If everything you know about labor and delivery are things you’ve learned from watching movies, you’re in for a big surprise. While TV shows and films often depict one type of birth experience, they often fail to show some of the realities of that experience. I’m not even talking about more complicated scenarios, like if someone goes into preterm labor or has pre-eclampsia or experiences a stillbirth, either. Still, there are just so many things everything thinks happen during birth, but don’t, so I’m here to set the record straight for y’all.
I should preface the following by stating that none of my birth experiences have been typical. In other words, nearly every assumption people make about birth did not happen when I was in the throes of labor and delivery. My first labor experience was totally unexpected because I went into very early preterm labor. They also tried to stop my labor, which is not at all typical. My son was also a home birth-turned-hospital transfer situation, so that was also quite chaotic. Both my babies were sent straight to the NICU rather than staying with me, which was not easy on anyone.
However, speaking more in terms of an easier labor experience, there are still many false assumptions made as the result of dramatized television shows and a not-so-accurate cultural narrative. Let’s clear them up now, shall we?
When Your Water Breaks You Automatically Start Feeling Intense Contractions
Nope! Labor might begin before your water breaks (this happened to me). Or, if your water breaks first, labor still might not occur right away, and labor might need to be induced. There’s not singular, straight line when it comes to labor.
You Have To Rush Straight To The Hospital As Soon As Your Water Breaks
Also not true. In fact, some doctors (like mine) will suggest you stay out of the hospital as long as possible during labor. This is so you’re still allowed to move more without any monitors hooked up to you, so you can still eat and drink freely, etc. Some believe this also helps you avoid an unnecessary c-section (but there’s no avoiding a necessary one, obviously, and that’s OK).
Anyone & Everyone Will Be In Your Hospital Room
When I was getting close to my delivery date, I took a tour of the hospital I’d be delivering in. They told me there that I could choose to have one, maybe two, people in with me at a time. So, those movies showing every single one of someone’s friends and family coming in and out all willy nilly while they’re giving birth? Doesn’t really happen much.
You’ll Want & Have Someone Videotaping The Whole Thing
Nah. OK, maybe some pregnant persons want that, sure. However, not everyone videotapes their child’s birth. Honestly, I am totally fine with my nether regions not being displayed on my TV screen, especially when things got bloody.
The Doctor (Or Midwife) Are Around From The Moment Labor Begins
When you go into active labor, you kind of want your doctor or midwife to be on hand. Sometimes they will be, but other times, they won’t. Instead, you’ll have nurses come by to check on you from time to time until the pushing really begins.
You Won’t Be Pushing Longer Than A Few Minutes
Yes, some people are lucky and have very quick labor and delivery experiences. Others end up pushing for hours. Awful, huh?
Epidurals Are Always Available & Effective
Nope! I haven’t had one, but apparently there are numerous reasons why an epidural might not work, including improper placement of the catheter and your labor progressing faster than it can do its job. Also, if your labor has been going for a while, you might lose your window of opportunity for an epidural. Whoops!
Once The Baby Is Out, All The Work Is Over
Don’t you wish? I was not really expecting what it would be like to birth the placenta after I gave birth to both my kids. Rest assured, I just wanted it to be done and over with so I could focus on the babies I just had. And honestly, sometimes it takes a while.
Your Baby Will Stay With You The Entire Time Once They’re Born
Nope. I mean, they might. Some hospitals are awesome like that, and if you have an uncomplicated home birth, that might also be the case. However, many times babies are taken to sleep in nurseries, or are at least taken to get procedures done away from mama.
You’ll Connect With Your Baby Immediately
That would be nice, but it’s not always the case. Some mamas simply have trouble forming any kind of bond at first, and for numerous reasons. Postpartum hormones and depression, birth trauma, previous traumas, or just a general inability to get close to anyone right away can all cause you to not form that head-over-heels bond that is so often portrayed in pop culture.
You'll Be Back To "Normal" In Six Weeks
OK, so this is some time after birth, but I had to include it. Some folks swear you’re going to be 100 percent back to your old self in just a few weeks time. That’s probably the myth that helped create a system where mothers are expected back at work in three months (after not getting paid in all that time, to boot). In reality, every mom is different. Some are fine in a month and a half, while others need an entire year (or longer) to finally start getting back to “normal.”