One of the first things the baby books recommend doing when you’re pregnant is to create a birth plan that outlines exactly how you’d like delivery to go. If you want a water birth with flowers floating around the tub? Write it down. If you want all of the pain medication available and a frozen Coke two seconds after delivery? Plan for it.
But not matter how many books you read, you have no idea what labor is really like, making your birthing plan somewhat pointless. And if you’re pinning all of your birth dreams on a preconceived notion of labor, well you might end up disappointed. I thought I would look like Rachel after she gave birth to Emma on Friends. Not even close. Thanks to TV shows and movies, women (and many men too) have a distorted view on what really happens in the delivery room. We assume the the woman will be a drug-craving lunatic, her SO will be completely useless, and they will both come out smiling and sweat-free.
In actuality, every labor is different. Some are smooth sailing while others are a bit more arduous. (The only thing all deliveries have in common is the bad *ss mama who endures a myriad of pain and procedures to bring a child into the world.) Here are eleven real-life labor stories that prove just how different (and miraculous) delivering a baby can be.
“My baby was sunny side up, and I had to be induced because I was not progressing much on my own. I had the worst pressure in my back and rectum when it was time to push, that even with the epidural, it was very painful. Once she was here though, the pressure instantly was gone and it was amazing to have her in my arms.”
“I've described it to people like this — It's like a combination of really awful menstrual cramps combined with those stabbing pains you get when you have to poop really bad.”
“Mine was 38 hours. My water broke at home, but no contractions. I walked the hospital halls non-stop for an entire day with lots of mild contractions, but almost no progress. It was about midnight when they started me on Pitocin and whoa mama — it gave me a little progress and a lot of pain. By 7, I was shaking from the pain, but was still at only 5-centimeters. At 9, I asked for an epidural and I fully progressed within a little over 2 hours. Then, I pushed for an excruciating three hours.
The epidural helped the contraction pain, but did very, very little for the feeling of my big headed baby making it's way out. I said I didn't want an episiotomy so my midwife kept putting her fingers in my vagina and pulling the sides to widen it. After the fourth time she did it I screamed, ‘Stop doing that! I don’t like you anymore!’ Meanwhile my mom was staring wide eyed at my vagina, and my husband stood near my head gagging. The last push hurt so bad, I shrieked and told them I couldn't do anything, it hurt too much, and they said, ‘Well she's out!’
It was horrifying, and horrible, and I remind myself of it every time I get baby fever.”
“They were wonderful — I know this sounds crazy — and both of my labor and deliveries were identical. Nine hours of labor from the time my water broke to the time they were born. Recovery was great with minimal pain. I just took the pain meds because it helped me to relax and calm down when nursing.”
“I tried to prepare for a vaginal birth by being induced with mediation at 42 weeks. After nine hours of no progress and the doctor breaking my water, my world was turned upside down. My doctor yelled for an emergency C-section, straddled me on the bed holding my baby’s umbilical cord because it was prolapsed, wheeled me down to the OR, and put me under anesthesia within seven minutes.
I was terrified, my husband was not allowed back, and I had no clue what was about to happen. Then the medication they gave me got in to my baby’s system, slowing her heart, and they eventually had to resuscitate her after birth, placing her straight in the NICU. I woke up dazed, confused, and in the worst pain of my life. I couldn't see or hold my newborn daughter until later that night. Eventually everything was fine and she's the most healthiest little girl out there, but the labor was horrendous.”
“I actually said, ‘I can't do this anymore. Help me!’ Then my husband said, ‘Well her head is already out!’ This was my third delivery, but my first without an epidural. It was agony. I'm sorry. There's just no other way to describe it. I apologized later for screaming during pushing. I was embarrassed that I became so animalistic.”
“I had a C-section and it was planned, because my scoliosis and connective tissue disorder made a vaginal birth dangerous. I wanted to have my C-section as similar to a natural birth as possible (skin-to-skin immediately, delayed cord clamping, etc.), but complications prevented me from holding my son until later. The unexpected complications had me nervous before, during, and after the whole process, and it definitely ended up differently than I had planned. I wish I had known my husband and I were going to be separated for so long due to the complications, but in the moment I hardly had time to worry about anything besides the health of my son.”
“Mine was great, but I pushed for two hours. It took a while because I had bronchitis two weeks prior, and I couldn't really hold my breath very well. The worst part for me was the recovery. I tore pretty much all the way.”
“So I got induced at 40 weeks, because my blood pressure was elevated. Once contractions started, I was in an immense amount of pain. (I swear people's pain sensations must be totally different because, holy hell.) I got an epidural and was singing the anesthesiologist's praises shortly thereafter. Once I got the epidural, I could still feel when contractions were happening but there wasn't really pain. It was really just long and exhausting.
My labor slowed down considerably after that, and without pain I was actually able to rest overnight. [At] about 9 the next morning I started three and a half hours of pushing. My son's head was tilted sideways so we had to try some interesting Cirque du Soleil-style gymnastics to try and turn it straight. I ended up with minimal collateral damage to my lady parts and a healthy 8lb 11oz kiddo.”
“Mine was actually pretty freaking easy compared to what I expected. My hospital was very much pro epidural at like three centimeters, so I took it. 'Why suffer?' was their rationale and after some intense contractions I thought, ‘Yeah, why? Hit me up.’”
“Having my water break on its own in the middle of me getting ready for my OB check-up was hilarious! I didn't notice I was having contractions with my first one. I thought I had just strained my back and was having muscle spasms. Of course, they got worse as time passed, but I dealt with it and actually didn't get my epidural until it was too late. I ended up feeling everything, even the tearing and stitching up.”