What's Your Comfort Level?

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

Understanding intense sensation and your pain threshold can be a good way to prepare your expectations of how you will handle surges during labor and birth. I would like to encourage you to consider exploring your relationship to pain everyday life and how that may differ to sensations in labor and birth, as they are very different experiences. These suggestions are inspired by Erica Chidi Cohen's book "Nurture" which I highly recommend as a pregnancy and birth companion!

Physical sensation in labor can be:

- Expected: you have a date you are working around and preparing yourself for. There is a beginning and an end. You can expect intense sensation within a timeframe of some sort, and prepare yourself mentally and physically for that.

- Purposeful: the sensations are bringing your baby out of your womb into your arms. You have a definite goal, a clear vision of what the end result will be. The purpose of the sensations is to unite you with your baby.

- Intermittent: Surges come and go. Between each surge you have time to rest and regroup. You have hormones flowing through your body that help you literally forget what came before so that you enter anew in the next surge. There are different stages, and each stage has a certain timeline (even if that can vary widely, you can prepare for the longest and be surprised if it's less) and a specific length of intensity.

- Finite: it will end. This is VERY important to remember. In the midst of it you may think it never will, but rest assured it will. Usually when you think you no longer can you are closer then you think.

Physical pain in everyday life can be:

- Unexpected: unless you suffer from chronic long term pain, or have a scheduled procedure, you cannot predict when you will be in pain, therefore you cannot prepare for it mentally and physically.

- Unclear purpose: most pain we encounter as adults does not lead to a gratifying end. Pain that can lead to later inner or outer growth is usually not experienced as such in the moment it happens.

- Continuous: there are no breaks in regular pain, its steady and not accompanied by hormones that support us in facing it.

- Unclear ending: There is no timeline to general pain. We don't know when it will end, and therefore are victims of it while it's there.

Comfort level checklist (from the book "Nurture" by Erica Chidi Cohen)

When stressed or scared I might:

- feel tension in these parts of my body:

- get a headache

- struggle to form sentences

- clench my jaw

- clench my fists

- cry

- fidget

- feel nauseous

- feel itchy

- feel my heart racing

- struggle to breathe

- sweat

- bite my nails

- hear ringing in my ears

- other:

I can stay calm if I:

- keep moving

- take a nap

- talk about what's going on

- change environment

- be alone

- be with people

- express myself

- be touched or massaged

- meditate

- breathe deeply

- make a loud or silly noise

- listen to music

- have someone distract me

- analyze my thoughts

- work things out on my own

- seek advice

- eat a good meal

- take a bath

- drink warm liquids

- other:

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