Allison Gore/Romper

20 Moms Reveal The One Thing They Wish They'd Known Before Giving Birth

Ad failed to load

You can ready every pregnancy book known to man, every baby book that has ever been penned, but it's still pretty impossible to completely prepare yourself for labor and delivery. You can write a birth plan and be as meticulous and organized as you've ever been before, but until you're in the middle of a contraction and your baby is crowning (or being pulled out of an incision in your abdomen), it's futile to assume you know exactly what you're in for.

It's frustrating, to be sure. You can be diligent and do your research, but child birth, and everything it entails, is different for every woman, which makes even the most universal experience difficult to completely describe to someone who is about to go through it. When you bring life into the world, time and emotions somehow transcend language, so when you ask a woman to share her birth story she can be as descriptive as humanly possible, and still fail to prepare another woman for her unique labor and delivery.

Not to mention that anything — and I mean anything — can happen. Because every woman's body is different (and thus, responds to pregnancy, labor and delivery differently) it is impossible to know exactly how someone is going to respond to something as miraculous and difficult getting a baby from the inside to the outside. We can prepare ourselves as best we can (something I highly recommend) but until that moment arrives, we can never completely know what we're about to feel, or how we're about to emotionally handle the rollercoaster that is labor and delivery.

Ad failed to load

Here are 20 moms sharing the one thing they wish they knew before it came time to push. We may not be able to completely prepare ourselves beforehand, but we can at least share our nuggets of earned wisdom for all those future moms who are reading every pregnancy book known to man and every baby book that has ever been penned.

Ad failed to load

Olivia, 31


"I actually felt really well-prepared. I have always been fascinated by childbirth so I had read a TON. I think the piece that could have been emphasized more is that you really just have to prepare to go with the flow. You don't know how long things might take. You don't know if you'll want your partner to rub your back like you had practiced. In a lot of ways you'll feel in touch and connected to your body, but in so many ways, you have no control. And letting go of that will help you in labor and in parenting."

Elise, 27

"That I could expect intense vaginal bleeding even after a c-section. For some reason, I didnt expect this. I was mostly focused on the wound itself."

Hannah, 28


"I wish that I had known more about the pain associated with Pitocin. My water broke with my first [baby] but the contractions never came. My doctor cranked it up after almost 12 hours of labor that wasn't going anywhere. I wanted to go as long without an epidural as I could but after the Pitocin was nearly doubled I couldn't take it. There is no comparison that even comes close to the normal, natural contractions of my second delivery and the medically induced ones of my first. Pitocin contractions are no joke and waiting for an epidural once they're in full swing was a harrowing experience."

Ad failed to load

Nicole, 34

Probably the fact that the doctor would only be there to catch the baby and...remove the placenta. My nurses were way more involved!

Elizabeth, 34

"I was 28 when I have birth. Transferred to a hospital from a birth center. It freaking hurts. A lot. The hippies lie."

Megan, 32


"I wish I knew how long it can take to deliver, I assumed it would be quick, like in the movies, but I pushed for a full three hours before my doctor decided a c-section would be a better option at that point for my preemie twins, and I felt guilty the entire time I was pushing because my family was waiting outside the door and bored."

Ad failed to load

Krista, 38

I wish "retained placenta" had been discussed with me. I bled for weeks and weeks after labor and kept getting told it was "normal". Come to find out I had retained placenta for 4 weeks! No one ever explained this risk to me and if they had, I would have pushed things alot quicker.

Oh! And this one is embarrassing... And doesn't happen to everyone... But I wish I'd known all the side effects to epidurals better. It gave me uncontrollable gas. So there I was... no control from the waist down, with gas. I had NEVER "tooted" in front of my husband before this. I was mortified!

Gemma, 27

"I wish I had known what labor felt like, because the nurses at the hospital admitted me when I wasn't actually in labor. Instead of admitting their mistake and letting me go home when I didn't progress over the next 12 hours, I was bullied into having my water broke and had tons of interventions that induced labor...even though I was only 37 weeks!"

Jamie, 32

You're in pain, not danger. It's natural for your body to go into panic mode when you're in pain because your monkey brain is like "Pain means you're gonna DIE!" but it's totally normal pain. Realizing this between my first and second labors resulted in two very different experiences.
Ad failed to load

McCalla, 36


"As a Doula and someone in the birth community, I wish more people knew or embraced was is that labor is a wonderful thing to cope with "unmedicated" if there are two elements on board. The first element of course is consent, that being a woman consents to feeling labor, to knowing labor, and to birthing unmedicated. If someone doesn't want to birth unmedicated it should never be suggested for them."

Birth is like sex for me in that personal autonomy and empowerment comes through consent and choice.

"But the second element I wish was more emphasized is that it makes sense to use physiological elements of coping when labor appears physiologically "typical." By that I mean if labor shows up with a normal timeframe if it starts on it's own, then breathing or getting in the water or slow dancing with your partner are effective and good coping practices. However, if labor shows up outside of physiological norms; For example, if Pitocin is administered or some other strange element, potentially back labor, endometrial scarring; these are the times for which coping is a wise choice. I see so many women have pain-shame in labors that are abnormal and they end up with unmedicated births that feel like torture because they are coping with a medical situation with non-medical pain coping practices.

