Attachment Parenting · Labor and Delivery · Loved · Pregnancy

Labor and Delivery: Expectations vs. Reality

Labor and delivery was the most surreal experience of my life. Pretty much everything went differently than I thought it would. Here’s the real story.

Going into the labor and delivery room doesn’t mean you’re going to have your baby any time soon.

I was wheeled into my delivery room at about 12:30 am. Awesome! Let’s get this party started, right? Wrong. My labor and delivery nurse checked me and I was only eight centimeters dilated. I needed to be nine before anything would begin. It wasn’t until about 4:00 am that I started pushing, and even then, I didn’t have Madeline until 6:48 am.

Epidurals don’t always take away the pain.

I was on the fence about whether or not to get an epidural. I did not have any alcohol my entire pregnancy. I maintained a very healthy diet (expect for potato chips – they were my weakness). I drank only water and an occasional organic, freshly pressed green juice. I wanted to do what I thought was best for my baby… And I did.

But, I also told myself that if during labor, I decided I wanted an epidural, I would not give myself a guilt trip. And I did. The contractions were just so painful.

Stan tells me the epidural needle was ginormous, but I really didn’t notice. Almost immediately, I felt more relaxed. For the first few hours, it was great. It took the edge off the pain, and I was able to rest and enjoy a grape popsicle, or two. But when it was time to push, I felt everything. I felt every contraction. I felt so much pressure and pain that it was mind blowing. I remember thinking if this is what it feels like with an epidural, I can’t imagine what it feels like without one.

Fast forward four months, and I was back at work having a conversation that convinced me that my epidural did not actually work. I was talking with three women: two moms and one who was expecting her first child. The preggo was saying how nervous she was for the actual pushing part. One of the moms said “Just have an epidural. You won’t feel anything!”

What?!?! You won’t feel anything???

I said “I had an epidural, and I felt everything! Didn’t you feel an incredible amount of pressure?”

Both moms said they didn’t at all. They loved it.

Well, awesome for them, but that was not my experience.

Who knows? Maybe I didn’t hit the button enough to pump up the dosage. That’s okay. I made it through, and I wasn’t really numb afterward. I was able to get out of bed and walk around pretty much right away, which you need to do before you can go up to your sleeping room. But, I wouldn’t have minded a little more numbness.

That birth plan you worked so hard to finish may not even make an appearance.

Stan and I spent hours discussing and finalizing our birth plan. He called me every day for two weeks while I was at work saying “Babe, we have to write our birth plan tonight. Just in case.” For whatever reason, I kept putting it off. But about a month before my due date, we finally finished it.

I’m really happy we did because we were able to discuss everything, decide what we wanted ahead of time, and get on the same page. For instance, I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that I didn’t want any unnecessary medical professionals in the room. No students. No interns. No residents. I’m all about teaching moments, but not when my hoo-ha is involved.

With all that said, the actual printed birth plan never even made an appearance in the hospital. We had a copy in our overnight bag, which stayed in the car until we were in our sleeping room. It wasn’t a big deal. At that point, we knew what we wanted, and Stan and I were totally on the same page.

The room is hot!

Hospitals are cold. The temperature is lowered to decrease the risk of infection. Well, that is not the case in the labor and delivery room. It is hot! So hot! They keep it warm so the baby is not cold when she is born. At least that is what I was told while complaining that I was miserable from the heat. I kept asking my mom to blow in my face because I was so hot.

I made a point of blow drying my hair that day and putting my makeup on because I wanted to look pretty in pictures. Well, that did not happen. I think I sweat all the makeup right off. And the cold towel my mom put on my head to cool me down frizzed the blow dry right off of my head.

Next time, if there is a next time, I’m bringing a little battery operated fan (maybe even two of them), putting my hair up in a ponytail, and wearing waterproof mascara.

The doctor does deliver the baby, but the labor/delivery nurse really does most of the work.

I thought the doctor would be in the room the entire time I was pushing, but that wasn’t the case. Actually, the labor and delivery nurse, pretty much, did most of the work. She was in and out of the room constantly from the time I arrived, checking on me, advocating for me, and coaching me along.

