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.
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.