You would think that having been through labor twice before, this time I would have known exactly what to expect, but, like many things in life, labor doesn't always (or ever) go as planned. So, it should come as no surprise that there are many things I wish I'd known about labor before actually going through it, even this time around.
I just brought my third child into the world two weeks ago, and I can safely say it went completely differently than my other two labors. There are so many things I wish I had known about labor those three times and, now that my uterus is done carrying babies, of course I've learned them all. Figures.
Things like, did you know that if you are being induced, you may be able to get an epidural before induction? That's right. Before the party, Pitocin starts. Why didn't anyone tell me that when I was induced last time and went through 18 hours of back labor? Also, while your spouse might be a complete jerk during labor (my first was), they also might be the one thing that makes you feel loved and supported during one of the hardest days of your life. Thanks darling.
You are bound to feel many different emotions. Across three labors, I have felt them all: hope, anger, happiness, sadness, fear, loss of control, pain, relief, shame, a complete loss of shame, hunger, constipation, gas. You know, all the emotions. However, the one thing all of my labors had in common was the moment of pure joy when my baby cried or let out a little squeak, and the nurse let me know that they were OK. It was the most beautiful sound in the world.
Read on for some of the many things I wished I had known. I'm going to share with you in hope that you have fewer surprises than I did.
It Doesn't Have To Hurt
You can get the epidural first or, should I should say, that it was an option for me this time to get the epidural before labor started. I had epidurals during my last two labors, too, but only after I tried to go medication-free for "mommy street cred." What was I thinking?
This time around, I had a traumatic few days leading up to my labor — I fell on the ice and sprained a muscle in my leg. I think my OB-GYN wanted to spare me as much pain as possible. My seven-hour labor was the most pain-free seven hours of the past three weeks of my life, at least up until my epidural wore off. If they give you the option, my vote is taking the drugs.
You Will Be So Hungry
This time, they thought I might have to have a c-section, so there was nothing but ice chips for me and, surprisingly, I listened. I didn't eat any of the snacks we had snuck in. Who knew that was going to happen? By the time I delivered and got back to my room in the postpartum wing, I was ravenous.
It Can Be Hilarious
Labor was, at times, hilarious. When my water broke, and continued to flow for several minutes afterwards. When I got snarky with the nurses. When my spouse accidentally took a picture of my butt. When I had horrible gas. My spouse even made me laugh during pushing, which helped move baby down with every chuckle. (And to think I keep telling him that he's not funny.)
Not Everything Will Go As Planned
Birth plans, in my experience, are a lot like Amazon wish lists. You may get one or two things that you want, but you should definitely prioritize your must haves and communicate them with everyone involved and expect to get a few things that aren't on your list at all.
In my case, some things (food and walking around in early labor) were not possible given my health situation. You should also know (and be OK with) the fact that even if everyone agrees ahead of time, things can change dramatically during labor from "I would like no pain meds" to "get me a damn epidural." Changing your mind doesn't mean you are failing, it means you are making the best decision you can at the time given what's happening in your body. That's so badass.
It Would Bring Me And My Spouse Closer Together
My ex was useless during labor. At one point I told him to leave (of course that was when my blood pressure dropped dramatically and they called available personnel to my room).
Anyway, my current spouse was so amazing during labor. He really made me feel supported and loved and kept me laughing and smiling, even when things got tense.
It Will Be Boring
Mommy watched a lot of home improvement and cooking shows waiting for her cervix dilation and effacement.
It Will Be Scary
There were moments during all of my labors that were terrifying. Monitoring was necessary for my labors, but was simultaneously reassuring and terrifying. Small changes to baby's heart rate would send the nurse into the room and generate panic. "Is my baby OK?" is a question that will run across your already-exhausted mind on more than a few occasions.
It Will Be Intense
As boring as my labors were, at least after getting epidurals, there were moments of intensity. This time, my son was caught on my pelvis with his hand up by his face. At the last minute, he flipped over and came out with one strong push. One of the most intense moments of my life.
It Will Be Hard Work
Despite taking advantage of the best pain management modern medicine has to offer, don't discount how hard labor is. I still had to push a nearly 9-pound baby out of my vagina. Labor is hard, no matter how it goes.
Labor Is Gross
Amniotic fluid gushed out of my vagina for what seemed like an hour, the smell of my own farts made me gag, and I vomited during pushing. I didn't even look at the placenta this time (shudders).
You Will Be A Total Badass
No matter what happens, remember: there's nothing more badass than growing a human in your body and bringing it into this world. Whether things go entirely as you hoped or differently than you planned and whether that birth happens in a birthing suite or operating room. Giving birth is badass. Don't ever forget it.