At about 4:00 am, I was 9 cm dilated, and it was time to start pushing. We asked my stepfather to leave the room, and my mom and Stan took their positions behind each shoulder. She sat on the edge of the bed, and we started the process.

I was in active labor for two and a half hours, and the labor/delivery nurse was guiding my labor for the first two. The doctor didn’t come in the room until Madeline was half an hour away from making her appearance.

You don’t just push and push and push until a baby comes out.

I didn’t take a birthing class while I was pregnant. I figured women have been having babies since the beginning of time without having to fork over $130 to learn what to expect. I’m smart. I’ll figure it out.

And I don’t regret that decision, but it was different than I thought it would be.

You wait until a contraction is coming on and then you push for ten seconds, hold your breath for ten seconds, and then repeat two more times. It is exhausting! And then you have to wait for the next contraction to start the process again.

During one contraction, I didn’t start pushing in time, so I had to wait for the next one to start – a minor setback. Well, the nurse yelled at me. And I yelled back. Knowing what you have to do and being able to do it are two very different things.

If your water doesn’t break, they break it for you.

My water didn’t naturally break, so somewhere along the way, they told me they would have to break it. They pulled out a tool that looked like some sort of ancient torture device. I was nervous about the pain, but it really didn’t hurt at all. It actually felt kind of good – like a warm, relaxing five-second spa bath.

The pressure is worse than the pain.

I had no idea what to expect! Obviously, it’s going to hurt. You’re pushing something really big out of something really small. But no one ever told me just how terrible the pressure is. That was the hardest part to me.

Slowly, this large baby is working her way further down. But it doesn’t feel like she’s going to come out of where she’s supposed to come out of. It feels like she’s going to come out of, well, you know… Back there!

That is why it’s very normal for certain things to happen when you’re pushing that you think will be incredibly embarrassing, but really, you don’t give a crap – literally! For the record, that never happened to me.

That brings me to my next point.

All modesty goes out the window when you’re having a baby.

For months – actually, before I even got pregnant – I joked that Stan had to stay behind my shoulders during labor. I didn’t want him looking down there while I pushed out a human being. I even told my mom I didn’t want her looking down there!

But during active labor, I really didn’t pay attention to who was looking. I just wanted the baby out.

And, the way I was positioned – on my back with both knees pulled back to my chest, my mom holding one knee, and Stan holding the other – it seems like it would be difficult not to look. I mean, I’m tall, but I’m not that tall. My shoulders really aren’t that far away from my baby maker.

Both Stan and my mom later told me that they did look, and I’m happy they did. I wanted them to be a part of the experience, and they were able to watch as Madeline made her grand entrance.

And, for those who think your husband will never want to have sex again if he sees it… Come on… Of course he will!

After the head comes the shoulders.

In movies, they always make it seem like once the head comes out the baby just kind of slithers out in one fell swoop. Nope! Not the case. Getting the head out is a wonderful accomplishment. But then you have to deal with the shoulders. Ouch!

Holding your newborn may not be as incredible as you think it will be.

That sounds really harsh, but I don’t mean for it to be. Having a baby is so exhausting. Your body has just been through the ringer. And all you want to do is pass out. It didn’t help that I hadn’t slept in 24 hours.

I was so exhausted right after having Madeline that I couldn’t even speak. Stan was so excited. He was watching them clean her off and yelling out to me “She’s perfect. Perfect fingers. Perfect toes.” He handed her to me and we did skin to skin for an hour.

It felt amazing to hold her, but I was so tired, I didn’t know what to do or what to say. So I didn’t. I just closed my eyes, and held on to her.

Bottom line:

Labor sucks! It’s painful, exhausting, scary, and frustrating. Your body will never, ever be the same. But it’s worth it more than anything else in this world.

Some say that women are biologically programmed to forget the pain of childbirth, and that, over time, women remember the pain as less severe than it actually was so as not to talk themselves out of getting pregnant again.

I remember thinking, I’ll never forget how painful this is. I’m never doing that again! But fast forward to a year later, and it’s really true. Yeah, it hurt. And not just a little. It hurt a lot! But I could do it again if it means having another sweet, precious baby. And maybe, one day, I will.

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