And furthermore, in some of those instances, they end up with a cesarean birth because they get into a place of extreme maternal exhaustion instead of using the medical pain coping options when it becomes evident that those might be the better choice. It seems we often idealize the idea of natural to the point of forgetting that we live in a constructed and built world and we should adjust our concept of natural to take into account the advantages and realities of our current context."

Kimberly, 31

"Things will change. You are not a bad woman or weak or flawed if your birth plan doesn't go as "planned" (and, heads up, if won't). Having a medicated birth — or a cesarean — doesn't minimize your birthing experience, and you are NOT a deplorable human being for getting an epidural. In short, whatever happens, happens."

Jennifer, 27

Labor shakes! It was so scary!! [They] started [for me when I was] at 8cm — I had no idea what was happening and the nurses were so helpful telling me it's normal. I'd never heard of such a thing before it happened to me!
Ad failed to load

Brittany, 29


It would have been nice to know that there's a chance with an epidural it would take away contraction pain but not pressure pain.

Krissy, 37

"I wish I had known I cold expect more...respect. To not be talked down to and head patted. That it was OK for me to say no to anything, even tiny "meaningless" things, because they aren't meaningless at the time. I thought I was "silly-girl-dreaming-of-white-knights" for a long time because I realized I had been expecting that I would feel more after the birth: victorious, proud, magical — something. I had a right to that."

Brandi, 26

"I can't think of anything from my first labor and delivery. I had great nurses and it was pretty easy. But during my second delivery, I wish I would have stuck up for myself more, [because not doing so] caused complications leading to a emergency c-section and my son almost dying."

Ad failed to load

Karlee, 29

I wish I would've known they hooked you up to Pitocin after giving birth, so I could've opted OUT (or that I knew I could opt out). It was horrendous.

Also, I had NO IDEA I'd bleed so much. I wish someone would've sent me home with 100 pairs of those hospital granny panties. You know, the disposable ones that held in those monstrous sized pads that I'd have to wear for 6 weeks?

Liz, 36

"[That] it was OK if, for whatever reason, I did not feel the world stop when I first held [my baby]; that sometimes that bond can take time. And the second [thing I wish I had known] was that no matter how much you plan, you never know what the delivery will be like and expect the unexpected."

Catie, 27

One thing I wish I would have known during both of my labors is that every single choice is mine, and mine only. Not my husband's, not my nurses', not any of my friend's, or other moms' online. When I was having my children, I was fairly young and afraid of speaking up for myself. I wish I [hadn't been] and that I had spoken up for myself. No matter what your preferences are — calm, hectic, drugs, no drugs, whatever — speak up for yourself. This is your moment.
Ad failed to load

Julia, 28


"I wish I knew what "pushing" felt like, and how to push. I was never told that you needed to push like you were pooping prior to [having to do it myself]. I was half way through my third (what I thought was a push) and the nurse goes, "Girl, push like you're poopin'!!" And that changed everything! I had an epidural so I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, and not being able to feel the lower half of my body definitely didn't help. So when she said that, I finally felt like I knew what the hell I was doing, or supposed to do at least!

Emotionally, I wish [I'd known] how strong I was. While in pain, and pushing, and tearing, and every other crazy thing that was happening to my body, I wish I knew that the hope I had for this baby would overpower the pain. That no matter how much pain I'd be in, hope and strength would get me through it."

Amy, 29

"That it would feel like I needed to take a crap! The rectal pressure was a surprise and very uncomfortable. Not sure how anyone could go through that AND contractions without an epidural."

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

7 Hilarious Differences Between Having A Baby In Your 20s Vs Your 30s

I was 24 when I had my daughter. And even though that pregnancy was neither expected nor pleasant, I was optimistic. Sure, I guess your 20s are "supposed" to be about finding yourself, finishing college, starting your career, and navigating less-than…
By Candace Ganger

Babies "R" Us Was The First Place I Went When I Found Out I Would Be A Mom

For years I struggled to have a baby, and the sight of toys and layettes made my heart hurt. For me, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us were a complete no-go zone, a reminder of everything I was missing out on. My mom would walk the long way around Target…
By Becky Bracken

New Moms Have Two Options: Be "Sad & Fat" Or "Desperate & Thin"

As the line goes, the worst thing you could say about me, I've already thought about myself. In the early postpartum period with my son, it was: "I am overweight, lonely, and heartbroken." It was four days after I brought my son into the world, and I…
By Danielle Campoamor

6 Fascinating Facts About Spring Babies: You Could Have A Leader On Your Hands

Does the season in which you are born affect you or are all seasons pretty equal? It turns out that there are many ways in which the your child's birth season could give you an insight into things to come. Whether you are expecting a baby in the next…
By Shari Maurer

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In April

It's that time of the month again: as March draws to a close, Netflix gets ready for a little bit of spring cleaning. Though some TV shows and movies will have to find homes elsewhere, their departure makes room for all kinds of exciting new media. A…
By Megan Walsh

I'm A Stay-At-Home Mom &, Face It, These 11 Stereotypes Are Totally True

Hello, friends! It's me, your resident stay-at-home mom. You know, there's a lot that's said about me and my kind, and the vast majority of it is not even remotely true. For example, this whole "we're lazy, vapid, unambitious, anti-feminist, backstab…
By Jamie Kenney

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s BS

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger