I recently wrote a post discussing the 10 Things No One Ever Told You About Pregnancy. As I mentioned in that post, women hear lots of "advice" when they become pregnant. Some of it useful, most of it confusing. Following up from that post, I have compiled a list here of the things I wish I had known before I went into labor. The list includes what to know about labor and delivery as well as some tips for right after the baby is born and you are still in the hospital.
I can only draw from my own experiences and for me that was a completely natural childbirth. While I do encourage mothers to at least attempt a natural birth, I know that it is not for everyone. The following list comes from the knowledge of my own birth, so some of the points I make may not be relevant for women who receive medication or undergo a cesarian-section.
Labor and Delivery
1. Breathing exercises are kind of a waste of time. It is true that you can 'breathe through the pain,' but this coping mechanism isn't the same for all women. Some of us are runners, some of us are swimmers, some of us are yogis, and some of us don't do anything - we all have different breathing patterns. Just trust your body and know that you'll get through it.
2. If your hospital offers a tour for expectant mothers, take it. The familiarity you will have from going on a hospital tour will make you feel better when you are rushing to the maternity wing, 4 centimeters dilated with contractions coming every minute.
3. When you are in early labor, WALK. Walking helps with the pain and speeds up the process. I walked the halls of the hospital for the first few hours of my labor and then was standing or sitting on a exercise ball until I delivered - it was the only way I could manage the pain.
4. Your water will not necessarily break before you go into labor (in fact, it usually does not), and when it does break it could gush (mine did) or it could just sort of trickle. My water broke about two and a half hours before my son was born and I had already been in labor for about 10 hours.
5. Your pain will increase after your water breaks, if it breaks when you are already in active labor. Your water breaking usually makes you progress into a more heavy labor, and you can feel more without the cushioning that the water provided.
6. Have a bucket of cold water and a washcloth handy (or icepacks - I literally used up their entire supply in labor and delivery). The hot flashes are extreme.
7. When you are in labor your body releases endorphins to help you manage the pain. These endorphins give you a powerful high - and in a way, you leave your body entirely. The female body really is an amazing creation.
8. When you think you can't stand the pain any longer, and you feel like you are just going to die - that's when you know it's probably time to push (but don't push unless your OBGYN gives you the OK).
Father and son just moments after birth. It is an intense and beautiful experience for all three of you.
9. Your baby will not be cute and pink when they come out - they will be purple. Do not let the movies fool you.
10. Just when you thought you were done - nope, here comes the after-birth. Luckily pushing out your placenta feels like nothing compared to the tiny human you just birthed.
11. After the adrenaline slows down and stops pumping at such a high rate from the labor, you're going to want some Advil. Advil and Dulcolax, that's all I'm gonna say.
12. Also, you'll want some more ice packs and enough exta-absorbent pads (basically diapers) to last you at least a few days.
13. Bring your own blanket and pillow(s) to the hospital for after the baby is born - You might feel cold, and it's nice to cuddle up with your own comforts after the ordeal of labor and delivery.
14. Don't expect to get much sleep in the hospital, between all of the visitors, the nurses coming in often, and your newborn needing to eat every two hours, you really don't sleep much. Don't expect that to change when you go home either.
15. After you have settled into your recovery room and things have calmed down a little bit, go take a hot shower. It feels like heaven on earth.
After all the hard, physical work is over, you get to hold your baby in your arms - count his fingers and his toes, feel his velvet soft skin - that is the best kind of reward.
This list comes from my personal experience with labor and delivery. By no means is it a complete list, and not all of these things will apply to all women expecting a baby. In fact, it is mostly geared towards women who want to give birth naturally. Just like pregnancy, ever labor is different and unique. The important thing is to believe in yourself and do whatever it takes to keep yourself and that baby safe throughout the birthing process. Just keep telling yourself that you will get through the labor, and believe that you will get through it, because the pain does end and then you are left with the greatest gift in the world - a child.
Good luck Mamas!
Oh one last thing for the guys... Go buy your girl some flowers - she's been through a lot.