When telling stories about labor and delivery, my friends seem to fall into two categories: those who experienced the worst pain ever and had horrible experiences (at least until their epidurals), and those who claim to have had serene, pain-free births without any medication. Now, after having given birth three times myself, I think people from both camps told me things about labor and delivery that just weren't true, or maybe their postpartum hormones were to blame with a classic case of elective memory loss.
The thing about labor and delivery is that it's so incredibly personal. Different people want and need different things to make it through, and if you are anything like me, the birth plan you think you wanted goes right out the window. My point is, your mileage may vary, and I hate to break it to you, but each birth experience you have might be drastically different, so you really don't know what might happen. Birth is definitely an adventure.
Personally, I had my share of painful labor and delivery moments. I have two words for you: back labor. It's almost the worst pain I've ever felt, made even worse by the fact that, the first two childbirths, I held out for 16 and 18 hours, respectively, before begging for an epidural, all because I thought I wanted an unmedicated labor. I was surprised to discover that my epidurals were actually pretty freaking empowering. This last time, I got my epidural before anything started, and it was magical. I highly recommend it.
I'm not saying there weren't beautiful moments too, though. After all, meeting my babies for the first time was about as magical as moments get. But I definitely didn't feel any physical pleasure during the experience. So, to my friends who claim to have had "orgasmic births?" Are you sure you didn't hallucinate from the pain?
It Would Feel Cold & Sterile
When I had my first child, most of my friends had home births or delivered at birth centers. According to them, the last place I wanted to give birth was a hospital. It would be a cold, sterile place; a place for sick people. As it turns out, my birthing suites were all very lovely, with soft lighting, kind nurses. and they didn't feel sterile or cold at all.
It Would Go By Fast
My first two labors were 22 and 20 hours, you guys. Both times I waited to get epidurals, believing that a so-called "natural" birth would be wonderful and that an epidural would slow things down. It didn't.
Instead, my epidurals were magical, and things actually progressed faster once I was able to have them. Ironically, the labor when I got my epidural before my induction was the shortest labor I experience, by about a third. Who knew?
I Wouldn't Be Able To Eat
I totally snuck food in during every single one of my deliveries. You guys, labor is hard work. I was hungry, and I needed my strength.
The first time I didn't know I wasn't supposed to eat until the nurse caught me with a granola bar. The second time I had my husband get me a cinnamon roll and latte from the coffee cart. What were they going to do, kick me out?
It Would Be Scary
I honestly wasn't that scared to have my babies. I felt a bit out of control, but because I worked for a large women's health care organization, I was really comfortable in a health care setting and felt like I could ask questions and advocate for myself to get what I needed. It wasn't that scary. At least, not as scary as my first postpartum poop.
I Would Have To Have An Episiotomy
All of my friends warned me that I was going to be threatened with an episiotomy or, worse, have one without my consent. I was so desperate to avoid an episiotomy that I actually had my husband do perineal massage (which is less fun than it sounds) every night for a month before I had my daughter.
When my midwife saw my birth plan, which had in all caps: "NO EPISIOTOMY, PLEASE," she told me that most obstetrics providers don't routinely use episiotomies in labor unless they're absolutely necessary.
Getting An Epidural Would Make Me Feel Weak
I felt like my friends had lied to me about so many things regarding that blessed epidural. I heard that it would hurt, that it wouldn't work, that it would make my labor longer, that it would make me feel weak. Getting an epidural actually made me feel strong and empowered, not weak and out of control. It was just what I needed to rock childbirth.
I Would Have To Push On My Back
Many of my friends completely romanticized "natural" child birth, to the point that, while I can't be certain, I'm pretty sure they made up stories about horrible things that happened to people who got epidurals or birthed in hospitals.
The worst thing ever, apparently, was having to push on my back, which I soon learned was not a thing. I had epidurals with all three of my labors, and I didn't birth any of them on my back. The labor and delivery nurses know what they are doing, and helped me get into positions to safely and easily deliver.
I Would Poop On The Table
I am a bit ashamed to admit how much the thought of pooping in the delivery room scared the proverbial sh*t out of me. Fortunately it didn't happen, but even if it had, the nurses are used to it. It's not a big deal.
I Would Be Forced To Labor A Certain Way
It turns out that despite some subtle shaming from one midwife about getting an epidural, I didn't receive much resistance from anyone or pressure to do labor any differently than I wanted to. Each of my labors was so different, but I was never forced to do something that I didn't want or finally accept that I needed. In fact. people were constantly asking me how I felt and what I wanted and needed. I felt pretty supported.
It Would Be "Orgasmic"
Umm no. I mean, I might believe that childbirth euphoria and endorphins might make people forget the pain, but honestly, I think people who claim to orgasm during birth aren't necessarily telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. While I don't want to discredit anyone's personal experiences, it just seems, well, farfetched. That's all.
I also think that this kind of myth is harmful, because it make people feel like they fail when they have perfectly normal, painful birth experiences. We've got to stop holding women and other pregnant people up to impossible standards.