I'm really starting to think people just can't help giving you unsolicited advice when you are pregnant. I've heard everything from unwanted labor and delivery horror stories to "helpful" tips about how to do it the "right." (As if there is one right way to birth a baby.) While there are definitely things I wish I could un-hear, there were a few things other women said to me about labor and delivery that were, thankfully, true.
I am very fortunate to have a circle of friends and family who have a ton of experience in pregnancy, parenting, and childbirth. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had no idea what to expect in the delivery room. I read countless books and articles, asked my midwife a thousand questions and struck up conversations about childbirth so often that I think I sounded a bit obsessed with what would happen in the delivery room. Childbirth ended up being totally different than I expected. In some ways more challenging and, in other ways, so much easier than I thought it would be. I made the mistake of setting pretty unfair expectations for myself. I thought I knew what I wanted and how to have the perfect "birth experience." I was so wrong on so many levels.
My second birth, while far more painful, was far easier for me to handle on an emotional level. I banned people from telling me horror stories and since I had to deliver early due to preeclampsia, I was singularly focused on bringing home a healthy baby and surviving the process. As it turned out, not wanting or expecting a perfect experience made my experience way better. Huh? Imagine that.
Now that I have experienced birth twice, I try to be a force for good and help other moms stay calm, get through child birth, and even enjoy it when they can. I am just a few weeks away from birthing my last baby, and am surprisingly calm as I remember my previous births and the things other women told me about labor and delivery that were, thankfully, spot on.
"You'll Know When It's Really Labor"
With my first baby, I was so scared that I would not know I was in labor and end up having my baby on the bathroom floor or in the car on the way to the hospital. I ended up calling my midwife's office nightly for two weeks and going to the hospital three times. As it turned out, all those Braxton Hicks contractions were nothing compared to the real thing.
"You Don't Need A Ton Of Stuff"
I am a little embarrassed when I think about how much stuff I brought to the hospital the first time around. I wanted to be prepared, but I didn’t use most of it, and we had to take three trips to load the car when it was time to leave. I should have listened to my friend who said to bring lip balm, a pillow, and snacks. That's it.
"The Pain Is Temporary"
It totally doesn't seem like it, but the pain is temporary and you can get through each contraction one at a time. I promise.
"It Doesn't Have To Be Beautiful"
It seems like someone posts a beautiful delivery room picture on social media every day. I was not beautiful laboring goddess and I was so glad that I didn't have the expectation of perfect hair and glowing skin when I ended up with a rat's nest and broken blood vessels in my eyes.
"Epidurals Are Awesome"
"It Won't Go As Planned"
This phrase needs to be carved on my tombstone. After it was over I was so glad that things didn't go as planned. It meant that baby was healthy and I got the pain relief that I needed. I actually enjoyed most of it, once I let go of expectations. I'm not joking.
"It's OK To Eat"
A dear friend advised me to bring snacks. I never would advise anyone to go against their doctor's orders, but it's OK to eat before you go or ask your nurse if you can eat a snack. Trust me when I say, you'll need energy.
"Your Nurse Will Be Your Best Friend"
Speaking of nurses, someone told me to make friends with my labor and delivery nurses and make sure we were on the same page. I am so glad I listened. I loved mine. They were so thoughtful and helpful. They also were awesome advocates for me when I needed a voice.
"The Hospital Is Not Scary"
I was so afraid of the hospital. Most of my friends reassured me that it would be fine and great to deliver in a place with access to doctors, medicine, and emergency help if I needed it. As it turns out, the hospital was not as scary as I feared it would be and even had some perks, namely, awesome cinnamon rolls, comfy beds, and wifi.
"You Can Do It"
You can do this. You've got this. You are enough.
These words of encouragement became my mantra and saw me through the pain, waiting, and fear. In the end they were right, and I now believe them. Something that is going to see me through my next labor. New moms to be should repeat them every day. You've got this.