It’s highly likely that you already know about the three physical stages of labour; it's the most common topic of focus in childbirth education classes and books about birth. Your antenatal educator probably taught this essential knowledge with dramatic instruction, complete with sound effects and a baby doll.
However, you may not have learned about or stumbled across the lesser-known mental stages of labour. Every woman, pregnancy, labour and birth are unique, but many stages of the childbirth experience are experienced by all women.
These seven mental stages of going into labour are amongst them:
Mental Labour Stage #1: Oh My Goddess, This Is It!
A contraction. Is it? Yes, yes it definitely is! I’m in labour. Oh my, I’m about to meet my baby. I’m about to PUSH OUT a baby. Can I do this?! Yes. Ok. Calm down. Breathe. Action stations. Better ring him and ask him to rush home from work. And I’d better ring my mum and let her know. And my best friend for sure. Sod it, I’ll just put it on Facebook. And actually, I may as well tweet so my followers know it’s all kicking off. And I’ll just Instagram a photo of me with a knowing look, a little teaser for everyone. I’m so excited. And, actually, contractions aren’t so bad after all, hooray!
Mental Labour Stage #2: Err, Why Have They Stopped?
Gah, it mustn’t have been labour after all. More Braxton Hicks, really? Today?? I can’t get any respite from those annoying contraction impersonators. They do say you will know when you’re in labour, and I suppose it didn’t really hurt so maybe that should have been a clue. Damn, how much are these contractions going to hurt?! A lot, right? I mean, people wouldn’t say I’d know unless the crippling pain was going to tip me off. Oh, I am really not sure I can do this. Great, another Facebook comment from someone excited to meet the baby who is clearly never coming. Gah, I wish I hadn’t put it on Facebook. Urgh, another missed call off my best friend wanting an update, maybe I’ll just switch my phone off. Should I ring my husband and let him know it’s not labour and he should stay at work? Nah, we can have a duvet day in front of the television! Oooh, I wonder if we have any popcorn.
Mental Labour Stage #3: Hold On A Minute
Hmmmm, is this Braxton Hicks again? Argh, I hate Braxton Hicks. Maybe I should get that printed on a t-shirt. I could sell them, I bet I’d be a millionaire in no time. Oooh, maybe I could do a whole maternity range. I hate morning sickness – that would be a good one. I hate people touching my bump – I’m definitely getting that one made up for my next pregnancy. Ha, next pregnancy. Let’s see what this whole labour thing is like before we start making promises.
Mental Labour Stage #4: Total Panic
Oh my goddess, what was that?! That can’t be Braxton Hicks, can it? It’s too intense. Is this it? Is it?? I don’t know, why don’t I know? Aren’t I meant to know?! What if it is but I don’t know and then I have to birth my own baby right here next to the popcorn. Is popcorn bad for babies? Should I get some clean towels? Do I even have any clean towels? Why have I been sat here picking out movies when I should have been doing useful things like washing? Why don’t I have this nesting instinct everyone bangs on about? I don’t nest, I don’t know if I’m in labour, I am already a terrible mother. What would I use to cut the cord? Should I sterilise some nail scissors just in… OH. MY. GOD. That definitely wasn’t Braxton Hicks. Holy crap, I’m having a baby. I’M HAVING A BABY.
Mental Labour Stage #5: Time To Focus
Calm down, woman! Think about this… oooooh that was stronger definitely… Right, ok. So, this is it. Is it? Argh, I’m just going to assume it is, and if the midwife wants to say otherwise then she will have me to deal with. I am probably having a baby. Maybe? Probably? Definitely? Oooooooh, breathe breathe breathe! Don’t panic. Yes, I’m definitely having a baby. Not in my popcorn though, maybe I’ll move that. I have plenty of time to get to the hospital. I just need to wait for him to get home from work. Maybe I’ll give him a ring. I should probably warn him that we won’t be having a movie day after all. Actually, scrap that, he didn’t even know about the movie day and will almost certainly be annoyed about that because he was in an important client meeting and thinks I am having a baby. Oooooooooh, ow. I am having a baby. If he dares to be annoyed with me, I will squeeze his fingers really tight. WOW, look, my hand is clenched. And I’ve only had about eight contractions, how am I going to cope with 12 hours of this. Twelve hours, can that be right?? Maybe mine will be shorter. Please, please let mine be shorter. Oooooooh, breathe, breathe.
Mental Labour Stage #6: Denial
Oooooooh, OUCH! Why didn’t anyone warn me about labour?! This is a rubbish day to give birth because I’ve already opened my popcorn and now it’s going to go stale. Plus I already rented that movie and I can only watch it during the next 24 hours. Maybe I should have a baby tomorrow instead. Yeah, that’d be nice actually. Ooooooh, deep breaths, ooooooooh. Maybe today we’ll just watch movies, and then I’ll get a really good night’s sleep and then I’ll give birth tomorrow. I am actually quite tired today, it’s probably not a good idea to be tired at the start of labour. Ok, good plan. I’m going to get off the birthing ball and just lie on the sofa for a bit instead. Oooooooh, ouch, TERRIBLE PLAN. Clearly these Braxton Hicks are easier to cope with when I’m bouncing on this pregnancy ball, so I’ll just stay put for now. I’ll just bounce until he gets home and then together we can relax for the OOOOOOOOOOH evening. Maybe I should check his work schedule to see if he has time for me to give birth tomorrow, I mean I could always delay it by an extra day or two if it was better for him.
Mental Labour Stage #7: I Think I’m Actually Going To Have To Do This
Thanks to my stupid uterus refusing to play ball, it looks like I probably am going to be in labour today. Urgh, what a waste of OOOOOOOOOH popcorn. Ok. This is it. I’m in labour. I’M IN LABOUR! Should I ring my mum?! Oh, ha, I already did that. She probably thinks the baby should be here by now. Why hasn’t she phoned? OOOOOOOOOH, oh yeah, I switched it off. I am really very clever. He should be home any minute now. Right, think. What things were good for during labour. Erm…. OOOOOOOOH. Belly dancing?! Was that one of them? I feel like it was. Right, where’s my Beyonce playlist. Here we go. Oh god, I hope the neighbours can’t see. I actually think I might be amazing at belly dancing, I hope the neighbours do see. Me and Beyonce would be best friends I’m sure if we ever met. She could tell me all about how to give birth like a warrior, I bet Beyonce is amazing at giving birth. OOOOOOOOH, breathe through it like Beyonce probably did. Yes, that’s good. I’m channeling Beyonce! Oooooh, more Beyonce breathing. Oh, thank goodness, that must be him arriving home. I hope he has my hospital bag in the car! We’re about to become parents. Oh my, we’re about to meet our baby! OOOOOOOOOOH Beyonce, Beyonce, Beyonce!