I took a childbirth class. I read blog posts and all the information The Bump had to offer. And I was still unprepared for parts of my labor and delivery experience. To help you pregnant mamas out there mentally prepare for your childbirth experience, I’ve decided to compile a list of things I wish I had known before walking into the hospital that life-changing morning.
1. You don’t always know when your water breaks
To this day, I have no idea when my water broke. Neither does the doctor. When I showed up at the hospital, my water hadn’t broken. When the doctor went to break it for me a couple hours later, it was already broken.
So, it had broken sometime while I was in the hospital. But when? There was no gush; there wasn’t even a trickle! Seriously, we have no idea when my water broke.
My situation is definitely not the norm, though. Generally speaking, though, there isn’t a big whoosh like there is in the movies or on TV. If you’re at home and you feel a little trickle and you’re wondering if it’s your water, this is what my doctor told me: take off all your clothes from the waste down and wait. If you’re dripping, your water probably broke.
2. Most hospitals want you REALLY laboring before they will admit you
I mean really really laboring. We’re not talking “contractions 7-8 minutes apart” kind of laboring. At my hospital, they wanted us to wait until the contractions lasted more than a minute and were coming 3-5 minutes apart.
They don’t really care about what’s happening until you reach that “active labor” stage. Oh, by the way, did you know there are different stages of labor?
Check out this link for more information about the labor stages: https://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/first-stage-of-labor/
3. “I’ll be in pain every other minute for hours?”
This is the exact question I asked at my childbirth class. And the answer, essentially, is “yes.”
This is when you enter the last part of the first phase of labor called Transition. This is the pushing phase.
By this point, your contractions are coming about two minutes apart and lasting about a minute. That means that you’re in pain every other minute. (Something else I didn’t know before having a baby: you count contraction from the start of one to the start of another. For example: 6:05pm contraction starts. 6:06pm contraction ends. 6:09 contraction starts again. In this case, we would say your contractions are 4 minutes apart)
Now, you may be thinking, “it won’t hurt every other minute if I get an epidural, right?” I’m so glad you asked! Let’s talk about epidurals for a minute.
4. Sitting still while they place the epidural is excruciating
Getting the epidural placed was easily one of the worst parts of labor for me. I was far enough into the contractions that they were nearly unbearable. The only thing that helped me get through them was kneeling on my hands and knees and rocking back and forth.
Well, you can’t kneel on your hand and knees and rock back and forth when someone is sticking a needle in your back, can you? And placing the epidural isn’t a quick process. It takes a while. Long enough for a contraction or two to pop up. And sitting still as my entire body writhed in pain was not fun!
5. Once your epidural is placed, you can’t move
Speaking of sitting still, once you get that epidural placed, that’s exactly what you’ll have to do! It makes sense if you think about it. They’re numbing you from the waste down. You can’t feel your legs. How do you expect to walk?
6. Epidurals don’t always work
Here’s the thing: my epidural only half worked. Maybe a little more than half… at first. My entire right side was numb. Couldn’t feel a thing. My left? It was on fire! Literally, the pain felt like someone was stabbing my insides with a red, hot fire poker.
And what did they say to me? It’s kind of common! Apparently, it’s called a “hot nerve.” We had some options. The anesthesiologist could try to wiggle the epidural to the side a little (he did; it didn’t work) or take it out and place it again.
We didn’t have time to place it again, though, since my labor progressed super fast. So, I delivered my baby feeling everything on my left side.
7. But that makes you push so much harder
Before, when I talked about pain lasting every other minute for hours, I was talking about the pushing part of labor. The thing is, first time moms usually push for 1.5+ hours.
I pushed for 30 minutes.
I 100% believe I got my baby out so quickly because the epidural didn’t work. When you feel everything, you’re much more motivated to make it end!
8. Pushing doesn’t hurt (until the end) but it is the most physically exhausting thing I have ever done!
I should clarify. Pushing makes the contractions not hurt. When we were discussing the options for what to do about my epidural not working, the doctor said, “at this point, I think the only thing that’s going to help is pushing.”
She was right. I wanted to push. It made the pain go away! Right up until the end, that is. Once baby started coming out, a new sort of pain started (look up ring of fire if you’re wondering what kind of pain I’m talking about).
