What I Wasn't Prepared For When My Water Broke

When I was pregnant with my first child, I read a lot of books on the subject of gestating fetuses (when in Rome). One thing I was surprised to learn was that someone's water breaking (i.e. the rupturing of the amniotic sac) is usually not the first sign of labor. I was quick to share this new information with friends and family with an air of know-it-all confidence that comes from having statistics on your side. Hey guys: guess what my first sign of labor was? Yep. So there were things I wasn't prepared for when my water broke.

The feeling you get when your water breaks, in my experience, is a decent metaphor for having a baby in general. You know it's going to happen at some point, and you have a pretty good idea about how it's all going to go down. However, when it actually happens you are legitimately shocked, feel a flood of a million emotions (to accompany the actual flood happening in your pants), and are taken aback by the physicality of it all. I mean, up until now, you understood pregnancy, but birth (for first-time moms, anyway) existed on an entirely cerebral plane for you. But once your water breaks the realness (and inevitability of actually delivering) hits you hard.

Here are the specific items I found myself at a loss in knowing how to handle when the floodgates opened...

My Water Breaking

OK, it didn't look like this (thank God), but it was just as surprising. I didn't see it coming at all. I figured something in my body would let me know it was happening before it actually happened. (You know, sort of how the first alarm I set in the morning lets me know that the next five I've set so that I actually wake up will be coming shortly.)


A little twinge when I got up at 3 a.m. to pee followed immediately be a "sploosh." Before I knew it I was standing in a puddle. I called my OB-GYN (sorry again for waking you, Dr. C), who reassured me that I could labor at home until my contractions were four minutes apart, lasting one minute per contraction, steadily for one hour.

Sporadic Gushing And Near-Constant Leaking

Because when people say "My water broke," it's a past tense action with no indication that it's something that continues. But continue it does, generally as a trickle but sometimes (often during a contraction) as another geyser of amniotic fluid. It's just as fun as it sounds.

The Excitement

Yes, you've been lugging around this tiny human inside of you now for months and months but now it's real in a way it hasn't been yet. Because you know, in all likelihood, you'll be holding your baby within 24 hours.

The Panic

Yes, you've been lugging around this tiny human inside of you now for months and months but now it's real in a way it hasn't been yet. Because you know, in all likelihood, you'll be holding your baby within 24 hours.

(See how the same words can read totally different with different framing? WELCOME TO PARENTHOOD! THIS IS YOUR LIFE NOW!)

The Contractions

I learned later on (actually after both my births) that contractions post-water breaking are far more painful than contractions pre-water breaking (the amniotic fluid cushions things, I'm told, so as it drains out of the uterus things get more intense). So whenever I used to hear women talk about their labors like "Oh, it wasn't that bad, actually!" I felt like a massive wuss/wondered what sort of lab-created superwomen I was dealing with.

I was definitely not prepared for contractions before they started up (immediately upon my water breaking, by the way). I could attribute this to not having taken any sort of birth class but, no, I honestly cannot think of anything that would have prepared me for this particular form of agony.

Knowing How Exactly We Were Getting To The Hospital

Living in New York City and owning a car (a rare combination, by the way), my partner and I found ourselves in the unique position to be able to choose which of several modes of transportation we wished to take to the hospital. We could call a cab (this was pre-ride sharing apps, guys), drive our car and park at the hospital, or take public transportation. Now, a few years earlier, I had seen a woman give birth on the Manhattan-bound platform of the 4/5 station at Bowling Green, so I immediately ruled out public transportation as I did not want to be in that position myself. We debated our other options, but hadn't quite settled on a decision by the time my water broke. This meant researching parking garages near the hospital and continuing to debate for a bit amid contractions and a puddle of amniotic fluid.

(We took a cab.)

Having A Well-Thought Out Hospital Bag

I believe you will find a strong "procrastination" theme in a lot of this list. (In my defense: I was still four days from my due date and everyone told me first babies usually come late!)

So I finally managed to toss a completely random assortment of clothing, toiletries, and a small mountain of stuff I thought would come in handy but were so unnecessary it's embarrassing to look back on it. (My laptop? To write? Girl, please.)

Having A Clean House

Not that it was a chaotic mess or anything, but there were a whole lot of chores I figured my partner and I would have time to do over the weekend so we'd be prepared. "Ha!" said my tricky little fetus baby as he did his bit to break my water (or so I imagine). "You have a few hours. Go! Clean. The Hunger Games have begun!" So there I sat, doing the whole labor thing, while my husband scrubbed our bathroom and kitchen and tried to put our bedroom in order.

Having A Plan For Our Cat

Oh yeah: cat. You're, like, a living thing, huh? You will require food and water and stuff. The issue hadn't completely slipped my mind until this point. I had taken the cat into consideration, but I also know that cats are largely self-sufficient and if we had to leave him for a solid day he would be OK.

However, after my water broke and hours of contractions began and it felt like I would be in labor for the next 18 years, I began to think of my fur baby and the (improbable) possibility of being at the hospital for longer than expected. Fortunately, we had some friends who lived down the street and had a key, so we called them to confirm they would be able to pop in and check on Mr. Kitty if we didn't return in a timely manner. (We did. At least my husband did, but still: the backup plan made us all feel better.)

Knowing WTF To Do While In Labor

OMG WHAT IS HAPPENING AND WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT?! Do I, um, do I breathe funny? Do I lie down? Do I sit up? Do I do yoga? Do I try to nap? Should I take a walk? Does ANY OF THIS MATTER BECAUSE NOTHING IS WORKING!

Granted, I hadn't taken any birth prep classes, but I had read up on pain management and none of the suggestions were doing a damn thing. I suspect birth classes wouldn't have helped all that much either, because I'm pretty sure there's nothing you can do that can make post-water breaking contractions stop hurting.

The Sounds That Came Out Of Me

You guys there are no words. I couldn't help it. I can't explain it. Still, I was not prepared and still don't know how to process the fact that I sounded like a gross between a singing machine gun and an orgasming woodpecker.

I make no apologies.