We all know that despite the best calculated birth plan, anything can happen.
Part of the conversation I now have with my clients around creating a birth plan is using their five senses to create their ideal birthing climate.
Whether the birth happens at home (purposefully or not), at the hospital (desired or not), whether an epidural is part of pain management (wanted or not), or completely unmedicated (chosen or not), the five senses are always a part of the experience.
"When it comes to sight, it all starts with the neocortex, the part of the cerebral cortex that is concerned with both sight and hearing. If a laboring mother experiences a visual surrounding that is peaceful and safe, her neocortex will respond by sending a signal to the primitive brain that everything is ok and that there is no need to go into panic and protection mode."
Begin to think of things that you can bring with you to to the hospital that would remind you that everything is okay, that reminds you of what you're working towards.
Maybe it's a photo, maybe it's a special video of when you got married or the gender reveal party. Maybe it's your baby's going home outfit or birth art depicting someone powerful and beautiful birthing, a mirror of your power and beauty.
"The neocortex is also responsible for processing your audible surrounding and signalling the results to your primitive brain. Loud, stressful noises invoke the instinct for the fight-or-flight reaction; whereas soft, soothing noises encourage feelings of safety and well-being."
Part of 'sound' is what you'll be listening to. If you're in the hospital, it may be desirable to bring headphones or a little speaker to have something to distract from the beeping machines, intercom codes or bustling of nurses and doctors outside your room. If the birthing person wants silence it's a bit more difficult in the hospital but noise-cancelling headphones and earplugs are great.
The other part of sound in labour are self-created sounds. Moaning, humming, horse lips, deep sighs, groaning, etc. can be particularly soothing and meditative. Pro-tip: Practice before you go into labour so the sounds don't feel so strange when you go to do them.
I am all about the snacks. If you've worked with me, you probably know that I'm a huge advocate of eating all the snacks, all of the time. Why? In a nutshell:
"If you’ve ever experienced the feeling of being hangry, you know how important satisfying your tastebuds can be! In the first stage of labor, eating complex carbohydrates and foods rich in Vitamin B is beneficial, as they provide a gradual, sustained release of energy that will help you stay strong throughout the contractions."
My rec's? Fresh fruit, granola/energy bars, crackers, jello, broth, etc.
"Your sense of smell is tied to your olfactory bulbs, which send messages directly to the primitive brain, the limbic system, and the neocortex. Smells can greatly impact the consciousness of the laboring mother for positive or negative, signaling either safety or alert to her brain.
Similar to music, the sense of smell directly influences emotions and memories as well. Create new positive memories by diffusing these oils during moments of total relaxation in the weeks leading up to your baby’s birth."
Essential oils are so great. Let your partner or doula know which smells you particularly like so they can bring them to you during labour while you focus on labouring. Some blends are particularly calming, others energizing, and some are just downright comforting.
Not into essential oils? Think of what every day smells you really like and bring them with you into the birth space. Maybe it's your partner's cologne or perfume, maybe it's fresh laundry, maybe it's chocolate, but whatever it is can normally be bottled or infused into a cloth that's easily transportable wherever you find yourself labouring.
"The homunculus is the part of the brain that is engaged during experiences of touch. It communicates with the somatosensory cortex, an area of the brain that is located near the brain’s surface. When someone touches you, receptors on the skin and in the muscles transmit a signal through the spinal cord and medulla to this area of your brain. Your brain has the incredible ability to monitor a map of your entire body and maintain a detailed awareness of the touch you are experiencing!"
Touch of course is related to massage, hydrotherapy, reflexology, etc. but for a variety of different reasons, they might be unavailable to you during labour. To stimulate the sense of touch yourself during labour, maybe think about bringing something that feels great in your hands or next to your face. Stress/spike balls, soft blankets and hand lotion are great things to bring/use/have to stimulate that sense of touch and offer some comfort to yourself regardless of where you are or what else is going.