Giving birth can be pretty daunting. No matter how many books one buys on pregnancy, we are never quite sure if we’ve got all our bases covered before going into the labor and delivery ward. In reality, most of us don’t. If a woman isn’t working in the birthing industry herself in some capacity, it’s unlikely she is fully prepped on every event that could arise and how to handle it.
In an effort to change that, these women want to share their point of view with the world. They thought they knew what they were in for, but stuff happens, and sometimes it’s the last thing one ever thinks will happen to them. Most of us are guilty of believing that C-sections, inductions, shoulder dystocia and the like are all things that happen to other people — not to us. Realistically, it can happen to anyone, but taking certain precautions can provide extra protection against interventions — and that’s much of what these moms have learned.
They learned it the hard way, and they’re sharing their experiences here so that maybe others won’t have to. Moms who are approaching their guess dates with hesitation and feeling unnerved by all that may go wrong or blindside them just might find solace and reprieve in their words.
15 Which Is Worse?
“I wish someone would have told me the actual contractions are worse than the pushing. Baby coming out was an insane relief!” Meara Hawkins confessed. She’s most certainly not alone. Labor isn’t the same for every woman, and for many, pushing feels amazing. They have been working tirelessly to get that baby out and now they finally feel it happening. The reward is coming!
Unfortunately, the media does a great job of making women fearful of contractions. So does virtually every mainstream birth education resource out there that explains just how intense and close together contractions will become. Most of them rarely note the purpose of the contraction and that women should view them as such. Moms approach labor fearing those intense contractions instead of embracing them, and worrying that the pushing stage will be even worse, fraught with I can’t’s and exhaustion like they’ve seen in the movies.
14 Dare To Tear
“I wish I had known that episiotomies are almost always totally unnecessary," Ash Johnson shared. Isn’t that the truth!? The episiotomy gained a lot of traction in the latter half of the 1900s when women were deathly afraid of the thought of their perineum tearing. This sounds painful, for sure. No one is discounting that. But the healing process for an episiotomy was proving to be quite painful, as well. In truth, tearing actually heals better than episiotomies do.
It was ridiculous that we ever allowed medicine to have so much control over our bodies that we accepted episiotomies as a routine standard of care for all laboring women. When you know better, you do better. That’s just what moms like Ash have learned, and moving forward they can advocate for themselves with research on evidence-based care that proves the episiotomy is oh so unnecessary.
13 The Intervention Train
When asked what she wished she had knew before birth, Maria Garay stated, “That I didn't have to go in right when my water broke. My water broke and I wasn't having any contractions. So, since I headed to the hospital right away they decided to induce me. My midwife told me she gives patients 24 hours to have contractions start before wanting to induce. I'm happy I know this now because if it happens again I can stay in the comfort of my own home and try to kick start labor. I'd much rather mostly labor at home and then go to the birth center.”
Maria’s point of view isn’t uncommon. So many women think they need to rush off to the hospital as soon as their water breaks, and it’s simply not true. The best thing a laboring momma can do who is low risk is stay home and relax. Get those contractions coming on consistently. Sleep if you can. Wait it out. Don’t run to the hospital out of fear of not making it there on time or doing something wrong. Prepare yourself. Trust your body. Birth is the worst time to make decisions based on fear. Throw that arbitrary 24-hour rule out the window. It was never based on quality science. Let labor progress. Sometimes it takes hours; sometimes it takes days.
12 Vax Attacks
More and more parents are starting to come to terms with the realization that doctors are just people and not gods. They are trained to do a job in the same fashion that everyone else is. They don’t have all the answers, and they are often not up to date on the most recent research. In fact, some studies have shown it can take seventeen years on average for research to make its way into a doctor’s office.
Mothers like Jessica King have had to learn this lesson in the hardest way possible. Jessica wishes she had known beforehand about the dangers of vaccines. She shared, “My three-year old is vaccine injured. I wish I would have done more research instead of blindly trusting my doctors.”
11 Moving Through It
Being truly prepared for labor can take a village. Women need to read books, attend classes, speak with others who have achieved births similar to the type they desire and more. They should be connecting with resources that can lead them in a positive direction toward a birth with minimal interventions, if that’s what they want their own outcome to be.
When Alexandra Smith was gearing up for motherhood, she didn’t know what to expect from labor. Like many new moms-to-be, how could she ask questions about something she’d never experienced before? She shared, “I wish I knew how important it is to keep moving during labor and not just be in bed. I also wish I knew how important it was to breathe through contractions, I would hold my breath through each contraction.”
