Labour Denial: The act of being in labour yet not actually believing you are. The following is an example.
It’s 4:00am, it’s snowing. The phone rings. You blurt out an expletive… And you answer the phone.
Client: Hi, this is Donna. I’m so sorry to bother you.
Doula: No need to apologize! What’s going on?!
Client: Well, I woke up about an hour ago and I’m feeling “kind of crampy.”
Doula: What do these “cramps” feel like?
Client: I seem to feel them in my back first and then they kind of wrap around to the front of me. They feel like a tightening… kind of like period cramps, ya know?
Doula: How often are you having these “crampy” feelings, Donna?
Client: They seem to be happening about every 10 minutes or so. Do you think the baby is ok?
Doula: What I think is that it sounds like you’re in labour! This is really exciting!
As doulas, we refer to this as “labor denial” and it’s one of the reasons many of us love doing this work.
Think about the first time you were gearing up to give birth.
Remember the uncertainty?
Remember the excitement?
Remember the angst?
Remember the questions??? Oh the questions…
How will I know I’m in labour?
What do contractions feel like?
What if my water breaks?
What if I don’t know I’m in labour?
When do I go to the hospital?
Can I take a bath?
Can I eat while I’m in labour?
What I have learned since becoming a doula and working with hundreds of first time couples is that most fall into one of two categories.
I lovingly refer to them as either:
The Eager Emilys are ready, excited and ultra-focused. They pay close attention to each twitch and twinge and they can give a very accurate account of everything that’s transpired. From color, shape and size of their mucous plug to the exact texture of their loose stool, they are prepared to give their doula, nurse and doctor a full report.
In a pinch, their partner can easily convey this info because Eager Emily has captured every detail with the labour tracking app they’ve been rocking since the first cramp.
What I have found is that these clients tend to head to the hospital early and almost always ask their doula to meet them there right away. Once their team is in place and they have all arrived at the birth place, they tend to feel safer, more in control and fully prepared for labour and birth to unfold.
Eager Emilys take great comfort in having a doula. Validation, information and the constant support of a doula puts an Emily’s mind at ease and allows her to surrender to the process of labour and birth.
The Denying Donnas simply cannot believe they are in labor, which is only surpassed by their astonishment that they are actually having a baby!
They have expectations that labor will be painful and they are waiting for their contractions to slam into them like a tidal wave. So, when labour begins, and it’s more like a gentle lapping of waves, they are certain it is anything but actual labour. They assume they are ill or that they just have to poop!
These clients are so grateful for the support of their doula. When they finally call us, and hear us say, “Donna! It sounds like you are in early labour!” it puts things in perspective for them and they are able to relax and allow their body to labour.
Even though they are 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant, their body is “cramping” and they are having mucuosy discharge, the idea that they are in labour, just doesn’t occur to them.
One thing is for sure; whether a client is a “Donna” or an “Emily,” they will find great comfort in having their doula support them through one of the most exciting days of their life.
Doula: Donna, Emily, don’t worry. I’m here for you every step of the way.
Authored by: Leanne Palmerston, Co-Owner Hamilton Family Doulas