just are. There’s a reason for that. Your baby comes out the same way it went in, if you know what I mean. Sex, pregnancy and birth are inherently linked. It’s ok, y’all. It’s not icky. Relax.

This taboo about acknowledging the link between pregnancy, birth, nursing and sex, which can lead to a sharp division between these amazing parts of your life, certainly impacted me. I was so ashamed when I noticed breastfeeding my baby felt good. That was my baby eating her dinner! What kind of sicko was I? I was embarrassed to admit this to my post-partum doula, but I did. She told me it’s normal for nursing to feel good.

It’s normal. I was normal. Not a sicko. Good to know.

The good feeling from breastfeeding is probably caused by the release of oxytocin, a hormone also released during labor and — yes — sex. And why shouldn’t nursing be pleasurable? After all, you may have to deal with sore, cracked nipples, pain from latch problems, cluster feeding that never lets you rest, and a variety of other challenges (more on the joys and challenges of nursing your baby in this podcast).

Think of it this way, it’s about survival of the species. If breastfeeding didn’t feel good, maybe we wouldn’t do it. Not so very long ago that was the only option, and if we didn’t like nursing, maybe we wouldn’t feed our babies. Nothing good could come of that.

Also, remember, feeding our babies the reason we have boobs in the first place.
That’s what they’re for, and that’s why men don’t have them. Any fun you have with them outside of feeding your baby is just gravy!

Really, really good gravy………………..but I digress….(sicko!)

So back to birth orgasms. Why not? Our hormones are surging all over the place, and the baby is coming out the same way it went in. If you can relax, and if you decide that physical affection with your partner makes you feel better (some women find they do not want to be touched during labor), maybe an orgasm will follow.

Or maybe not. I’m sure it’s far from a given. But what an interesting possibility!

Maybe you still think the idea is icky. That’s ok. But the idea that — even without an orgasm — the birth experience doesn’t have to be something you dread…well, isn’t that nice? Sure there will be pain, sure it will be hard, but if you can only relax, maybe it could also be pleasurable, you know?

Happy orgasms!

Please check out our podcast on labor options for much more information on how to make your birth experience as close to what you wish for as possible.

-Bonnie