“Birth is a beautiful thing.” You’ve probably heard the quote. And it truly is…except the when it’s not.
Throughout your pregnancy, you’ll get to know everyone down at the OB/GYN office pretty well. I mean, even in a typical healthy pregnancy some women are at the doctor’s office once a week that last month. And yet, after I gave birth, I still felt like I was not prepared for some of the, um, interesting things that I experienced leading up to and during the birth of my firstborn. You’d think by the third there would be no surprises left for childbirth, but nope, no matter how much you try to prepare you just don’t know what’s going to come your way.
Through three of births of my own, and in talking to countless mom friends about their experiences, I was able to put together a list of the 13 most common occurrences your doctor is probably not telling you at your appointments. Maybe because ignorance is bliss?
Giving birth is in the very top experiences of my life. It was beyond amazing and when you see the most perfect tiny human you made for the very first time, your heart will practically burst. But let’s just say I could’ve been a little more prepared to expect the unexpected.
1.) Oh, you have a birth plan? That’s cute.
I kid. If you have a birth plan and all goes according to plan, cheers to you! With baby number one, my husband and I sat together and typed up our perfect birth plan. It didn’t take long for it to go out the window. Honestly, birth is just unpredictable. No two birth stories are ever quite the same. As mamas-to-be, we create this ideal birth in our minds. It would be wonderful if the experience could go according to plan – it would certainly make it easier on everyone. But the beauty lies in the unexpected and truly a part of what makes birth so special. If you want to have a “natural” childbirth, by all means, that should be written down and stated clearly to your birthing team. And if making a plan eases your fears as a mama-to-be, you should absolutely make a birth plan. But if you do deviate from your intended plan, it should be free of any guilt. In the end, birthing a healthy baby is what’s most important.
2.) Things not in your plan? Cesarean, forceps, suction…just to name a few.
Here’s a perfect example of when a birth plan needs to be flexible. I highly doubt your birth plan will include your doctor using forceps to extract your baby. But when the experts tell you this is the safest way to deliver your baby, you let them do it. My daughter was asynclitic, meaning her head was turned to the side and not the normal way for a baby to make an appearance. In the moment, it scared me that they had to use something on her head for an assisted delivery, but I needed to trust them. And she safely made her way into the world. For all you mamas out there who unexpectedly need to deliver via cesarean, I know it’s hard not to, but don’t think twice about it. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel less for not delivering vaginally, you have a healthy baby to love and raise, and that is what matters.
3.) When your water breaks, someone will probably ask you, “Are you sure you didn’t just pee?”
As if after all these years you don’t know what it feels like when you pee. So, I don’t have personal experience with this one, but basically every mama I know who’s had their water break on their own had at least one person ask them this…their husband, mom, a nurse on the phone…you get the idea. And by the way, water breaking a la Phoebe in “Friends”…yeah, it doesn’t happen like that.
4.) Your epidural might be too strong or not strong enough.
This is not me saying you should have an unmedicated birth by any means. I’ve experienced both and there are certainly pros and cons to each method. For whatever reason, my epidural with my first was very strong and lasted a long time. I couldn’t feel any sensation whatsoever from the waist down and basically didn’t even feel pressure when I was pushing my baby out. This made for an extra long and tiring birth. That was a big downside to the epidural that I was also thankful to have that brought welcome relief. Just know this could happen…I certainly didn’t. On the other side of this, I have definitely heard stories of moms who felt way too much. Just be ready to advocate for yourself if you think something isn’t working the way it should to see if they can set it straight.
5.) You plan for an epidural, but you can’t get one.
Complain about not being able to feel your birth with your first like I did, and you just might find yourself in the opposite situation with a subsequent birth. With my third baby, I gave birth to her within 40 minutes of leaving my house. The whole way there I was crying, “They’re not going to let me have an epidural!” Being 10 cm upon arrival, I was right. From what I’ve heard, this is quite unlikely with first children, but just be prepared. I stayed home a lot longer than I probably should have.
