My neighbor is due to give birth any day now. Since this is her third delivery, she knows what’s coming for her and her hoo-hah. In her honor, I have decided to share with you the top 10 things about labor, delivery, and recovery that I wish someone would have shared with me.
If you are pregnant or have been pregnant, you know that every pregnancy, labor experience, delivery, and recovery is different. I am not a doctor or medical professional. I can only write from my point of view, but here they are (in no particular order):
1. Your doctor wants you to labor at home for as long as possible.
I always assumed that when you felt your first strong contraction, you immediately went to the hospital. Thanks, every movie and tv show ever made. That’s not actually the case.
Your doctor wants you to labor at home for as long as possible. For some people this is a positive thing. Your doctor will tell you to rest while you can, eat what you want, take a bath, and be comfortable. As soon as you get to the hospital, you get hooked up to machines, you can’t eat solids until after delivery, and it’s not a very relaxing environment. If you can labor at home, good for you. This is what everyone wants.
For other people, like me, who suffer from crippling anxiety, being at or near a hospital is what helped me relax. My hospital was 45 minutes away with no traffic and I did not want to give birth on the highway. I labored at home for as long as I could, and then I lied to the doctor about how far apart my contractions were. I needed to go in.
Do what makes you comfortable.
2. Nurses can make or break the whole experience.
I could see her attitude as soon as I walked in the door, she just had a smug look on her face. Initially she ignored us, so I signed in and continued talking to my mom. I was mid-laugh when the nurse decided to acknowledge me, “oh hunny, if you’re laughing, you’re not in labor. I guess we’ll check you out since you’re already here.”
Pffffff, say what? Hello to you, too.
They brought me to a room and checked me out: I was 8 cm dilated and my contractions were 3 minutes apart. I guess she wasn’t the baby guru after all. The nurse in my cousin’s delivery room actually told her that she was the whiniest patient she’d ever had in 20 years. It was a little intense. Maybe they were having a bad day or maybe they just have bad attitudes; whatever the case, nurses can affect your birthing experience in a big way. If you happen to run into a difficult one, try to brush them off. If they really get to you, you can ask for a different nurse. You should be as comfortable as possible and no one should stress you out. You’ll be dealing with enough as it is.
On the other side of that, some nurses out there are amazing. They’ve given birth or they’ve assisted in countless deliveries. They gently tell you what to do and how to do it. My little guy was stuck in the birth canal and the cord was wrapped around his neck. The room filled with emergency personnel and my husband and I were none the wiser. They were like ninjas. When they finally got him out, he looked like a smurf and wasn’t breathing. One team worked on him while the other team worked on me. The nurses were such a blessing to all of us. They will hold your hand during the scary parts, and they will comfort you when you’re near tears. They are angels on Earth.
3. Your epidural could be so good that it messes everything up.
I had always planned on having an epidural. Sure, we’re built to give birth, but why experience additional pain if it’s not necessary? I was 8 cm dilated when I got checked into the hospital, but I asked for one anyways. The nurse said, “are you sure? You have a high pain tolerance. You’re almost to the finish line!”
As soon as it was done, I took a four hour nap and I didn’t feel anything from that point on. After a few hours, the doctor came in to check me and I was 10 cm dilated. He told me it was time to push, but I still couldn’t feel anything. The nurses had to tell me when the contractions were starting based off some machine. Eventually they broke out a giant mirror and that helped, too. I pushed for THREE HOURS. I had no energy left. I secretly wished someone would just yank him out. I really didn’t expect it to work that well.
4. You will get the worst massage of your life.
As soon as the baby is delivered, you’re thinking, “thank goodness, it’s over.” It’s not. You still have to deliver the placenta. You barely feel it, but apparently it’s a big deal that they get everything out. To make sure it’s all expelled, they immediately start pushing on and massaging your stomach. NO WARNING, they just go at it. I love a good massage, but this isn’t like that. It hurts. At my hospital, the nurses did this every time they came into the recovery room. I cringed when they opened the door. Be mentally prepared for the worst massage of your life.
5. You will need help to pee.
You’re thinking, “at this point I will have delivered a baby, I can pee on my own,” but no, it’s not that simple. It’s a whole new experience. Your hoo-hah just fought a battle and is barely holding on for dear life. You’ll be dripping blood everywhere and it’ll look like a massacre took place in the bathroom. You’ll need to squirt a water bottle at your lady parts because you cannot wipe. You’re going to want to Goldilocks that: make sure that water is not too hot and not too cold or you’re going to have a bad time. After you pat dry, you can put on a new pad (they’re about the size of your forearm), and pull up those sexy mesh panties. Get it, girl, you’re done!
