If you've never experienced it before, labor and delivery is nothing short of intimidating. In the moment, it's both terrifying and miraculous. By the time you've done it once, though, it's old hat. Well, maybe not exactly, but you definitely have a wealth of knowledge you didn't have before, not to mention a cute little baby. Now that I'm pregnant again, I'm grateful for all the ways my first labor and delivery helped prepare me for my second. After all, there's no such thing as being "too prepared" for childbirth.
With my first pregnancy, I looked at my impending labor and delivery with a combination of curiosity and worry. I ended up with a medicated, assisted vaginal delivery. It was the hardest, but without a doubt the best thing I've ever done in my life. Now that I've been through it, though, my emotions are more a cocktail of confidence mixed with slight hint of resignation.
My first labor and delivery lasted a whopping 29 hours, for example. I'm really hoping my baby boy makes a quicker entrance into the world, but if not, at least I know what I'm in for. Even if my immediate future involves a significantly different childbirth experience, I will go into that labor and delivery room feeling more prepared, and for the following reasons:
I Know What To Pack
It's not that a birth plan is a bad idea, it's just that if you learned anything from the first go around it's that things never go according to plan. The nurses will probably make you ditch your pajamas for a hospital gown, and you're not allowed to eat, so just cross all that sh*t off your list.
This time, my go-bag has a toothbrush and going home outfit for baby. I'll wear whatever I came in with.
I Know What It's Like To Have My Water Break
Having my water break was nothing like I expected. I thought it would make more of a splash. Like, literally. So imagine my surprise when I ended up with a slow leak. It might be different this time, sure, but at least I know to have some heavy-duty pads on hand. You know, just in case.
I Know What Contractions Feel Like
I don't handle pain or discomfort very well at all, so I was really worried about how much contractions would hurt. Fortunately, my lifelong PMS affliction turned out to be great training for labor. I learned that contractions, at least for me, are like cramps that get worse over time. I know I can totes handle it for at least 20 hours, and I also have a pretty good idea of what my threshold is.
I Know I May Need To Labor At Home
Hollywood lied. When it's your first labor, you probably have some expectation that you'll head to the hospital right away. That's not necessarily the case. According to Parents, if your water hasn't broken, you won't go to the hospital until your contractions are four to five minutes apart for one or two hours.
Thanks to my slowly leaking amniotic fluid, my midwife had me labor at home for 12 hours. It was a good thing, too, because it took me that long to get dilated enough to be admitted. In anticipation of labor number two, I have The Crown cued up on Netflix.
I Know Who I Want In The Room
When it was time to head to the hospital, I had my sister and husband in tow. They stayed in the room with me, and my mom and dad came in and out. When I got the epidural, it was just my partner. What I learned is that, as the laboring mom, you get to decide who is with you in the labor and delivery room, feelings be damned.
We've since moved across the country, so I'll probably just have my husband at my side. I know he's a great support to me, so I won't kick him out unless he really pisses me off.
I Know Not To Wait To Ask For Pain Relief
If you're like me, you try and tough it out as long as you can before you turn to a medical intervention. I mean, it sucks to have to lay in bed and have a catheter. But if you wait too long, you might not get one at all.
When I felt like I couldn't take the pain anymore, I requested an epidural. But first, I had to get an IV and wait for the anesthesiologist. I remember crying and shivering from the fluids and contractions. Next time, I'll be a little more proactive.
I Know What Makes Me Feel Better
One of the reasons first-time moms overpack is that they don't know what things are going to help them, both physically and emotionally, during labor. I suppose it's better to be prepared, but it makes for a heavy bag.
Now that I know what provides me with relief, I'll skip the tennis balls and lollipops and just make sure to pack some nice, cozy socks and my sense of humor.
I Know What An Epidural Feels Like
I had a lot of anxiety about the epidural, but it wasn't so bad. They sit you up in a C-shape, and your partner or nurse can hold your hands. You'll get numbing medication through a tiny needle before the epidural is inserted. Once it's taped, you will lie down and the medication will be delivered via a pump.
I'm glad I know what to expect this time around. My vertebrae are close together, so it can take the anesthesiologist more than one attempt (try three) to thread the catheter. I may also have to wait between contractions before they can get to work. My blood pressure drops when the medication starts flowing, so I'll have to warn my nurse to start with the smallest dose possible.
I recently had a spinal for a hemorrhoidectomy, and honestly, the IV was more uncomfortable. This go around should be a piece of cake.
I Know How To Push
I thought pushing would be like nothing I'd ever experienced, but it turns out it's quite a lot like taking a significant dump. Sorry, but you engage a lot of the same muscles as you do when you have a bowel movement (hence the horror stories about pooping on the table).
Honestly, it's a relief to know that when the time comes, I know what I'm doing and how and when to do it.
I Know I Can Handle Complications
Labor and delivery is full of unexpected twists and turns. For me, it happened when I started pushing. Every time I pushed, my baby's heart rate would drop. My midwife brought the OB in to take a look, and she decided I needed a vacuum-assisted delivery. I ended up with an episiotomy I didn't want, but that was the last thing on my mind when I was holding my beautiful baby girl on my chest.
I know I can handle whatever labor and delivery throws my way, not only because I've already done it, but because I know how amazing the result is.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.