You have about 40 weeks to mentally wrap your head around giving birth. You'll read and watch birth stories unfold, take birthing classes, and write out your plan to share with your birth team. You'll be as ready as you possibly can be, but what happens when those contraction waves start flowing? What happens when reality hits and you realize that you are actually going to birth a baby?
I would love to say that this article is just for first time moms. That it is just for those who have not yet experienced labor and birth, but that's not the truth. It does not matter how many times you have labored. It does not matter how many babies you have pushed earth side. The same emotions are experienced each time. Trust me, I just birthed baby #5, and I went through all of this -- AGAIN -- just as I have for all the births that came before this one.
There are a solid five stages that occur once you mind wraps around the labor that is beginning. These stages may transition quicker or slower for you depending on your mental state when labor begins and the speed at which you are laboring. After having your baby, it's fun to think back through these stages and realize just how accurate they are!
The 5 Stages of Labor Readiness
Your water breaks... contractions start in waves about 10 minutes apart...
There is no guaranteed way that your labor will begin, but one of the first emotions (after shock) is excitement. As crazy as it sounds, you will experience this rush of joy as the craziness ensues. If you can manage, soak this emotion in. The early journey of labor can be long -- and even boring sometimes! Instead of sitting around waiting, let that excitement linger and then nap, take a bath, or continue passing the time with something fun.
After the excitement dies down a bit, your birthing education instincts kick in. Depending on how serious you took educating yourself (and your partner) on this experience, you will start talking through what you are feeling and what you want for your birth. You will decide when to leave for your place of birth and check everything off your checklist before going; that is of course if you are not laboring so fast that you cannot think!
You will hit a point of denial. You may decide that you don't want to be in labor; you do not want the pain to continue. You may actually think that you can wish it all away. You will doubt your abilities and pretend it's not happening. (FYI: this typically means you are close to meeting baby!)
The denial quickly turns to fear. As your body transitions into the pushing phase, your mind fears the unknown -- or the new sensations.
But then your mind accepts the task of completing this labor. Your body takes over and your acceptance then aids the body in pushing.
The most beautiful part of these five stages is that they may occur (in this order) more than once during your labor. You may experience them all during the first few hours of early labor, and then turn around and walk through them again as labor intensifies. It is just amazing how accurate they are no matter how fast -- or slow labor is! It's even more amazing when you talk to your partner or birth team about watching you go through these stages!