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The Truth About Labor and Delivery

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Jennifer Farrell: Hey ladies, I'm back! The bitch that brought you the truth about the first three months is ready to lay down the honest-to-goodness truth about your labor and delivery.

I'm not here to tell you all the wonderful, honeyed, sticky-sweet moments motherhood brings (because you have a ton of resources that will reinforce that) -- I'm here to tell you the crap stuff, the facts that your friends are too scared to tell you because you're in your 8th or 9th month. So read on if you're ready to face what's coming for you, and if you're not, then kindly click off and go bury your head in the sand somewhere.

Woman giving birth

What you believe: Packing a big bag full of essentials such as clothes, supplies, books, magazines, iPods, pictures of your dog, your pillow, your blanket, your newborn clothing stash, etc., will ensure you are ready for anything that might happen in the hospital. After all, if you have everything you need, you won't possibly need anything, right?

Wrong! I'm warning you: pack anything you want and the truth is you probably won't use a quarter of it. Your bag will be heavy, it will take up space, and you will be annoyed that the one thing you want to find (maxi pads!) is the one thing you didn't think to pack. Sure, take all your baby stuff, you'll need it -- but as for stuff for you? Bring one nice shirt to wear so you can breastfeed with guests in the room (you will be sitting in bed the entire time anyway so no one will know you're not wearing pants) and bring one going-home outfit. You won't wear anything but hospital gowns anyway. Trust me -- you are not going to want to put on pants of any kind after what is going to happen down there. P.S. Pack a bag of maxi pads. Do not pack tampons. Maxi pads. The biggest bag you can find.

What you believe: Planning for and getting an epidural will mean that your labor will be blissfully pain-free. You will be up, walking around, eating light salads and drinking juice while you chat with your mom and watch your baby's heartbeat on the monitor. Oops, there goes a contraction. Didn't feel a thing! This epidural stuff is GRAND!!

Hold on, I can't stop laughing ... okay. I'm warning you: epidurals are not 100% effective. They also limit how much you can move around. Did you know that if you get an epidural you can hardly leave your bed except to go to the bathroom? You can't bounce on that cute birthing ball or labor in the whirlpool tub (you have a giant needle in your spine, think about it). You also can't eat a bite of food or take even a sip of a drink because epidurals result in a higher risk for C-sections and we all know what happens with food and anesthetic. You can have ice chips. Yummy, yummy ice chips for the duration of your labor and delivery. Trust me, after laboring for 10 hours, you are hungrier for a lot more than ice chips! You also might not be able to birth in the position that feels most natural for your body because for the epidural to work, you have to be lying down. If you sit up, the medicine pools into your legs. Guess what's frozen then? Right -- your legs! So unless you are 100% positive that you want to birth your baby lying down, please rethink the epidural.

What you believe: You are concerned that you won't know when it's time to push. You are secretly worried that you will not know how to do it and you won't like how it feels. You are scared that when it's time to push you won't know what to do.

I'm warning you: you are going to know when to push and you're going to like how it feels. You're not going to like it like you like chocolate cake, but it's going to feel good. Not good like an orgasm would, but good like a big poop after being constipated for a long time. Actually, here is the truth: the urge to push feels just like the urge to have a big bowel movement. Let yourself give in to the feeling of the impending BM, don't tense up, just go with it, and the pushing part will go a lot faster. Don't scrunch up your face or hold your breath or hold the push back -- pretend you are taking a huge BM and relax and just push that baby out. Trust me, you will know when it's time to push.

What you believe: After birthing your baby you will lose a lot of weight quickly. You believe that the placenta weighs a couple pounds, the amniotic fluid weighs a couple pounds, and the baby weighs a whole lot of pounds, so realistically, you should lose like 30 pounds ... right?

Wrong! I'm warning you: don't weigh yourself after birth because you're going to be disappointed. For some strange reason, most women lose 10-15 pounds max (unless your baby is a 10-pounder, then adjust upwards). The fluid doesn't weigh that much, and the placenta is only a couple of ounces. It's during the time directly following your labor that the weight really starts to drop off. Mostly due to night sweats and breast-feeding but ... more on that in my next article, The Truth about the Aftermath. For now, try not to worry too much about how much weight you didn't lose.

Ladies, labor and delivery is a journey of self-discovery. You are going to be challenged emotionally, mentally, and physically in ways that you can't even begin to imagine. It is the most empowering, rewarding experience in a woman's life, but it is also the scariest, most intimidating and potentially dangerous situation you will ever have to face. Sadly, your girlfriends are more likely to share the truth about their labor stories with other moms but rarely with newly pregnant women. Why? It's not because we are afraid of scaring you -- it's because we know (from experience) that you're not going to believe it's as hard as we say it is. Again, I'm not here to sugarcoat it for you. I'm here to tell you the things my friends and I talk about after the fact, the things we all wish other moms had told us. Don't say I didn't warn you.


next: Father Used Dog Shock Collar on Kids
41 comments so far | Post a comment now
Shelly May 7, 2009, 3:47 PM

You are so right about the bag! I had my husband pack mine, and he put in a “Beavis and Butthead” comic. It hurt so much to laugh after my c-section and the damn book made it worse! I wish I had packed a going home outfit, but hey you can’t have everything.

Melinda May 7, 2009, 4:04 PM

I agree with you and commenter Shelly…the bag is over rated. I packed all sorts of things on “the list” and used exactly 3 things. My robe (so I could be up from bed and not show my behind in the hospital gown), the toiletry bag so I could shower, and the baby book because they put my son’s foot print in it for me. That was it. I even went home in the outfit I went the hospital in because it fit better than the one I packed.