Now, just because I wasn’t hurting doesn’t mean it wasn’t extremely difficult. I’m telling you right now. Pushing was absolutely the most exhausting thing I have ever done in my entire life. I even broke down at the end and began saying “I can’t; I can’t; I can’t” over and over again. I was ready to yell for the forceps or vacuum or anything just to get the baby out!
The doctor ended up having to make an incision, and two pushes later my baby girl was born!
9. You will feel like you have to poop
That’s what the sensation feels like when it’s time to push. It’s because baby’s head is down there, pushing on the same nerves you use when you… well… you know…
10. You will (probably) throw up and poop yourself
It’s the honest truth. Accept it now and just roll with it. Not only will you feel like you have to poop, you probably will. You won’t know it though. And the nurses and doctors are so used to it, they don’t think twice about it. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s completely true.
I honestly have no idea if I did “have an accident” because no one said anything either way.
I did throw up, though. And believe me when I say that I seriously regretted having all that Mexican food with a mountain of jalapeños (because spicy food is supposed to induce labor–and maybe it did?) the second I started.
11. You might have to get a catheter
A lot of personal bathroom type things on this list, huh?
It’s the not-so-glamours side of labor that no one tells you about. Not that any part of labor is overly glamorous….
Either way, I started this post to drop the hard core truth about having a baby, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
So yes, you may have to get a catheter. I did. And I didn’t even feel it. So don’t worry about it. But, be prepared for it.
12. The doctor doesn’t actually come in and stay until the baby is pretty much out
The doctor did come in to check on me a couple of times while I was in the labor and delivery room. She chatted with me and gave me updates. But, when it came time to push, it started out with just me, my hubby, and a nurse. The nurse walked me through the first bit of pushing until things started to get real.
That’s when the doctor came in. Not just the doctor, though. A small army of people came into the room. A nurse for me and two for baby. Okay, maybe it wasn’t an army, but it certainly seemed like it at the time.
Side note: They were all so sweet and encouraging. When I got to the “I can’t do this” part of pushing, they all started to cheer me on and it really did help!
13. You will have to deliver the placenta after you deliver the baby–and no, it doesn’t hurt
This was something I knew, kind of. I knew I would have to deliver the placenta but I didn’t know what it would feel like.
Nothing. It feels like nothing.
So cross this off your list of things to worry about!
14. After you have the baby, nurses will come in and push on your stomach what feels like a million times–and yes, it hurts
I don’t remember how often they came in. I want to say every 15 minutes at first, and then it slowly tapered off. It wasn’t fun having someone come in and push on your belly after going through hours and hours of exhausting labor.
Why do they put you through this? Don’t they know you’re tired and just want to snuggle your new baby and be left alone?
Well, they have to do this because it 1) helps to get out anything that may be left behind–blood clots, etc. and 2) helps your uterus contract and get back to normal size preventing any further bleeding or damage.
So yes, it’s annoying and painful. But, it’s necessary.
15. Recovery requires equipment
You’re going to get loaded up with goodies to help with your postpartum recovery. Everything from a peri bottle to hemorrhoid wipes… Ya, recovery isn’t fun. It’s not horrible (I’m talking about vaginal delivery here, I don’t have experience with C Section recovery, so I can’t say), but it’s definitely not a walk in the park.
I’ll be writing a post about all the fun stuff I got to help get me recover in the near future. Stay tuned!
A little something extra
This is something a friend told me her grandma told her about pushing. It popped into my head when I was mid delivery and it worked for me! So, I figured I’d pass it along.
Push like you’re trying to push your butt into the mattress.
It sounds weird, but give it a try!
At the end of the day your baby is going to be born, and that’s all that matters
Labor isn’t anyone’s favorite thing. And you can do whatever you need to try to prepare for it. But, at the end of the day, you can’t fully prepare for all of it. For example, my baby’s heart rate dropped at least 3 times during labor which was terrifying. At one point, I even had to stop pushing and turn on my side so they could get it back to normal.
I expected a 15 hour labor experience. Mine lasted eight. I was prepared to push for an hour and a half (well, I was aware that that would be a possibility… I don’t know how prepared I was for that) but I ended up only pushing for 30 minutes.
I thought my epidural would work…
One thing to keep in mind as you’re going through all of this: It will end. You will be holding your baby soon. No matter what comes your way, keep trudging forward. It’s SO worth it!