Early Labor and Nesting
Preparing for birth as a Solo Mom
Early labor can be the longest stage of birthing and, thankfully, the least intense. It is the body’s mental and physical preparation for the later stages of labor. Physically, the cervix begins to dilate up to four centimeters and begins to thin, or efface, as the fetus makes its way into the pelvis. This can go on for several weeks. It’s accompanied by contractions that are cramp-like or not painful at all, with varying regularity. Mentally, it’s a time for the mother to get somewhere comfortable and surround herself with the people who will support her through the labor. For Solo Moms, this can look different for everyone depending on what support you may have. Here are a few tips to prepare yourself for this journey of birthing a baby without a partner.
Get organized. I was, how do you say, a little freaked out in the final weeks of my second pregnancy. I chose a birthing center instead of a home birth, and I stressed over getting myself, in active labor, and my then six-year-old to the place on time. My birthing team was a friend who went out of town whenever the weather was good for climbing and another friend who ran a preschool. I finally wrote down a list of about 10 to 15 names and phone numbers with days and times those people were available to be on call to drive me to the center. I made copies of it and carried it with me at all times. I sent texts to people every morning, notifying them when they were on call in case my two main support people weren’t able to be there. This was, of course, not ideal. But I made it work, even though it caused me a ton of stress. Ideally, try to find one person (all you need is one) who can drop everything and be there to get you where you need to go.
Gather your team. Early labor is, biologically, a woman’s signal to nest. She will get to a place she feels safe and gather her women around her. If this means sisters, friends, mothers, doulas, midwives, doctors, or other children, this is when you do it. A word of caution: Do not make grand announcements that you are in labor. Early labor can last for weeks. The more people you notify, the more people you’ll have asking you how things are going. This can be exceptionally annoying when nothing is happening and you’re 40 weeks and two days pregnant and can no longer fit into your shoes.
Rest. Seriously. Save your strength. I made the mistake of going for walks, cleaning, packing and repacking, going for another walk, and it did me no good. The nesting process should not be deep cleaning the kitchen and bathroom (even though it’s probably what you want to do); it should be creating a comfortable place to rest and prepare for a long journey.
Eat and drink. Snack on foods that sound good. It’s important to keep your strength up. Try to eat foods that are easy on the stomach, light, juicy, or possibly bready. Think finger sandwiches and fruit salads, not large meals. Also, staying hydrated is key; set an alarm, if needed, to remind yourself to take sips of water and drink six to eight ounces several times a day.
Sleep. For the birth of my second child, I had regular Braxton-Hicks contractions for two days. I went to the birth center twice before going into active labor. I kept trying to bring the labor on by walking. I did laps around the block and all but jogged. My midwife told me that was the opposite of what I needed to do. She told me there’s a reason many labors begin in the middle of the night when women are sleeping. It is the time when the highest amount of oxytocin is in the bloodstream. She also told me that the lighter contractions need to stop completely for the stronger, “real” contractions to start. She said to take a bath and suggested trying to get some good, deep sleep. That was at midnight. I woke up three hours later with painful contractions and held my newborn daughter just after 5:00 a.m.
There are few guarantees with how the birthing process will go, but one you can count on is it will result in a baby being born. However that happens, remember to take care of yourself, and surround yourself with people whose only job is to take care of you.
Stephanie Land, has a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Montana. She and her two daughters live in Missoula, Montana. Read more of her story at stepville.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @stepville.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.