By Kathleen McCarthy CNM

In 2013 I turned 54 and began a new adventure. I began backpacking. Since then I have done several trips. Prior to my new found adventure I did hike but had never backpacked. I felt prepared my for first trip on the AP Trail, NJ.
I began my first trip with my sister, Terry and a group from the Wilmington Trail Club. We hiked twelve miles the first day and 7 miles the second day.
Early morning we all met at the trail head. Like all new packers I was well prepared (over packed). My pack clocked in at 34lbs.  
I was the newest backpacker. Our trip began up a steep mountain with really rocky terrain for what seemed like hours. With each step my legs grew tired and ached. Step by step, I proceeded. I was hurting all over. Thoughts whirled through my mind. I must have been nuts. What was I thinking! I am too old for this. I will never make it. How do I get out of this? Can I fake a heart attack?

Then the reality set in. I am in this to the end. There is no way out except to walk through it and that I did. Once I wrapped my head around the reality of my journey I then was able to walk through it, and actually enjoy it. In the end I made it and felt extremely powerful and empowered.

So what does this have to do with labor? Lets first start by defining pain. Pain is an unpleasant physical sensation (ie back packing up a steep mountain). Pain may or may not be associated with suffering. Suffering is a distressing psychological state as evidenced by negative emotions, such as; panic, fear, sadness, loss of control… suffering may or may not be accompanied by pain.

Labor most likely will be associated with an unpleasant sensation but it does not have to cause suffering.

What do I mean? You just wrap your head, your heart and your spirit around labor and birth. It is a profound, empowering, life changing, and challenging process. Even better in the end you hold this little miracle in your arms.

Prepare your head. Take classes. Create a birth plan. Choose your birth place/space . Choose a place where you feel safe. Pick your team (caring, supportive and confident). Believe in your own innate power and know you can do it!

Prepare your body! Eat healthy. Sleep well. Hydrate. Exercise. Be self aware of your body. Keep it loose and relaxed. A loose and relaxed pelvis sets the stage for a well positioned baby and an easier birth.

Prepare your spirit. Consider some kind of mindfulness practice (meditation, breath work). During labor be in the now, in that moment. Not worrying about that next contraction or that last one. Focus on one contraction at a time. Breathing in and breathing out. Allowing your body to labor and birth.

You can prevent suffering by being well prepared and giving your self a sense of mastery and well being over you labor and your birth. That’s your mountain to climb!!