Imagine for a moment a very pregnant woman sitting on her couch snacking on Smartpops (obviously covered in parmesan cheese with sour skittles on the side). She's watching "Teen Mom 2" and trying to get comfortable when - gush, her water breaks. She quickly heads to the hospital where she can soon be found sweating, grimacing, and crying out in pain. She ends up with her legs pushed way up in the air (exposing all of that), and then a sweet little baby pops out and takes it's first breath, and this woman is now a new mom. -End Scene-
This is the "typical" portrayal of labor. Watch any movie where a woman gives birth and some variation of this scene will be played out. So many people believe that labor is like this, and that it's normally pretty cut and dry. They expect it to be a certain length, they expect it to happen in a certain place, they expect it to hurt, and they expect certain people (i.e. the doctor) to be there. But ask anyone that's been through labor or witnessed it first hand and they may disagree with this synopsis. One quick fact to point out what differs from the "labor tale" above is that only about 15% of women actually experience their water breaking before true labor begins. So most women are already in the hospital when the amniotic fluid begins to flow. The water breaking notion is just one in a list of numerous things about labor that most people wrongly assume to be true. The expectations of labor are usually vastly different than what really goes on.
Here are 7 expectations of labor and 8 things that really go on.
15 Expectation: Her Doctor Will Deliver The Baby
Women go to great lengths to find the doctors of their dreams. Male or female? Old and experienced or new and trendy? These women spend hours if not days researching and reading reviews. They wait on lists to be called for openings, some women interview doctors and nurses before they even get pregnant. All this because most women believe it truly matters who delivers their children. They want the best hands to help get the job done and many women will spend lots of time and big bucks to cover the cost of this "preferred" medical care. “I waited ten years to get pregnant because my husband and I married young and we wanted to work and travel before kids. So, I had time to find the perfect doctor and I did. She was one of the finest OBGYNs in the nation. It was a total shame she wasn’t on call when I went into labor…” (Danielle, NYC)
14 Truth: You Get Who You Get And You Don't Throw A Fit!
Guess what?! No one really knows when they're going to go into labor unless it's scheduled and/or induced. Even if it's scheduled, nature has a funny way of doing things in its own time. So there is a very large possibility that when the baby is ready, the doctor mom-to-be knows and trusts will not be available and that’s why it’s always a good idea for a woman to get to know the other doctors in the practice. Sometimes, a totally random person will deliver the baby like a cab driver or the dad! Like in the case of David Herrera, this heroic dad delivered his own son when the doctor was missing at the most inopportune time. If the woman is lucky enough to have her baby delivered by the doctor of her choosing, she shouldn’t be shocked when the doctor strolls in at the last minute. Most of laboring done in a hospital setting is with the labor and delivery nurses on staff not the OBGYN.
13 Expectation: Labor Lasts A Few Hours
Most women expect labor to last a few hours. There is a wide spread belief that once labor starts it will progress rather quickly. For example, maybe her contractions start at 2am, and within an hour she expects to be huffing and puffing away, and bada bing, bada boom, an hour or so later she thinks she might be holding her sweet little baby. Tons of people believe that once a baby is ready to come out and a woman's body begins to work towards that goal via contractions that the baby will come right on out after a few good pushes. “My husband was out of town so I told him to fly home as soon as possible when I started having contractions. I just knew the baby would already be here by the time he got home six and a half hours later… Boy was I wrong! I was still in labor for a full day after he got home!” (Gina, San Antonio)
12 Truth: Labor Can Last Anywhere From 3 Hours to Several Days!
Labor usually lasts several hours, and sometimes days, however in some very VERY rare cases labor can last less than a few hours. While labor for each individual is very different and unique it can be divided into three stages: the first involves the onset of true labor until the cervix is dilated to 10 centimeters. This stage is usually the longest and can last from 2 all the way to 48 hours and beyond. The second stage is when the baby is delivered, and the third stage is the delivery of the placenta. In most cases, the natural progression of these stages lasts much longer than a couple hours. One woman, Joanna Krzysztonek, of Wroclaw, Poland, was in labor for 75 days! On the other hand, labor can go extremely quickly. Rapid labor is when labor lasts as little as 3 hours. For those few lucky gals, an extremely efficient and strong uterus, extremely compliant birth canals, smaller babies, and a history of rapid births all play fundamental roles.
