Relatively speaking, I think I had a fairly easygoing pregnancy. Outside of some pretty bad morning sickness in the first trimester, I remained very mobile and went to work up until it was GO TIME. I didn’t have swollen ankles, I wasn’t uncomfortably big, and I felt more energetic than I felt tired. So towards the end, when people asked me if I was ‘ready’ to give birth, I shuddered at the thought. Of course I wasn’t ready! Labor and delivery was an ongoing fear that consumed me. I felt as though the 40 weeks I was pregnant was like a rollercoaster car making its way up the track. Labor then, of course, was finally getting to the top, and delivery would be the drop that brings on the wild, insane, scream-provoking ride of my life. No, I was definitely not ready for that. I was pretty content living pain-free with a vagina that was still in tact.
My last day of work was on a Friday. I was already two days past the due date and had refused all offers from my doctor to be induced. I wanted this baby to come when it was ready. That’s a lie. I was the one who needed more time to be ready. The next morning, my body felt completely different than it had for the last 10 months. I knew that I was in early labor. Sunday night is when I started to feel some stronger contractions and as the clock struck midnight, I felt a pain that I had never felt before. Here we were, at the top of the track. When my husband said to me “this is it babe,” I shuddered and panicked. My teeth started chattering and I remember feeling an overall fear of the unknown that lied ahead. Here we go. This was labor. I was going into the hospital and not leaving until I delivered.
I learned a lot about a lot over the next 15 hours or so. For first time mamas, I’m here to share what they don’t tell you about labor and delivery. Take heed:
- Go to the emergency room entrance of the hospital. HubbZ and I were familiar with the hospital main entrance because of some classes we took there. When I was in labor (remember, it’s after midnight!) we went to that same entrance and – duh – it was now closed. I had to hold my belly to keep this child from falling out along with my uterus and waddle my way back to the car so we could drive around to emergency entrance on the other side. Don’t make that same mistake.
- Nurses do everything. Let me tell you, if you don’t like your nurse(s), request a change. They are the ones taking care of you nonstop. They make sure you’re happy and comfortable, they answer all your questions and they liaise between your anesthesiologist and your doctor. What’s more is that they essentially bring your baby into this world. HubbZ and our nurse tag-teamed my delivery, while the doctor rushed in at the last minute to determine my need for an episiotomy and to help guide baby’s head and body out.
- An epidural can stall contractions. Every labor and delivery story is its own. No one woman will share the same story with any other woman. When I came into the hospital, I was three centimeters dilated. This quickly turned into six and I wanted to get an epidural before I blacked out from pain. I wasn’t really in an insane amount of pain yet, but I wanted to make sure to avoid any if at all possible. As soon as that epidural came (hellllllo, lovvvvverrrr), my contractions would stall for the next seven hours or so. Awesome. It was like the female’s version of blue balls.
- An epidural can throw you off kilter. I was told about all of the serious complications that can happen with an epidural longterm, but wasn’t really expecting any immediate negative reactions. Once the epidural went in and I laid back down, the anesthesiologist started talking to me about how it’s going to work from here on out. I interrupted him about two minutes in to tell him that I was lightheaded and couldn’t follow what he was saying. Turns out, my blood pressure dropped and I needed to get my homeostatis back in check. I was given some meds through my IV and soon felt better, but it was a really shitty feeling. Kind of like when you’re 22-years-old and drink entirely way too much and you start sweating and you can’t move and you feel like you’re about to pass out. So yea, beware of immediate side effects.
- You’ll always wonder ‘what if’. Making game time decisions during labor and delivery will inevitably cause you to wonder what would have happened if you chose to do things differently. If I didn’t get the epidural, would I have continued to progress quickly and seemingly painlessly? Could I have done this naturally? Am I delusional? Since I wasn’t progressing, I ultimately agreed to pitocin (which hurts like a bitch!) to help start up my contractions again. Would my natural contractions have hurt less than these synthetic ones? What if … what if … what if.
- You should make friends with your butthole. Hemorrhoids are going to pull up to your anus in their U-Haul and take up residence for at least a week after delivery. Your hands should get really comfortable with the area, since they’ll be working diligently to help heal it. You do want to sit comfortably again, right? You’ll thank me for this tip later: CABBAGE will help bring the swelling down.
- Catheters are no laughing matter. If you choose to have an epidural, they’ll also give you a catheter so your bladder continues to empty during your labor. (It will be removed at some point while you’re pushing.) Just like your husband during football season, your bladder will become lazy once it has to start working on its own again. Do you know when you hold in your pee for a long time and then finally get to go, how it sort of hurts for a second and then you feel relief? Yea, no. I felt none of that relief. Following my delivery, I couldn’t pee at all…and it was PAINFUL. To remedy this, the nurse will insert a single-use catheter into your already-sore vagina area juuuuuusssttt when the epidural wears off and you can feel everything. I’m pretty sure I heard my urethra curse me out. I had 1.5 liters of urine come out of me and it took a few days for my bladder muscles to remember how to work properly.
- You don’t know what the word ‘tired’ means until you’ve delivered. After you’ve had the baby and you begin breastfeeding (if that’s your choice), you will be more tired than you’ve ever known. I actually did read about this beforehand, but to experience it is something else. If someone told me that I’d been roofied, I would have believed it. I couldn’t wrap my head around what anyone around me was saying. I kept falling asleep as soon as my baby (a boy!) latched onto my boob. I saw the world in slow motion during the moments that my seemingly 20 pound eyelids would stay up. Dead. Tired.
- Expect to bleed for at least five weeks afterwards. Yay, you’re pregnant and won’t have your period for about 10 months. Celebrations!!! Um, no. Your body will make up for lost time by having you bleed everyday for over a month. This, after your body goes through the biggest ordeal of its life. Not fair! For some reason, I had no idea that you bleed for all that time post-partum. A few days – sure … but a whole five weeks? Get out of here! Mesh underwear will become your best friend. I stole 100 pair (no shame) from the hospital and lived in them.
People can look at the negatives and in the end say, “But it’s all worth it!!!” Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel like this immediately. Not everyone does. After all, your body just went through hell, you are barely getting any sleep, the cries from this still-stranger are incessant, and you feel like you just.can’t.get.a.break. It’s normal to have mixed emotions, especially since your hormones are still out of whack as well. Accept all the help that you can get and just take it one hour at a time. You are getting to know your baby and your new life, and so is your baby!
Do you have anything to add that shocked/surprised you?