Moms-to-be have read the books, the blogs and everything else about childbirth. So, she's an expert. Right? This whole labor and delivery thing is completely, totally and entirely under your control. That’s because you’ve got the knowledge.
Okay, so you have plenty of info. It’s always a plus to be informed. Especially when it comes to childbirth. But, there might still be a thing or two that you’re not expecting. Hmm. What could those be? Well, it’s kind of sort of possible that the books aren’t telling you everything. Sure, they’re telling you the basics. You’re getting a childbirth primer – in an academic sense, of course.
Maybe you never expected plenty of things. Actually, when you started your childbirth knowledge quest you had no clue what to expect. You didn’t expect there would be a mucus plug. Eww. Who would? And, you certainly didn’t expect that your baby might be born looking like a goo-covered, football-headed alien. Yeah, you thought that your newborn would pop out looking like one of those cherub-like movie babies. Um, no. Not really.
You read, and read, and read some more. And, now you’re a mama-to-be know-it-all. Those parts of childbirth you never expected are now completely expected. Wait. There’s more. Yep. There are a few more things about having a baby that you might not know.
Just in case your mommy-friends haven’t given you the low-down on what you can truly look forward to during childbirth, you might not have a full picture. We know, “look forward to” isn’t exactly what you’re doing every time you think about contractions and pushing someone the size of a small watermelon out of your hoo-ha!
15 No Food Allowed
The contractions start, your water breaks and your OB tells you to get to the hospital pronto. Hmm. Your dinner plans are ruined. But, that’s okay. When you get to the hospital you can eat. Well, no.
It’s very possible that the hospital will only allow ice chips. That’s right – ice chips. Instead of any sort of meal, or even a snack, you’ll get teeny tiny slices of frozen water. Yum.
Why are about to become mamas kept on a liquid-only diet during childbirth? In the event that you need a C-section, or there’s some complication, the doc may not want food in your stomach. It’s similar to the no food for 12 hours before surgery principle.
Don’t stress. Yeah, it kind of sucks that you can’t eat for all of those hours you’re in labor. But, with the pain of contractions going on, you might not even notice the lack of treats. Just ask your S.O., and whoever else is in the L&D room with you, to eat elsewhere. You don’t need the temptation of a juicy burger and fries when you’re laboring away sans food.
14 An Epidural Takes Time
No, not to work. These little pain-savers actually get to work fairly quickly. But, it may take hours to get one. Why?
So, your birth plan only questionably included an epidural. You were 98% sure you wanted to go med-free. Then there was that 2% of, “Well, maybe I might need something” thoughts. You decided on a wait and see approach. Now that you’ve wait, you’ve seen that the pain sucks. It’s bad enough that you can’t stand it, and the breathing you practiced isn’t working. You let the medical staff know that you’re in for the epidural.
The nurse signs you up. Now you’re on the list, waiting for the anesthesiologist. The problem here is that there are five other mamas before you. It’s highly unlikely that the anesthesiologist will get all five done within the next few minutes. More likely, it will take over an hour. At least.
13 The People, So Many People
When you pictured the labor and delivery room it was an intimate occasion, with you, your S.O. and the OB. Your childbirth daydreams certainly didn’t include a small army of total strangers. But, in reality, this is what you might experience.
Okay, your significant other or birth partner will be there. You knew that. And, you’re totally welcoming of this fact. Then there are a few other invited guests. Maybe you want your own mama there. Maybe you want your sis cheering you on. Or, maybe you even want your MIL there.
Then there’s the doctor. And the nurse. These are people you already expected. You didn’t expect the intern, the fellow, the residents (yes, that’s plural – very plural), the pediatrician, the pediatric intern, the medical students, the nursing students, the medical assistant and a few other random staffers. Yes, it’s completely possible that you’ll feel like you have a constantly evolving audience when you deliver. And yes, they’ll all see you spread eagle, pushing that baby of your out of you vag. It’s okay. They’re professionals, and are totally used to this.
12 There Are Toys
Okay, so it’s more like there are tools. Your birth experience doesn’t need to only include a hospital bed, a pair of stirrups and that’s it. A birth ball, a few massagers and a whirlpool can help get you through some of the pain, minus the meds.
One of the most well-known birthing tools/toys is the birth ball. It’s that oversized ball you often see at the yoga studio. It probably has a no-slip surface to help keep you safe and is most likely made from materials that are latex-free and PVC-free. You can sit on the ball and gently rock back and forth to stimulate labor and soothe your contractions. There are also plenty of other positions to try.
You can kneel on the floor and lean over the ball, hug the ball as you kneel or lean on the ball as you stand. Your birth partner can also help you to use the ball. AS you sit on it or lean across it your partner can massage your back. Yay!
