You can prepare yourself for things. You can read, study, and write down your plan. You do all you can, and then you just get on with it. That’s labor. Preparation and then real life. So here’s what I learned during transition (the second stage of labor) in childbirth. It’s what I like to call a “near death experience.”
Transition is that crazy phase of labor where you are going from contractions to push time. All kinds of things can happen during it, but it’s safe to say that when you think you simply cannot take it anymore – you are in luck. When you think you can’t take it you’re usually right where you don’t have to take it anymore because it’s almost over.
It’s called transition. I’ve gotten convulsions, screamed for drugs, and thought a bowling ball was trying to tunnel its way out of my body. Since I’ve only done natural childbirth I’m not sure how others experience transition, but I have to say that it is truly the most intense part. I wonder why on earth I’m more worried about a needle in my back than I am about the pain. Then I have a familiar phrase that goes through my head.
Seemed like a good idea at the time…
When I was pregnant with Pickles a friend told me that childbirth was like a near death experience. I laughed. Then I had my daughter. Then I wondered how she hadn’t smacked me.
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1. Just when you think you will surely die…
I will be the first to admit that I am somewhat dramatic. It isn’t that I mean to dramatize, but that I feel things intensely. Don’t be mistaken, I’m definitely not a drama queen. I just think and feel with superlatives. It’s an only child and first-born quality. When I was having my daughter my water had broken hours before so the contractions during transition were particularly strong. I asked and was informed I was at 6cm. I freaked out, thought I was going to die and begged for relief.
Little did I (or my midwife) know that I’d gone from 6 to 10 in a few minutes. In much of my adult life I’ve found – and eventually taken comfort from the fact – that things do indeed seem darkest before the dawn. Usually when I think that something simply has to give or I will (in some fashion) die, things give. Or, I grow to accommodate them.
2. The way you “need” people will vary
Every single child we have my husband comments that it is always a shock to him that I don’t want him, or anyone else, to touch me while I’m in labor. Or at least during contractions. He says growing up watching all those movie where pregnant women wanted to scream at their husbands and squeeze their hands until they cut off the circulation, that is what he always expected. Initially he always tries to give me a back massage or put a hand on my shoulder and see how I am and, though I stop short of smacking him, I am very very averse to being touched while in labor.
Now, that does not mean I want to be alone. I absolutely don’t want to be alone. I simply don’t want to be touched. Other women are different, obviously, and I realized that like in labor, we all need people in different ways. Sometimes we need a hug. Sometimes a phone call will do. And sometimes we might just need someone to sit by us while we persevere.
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3. This too shall pass
While in transition if one were rational and able to think clearly (which is obviously not the case) they would see that all they have to do is push through for a few more minutes and it’s over. (Note: I know this is not always the case medically speaking and don’t mean to discount that) I think the pushing portion is easy, relatively painless and gratifying. After a few contractions you have a baby and at least you’re working with the pain instead of simply trying to relax through it.
Transition is where you start losing your mind, thinking this pain will last for the rest of your life and on into heaven and then everything becomes panic-stricken. You were calm and now you’re screaming. You were relaxing and now you’re convulsing. You may throw up. There are any number of behaviors you do that – in normal life – you’d probably avoid.
However, it passes. One way or another it does. In life there are times when we think we simply can’t go on how things are. That is often true. You couldn’t go on in transition indefinitely. We often get so deeply entrenched in the moment that can’t see that somehow, someway, it will surely pass.
Transition is the worst part, in my experience. Though I’ve been blessed and none of the transition periods have actually lasted that long (no more than an hour) they were intense and I was absolutely sure that I might possibly die. But, it passed. All the times in life where I thought I was going to die, whether emotionally, physically or mentally, they passed. They might not have passed straight into green pastures and endless Diet Coke and Reese’s… but they passed.
What have been some “transition” points in your life?
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PS – I have done only natural labors basically because I’m more worried about a needle in my back than I am about the pain. Then I always regret my choice and by that point it’s too late. So this post is NOT about some kind of natural vs. medicated birth AT ALL IN ANY WAY. And I realize that for many women labor does not actually transition naturally or in the timeframe that doctors feel comfortable with so please know my heart is not to offend or assume that everyone has labors like mine. I know they do not. My goal for this post was simply to draw some conclusions that I learned from my own experiences and relay them to life in general.