The nurse was there to help the whole time. Apparently she was there to make sure I could walk (because of the epidural) and to measure urine output, but she was the best sidekick. She filled the water bottle while I cleaned up. It cut what would have been a twenty minute ordeal in half. I slept more because of her. She was the real MVP.
6. Your boobs are going to be HUGE and they are going to hurt.
One of the perks of my hospital was that they had a lactation consultant on staff. She constantly stuck her head in to ask me how things were going. One time she asked me if my milk had come in and I told her I didn’t know. She laughed, “you’ll know when it does.” She was so right. I blinked and BOOM, I had Dolly Parton sized yabbos.
I was wearing nursing tank tops for easy access, but my ladies wouldn’t stop growing! I was freaking out when they were both the size of cantaloupes. My husband suggested I put a bra on to stop them. That worked. Later, your nipples will be so raw that it hurts when they touch your bra/shirt, and don’t even get me started on milk blisters. They’re these tiny little bumps (clogged ducts), but they feel like someone is stabbing you. Also, if you wait too long to nurse, your boobs will get rock hard and that hurts, too. Ugh. Nursing is not for the faint of heart, but hang in there, soon they’ll be numb and you won’t be able to feel anything at all.
7. You will still have contractions.
You will continue to have contractions after the baby is born. Your uterus is contracting and shrinking back to it’s normal size. These contractions aren’t as painful as they were during labor, but they don’t feel good. Nursing stimulates those contractions, so when baby latches, prepare for a ZING. Apparently it continues to happen for weeks, but you’ll only feel it for a few days.
8. You are going to swell like you have never swelled before.
I didn’t put hemorrhoids on this list because most women know those go hand-in-hand with childbirth, but did anyone ever tell you that your lady parts will swell? Not a cute little ankle roll swell, I’m talking Rocky Balboa’s face after 15-rounds with Apollo Creed. *Spoiler Alert* You lose. It’s baaad. I never took a mirror down there, but I felt it. Ice packs and Tuck’s pads are the way to go. Hang in there. Things will go back to normal … mostly.
9. You are going to bleed A LOT.
This seems pretty intuitive, but I wasn’t prepared for all the blood. When you’re discharged they’ll give you directions to follow during recovery. My nurse told me if I bled through more than one pad an hour (& remember they’re the huge ones), that I should call my doctor because I could be hemorrhaging internally. She also told me that if I pass a clot the size of a golf ball, to keep an eye on it. Like, come on, a golf ball, that’s impossible! Isn’t it? Wrong. It’s possible and it happens.
Pro tip: Make sure you are standing every once in a while or you may be in for the freakout of a lifetime. I had so many people taking care of me, that I sat still for too long. I had lunch and fed the baby twice before I stood up. I was holding my guy and studying his sweet face when I felt like I peed my pants. I didn’t even feel like I needed to go – how humiliating! I looked down and it was not urine, it was blood. I soaked my grey pants and I was standing in a pool of my own blood. I yelled for my sister to take my son, and my mom and husband went into emergency mode. I thought I was dying, my husband just kept saying, “it’s going to be ok,” over and over, and my mom was the only one who kept it together. She calmly called my doctor and they figured it out. He said as long as the bleeding had stopped (it had), it was probably just my body releasing all the blood at once. Since I was sitting for so long, all the little crevices and pockets in my uterus (it’s not smooth) filled up, and gravity brought it all down at once.
Just be ready for blood. Lots of blood.
10. You are going to feel everything at once and it will be overwhelming.
You expect that once the baby is here, you’ll only feel happiness. You do feel happy, but there’s so much more. The weight of being in charge of this tiny person falls on your shoulders immediately; the mom guilt sets in. Are you feeding him enough? Is he sleeping enough? Is he too warm? Too cold? Did you make sure everyone around him is healthy? Did they get their shots? Are you holding him too much? Did you eat today? Which boob did you nurse on last?
You’ll be sleep deprived and hormonal. Things are going to affect you like they never have before. I’m already a crier, but I felt like I cried for the first month of his life. Every little thing was a BIG thing. One time I pumped my giant boobs and dropped a whole bottle, and I cried for two hours. For the first half hour it was a hysterical sob and then I whimpered, like a dog, for the next hour and a half. You’ll feel a little out of whack, but just remember it’s ok. It’s all going to be ok. Accept help where you can and know that it’ll work out in the end. Sometimes all you need is a hug or a baby snuggle, they really do wonders!
Childbirth is scary, but it’s so worth it. That’s why we continue to put ourselves through it.
Did you experience any of these? What do you wish someone had told you? Share your experiences below.