My sister and I were just talking all about labor and delivery, as her due date is approaching in a few weeks. As the date gets closer, the looming uncertainty and reality of labor and delivery consumes her thoughts, just like it did mine just a year ago. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since my third, super-speed delivery.
As we talked about whether she wanted an epidural, or to attempt a natural hospital birth, I was able to recount so many tips and experiences to her. I’ve delivered three babies in the hospital, with varying lengths, shocks and medication. Because I’ve had such different experiences for each labor, I’ve compiled the very best, non-sugar-coated labor tips to prepare expecting mamas for labor and delivery.
First, let’s get to the good stuff and talk about dilation. There’s lots of information out there about how if you are dilated to only a 3, you still have a long ways to go. This gives us the assumption that there are still hours of labor coming. This isn’t necessarily true. For me, I remember in my last birth, I was a 3 as I checked in. An hour later I had a baby coming out of me and no epidural. You can literally progress from a 2 to an 8 in 22 minutes if your body decides that’s what it is going to do. My biggest piece of advice here is to not be concerned about dilation at all. Let your body roll, and work through the contractions one at a time. Go with how you feel, verses the dilation number they give you. As it gets worse, your baby is coming.
Let’s talk about the pain. The pain is bad. I did not deal well with the pain at all. My baby was head down, but face up and came out with his hand and arm sticking out. It was horrible. Screaming bloody Mary painful, and I still believe the epidural was a miracle from God (even though it didn’t work til the very end). I’m telling you all of this because it’s easy to read the many, many experiences of pain-free and medication-free labors. I read a lot, and I too believed in my mind I could get through it without medication. I was so wrong. It’s terrible. But, if you prepare yourself for it to be bad. Prepare yourself to be in tremendous, scary pain, you may get through it with no medication. Think of the pain as things happening correctly. The pain is good. I was able to come to my third labor with this mindset. The contractions came, and I wasn’t scared. I just let them come and let them leave. They got worse, and rather than fighting them, I cried. It was an acceptance of knowing what was happening. I wasn’t able to get the epidural until the very very end, so I felt everything except delivering the placenta. The worse it gets, the sooner it will be over. The pain feels like forever, but if you have a good coach, they can help you realize there will only be a few painful contractions before baby arrives.
Don’t worry about a birth plan. Because I’ve had three totally different birth experiences, there really is no need for a plan. Rather than one plan, create a few plans of different scenarios to ensure you are mentally ready for different birth experiences to happen. Plan for an epidural. Plan for no epidural. Plan for a vacuum. I had a vacuum for my second baby. He was my biggest, and he got stuck on scar tissue and my tailbone (oh yeah, which broke during my first delivery), and I had no idea what that was until they used it. I’m glad they did to get him out, but its something I could’ve been aware of before. There are various tools used to help deliver babies, alternative medications besides the epidural and other things you can create a plan for, so that your mind is ready. All in all, be ready for anything and everything, and be so grateful you have a healthy baby at the end.
Getting to the pushing. Pushing is such an interesting experience. With the epidural, you can barely feel your contractions and no when to push. There is lots of information out there discussing not pushing at all. I pushed with all three. My first one I tore because he came out face up and arm out. The second one I tore a bit from the vacuum used to get him out quick. The third came out all natural and no tearing. I don’t think the pushing had anything to do with the tearing in my situations. All I know is your body wants that baby out, and so do you, so pushing seems to help you feel like your getting there. It gives you a place to put all your pain and anxiety and feel less out of control. I screamed the worse with my third baby because the epidural wasn’t working, and it literally felt like my skin was ripping. Ring of fire is so true, and it really is torture. I don’t think in the midst of labor you can think much about how to push. The nurses or your coach or doula will help you in the moment. You can read about it and try to visualize, but it’s something you need to experience to really understand.
The scariest part. After everything, the single scariest part of labor is the baby’s heart rate. I can’t even describe the feeling when the heart rate gets lost or drops. My first was born not breathing. The second was vacuumed out because his heart rate dropped. I had to lay on my left side only for my third, otherwise his heart rate dropped. They almost put me in emergency delivery for him because it took a second to find out I had to lay on my left side. There are scary things that happen in labor, and those things are worse than the pain. The most important thing is that you get your baby out healthy and safe. If you focus on that, the pain of contractions doesn’t mean as much.
In the end, we survive and end up with beautiful little bundles we’ve been carrying inside for so long. We get to meet our little miracles, and it is honestly an amazing, heavenly experience. Meeting your new baby is profound and remarkable! Once there here, you can pull out the perfectly packed hospital bag (see what I brought all three times) and find yourself in a blissful utopia before the onset of sleep deprivation sets in. Then, check out these foods to scarf down immediately for recovery and milk supply!