Saturday, November 6, 2010

A poor holder of ice cubes

Today our doula came over for what was our first, and possibly last home visit before the birth. She gave us some helpful information and showed us some poses that could possibly be helpful during labor, but that I’m likely to forget in the next two months.

Then she wanted to do an exercise to practice visualization. I told her previously that I’m not a very good candidate for hypnosis or visualization. I know people who have had remarkable success with it and I wish I could be like them. But I am far too much of a realist to let myself float that far from reality. Nevertheless, I told her I was willing to try.

She told me to get a bowl and some ice cubes. I started dreading it immediately. I figured it could be nothing but painful. First I was supposed to hold an ice cube tight in my hand while she timed how long I could hold it with a stopwatch. Then I was supposed to hold it again, thinking about how uncomfortable it was. Then I was supposed to hold it a third time, visualizing a safe place. Apparently, the negative thoughts are supposed to be correlated with not holding on as long, while the positive thoughts were supposed to move me away from the pain and help me to hold on longer.

But after the first round, my hand was already numb and the repeated rounds quickly became painful. I couldn’t shake the thought that subjecting myself to needless pain seemed pointless to me. I am motivated by achieving a goal, or getting through whatever is needed to reach that goal. To me, the goal is to get the baby out, it’s not to become skilled at enduring pain.

When pain arrives during labor, I have no choice but to get through it – like it or not. When it’s an ice cube in my hand, I can drop it and rid myself quickly of the pain. So that’s what I did.

She didn’t seem very impressed. “Only 20 seconds,” she said. “You’re supposed to try to last a minute. Twenty seconds is about how long it takes just to get in to the contraction.”

She seemed to suggest this was something we could practice, but that is definitely not going to happen. Sorry, but I’m just not interested in simulating a contraction. Getting through the contractions that will come on their own is plenty to deal with, as is getting through the next uncomfortable weeks. I’m trying to focus on giving myself relaxation and treating myself well when I can, not giving myself extra pain to practice with.

Guess I’m officially a wimp. But at least she’s forewarned and will probably come to the birth with low expectations of what I can handle.

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