Part one of this series talked about Things They Don’t Tell You about Pregnancy. In part two of this series, I want to talk a little bit about labor, delivery, and post-partum care. These parts of pregnancy and birth aren’t discussed nearly enough. Even if you buy books on pregnancy, they either don’t cover this part or you’ve stopped reading by the time you get to it because you get caught up in pregnancy. Babies aren’t born without delivery, though, and every delivery has post-partum recovery, so here are some things I wish I knew.
- You cannot be shy during delivery (or afterwards)
I only have experience with vaginal delivery, so I can’t speak for C-section mamas, but if you are delivering vaginally, everyone will see all of you. Between cervical checks, catheter insertion, and other things (you know, laying spread eagle pushing a baby into your doctor’s face), you will have people in your business your entire labor (and after). If your baby isn’t “sunny side up,” it gets even better as you may have to lay on all fours to get the baby to flip. There is no time to be shy.All that being said, the people who are seeing you are professionals. It’s nothing they haven’t seen before and everything they are doing is for the good of your baby to make sure you have a smooth delivery. If you’re uncomfortable, just try to relax and remember the reason behind everything.
- You will need to make immediate decisions
Who will cut the umbilical cord? Will you do skin to skin? What will you do if your baby is taken to the NICU? Will your significant other stay with you or go with the baby? Do you want your baby to be given his or her Vitamin K shot (can prevent bleeding in the brain)? Goop in their eyes? Research these things so you can make informed decisions on the fly.
- Be ready for change
While everyone may have some sort of plan going into labor and delivery, things tend to work a little differently once you’re there. Be prepared for things to change. Maybe you stop dilating and they need to dilate you using medication or other means. Be ok with that and research those options so you can make a decision or let your doctor know that you have a preference. Maybe you labor for too long and your baby goes into distress- be prepared for a C-Section. Maybe you wanted an epidural but you progressed too quickly so you can’t have one. There are so many variables when giving birth, you have to be open to change! A change in plans doesn’t mean failure. If you decide to get that epidural after swearing you’d go med free, it’s ok! Do what’s best for you and your baby.
- Pushing out the baby isn’t the end!
After the baby comes, you will deliver your placenta. If your placenta doesn’t come out, the doctor may have to find a way to get it out. After that, you’ll get a fun massage on your belly to make sure everything that needs to be out of your uterus immediately is out. This is called a fundal check. It hurts. I won’t lie to you. But you may be so busy doing skin to skin with your baby that you won’t notice. Fundal checks will be done regularly while you’re in the hospital to make sure your uterus is shrinking back to the size it should be. If you tear, you will also get stitched up before they let you assume your regular laying position.
- You will bleed- a lot
You may tear during delivery. You may need an episiotomy to help the baby come out (I’ll let you Google that one). You won’t notice the bleeding during the actual delivery, but you will bleed after delivery for days- if you’re lucky. Your body is essentially going through a huge period. 10 months of uterine lining is being shed which can be terrifying when you’re the one who’s bleeding. Don’t worry! Bleeding and passing clots are normal. You may fill multiple thick pads per day at the beginning and that’s ok. Over time, bleeding will decrease and stop all together. It may take weeks, but it will subside. Always talk to your doctor if you feel you are bleeding far more than normal.
- You will be sore
For a lot of women, myself included, post partum hurts more than delivery. If you tear, you will be sore for a few days. That’s normal! You may also swell- also normal. You may get a peri bottle in the hospital- USE IT! This bottle is filled with water and used to “wipe” after using the bathroom so you don’t have to put pressure on stitches. Your hospital may also provide you with an antiseptic spray, tuck pads (witch hazel pads), and some ice packs. I didn’t prefer the icepacks, but other women swear by them. Take as much as you can when you leave so you can continue your pain management routine at home. As always, talk to your doctor if you feel you’re in more pain than you should be.
Now, reading all that may make it seem terrifying but, honestly, you will look back and you won’t remember all the crappy parts of it because it brought you a beautiful baby. Funny how your mind can make you forget things like that! Also, keep in mind that everyone’s experience is different. I didn’t have a terrible labor and delivery, but my post-partum experience was horrible. Some people may have a long labor and delivery but an easy post-partum. Every experience is different, but it may ease your mind to know what could happen.
If you’ve been through labor, delivery, and post-partum, what would you add?