10 Labor Is Not A Sprint
Sarabeth Kelly serves as a great example of how we can never be too prepared for birth. She thought she had all of her bases covered, but found that labor was more difficult than she expected, despite the fact that it is something women have been doing since the beginning of time. She stated, “I had it in my head with my first that women have done this FOREVER. It is natural, and so I didn't prepare at all. I wish I would have known that knowing my body and how to relax it would make birth not only easier, but enjoyable! I am looking forward to my 4th birth story!”
When women are pregnant, they often relish a lot of the exciting moments that come in tow with the nine-month experience, and forget to emphasize for themselves how much of a marathon labor will be to get through. The endurance that women need doesn’t come from physical stamina, though being in shape can only help. Birth is a mental game. It’s all about one’s mindset.
9 Serious Side Effects Ahead
T.B. shared, “I wish I had known about all the scare tactics OBs use to schedule births for their convenience, how intervention often leads to traumatic birth experiences and cesareans making mothers feel like their body failed them.” She certainly isn’t the only one. If we filled a room with mothers and asked those who’ve been pressured by their doctor to make a choice they didn’t want for their birth or baby to stand up, we’d have a room full of empty chairs.
Unfortunately, fear-mongering is the name of the game for many doctors who don’t want to take the time to listen to a patient’s needs or opinions. Sadly, many of them won’t even listen to research!
T.B. also noted, “I wish I had known about unassisted pregnancy/home birth and how peaceful and safe they can be, how unsafe non-medical inductions are, that Pitocin was never meant as a labor drug, and that epidurals and other pain medications effect your unborn baby negatively. My first two births would have gone extremely different if I had known this.”
8 Take Your Time
Nicole Simon shared that she wished she would’ve known the hospital didn’t have as much control over her birth as she thought. They never do, but women relinquish that control in the face of adversity. Nicole shared, “Just because you showed up at the hospital doesn't mean you have to stay there. There is no shame in going home and coming back later.”
She’s right. This is what most midwives and many obstetricians now encourage mothers-to-be to do. There’s no need to jump in the car and head to the hospital the second contractions start. There’s not even a need to rush in if your water breaks. Take it easy. Relax. Most mothers will not have a swift first-time labor, and even subsequent ones do not tend to move so quickly that there is no time to get to the final destination. Women labor best when they are in their own surroundings. Let your body do its thang, mommas.
7 It’s Not Just A Head
When Carol Kellogg gave birth to her child, she wasn’t aware of what a vaginal birth really entailed. Most every woman focuses solely on the idea of pushing out the baby’s head. They’ve been taught that that’s the hard part. Everything else pretty much slides right out. They rarely think about the possibility of the baby not being in the most optimal position for birth, or their baby being larger and running into shoulder dystocia.
When asked what she wishes she would’ve known beforehand, Carol shared, “Learning how to give attention to baby’s shoulders as they rotate instead of full focus on birthing baby's head.” This is an important part of labor for many women, and most of them are unprepared for it when it happens. As a baby descends through the birth canal, they do not simply slide down in one position. They twist and contort in the vaginal canal as they make their way into the world. It’s a marvelous and magical experience when you understand how it works and can be fully present for it.
6 A Giant Gaping Wound
Amanda’s reflections on her first birth revolve mainly around the afterbirth and postpartum period. Many women don’t lend much thought to their uterus after a baby is no longer in it anymore. We spend nine long months obsessing over what size it is, and what seems like an even longer time worrying that it won’t dilate or contract the way it’s supposed to for labor to happen. Then, birth occurs and we assume we are well on our way back to our pre-pregnancy state. But the uterus takes time to heal, and Amanda recognizes that now having gone through it.
She shared, “I wish I had known about the extent of the wound that is in our uterus from where the placenta was. Women lose that organ after birth and it leaves behind alarge bleeding wound! If that wound was on the outside, we — and society — would take postpartum recovery way more seriously. I wish I had known that and taken it easy during recovery.”
5 Home Birth Is Safe
When Alix Coulombe gave birth to her first child, she did it the way she assumed everyone does — in a hospital. It was never something she questioned. That’s just what people do, right? That’s what most women think. Perhaps that’s why only 1.28 percent give birth at home.