11 The Scoop On Poop
Pushing a baby out kind of feels like pushing something else out. Right? Think about the last time you were super-constipated. It’s okay, it happens to all of us at some point in time. You stressed, you strained and you pushed like you were in labor.
As you laboring along, and later start pushing, poop can happen. Sorry. It’s just part of childbirth. Everything down there is achy, there’s pain and you’re pushing down – hard. Basically, you’re using the same muscles to push out the baby as you would to have a bowel movement. So, it’s not totally unbelievable that you might have a bit of a code brown going on.
Along with pushing, the prostaglandins (hormones) your body releases during labor naturally make your bowel flow.
Don’t worry about the medical staff being shocked or grossed out by what just happened. They’re more than used to it. You aren’t the first mama to poop during labor and delivery. They’ll clean you up and make sure you’re good to keep going.
10 It Might Be Manageable
The horror, oh the horror. You’ve heard the nightmare stories from your mommy-friends, and you’re absolutely terrified to have your baby. Okay, you want to have your baby. But, you don’t want to go through childbirth to have her here with you.
It’s totally normal to be anxious or even scared about labor. You’ve never done this before, and the unknown is pretty much always stress-producing. But, it might not be as bad as your imagining.
While you’re expecting the worst, you might need to actually expect the best. Childbirth probably isn’t going to be as much as a night out with your girls or a lazy day at the beach. But, it might not be completely unmanageable either. Some women do perfectly well with the pain of contractions, and manage pushing like a boss. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised at just how not-so-nightmarish labor and delivery is.
9 There’s No Gush Of Amniotic Fluid, Sometimes
Your water just broke. Maybe. You think. Um. Well? It’s possible you peed. Just a little. You’re totally not sure.
Why not? Sometimes your water doesn’t break like it you imagine it would. In the movies and on TV a pregnant mama is always standing in the middle of a busy street when gush – there’s a waterfall coming out of her. It seems like gallons and gallons of amniotic fluid is rushing out. And, there’s a noticeable puddle on the ground under her. Not a teeny, tiny, “Oops, there are a few drips down there” puddle, but a massive one.
In reality, your water may not break with a might gush. Some women slightly leak or dribble their amniotic fluid out. Others think they may have just had a little LBL (light bladder leakage). If you’re wondering whether it’s pee or amniotic fluid, your fluid won’t smell like urine and it’s not typically yellow. If you’re in some serious doubt, always call your medical provider ASAP.
8 Bloody Show
Yeah, eww. It’s not pleasant. Nothing that’s called “bloody show” could possibly be okay. Don’t stress. It’s not anything that’s at all abnormal.
You have a mucus plug. Again, eww. It’s closing off your cervix, and making sure bacteria doesn’t get into your womb. Now that you’re about to have the baby, you really don’t need it anymore. So, it has to come out. Sometimes it comes out right before you go into labor. Sometimes it comes out days before. As your cervix begins to dilate, you’ll pass the plug.
Some women pass it all at once, while others notice it coming out in bits and pieces. The mucusy plug may be tinged with blood (and, that’s why it’s also known as bloody show). If you have a serious flow, bleeding that doesn’t stop or pain, call the doctor right away. Something may be going on that isn’t just passing the mucus plug.
7 The Hospital Trip May Wait
You feel that first pang. Yep, you’re having a contraction. It’s all hands on deck, you’re going into labor. You rush around the house trying to find your hospital bag. You can’t find it, and toss a few random pairs of pj’s and a toothbrush into your old college backpack. You rush out the door, your S.O. starts the car and you get to the hospital in record time. Whew!
Oh wait, you’re not really in labor. The doctor says you’re having Braxton Hicks contractions, and aren’t really ready for labor. Even if you’re still at home (and haven’t jumped to get to the hospital) your doctor may still tell you to stay put – that is, as long as your water hasn’t broken yet. If your amniotic sack is still intact, you’ll need to time your contractions and report how often and how strong they are to your doctor. The medical pro may wait until you’re having frequent, regular, string contractions before bringing you in. Anyway, wouldn’t you rather labor at home? The less time in the hospital the better.
6 Needing A Catheter
There are some times when you’ll need a catheter during or after delivery. While getting a cath certainly isn’t the rule when it comes to childbirth, if you can’t get up to pee the doctor may need to put one in.
Okay, so there are bed pans. They aren’t fun, but they do somehow seem better than getting a tiny tube shoved up inside of you. And, in one of the most delicate places. Even though bed pans are an option, some mamas need more. Some medications make it impossible to move enough to pee into the pan, and a C-section (which, of course, is surgery) may require a cath.
