Ah... You are pretty sure you're in labor and today is Baby Day! Yay! But it's definitely early so what the heck are you supposed to do!?
Early labor is defined differently by probably every maternal care provider out there, but here's my definition.
"Early labor is the first signs of labor which may include cramping, cramps that come and go with regular spacing, or contractions that have clearly developed a pattern but are lasting no longer than 45 seconds and one can pretty easily breathe and talk through them"
Notice I didn't say how far apart they are.... This is because in my experience both personally and as a doula I've seen early labor contractions that are 2-3 minutes apart and transition contractions that are 8-9 minutes apart. Spacing, in my opinion, has very little to do with where you are at in your labor.
But I digress... What are you supposed to do!? It's too early to go to the hospital/birth center/call your doula/midwife in. And you don't need to really "do" anything to work through them, so what is there? Well here's my very best list of things to do when it's "time" but not quite "TIME!"
1. Go to sleep! This is ALWAYS my #1 recommendation to my clients. Who knows how long your labor will be and I can promise you that any amount of sleep you can carve out before your labor kicks off into high gear will make you feel infinitely better
2. Go to lunch, breakfast, dinner, whatever meal seems appropriate for the time of day. If your waters have broken, throw on a pad and head on out. A yummy meal complete with a distraction is just what the doctor ordered.
3. Watch a movie! Hulu or Netflix or Amazon Prime, it doesn't matter, but pick something funny and light-hearted and continue ignoring the heck out of that early labor. It will be at the forefront of your attention soon enough.
4. Take a nap! You may think this sounds like #1, and while it is, I feel like naps can happen on the couch, in the sun in your backyard, on your hammock and sometimes during other things mentioned on this list. IF YOU CAN SLEEP, DO IT!!!
5. Go get a pedicure. Yep, just walk on it (make your husband or friend or mom drive you) and get your toes looking pretty. You probably haven't been able to reach them for weeks. Plus the massage of your feet combined with the extra relaxation might help move things along
6. Get a manicure... see above! Also, as a birth photographer, I can't tell you how sad it is to send someone a gallery of a mama holding her newborn with crazy chipped nail polish. Or you can do like this mama and go with a holiday theme if your baby is born near a holiday!
7. Take off your nail polish.... See above
8. Watch a totally bingeable series! This will take your mind off of things and I'll bet it gets you further than you think because you just want to get through one more episode!!!
9. Take a shower. Labor is hard work and you're going to want a shower
10. Wash/do/dry/style your hair. I did this during my early labor with my first thinking that at least it would look nice for when I gave birth... I was 100% wrong, it looked crazy by the time I had my baby 40 hours later, but at least it was relatively clean!
11. Bake something. Does one ever need a more awesome reason to have fresh baked goods at home than celebrating your amazing accomplishment of birthing a baby!?
12. Play a game. Xbox, Playstation, Board, Computer, Card... doesn't matter. The key here is distraction
13. Meditate. I really love this one. If you're doing hypnobirthing, or even if you're not, now is a great time to spend some time listening to your meditations or any guided meditation that you love
14. Read through some birth affirmations. I found this SUPER helpful with the birth of my second child. My friends had all written down affirmations or blessings or words of wisdom for me on cards during my mama blessing that I read to myself once my labor had started. It gave me the feeling of being surrounded by the love and support of all my friends and mamas who had walked this same path as me before.
15. Make out with your partner. Bare with me here... Look, you're about to have a newborn. This is likely to be the last chance to have a serious makeout sesh for a LONG time. PLUS all the oxytocin that gets produced will have you laboring in earnest in no time
16. Have your partner massage your feet, legs, hands, shoulders, head, whatever feels good! Maybe a bit less intimate then #15 but is still a lovely way to spend some time and relax and connect before your baby is here
17. Take a few last baby bump pictures!
18. Write a letter to your baby about the last day they lived inside you and save it for their baby book.
19. Put together your hospital/birth center bags... This is here for all you procrastinators.
20. Take a bath. Yes! Absolutely. Take a bath. If its real labor, a bath cannot undo the hormonal change that is systematically happening throughout your body making all the things happen for your baby to be born and stop your labor. Light a candle, throw in some bubbles, turn off the lights and relax. This is NOT your birth tub. This is early labor. You will be getting out of this bath during your active labor and moving around, changing positions and you may find your way back here eventually should you be birthing at home or waiting til the last minute to head to the hospital
21. Cuddle your other kid(s). Especially your most recent baby... They are about to not be the baby any longer. If you have only fur-babies at this point, they also could likely use some love
22. Feed your dog/cat/chickens whatever... I find domestic chores soothing and you might forget to throw food out for them when things get real
23. Put away your laundry and wash your sheets and towels. NONE of this will get done properly for weeks after you have your baby.
24. Go for a walk... I put this far down the list for a reason. I prefer for my clients to wait until active labor to walk much as I feel like early labor is just better for resting. There will come a time when sitting or laying down is no longer comfortable and then walking is the thing to do. If you've crossed that threshold, then you probably aren't in early labor any more. But if you must walk during your early labor, let it be slow, let it be holding hands with your sweetheart, let it be to enjoy a sunset or a sunrise, or a nice breeze. Don't walk with the steely determination to "get things going"! Your body will do it's thing in it's own time, I promise.
25. Drop off/arrange for pickup or care of your kids/dogs/pets etc... I feel like this one is obvious, but now is the time to do it, while things are still calm and you might be able to still have some quiet and relaxation time before your labor really gets busy.
26. This one's a bonus one as it might not apply to everyone, but do be sure to call your doula and or midwife and or birth photographer if you have them and let them know you are in early labor. This makes their lives easier when they can have all their ducks in a row for when you need them.
If I've forgotten something or there was a genius thing you did during early labor, leave it here in the comments and lets see if we can get this list to 50!!
All my best, and happy labor!