Ashleigh May 7, 2009, 4:17 PM

Going home outfit = tshirt and sweats. Anything else, other than maternity clothes, won’t fit and you’ll likely be too sore and tired to care about anyway.
Books, magazines, etc: forget it. I was in the hospital for 5 days and the only thing I thought about in “free” time was getting more sleep. The only reading I did was the pamphlets and stuff they gave me there - postpartum depression, breastfeeding, etc.
Even baby clothes aren’t that necessary. My son wore two sleepers there, and other than that, was swaddled in a blanket so much that the clothes weren’t visible even if they were on!
Epidural: Good luck, ladies. If you want it, go for it. Be prepared for the bad stuff that goes with it, and all the good too. And be prepared NOT to get one if you’re too far along too quickly. In a span of 10 minutes (home to hospital), I went from walking around relatively easily with 5-min+ contractions, to barely able to stand The urge to push? Doesn’t always happen. I was as “in labour” as you can imagine, and they told me to push when I felt the urge. I never did, so they told me to push anyway! I did and it felt wonderful… until I ran out of breath and had to start all over. Then it hurt like hell until I started pushing again.

Gigohead  May 7, 2009, 4:21 PM

I’m always telling my friend not to use their face or yell so much when pushing. You can damage an ocular nerve and be all bloodshot and be hoarse afterward. Breathe and use the bottom and pretend they need to use the bathroom and just “do the do”.

Boy are maxi pads essential. The hospital doesn’t give you much unless you have a super duper nurse, so bring your stash with you.

Dels May 7, 2009, 7:22 PM

I wish I had read this 13 years ago! LOL. Right on though.. I always tell ppl try to skip the epidural too, because it causes more pain in the long run than the temporary delivery pain. My lower back has never been the same! Oh and YES GIVING BIRTH HURTS, I laugh when I still get asked if it does. And u are absolutely right about bag.. for my first I packed a bag and used maybe only 2 things, with the other 2 children I barely packed anything at all

Erica B. May 7, 2009, 7:27 PM

Oh… you forgot to mention the other lovely part of pushing. Just like you said, it feels like you are having a big bowel movement. Well ladies, when you’re pushing that hard, the bowl movement comes along with it! She said maxi pads. Try Depends! I had never seen that much blood pour out of me in my life the first time I stood after giving birth.

Renee May 7, 2009, 8:47 PM

I would recommend very loose fitting pajamas (or a gown if you prefer) because you will be up moving around afterwards and I felt more comfortable in pants.
Also be prepared to have help. The nurses took me in with my 2nd child (not my first at a different hospital) and cleaned me up in the bathroom. they wouldn’t allow me to do it alone (maybe because I had an epi?).

Ady May 8, 2009, 9:43 AM

The first not so fun thing that happened to me after going into labor was continuously running to the bathroom because I had diarrhea. I was so worried about having a BM during delivery but when it happens you’re in so much pain you don’t care. Plus I had a catheter put in and I didn’t even feel that (did not have an epidural) because of the contractions, I think the nurse could have shoved a 2x4 in there and I wouldn’t have noticed lol. Then after delivery the nurse made me get up to to the bathroom, first I had no stomach muscles in which to get myself off the bed, second I left a trail of blood from the bed to the bathroom. The whole time I apologized to the nurse for the blood because I was so embarrased. I’m sure I wasn’t the only woman who left a trail to the bathroom. Then for a good two weeks or more I swear I couldn’t walk straight because of the episiotomy I had. I felt like I was walking with my legs apart lol.

DPH May 8, 2009, 10:01 AM

I hate to say it, but I was one of the lucky ones. I wasn’t experiencing any pain and when I was dilated to two, my doc ordered my epidural. Felt nothing during labor and delivery. Afterwards hurt, but it was great to not feel anything. Good story J!

Woohoo May 8, 2009, 11:25 AM

Don’t just get Depends pads, either. They’ll shift and bunch up on you. I got the depends undergarments, no leaking, plus it felt good to have some support for my stomach muscles! This wouldn’t work for a C-section, though…

brenda May 8, 2009, 11:29 AM

one good thing about epidurals=they are the greatest drug u can get when in horrible pain! Bad thing for me was just that couldn’t feel anything at all not even feel myself pushing i was straining so hard that i was out of breath the entire time but i knew i had to push to get my baby boy out. Now that im pregnant for the second time i wonder if i will feel all the pain when pushing this time? oh yeah and u feel awful afterward, I almost fainted when going to the bathroom because of all the loss of blood.I was also induced so didnt feel contractions until the pytocin set in. Its not at all how they picture it to be in those TLC shows about giving birth!

ashley May 8, 2009, 2:35 PM

Ha Ha!! My cousin just had her first a few weeks ago and we had gone to visit her 3 weeks before her due date and she was very busy packing her bag. Get this: she packed 4 pairs of shoes!!! Yeah, I know. Also, baby clothes, 3 outfits for herself and some other crazy things. I told her 1 pair of flip flops, that’s all you need. Not 4 pairs of cutesy sandals!! Also, something else I made sure she had for when she got home was nursing pads. I remember going to walmart all leaky with my first!

Jennifer Farrell May 8, 2009, 6:03 PM

ashley that is so true! i remember wishing i’d packed flip flops.

Kim May 9, 2009, 9:59 PM

Great article! So true :)

Cher Farrell May 14, 2009, 12:40 AM

Awesome article, Jenny! Of course, there are other scenarios, but yours is likely the most common among first-time-mommy hospital births!
Ladies with baby bumps: there is no such thing as having too much information! :)

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