Oh, and that epidural that makes you feel so good requires a catheter too. The epidural doesn’t just take away the pain, it takes away all sensations from your bottom half. That means the feeling that you have to pee goes too.
5 When The Doctor Breaks The Water
Yes, you’ve heard that your water breaking is THE sign that labor is starting. But, sometimes that just doesn’t happen naturally. What? Yep. It may not break on its own.
There are times when the doctor needs to go in there and break the amniotic sack. Sometimes this is to start labor. If your baby just isn’t coming out, and the contractions aren’t really starting, the doctor may try breaking your water before beginning a medicated induction. In some cases, the doc will go ahead and break the bag along with giving meds.
Even though breaking the bag isn’t exactly pleasant. It’s not super-bad either. The medical provider will insert a long hook-like tool into you and gently break the bag. Don’t stress too much about the pain. On a scale of the worst contraction ever to pelvic exam, it’s more like your annual trip to the GYN.
4 Sometimes The Doc Doesn’t Do The Delivery
Remember how we said there are loads of people in the delivery room? Well, some of them are there to help you deliver your baby. That may mean your OB isn’t exactly the one doing the catching. This doesn’t mean a complete stranger is going to wander into the L&D room and deliver your little one. No way. If your doctor’s office has several different doctors, your primary OB might not be available, on-call or the person who can deliver the baby when you’re in labor.
Even if your preferred doc is in the room, it’s also possible that a medical student or intern will be doing the delivery – or, at least, assisting. Many hospitals are “teaching hospitals.” This means exactly what you think it means. The hospital is responsible for teaching new doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. Hey, they have to practice on someone. Right? Don’t worry about getting subpar treatment. The “teachers” (doctors and nurses) will closely supervise.
3 Some Women Tear
It’s possible that you’ll tear during delivery. Yes, your hoo-ha stretches to accommodate the baby. But, sometimes not enough. Some medical providers recommend oiling up the area prior to childbirth. Massaging oil into the perennial area may help you stretch at least somewhat more during delivery. Keep in mind, that doesn’t guarantee you won’t tear.
Even if you were already expecting to tear, you might rip more than you could ever imagine. Some women only mildly tear. These first tears are right around the vagina, and may include the labia minora. Second-degree tearing may include some perineum involvement. Third-degree tears involve the anal sphincter muscle and fourth-degree rips go into the anal lining.
While first-degree tears may heal on their own, anything more intense requires a doctor’s stitching. Some OB’s recommend surgical cutting (episiotomies) as an alternative to natural tearing. Using a scalpel to cut near the vaginal opening may help to control the damage, making the tear less jagged and stopping it from going into the anal area.
2 The Baby May Not Look Perfect
Oh, we know – all babies are perfect. And your baby? Well, your baby looks like a gorgeous little cherub. She’s beautiful. Um, maybe not right now. Sorry. But, at birth most babies kind of look like aliens. If you’re having a C-section, your baby will probably look less odd. Why? Instead of making her way down the ever-squishing birth canal, a C-section baby is lifted out of the uterus. This means the baby’s head won’t get pressed into a weirdo football shape.
Some vaginal deliveries require vacuums or forceps to get the baby out. These aren’t the high-powered kinds of vacuums you use to sweep up all the pet hair in your house. They’re gentle versions that doctors use to quickly extract a baby. But, they may make the baby’s head somewhat misshapen – at least for the time right after delivery.
Along with your baby’s oddly shaped head, she’ll also come out covered in all kinds of goo. Obviously. She’s been swimming around in that amniotic fluid and you’ve got some bleeding going on down there. It’s okay. The medical staff are totally efficient when it comes to wiping off a newborn. Your little angel will be photo ready in minutes.
1 Bodily Functions Get Scary
It’s your baby’s big birth day. Yay! You pushed and pushed and pushed, and now she’s out. The pain is over. Hmm. Maybe not. Yes, the contraction pain is over. Pretty much. You may have some post-delivery cramping as your uterus starts to shrink down. But, we’re talking about another type of pain.
Your lady parts will hurt. It’s likely that they’ll hurt enough to make even the thought of peeing terrify you. With all of the stretching, tearing and other stuff that’s been going on down there, it’s no wonder why emptying your bladder doesn’t exactly feel good. You’ll pretty much want to put your whole hoo-ha on ice, and keep it there.
Even though you didn’t deliver via the back door, that whole area will hurt too. Some women have anal tearing (or tearing that goes close enough to the area to hurt). That, combined with fatigue from pushing baby out, may make the thought of going number two scary enough to keep you tightly bound. Even though your fear is keeping everything clenched, you need to let it loose. If not, you may get constipated. And, that will only make it hurt more.