Learning from experience is inherent in life. We all have lessons presented to us in various forms, and hopefully, are able to discern those lessons in the future.
Birth is no different. We are able to mostly remember birth for the rest of our lives; the experience, the feelings and emotions, and the time we waited to meet our babies.
My birth story is one that I want to remember–not just because it’s my birth story, but because there are so many things I wish I knew ahead of time. There are things I would’ve done so differently, and I want to remember that.
I had been experiencing early labor for about 2 months. You read that right. Two months of what is called “prodromal labor” which is basically when labor begins (as in, you’re having contractions regularly and painfully with progression) but only progresses slowly. It’s sometimes called false labor. But let me tell you, it didn’t feel false. You can read more about prodromal labor here.
I finally got fed up and talked to my doctor (who had actually done a Non Stress Test previously and found I was having contractions two minutes apart) about elective induction. I knew the risks, but living an hour and a half away from the hospital, getting ready to move into a new house, having my step-children with us every other week, and my husband and I were both in school full-time, I needed to be sure labor was coming.
I was scheduled to be induced on Friday, and we headed up to the hospital on Thursday to get settled in. Thursday night went by fine with no progression.
And then came Friday.
Nurses were checking on me regularly, and my contractions were monitored. Then, one doctor came in to check, followed by a new doctor’s new shift. She suggested instead of Pitocin, we try breaking my waters to get things moving along. I consented, and so she did.
Y’all. Labor began fast, and furious. I had refused an epidural at this point, because I reeeaaally wanted that natural birth. But transition came, and I couldn’t stand it. I got the epidural. My body needed the rest, and I ended sleeping through the last couple of centimeters. The final doctor (the next shift) came in and woke up, telling me it was time to push. So I did.
My son was born that Friday, two days after his due date. I was in active labor for about ten hours, and pushed for twenty minutes. At 9:54 pm, our wide eyed, ready-to-go boy was in our arms and I had officially “become” a Mama. That, of course, I would never change.
Here are some things I wish I’d known ahead of time:
Birth is Not a Medical Emergency
It’s easy to think of birth as a medical emergency. The hype that surrounds it gets our blood pumping, our hearts racing, and our thoughts turn traumatic. Hospital sounds and sights pop into our minds when we think about the place we will give birth, and nurses will be in and out and doctors will be asking questions…blah, blah, blah…
Birth is not a medical emergency. Birth is a normal part of human life. I was worried sick about going to the hospital, which for us was over an hour away. Being in the mindset of “medical emergency” does nothing for an expectant mother except stress her (and her baby) out unnecessarily. When your water breaks, should you call your doctor, midwife, or doula? Yes. When your contractions are becoming more intense and close together, should you call your doctor, midwife, or doula? Yes. But, when push comes to shove, birth is a beautiful thing, and is not a medical emergency. You do not have to stress about it. It will be okay.
Not All Hospital Procedures are Required
Who knew? When I was pregnant, I learned that the routine hospital procedures are not required, and depending on who you ask, some are not even recommended. Cutting the cord immediately after birth, baby’s first bath, the Vitamin K shot, the eye ointment, circumcision, and any other medical interventions that are considered routine are simply not required.
It is so important to do your research and make a birth plan with your decisions in writing. Make several copies and give them to your doctor, nurses, midwife, doula, and whoever else you want to have it. Outline your decisions for procedures that you want done to your child, regardless of whether they are considered “normal”, “routine”, or “better for baby”.
Delayed Cord Clamping is a Thing, and is so Beneficial
Did you know you could delay baby’s cord being cut? I didn’t! Baby’s cord blood is full of nutrients still carried in the placenta. The umbilical cord is your baby’s lifeline for 9 months, providing oxygen, nutrients and hormones, all while ridding waste and keeping baby healthy.
Waiting simply 2-3 minutes (or until the pulsing has stopped) can give baby so many benefits, including a full count of red blood cells, stem cells, and immune cells. You can learn more about delayed cord clamping here and here.
Nurses Will be in Your Room All Day…and All Night
Whoever said “the sleep in the hospital will be the best sleep you’ve gotten with your newborn” was clearly off their rocker. Nurses (bless them, they were wonderful) were in our room all night, roughly once an hour or so, to check my blood pressure. I understand that this may be considered a necessary practice, but I would like to argue that sleep is also a necessary practice…and it’s hard sleeping through a squeezing, running strap around your arm.
Be prepared to be up…a lot.
Our Hospital Didn’t Allow Co-Sleeping
I was a sad puppy when my nurse told me I couldn’t have my son in bed with me to sleep. He was absolutely beautiful, and after carrying him in my womb for nine months, I couldn’t bare to let him sleep in a bassinet away from me.
At one point in the night, after being woken up 50,000 times for blood pressure checks, I fell asleep with him on the breast, and we were both sleeping soundly. My nurse came in and disapproved, saying the hospital didn’t want to mothers co-sleeping, as it poses a risk to newborns/SIDS. I was disappointed, to say the least, especially after reading and studying the positive effects and benefits of co-sleeping.
Your hospital tour, should you choose to go, is a great time to ask this question, and perhaps even include your preferences on your birth plan regarding co-sleeping. I sure wish I had.
Breastfeeding Does Not Always Come Naturally
I assumed that nursing was a natural reflex that moms and babies are “born” with. And, arguably, some babies and mama’s know exactly what to do fresh out of the womb.
We had a little bit of a rough start getting my son to latch correctly and nurse effectively for about the first week. He had a hard time latching onto my flat nipples, and we tried pumping (which I didn’t respond well to, as in, my body didn’t respond to the pump and didn’t produce very much at all), nursing helpers such as shields, and stimulating the nipples to make them protrude. It took a lot of practice, but we figured it out, and now he’s a champion.
Lastly…and this one’s really important…
Getting an Epidural Does NOT Make You a Failure
Sometimes, I still fall into this mindset that because I got an epidural, I failed myself and my birth experience. But, I am realizing that this is a foolish belief. Every woman is different, and just because one woman decided to have no medication and another woman decided she did want medication, neither of them are a better woman than the other, or a better mother than the other.
Before going into labor, I “knew” labor and birth would be painful, unbearable, long lasting, and downright excruciating. I didn’t know that I was in control of my birth, and that it did not have to be that way.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your birth experience?