Last night at the East Valley Birth Circle (I'll add the link when my computer stops being annoying), the subject of the evening was "Comfort Measures in Labor." I found the conversation fascinating, as some women brought up things that I hadn't thought of as being "comfort measures" - but which actually were. What were your best comfort measures for labor?
Here are some of mine, in no particular order:
(1) Being at home - If you can be comfortable at a hospital, great! But I needed to be familiar and comfortable and safe and secure in my surroundings, and that - for me - happens at home. Being at home is not a selfish move that a mum makes at the expense of the baby's safety - it is an essential way to ensure that the mother feels safe, which ensures a smoother labor with less chances of stress-related problems arising (arrested labor, etc.)
(2) Knowing my birth team intimately - I didn't have to deal with nurses or doctors I'd never met before. I knew each member of my birth team intimately and personally. That makes a big difference.
(3) Having complete trust in my care provider - I didn't have to fight any battles (i.e. for not having an IV, for not having continuous EFM, for refusing routine vaginal checks, etc.). I knew that they were on my side and that they would honor my wishes. In case anyone out there doesn't know this, labor isn't the time to be fighting battles. Labor requires 100% of your energy - body, mind and soul - and trying to fight for something during labor is either going to be fruitless (because you won't have energy to devote to it) or counterproductive (because it will disrupt your labor and/or your concentration).
(4) Low lights and silence - Big help. No interruptions. Much easier to focus.
(5) Water - I don't know how I could have had a natural birth without water. I spent all of active labor in the tub, shower, or birth pool. Laboring out of water is something that will hopefully never happen with me.
(6) Not being aware of the time - My care providers weren't clock watchers, and most of the time I wasn't aware of the time. There was a clock in the room, however, and whenever I did look at the clock I got discouraged. I think I'll make sure there's no clock next time.
(7) Not having vaginal checks - In case you don't know this yet, vaginal checks are EXCRUCIATINGLY PAINFUL during labor (I learned that during my one and only check). They're really not necessary unless something is going wrong, and they're torture to endure. Thank you, wonderful midwives!!
(8) Not knowing my dilation - Whenever I asked my midwife if we were almost done, she would either say "soon!" or "I'll only know for sure if I check." I refused a check each time, because I knew that to hear something like "3 centimeters" would be absolutely devastating. I think this is probably one reason why so many women get epidurals - hearing constant updates on your status, especially when things are moving slowly (i.e. "3 centimeters!".... two hours later, "3 centimeters!") would be utterly disheartening. This is going in my next birth plan - that under no circumstances am I to be told my dilation unless I specifically ask for it.
(9) Being free to have my needs honored - For example, during labor I learned that I am a "DON'T TOUCH ME!!!" kind of laboring mother. Being touched made me furious and uncomfortable. When I expressed that, it was honored! No one touched me any more. I loved that!!
(10) Being supported by women - I didn't anticipate this, but when I was in labor I wanted to be supported by women. The more the merrier. I wanted to know that they'd been where I was and that they knew what I was going through. Yes, I know there are great male OB's out there.... But for me, it's all about women.
(11) Having hubbie there - I didn't want to be actually supported by my husband, but I needed his presence. The one time he left, about halfway through labor, to get food for our doula and himself, I kind of mini-panicked. I needed him there continuously.
(12) Freedom to move freely - Moving as my body dictated was crucial. I can't imagine being tethered in one spot, or worse, on my back.
That's all I can think of at the moment, though I'm sure there are more. Interesting to think about!