6.) Timing contractions isn’t nearly as simple as they make it out to be.
What your doctor and birthing class instructor will drill into your head is 5-1-1. What does this mean exactly? The “recommendation” for when to head to the hospital is when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute each and have been going on for at least an hour. Easy enough, right? You just download an app, wait to see that magical 5-1-1 and then you and your partner happily head off to the hospital to have a baby. I’m not saying don’t use the app, it certainly helps, but it’s not the perfect system I assumed it would be. All of my labors were very different – with one lasting 30 hours and one where I barely made it to the delivery room. Recommendations from your doctors should certainly be heeded, but just remember that no one knows your body better than you. If you think it’s go time, then go. What’s that phrase again…oh yeah, better safe than sorry!
7.) If your baby is ready to come out and the doctor isn’t there yet, they’ll tell you to close your legs.
This is as crazy as it sounds. With my third, she came fast. We’re talking I almost had the baby in the hospital parking lot. I thought I was the only one who’d been told this ridiculous statement as a tiny human was doing everything in her power to exit my body. But turns out, nope. Apparently, this is a tactic even the best of nurses are convinced will work. Who am I to question the experts? All I’m saying is when a baby is ready, someone better be ready to catch.
8.) When it’s time to have the baby they’ll tell you to “push down like you’re having a bowel movement”.
When you hear this with your first birth, you’re a little taken aback how casually they tell you this. You’d think this would be easily done since it’s a practice you do (hopefully) on the daily, but oddly enough, in the moment you’re supposed to be performing the beautiful act of childbirth, it’s a little disconcerting. But don’t worry, by baby number three, you’ll be a pro.
9.) You’re probably going to poop.
And no I don’t mean in the privacy of the bathroom before or after your baby comes. See number 10. My friends did tell me about this one ahead of time and I was slightly terrified. To ease my fears, I convinced myself it wouldn’t happen to me. Wrong. But please, please don’t worry about this one at all. You literally will not care. Like at all. And neither will your nurses.
10.) So many people will check out your business and you won’t even care.
You want your baby out, and you want him out yesterday. When those strong contractions kick in, you could truly care less who sees you naked. Childbirth is raw, unpredictable, empowering…something natural our female bodies were made for. I spent a lot of time stressing out about this one ahead of time, but don’t. This one is not optional in most cases, so just go with it. And remember that these amazing people do this every single day.
11.) Your nurse will be your very best friend.
Seriously, I can’t even begin to say how thankful I am for the amazing nurses who took care of me when I had my babies. My nurse for my third baby coincidentally was the same nurse that delivered my son 3 years prior. She was the best. Those L and D nurses are heroes. And even though your husband, partner or mom is the person you love the most that you want by your side, until the doctor swoops in for those final pushes, you’ll be so happy to have your level-headed nurse calling all the shots.
12.) Don’t worry, your baby will get a lot cuter.
Red, splotchy, puffy, gooey…this is what your baby looks like you welcome him into the world. Chances are you will be so enraptured with love for your new favorite human in the whole wide world (as you should be!) that you won’t even care. They certainly are cute in their very tiny, 10 perfect toes and 10 perfect fingers kind of way. But when I look back on newborn pictures, I realize the cuteness factor was tenfold about 3 months in. Just one more thing for you to look forward to on this amazing journey of motherhood.
13.) When it’s over you will be jealous when your friends get to give birth.
When my friends neared the 40-week mark, I would get so excited for them. I would tell them how much they would enjoy childbirth and to live in the moment as best as they could. Even the longest labors you look back on will feel like they happened in a blink. Right after your first birth, you might swear you’re “never doing that again.” But before you know it, the emotional, overwhelming and difficult act of pregnancy and childbirth feels likes a distant memory. And that’s when you’re back and ready to do it again, once again celebrating the most beautiful two pink lines.