Chantus interruptus or “get outta my way, I’m giving birth!”
Midwives and antenatal class leaders will offer lots of advice about pain relief in labour. Breath control and deep breathing techniques have long been used to aid pregnant mums through delivery, and it’s recommended that you should practise these at home so that your breathing can help you relax and let your instincts take over during birth.
This mum tells us how she coped by using a rather unique and unpractised technique for getting through the strongest of contractions.
Don’t interrupt me, I’m breathing!
I realise now that I was quite ill-prepared for my first labour. I made a birth plan, but none of it really came to fruition. We went into the hospital way too early and it took many painful hours before our son was finally born almost 24 hours after I felt the first contractions. I remember being very wimpy about the whole thing and, deep into the later stages, deliriously asking if the midwife could just unzip me and get the baby out.
So, for my second labour, we, as a family, had prepared ourselves for the long haul, for major use of pethidine and Entonox, and for another very tiring day. Our daughter was two weeks overdue and I went in to be induced. On examination my midwife said she felt I was already “going”, so that was a relief.
We wandered around for a bit, ate some snacks, played some cards, rang my mum and then went to stand in a sunny little courtyard. The midwives were unconcerned. Then, out of nowhere, the contractions became so strong they took my breath away. Chatting was out of the question and my husband urged me to get back to the delivery suite. Another contraction hit just as we rounded the corner by the midwives’ station. I rocked on my husband and murmured loudly as the full force seared through me.
A midwife leant back on her chair and peered at us, “Can she talk still?”
I answered with a primal grunt!
My husband laughed.
So, we were ushered into our delivery room and all things birthwise got underway.
For my first labour I had been very much bed bound and hadn’t performed anything much in the way of breathing or natural pain relief techniques. And, if I’m honest, I hadn’t really practised much for the second labour.
But, with gas and air doing little to help with the pain, I realised I needed to focus hard on something in order to cope. In the corner of the room I spied a shiny red coke can. As my next contraction hit, I focused on it intensely and breathed through the pain. In my head I was chanting, “can of coke, can of coke, can of coke”, over and over. And suddenly, the contraction was gone. Brilliant!
I did the same thing for the next one. “Can of coke, can of coke, can of coke!” It was a miracle.
Then my husband fancied a drink. He picked up the can and took a sip. My voice was like Carrie out of the Exorcist.
“Put…the can…down!” I growled. I looked at him as if I wanted to strangle him with my bare hands. The can was placed quickly back on its spot.
Later, the midwife moved me onto the bed for an examination. As she felt for the dilation of my cervix (which is painful enough in itself), another contraction came on full force. But, oh no, the coke can was behind me on the locker and my breathing was faltering, so I focused on the painting in front of me.
“Little white house, little white house, little white house,” I murmured as I got to the top of the contraction.
The midwife asked, “What’s that? Are you okay?”
“She’s chanting,” my husband chimed in, “Don’t, whatever you do, get in her way!”
“Good on you,” she said. “Chant away, my lovely.”
And so that’s how I got through my second labour – minimal Entonox, no screaming, just an intense and quite quick delivery, which shocked us all. Mum nearly fell off her chair when my husband phoned only two and a half hours after our previous call to say that she was now Nanna to a beautiful granddaughter.
And, ever since, I’ve been an advocate of this simple, but effective technique. Focus on an object, maybe choose something ahead of time and pack it into your hospital bag, then, as the contractions get more painful, use the rhythmic chanting in your head to help you breathe through the pain.
For me, the conscious action of internally completing the short, staccato chants appeared to make the length of each contraction seem shorter. I was able to clear my mind of the sensation of pain and concentrate on something else as I enunciated the syllables over and over in my head. Occasionally, the chants came out as words, typically at the top of a contraction, but by mostly keeping them inside I could breathe effectively throughout.
Chanting in labour and deep breathing through contractions are great, but, I urge you, don’t let your husband drink your inspiration, and advise him, before the labour, that to interrupt you mid-chant could be life-threatening…for him!