11 Expectation: Labor is Painful
Labor is known to be one of the most painful situations in the world and in history. Even in the Bible, Eve is cursed by God to have the pains of childbirth “multiplied.” So, it makes sense that women believe the rumors. Every movie with a pregnant woman depicts her with her legs over her head screaming bloody murder and using tons of profanity because of all the pain she is in during labor. Doctors introduced Twilight Sleep in the United States in 1914, the combination of morphine for pain and scopolamine to erase the memory of the event, because it was believed that childbirth was such a painful and terrible process. This disaster of an idea was trashed as woman realized they would rather deal with the pain of childbirth than fight for conciseness and forget everything.
10 Truth: The Pain Experience Is Totally Dependent Upon Mom
These days there are a wide range of pain relief choices available to women in labor. While for some women deep, focused breathing is all they need to “get through it” others are left begging for a release from their agony. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the birth, women are usually able to choose when and how much pain relief they need up until certain points in the progression of labor. Pain medication can be delivered into the blood stream to lessen the pain during contractions, and anesthesia - the temporary loss of sensation - can also be used. Local anesthesia can be used to dull or numb pain around the vagina. Regional anesthesia, often referred to as an epidural can be used to block pain in a wide range of the body. Also, in rare cases, general anesthesia, where a woman is put to sleep, can also be used.
9 Expectation: Labor Is Messy
We all know there will be blood involved when a baby is born. We expect that the baby will be covered in interesting gooeyness but that it will all be okay because there is a cute little person under all that slime. Many women prepare themselves for the gross parts of delivery, from the water breaking to the bloody entrance of their new child. Pregnancy has a nasty side, too. So, if mom-to-be has made it through flatulence, repeated trips to the restroom, past possibly colostrum leaking breasts, and much more, she is more than ready for the delivery room, right? “I really thought that I would be able to keep my dignity in that delivery room. But what those nurses saw, Jeez, what my husband saw, all I can say is thank God I got a child out of that. Otherwise, I would never be able to look my husband in the face again after I peed and pooped all over myself!” (Isabella, San Francisco)
8 Truth: Labor Is Indeed Messy
The delivery room is like a scene out of the dirtiest scariest horror flick playing at the neighborhood IMAX. Think blood, poop, pee, mucus plugs, screams, and an audience. Sorry, but it’s true. Labor is probably the bloodiest occurrence in nature other than, well, have you seen when the lions catch the gazelle? All the extra blood, tissue, and many other life supporting and sustaining “juices” the woman’s body produced to support the growing baby are all coming out with the baby. In addition, when she “pushes” everything in the body “listens,” that includes the bladder and the bowels. Any woman readying herself for labor should take a good long look in the mirror and kiss that ego goodbye. Once she poops *repeatedly*on the table in front of the doctor, nurses, and close friends and family, there is really no need for the swagger.
7 Expectation: Labor Is Stressful
A woman in labor is always pictured in three ways: sweating, crying, and screaming profanities at her husband. Most moms-to-be expect to be pacing, squatting, trying to count contractions, and doing just about anything but relaxing in the delivery room. Let’s face it, women are put in the spotlight in this momentous occasion. Everyone has been waiting for this new little person to enter the world and momma’s got to do the work. Contractions can be painful, the process can be long, so many women expect to be very stressed out during labor. “I took all these Lamaze classes, I had a doula, and my husband had read all these books on how to be the best support system. When I had my first really hard contraction it all went out the window. My husband was terrified of me after I cursed him out from head to toe and I fired my doula because she was too chill…” (Melanie, Cleveland)
6 Truth: Labor Can Be Very Zen Even Orgasmic...
Women who have had children and know the real deal are far better prepared for labor and delivery (in most cases), but first time moms are usually a bit nervous. Excitement and nervousness are very close cousins so its normal to feel both. For some women, the peacefulness just depends on who you have or don’t have in the delivery room. The more people, the more emotions, the more energy, the more everything, so usually when it comes to the delivery room less is more. The best bet for a Zen-like atmosphere is to limit the people involved, make sure everyone knows what is expected of them, and remember what all the commotion is really about: the new baby. Believe it or not, many women find labor to be easy and completely stress free, some even claim to experience orgasms during delivery!
