A sweet treat in labor can go a long way
Updated: Aug 7, 2021
This is the story about the power of sweets (and the power of sisters).
The day before I gave birth to my son, Bodie, I woke up with contractions but wasn’t certain it was labor because I’d had contractions for weeks and had gone to the hospital the week before with false labor pains. I figured what I was feeling was false labor again. I was only 37 weeks and I’d never been in labor before so it was hard to believe this mild cramping was early labor. Still, the contractions kept rolling in like waves so my mom came over and we took the dog for a walk and decided we should hang to see if things progressed while my husband, Rick, was at work.
In the afternoon, my big sister, Tenley, a nutritionist and all around amazing human, came over and brought homemade dairy-free strawberry coconut ice cream sweetened with honey. She rarely arrives anywhere empty-handed and what she brings is usually 1.) healthy and 2.) delicious.
I hadn’t eaten all day because I wasn’t enticed by much but the ice cream HIT THE SPOT on that hot summer afternoon. I still remember how good it tasted and smelled and it’s lovely soft pink color.
I can’t remember how much time passed after having that bowl of ice cream but soon my water broke and I knew for certain the baby was coming. As soon as Rick arrived home from work, we were off to the hospital in a mad dash—in fact we didn’t even make it to the hospital we intended to go to—we rerouted to the closest one and Bodie was born shortly thereafter.
Fast forward a few years and I’m pregnant again with my daughter, Tilly. This time I’m 39 weeks and I’ve just arrived at the hospital to be induced. The doctors have been monitoring the baby weekly with ultrasounds and they are concerned about her small gestational size. She’s tiny and they’re worried my placenta isn’t functioning and my liver is showing signs of cholestasis. So it’s time for her to come out.
My induction was scheduled for 11am. I was nervous so I hadn’t eaten much that morning and hadn’t planned on eating lunch as I assumed I’d be in labor and things would progress quickly. But we ended up waiting around for hours and I wasn’t induced until the late afternoon. At that point, I was starving but also in early labor and scared eating might upset my stomach.
Enter my sister the hero again. She had brought a small bag of jelly beans (organic, of course). The jelly beans went down easy and gave me enough of a boost to make it through the rest of laboring. When I was done laboring, I happily ate a big bowl of homemade organic chicken soup loaded with veggies and bone broth (also thanks to my sister because she had advised me to prepare a bunch of healthy homemade recovery meals for my hospital stay and for once I got home).
I frequently tell my prenatal students that labor is a lot like running a marathon. I often snacked on energy candies during long runs while marathon training and it was usually just the right amount of fuel to get me through the final stretch.
I hear doulas sometimes have honey sticks or other simple sweets in their labor “tool bags.” But these days, in the midst of a global pandemic, not everyone has a doula or a sister by their side, let alone their partners. That’s why I’m sharing these two stories: I want you to be prepared. Whether you’re packing your bags for the hospital or planning on birthing at home, don’t forget the sweets. Lemonade, fresh fruit, juice boxes, coconut water are a few other ideas. If there was ever a time to indulge completely guilt-free in some candy or ice cream, it’s for sure when your “finish line” involves bringing a small human into the world.