• smiling pregnant woman with partner and doctor in hospital bedCongratulations – you’re expecting! As a first time mom, you’ve probably already taken, or are planning to take, a whole roster of classes that range from Birthing to Infant CPR to Breastfeeding. While no class will fully prepare you for the actual experience, talking to other moms about their experiences will help you get an idea of what you might expect.

    I’m just an army of one, but here are my two cents, and then some:

    • Eat… before you head to the hospital. Unless your contractions are so close that your baby is about to pop out of you, chances are that you will be laboring at home before heading to the hospital so take advantage and eat! Birthing classes will advise you to keep it simple – saltines, chicken broth, toast, and the like. Know that once you get to the hospital, you will be on a jello and broth diet, and in the event that you end up in a long labor (like yours truly), you’re going to wish you ate something more than saltines and toast. Now, I’m not suggesting that you inhale three bean-and-cheese burritos washed down with a slice of chocolate cake. Please, be sensible. At the same time, don’t deprive yourself. I had a scrambled egg burrito with tomatoes and avocado. It was perfect at the time; however, after a day and a half of jello and broth, I wished I had eaten three of those burritos.
    • Bathroom breaks. Unless you receive an epidural right away, you’ll still have to go use the restroom during contractions. And it’s a pain (literally) to go. So if you can withstand it, go easy on the fluids. As it is, they’ve already got an IV fluid drip in you.
    • Nausea. It’s not just morning sickness; you might throw up during labor too. As if your body won’t be going through enough changes already, between the stress and any medications you’re given, you might experience nausea and vomiting – during labor. Even water or ice chips could bring about a session of regurgitation. I hope it doesn’t happen to you but if it does, know that the feeling goes away as soon as your little one arrives.
    • Sleep. If you’ve had an epidural and are laboring through the night, don’t assume that you’ll be able to sleep. Between the blood pressure band that squeezes you every 5 minutes while also beeping loudly with each measure, and the nurses coming in to check the monitors every half hour or so, losing sleep begins long before your little bundle arrives.
    • Nurses. Be it poor bedside manners or your personalities just don’t agree with one another, if you’re not feeling your nurse, you can request a different one. They might not grant your wish, especially if they’re busy. But you can always ask. Worst case, nurses change shifts every 12 hours so if you hate yours, rest assured that you only have to deal with him/her for half a day.
    • Doctors. You’ll probably see your doctor once when you check in and then again only when you’re dilated enough and ready to push. It’s the nurses who do most of the work leading up to the pushing. So while doctors are important, be nice to your nurses. They are your best friends throughout the entire process. (I prepared goody bags for all my nurses to thank them for taking such good care of us).
    • Room guests. Whether it’s your spouse, other family member or close friend who plans to be in the room with you, please explain and apologize to them in advance that you may not be very nice or follow proper etiquette while they’re in the room. This is a direct result of the hormonal roller coaster you’ll be going through as a result of the birthing process. People, who knew me as calm and reserved, thought that I was high or had become possessed by demons as I impatiently demanded massages, ice and other comforts. I loved the experience of natural childbirth, but I definitely wasn’t in the mood to ask for things nicely. They totally understood and got to see a different side of me, which helped them understand why woman were chosen for child birthing.
    • Explore all options. Don’t immediately fall back to a C-section if you’re having trouble pushing. Ask your doctor about other possible options, such as the vacuum, that may not involve performing a surgical procedure on you. Healing from a c-section takes longer and is more arduous on your body.
    • Pushing. It’s no different than going #2. Yes, you might DEFECATE during the pushing process. A hard pill to swallow, I know, but I guarantee that your doctor and nurses are completely immune to it. They see it all too often, so try to not be embarrassed if it happens. Heck, you might not even notice.
    • Hemorrhoids. And because of the above, you might end up with hemorrhoids so be prepared for discomfort. (Something I really wished someone warned me about). The hospital should offer you a sitz bath and your doctor will most likely prescribe some relief medication for you. Oh, and have an inflatable rubber ring cushion ready at home.
    • Nudity and modesty. A modest one? Concerned about nudity? You’ll get over it. Trust me. This was one of my biggest concerns. (Yes, I was more concerned about this than the fact that I would be pushing out a watermelon). Before long, I had a peanut gallery looking between my legs, and guess what? I couldn’t care less.
    • Baby’s first cry. Ever noticed in movies how babies always seem to come out from the womb crying? The reality is that it usually takes babies several seconds after birth before they make that “first cry.” So don’t panic if your baby comes out quietly. Give the doctor a little time to “wake” the baby. You’ll hear plenty of that beautiful wailing in no time.
    • The afterbirth. You’ve just had your baby. But wait, you’re not done just yet. “Birthing” the placenta is no big deal. After what you’ve just gone through… chances are that you probably won’t even feel it when you’re asked to push it out.
    • Tearing. Regardless if you tear or not, your lady parts will have gone through a good deal of trauma and it will sting to go to the bathroom postpartum. If you have sutures, the discomfort might be more intense. The hospital will provide you with a wash bottle, ice pack pads and a topical pain medication called “Dermaplast.” Use them, and use everything liberally. You’ll be in a good deal of discomfort those first few days and you’ll want to be able to enjoy your little one, without being in a miserable mood. So don’t be shy, they will give you more, and will even pack you a take-home bag with all the good stuff.
    • Wash. That wash bottle they give you at the hospital will be your best friend for those first few postpartum days and even the following weeks. To prevent infection and promote faster healing, you will need to wash every time after you go to the bathroom. It will sting, so be prepared.
    • Hard to say good-bye. When nurses come at the push of a button ready to bring you anything you want – from a glass of water to pain meds – all the attention, pampering and knowledge that the hospital staff showers on you and your little one will be hard to part with. This becomes particularly evident once you get home.

    You’ll find that every mom will be quick to share their birth story with you, gore and all. Take everything at face value and don’t be frightened by their experiences. It’s important for you to remember that every woman’s body and experience is different. The more you know, the better prepared you can be. Don’t let fear deter knowledge. You know that old saying, “Love conquers all?” Well it really does, because as soon as you lay eyes on that screaming, gooey, scrunched-up little being, your heart will melt and any pain or discomforts will be a thing of the past.