5 Expectation: Dad Won’t Do Much During Labor
Those poor guys are only good for cursing out on delivery day, right?! Well, that’s the wide spread, well-known perception. Honestly, how many times have we seen this one portrayed? The sweaty woman filled with rage shouting “You did this to me!!” between contractions, as the dad meekly hovers nearby trying to hold her hand and be supportive. Dads are supposed to be scared, quiet, and basically stay out of the way. “My husband Jeff, didn’t help me carry the baby for the last nine months so I figured he wouldn’t be able help me get the little sucker out. But it turns out, he was my rock. He remembered all the deep breathing techniques from the videos we rented from the library. He wiped the sweat off my brow when things got heated. He even handed me my lip-gloss before taking pictures!” (Jessica, Phoenix)
4 Truth: Some Dads Are Really Helpful And Others, Well….
Labor is a bloody, messy, emotionally overwhelming experience so it’s really no surprise that a few dads have done a quick meet and greet with the concrete. However, a lot of dads-to-be are the cornerstone for their partners during labor and delivery. When well-prepared expectant fathers enter the scene, they may not know what they are doing but they do the best they can. They keep their women cool, calm, and collected (as possible), they keep the phones and camera charged, they NEVER look “down there” unless warranted, and they give great back, foot, shoulder, and even arm massages. These guys will pretty much do just about anything to show the woman pushing their child into this world that they understand how hard she is working.
3 Expectation: The baby Will Be Born At The hospital
Moms-to-be make tons of plans regarding D-day (delivery day). One of the most important is the location of the birth. Most women opt for the hospital, the safest place for labor and delivery, in case any emergencies arise. Other women choose to give birth at birthing centers, a medical facility specializing in childbirth, but much less restrictive than a hospital and a lot more home-like, and some women decide to give birth right at home, like women have done for thousands of years. All this planning makes women feel a little more in control of their otherwise ‘could be’ chaotic situation. “I was going to have a water birth, assisted by my husband and mid-wife, while my three-year-old played nearby in the same room. Needless to say, things went nothing like I hoped and I ended up having an emergency C-section at the hospital. But all that matters is that my daughter was born safe and sound.” (Lacey, Arlington)
2 Truth: Baby Can Show Up Anytime, Anywhere
While majority of babies are born in hospitals, birthing centers, and at home, there are those rare exceptions. When the baby is ready to make its debut, there is no stopping them. Women have had babies in the back of cabs, in airport bathrooms, in the library, at McDonalds, and one woman even had a baby in the car - WHILE she was driving! Amanda McBride left work early because she thought she was in labor. She stopped and picked up her husband on the way to the hospital, and then after a moment asked her husband to take the wheel. Five seconds later they both heard their 8-pound son cry for the first time! There is also the story of Sofia Pedro, who had her baby in a tree. You read that correctly. The South African woman had her baby in a tree after climbing to safety during a dangerous flood in Mozambique.
1 The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth…
The experience of a woman in labor cannot be truly defined or put into simple words. Each woman’s experience is totally different. The same woman can also have totally different experiences each time she delivers subsequent children. While it is entirely possible that labor can go as planned, and that those little perfectly printed birth plans come to pass, it is highly unlikely. Woman that plan for natural births end up having emergency C-sections, women that planned for a C-section end up having babies naturally - maybe in the back of a cab... Women that grow to love their OBGYNs over the nine months of numerous doctors’ visits end up having their children delivered by complete strangers. Childbirth is simply a wondrous experience and completely dependent upon circumstance. It can be joyful, it can be heartbreaking. At the end of the day (or the end of a couple of days in some cases), the reward for all the work, emotions, and embarrassment is great. A new little baby girl or boy is worth every bit of the “Labor Madness.”