It’s pretty simple; women don’t know to question something that seems so normal. But why does hospital birth seem like the norm to us? Because the medical industry, media and our culture have made it that way. Before the twentieth century, home birth was the norm. The good news is that while it’s slow to rise, the rate of home births is increasing. In 2004, it was just .079 percent.
Women are waking up and feeling a strong desire to connect with a more primal and natural birth experience. They want to labor and give birth the way they were intended to. It just requires a mother who is willing to open her mind. Alix said she wished she would have known home water births were safe. Indeed, they are just as safe as hospital births for low-risk mothers. Alix stated, “I didn’t even know people had home births when I had my first.”
4 Informed Consent
Kristen S. shared, “With my first pregnancy, I wish I had known that I could have switched care providers when I wasn't feeling supported early on. My water broke 4 weeks early and I felt pressured to do something because of [the] risk of infection and doing what's best for baby by a condescending hospital-based midwife. An unnecessary induction, and narcotics, and my baby boy was born 5lbs 13oz, and had numerous side effects from both the Pitocin and the medication used."
“I was ill-informed, and none of this was written in his or my records as being side effects of the drugs used in my long 27-hour induction, 37 hours total from water breaking. Women need upfront information and time to make decisions that could affect their baby's health — not rushed [with] scare tactics or down-played terms. My husband was told the pain med I had was just a muscle relaxant by nursing staff. Never again. My second pregnancy was a planned home birth. If I had to do anything different, I would request more alone time with my husband, [and] possibly not call my midwife as soon as I did, because it was another long, long labor. (40 hours from water breaking.)”
3 The Rumor Of Going Number Two
Leanna shared, “I wish someone would have told me its ok to feel like you have to poop (and sometimes you actually do) during the pushing phase. I pushed for 3 hours with my first; when I look back I see that I wasn't giving it my all because fear of pooping.”
Believe it or not, a lot of women are terrified of this happening. Understandably, going to the bathroom is something we tend to keep to ourselves. Plenty of women won’t even drop a deuce in a public restroom stall or at work. So, the thought of doing so in front of a bunch of strangers who are staring at our ass isn’t at all appealing.
Add to that the fear of pooping in front of one’s partner, and some women have so much anxiety over this that their labor stalls. The stress is real! Leanna makes a valid point, though. Women should be prepared to feel a very similar sensation to that of wanting to have a bowel movement. That is their body surging and bringing their baby closer to them. If you aren’t numbed up, you’re going to feel like you’re about to shit the bed — and then, your baby will be in your arms.
2 Could-A, Should-A, Would-A
Rachel Dawn shared, “I wish I had known that I didn't have to be on my back to deliver. That I could have kicked out the nurse who was shushing me throughout my med free birth. I also wish I had known that I could have just stayed at home. I wish I had hired a doula, even though my midwife was incredible. Lastly, I wish I had hired a birth photographer because I really don't remember much and wish I did.”
Sooooooo many women gear up for birth picturing themselves lying in bed on their backs while trying to push a watermelon our through their vaginas. It’s insane. We’ve been doing it completely wrong, ladies. Squatting, rocking on your hands or knees, or even standing are preferable positions for almost every woman.
Rachel may have had a few regrets about how her birth went down, and notably, a lot of it had to do with who was and wasn’t present for it. It’s important to shed light on the fact that a lot of moms do in fact forget much of their birth experience — especially if it was particularly painful for her or traumatizing. Birth photographs are a forever gift to yourself that you won’t regret.
1 Fetal Ejection Reflex
When Whittney Gill was asked what she would have changed about her first birth experience, the answer came pretty quickly to her. She shared, “I wish that I'd known about the rest and be thankful period, where you're fully dilated and you rest and wait for the urge to push. I believe I pushed unnecessarily for 3 hours, which made me very exhausted and discouraged and almost caused an intervention.”
In truth, most women are doing this. They’re pushing… and pushing… and pushing. They had no idea there was any other way. Most certainly, their doctors aren’t telling them. What doctor wants to wait around for that? But the fetal ejection reflex does indeed kick in when a woman allows herself to labor naturally.
There is no need to push once mom reaches ten centimeters dilated. Instead, pause. Breathe through the contractions and know that with each wave of pain, you are getting closer to motherhood. Eventually, an incredible urge will overcome you, and that’s when it’s time. Your body really does know what to do. Trust it!
Sources: New York Times