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- What I learned during transition in childbirth (the near death experience)
- What I learned in my third 3rd trimester
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- What I learned at a birthday party
I too do natural childbirth! And I don’t like ANYONE touching me either!!! Transition is for sure the hardest part. My last labor I was stuck at 9 cm for the longest time b/c my dang midwife took FOREVER to show up to break my water. It was HORRRRRRRRIBLE. I love doing it natural and wouldn’t ever change a thing about it, except next baby I will be DEMANDING the midwife to be there when I arrive haha :)
Haha! People are always like “don’t you want drugs?” to which I say “I most definitely want drugs, that isn’t the point!” Ha!
Happened upon this just now. Perfect timing, as I just reached “term” today (37 weeks) and could have #4 any day now. My first was a high-intervention labor (complications), but #’s 2 and 3 have been all natural. Here’s to one more. Good reminders here.
Rachel Norman says
OH MY GOODNESS, I pray it goes well for you like the 2nd and 3rd! You could honestly get there anyway now so I hope you’re resting up. YOu’ll have to tell me how it goes with 4, I’m hoping to get there one day :)
Wow you’re a joke. Childbirth is one of the leading causes of death amongst women. Do you think you are the only one who has had pain? Trying actually almost dying while giving birth. The internet makes me sick. Your comparison is ….. No comparison at all.
Rachel Norman says
Sue, while I know it’s not possible, if you read the entire canon if my blog you would know that I am not casual about serious matters of life and death. I know that I am not the only one who has felt pain and that there are daily tragedies and deaths and didn’t mean to minimize that. I was attempting to draw a comparison between when we think we simply can’t take it anymore and how, often, we can. Sorry to have offended you.
Truthful taco says
We can until we can’t. Death isn’t far off. That’s the reality of women’s lives.
Wow, Sue, you must be having a really bad day! Your comment was way harsh!!! Try reading with your brain and not your gut…
Get over it sue
As someone who almost died in childbirth one time, and had a smooth birth the other time, I can tell you I certainly felt like I was going to die during transition both times – it’s perfectly valid for someone to share how they feel during this experience. The author was very considerate in her writing, you should just move along if this offends you…
Rachel Norman says
Thanks, Prue, and I’m so glad to hear that you are well today. I don’t want to take away from anyone’s experiences, yet I do believe it is one of those times in life where you literally feel (if you are able to feel what’s happening) on the brink of death!
Well written – I have always heard that a woman comes closest to death when she gives birth. We are so blessed that we live in an age where this is no longer the serious problem it once was. Our odds are so much better to survive the birthing experience!
Rachel Norman says
Exactly! In Papua New Guinea the stats are something like 1 in 10 don’t survive. And that due to infections often resulting from giving birth on dirt etc. We raised money for “clean birthing kits” one year that were delivered to their local nurses and midwives for training and it was a huge reminder to all of us about the preciousness of life!
Thanks for sharing Rachel, I just laughed so much and was transported back to the hospital and my own transition. While it sounds funny to someone who’s never been through it, natural childbirth definitely feels like you’re about to die! I’ve only had one natural birth but it’s something you never forget.
What a great point about life’s transitions… I recently went through a major emotional “transition” and kept crying to God for it to end (just like labor) but I realized I have more strength than I give myself credit for.
Oh, I also didn’t want to be touched at all or people to even be too close! I think it had something to do with the physical intensity being all I could take and not wanting one more physical sensation, even what would otherwise be a pleasant one!
With my first child, I went in thinking I would give birth naturally and I ended up having an epidural. However, I HATED it. I couldn’t stand not being able to feel my legs or move them. And when it came to push, I felt like it was so much harder because there were no sensations. I pushed for two hours, feeling like her head would be stuck in me forever! Also, when it wears off, and you have to get up to go to the bathroom finally, I was so weak! I had to be rolled to the bathroom. With my second and third children, memories of those feelings were enough to keep from getting the epidural, and I found different methods of coping to push through. The pain was scary and intense, but being able to walk on my own and still feeling strong afterwards was so worth it.
Rachel Norman says
i felt exactly the same. HATED not being able to feel my legs or move. That is worse for me than pain!
Wow, pushing was easy for you? I could not busy my baby out. I was in labor from 11 pm on the 5th until 3:48 am on the 7th! I did it all natural, but I could not push him out. The gynecologist came and used forceps, thank God, and he was unharmed. I was ripped up, though. I figure my difficultly came from my six years of severe chronic insomnia and very weak abdominals.
Busy my baby out? Lol I meant push!
Rachel Norman says
Casey, I think that there is sometimes NO RHYME OR REASON to it all! Healthy baby is the goal :)
This is just my experience. I need a lot of cuddling while in labour.