But there are many of us that just want the basics–no hashing around, no overwhelming facts about a million things. Just what you WANT to know because in the moment of labor and delivery everything else might fly out the window.
You could break down the steps of childbirth into a hundred steps and pieces, but here you don’t have to worry about all the nitty gritty. Let’s begin with the simple fact that there are just three stages. Childbirth is actually quite simple in the long run and these aspects apply to EVERY mother.
There Are Three Stages of Birth
Like Three Acts in a Play
Now, you will often see the descriptions of the stages of birth actually called the stages of labor. Both terms are interchanged often and can be incorrect. Why?
Because, yes, labor is a part of birth, but your baby’s birth is not necessarily a part of your labor. And when that placenta is ‘born’ is that part of your labor? I don’t think so.
Why confuse mothers more than necessary? You’ve already got enough to worry about.
So picture it like this:
So if you’re looking for the three stages of Labor, click here. We’re going to talk about the three stages of Childbirth.
Have you ever been to a three act play? Usually they’re the older type with classical or Shakespearean themes. I have a metaphor for you.
- Act I – setting up the plot, the groundwork is being laid and the story begins with some major happening that has to be dealt with throughout the entire play. This is your Labor.
- Act II – this is where there’s conflict, the bulk of the story happens for all individuals involved, and you’re completely caught up in the story. This is your Pushing and Delivery.
- Act III – the final act is often very short, loose ends are tied up, there’s resolution for the plot and people involved. This is your Afterbirth.
Labor = Act I
Your Labor is the longest part of this process. Plus there are even three stages of your labor. But you can read more about those here. Your labor can last anywhere from a few hours (precipitous labor) to a few weeks, depending on how your Early Labor treats you.
But in reality, most women only consider the time in labor to be when it is Active, then through to delivery of the baby. Again, more details here.
Having a baby naturally, or even vaginally with an epidural if you elect to do so, cannot happen without your labor. It’s sole purpose is to open up your cervix so that your baby can descend and exit your birth canal. If you don’t want that to happen, you’re in the wrong place.
Labor happens completely without your consent and your body takes control, doing it all on its own. Your job here is to prepare and train yourself the proper way in order to get through it. THIS is why you’re here.
Just like the dramatic play of your birth, this is the major foundation being laid for your baby’s birth. It naturally cannot be reversed or superseded. Once it’s begun, it’s begun and you are moving down this path no matter what.
Pushing & Delivery = Act II
You’re Pushing and Delivery of your baby can be very quick, or much longer than you’d like. You can push for 5 minutes and be holding your baby, or….you can push for 5 hours to utter exhaustion and then be holding your baby. (Some mothers can even just breathe baby out.)
Your body and baby may work together so well that you may not even need to push much at all. Many babies often deliver themselves. (I have yet to experience this but look forward to trying it with this next baby.)
You can do it in nearly any position you’d like. You may want to change positions often to try and find what will work for you. You can try squatting, sitting up, side laying, even on all fours rocking back and forth.
Often you won’t find what will work best for your until you’re in the moment.
I thought that I was for sure going to deliver my first baby squatting. So I prepared and did squats every single night, daily in my everyday routines, and had the sheer determination to do so.
But then the moment came and I just didn’t want to put that much reliance on my legs. So I opted for sitting up, having my husband and nurse hold my legs while I relaxed everything else I possibly could in order to conserve all my energy to pushing.
But just because what I planned to do didn’t work out exactly for me DOESN’T mean that what you plan to do won’t work great for you. Options, options, options….
Like the play of your baby’s birth, there IS conflict! You’re so ready and eager for that baby to come out you are working as hard as possible, sometimes mentally just as much as physically, for that moment to come to pass.
There might be some issues, like baby stopping half way down the path and you have to improvise (like I did). Most mothers will talk about the ring of fire feeling when your baby’s head it crowning–sort of like a pinching, burning feeling of building pressure. Know that it’s over FAST, and not every mother can even distinguish it (I couldn’t really).
But in the end of your delivery, the emotions and intensities surrounding that very moment when you look at your child are so IMMENSE that you have such an overflowing love overcome you. You are SO completely caught up in it that nothing else in the world seems to matter anymore, if only for a short moment.
Afterbirth = Act III
The nicest thing about the afterbirth is your job is DONE. You’ve labored, you’ve pushed, you’ve delivered. That baby is in your arms and you get to sit back and let the rest of the world take care of itself.
Doctors and nurses, or even your midwife, are busy. They’re stitching you up if you tore. They’re cleaning up the mess. They’re taking your baby’s Apgar score and weighing him. Your husband is taking photos and admiring you in complete awe for what you’ve just accomplished.
And you just get to wait for that placenta to come out. Usually within a few minutes up to half and hour or so, your placenta will naturally separate itself from your uterus and come out. Immediately breastfeeding your baby will help it come faster.
Sometimes you have to give a little push to help it once it’s in your vagina, sometimes the doc can simply pull it out with the cord once he sees it. I’ve had both happen and neither are a big whoop-to-do. It’s the EASIEST part of giving birth. It doesn’t hurt at all either.
I honestly don’t even count it, personally. But many find it interesting.
So the final act of your birth play has come to a close. Everything is resolved and your body starts to do more of what it does best–healing and progressing.
Our bodies are SO miraculous!! Once you have experienced giving birth it is hard to not agree, or even believe how it happened all on it’s own.
You can choose to take a full part in your birth, or you can simply allow things to happen as they come, not knowing what to expect. But I know you are a smart person.
Knowing these three stages of birth is essential to having an experience that even though thousands of them happen everyday, it is the most unique thing for you. I cannot say it any way to fully explain the fascinating wisdom you will gain through such a journey.
I hope you take this and expound upon it. But if it’s all you need, then we’ve accomplished that.