After having two babies I felt it was the right time to come back and share what really happens when you go into labor and give birth to your first baby. There are some very light and more to the science side of what to expect reads out there. This is going to be the real mom side of what you can expect. (If you are ready and/or trying to get pregnant read more here about how to get pregnant.)
Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, Lawyer or Financial Advisor. All posts are my opinions and things that have worked well in my life. Please consult a professional for advice.
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There is one key factor to remember in all this…every birth is different from someone else’s. The birth plan you have in place may go flying out the window, may go just as planned or may turn out to be tweaked a little bit. There is also no right or wrong way(of course it has to be safe) to give birth, it has to be what is right for you and your baby. Birth is something that is amazing, crazy, emotional and it will be different than you thought almost all of the time.
What will it feel like when you have early contractions…
I am a pro at these! I labored for 3 weeks in the hospital with my first and for 5 days in the hospital with my second before giving birth. Your belly will get tight and then release, almost like if you were flexing your muscles. I didn’t feel them at all with my first but with my second I felt every one. I also remember feeling crampy like I was going to get my period. What you will need to pay attention to is how close together they are, be sure to watch the clock. These can come and go and are your bodies way of getting ready to have that baby(If they are happening regularly and don’t stop after an hour then you should call the doc).
(If you think you are in labor call your doctor or midwife and answer the questions they ask. Don’t ever be embarrassed to call early! I had 2 premature babies and sometimes things happen early. It is okay to call, they get these calls literally every day, multiple times a day and I promise you they are used to them and would rather you call then not call. Remember that it’s okay to sound silly or be embarrassed so long as you are making sure your baby and you are safe! I promise there is no shame in that!)
What happens when you get to the hospital…
Oh my gosh, what a feeling it is driving to the hospital…nerves, excitement, anxiety. Your whole world is about to change(Enjoy that drive! It is the last one you will have like it, ever!)! I am fairly certain I expected everyone to be in a crazy rush of panic and excitement to check me in. I mean come on, a baby is about to come out of me! Well, wrong again. You will be casually and as slowly as any regular check in is done, be checked into the hospital and given your matching bracelets(be sure to pre-register with your hospital to save the hassle when you are in labor).
What happens when you are in your hospital room…
Once, you are all checked in you will be given a room. Sometimes you may have to move rooms so ask before you start unpacking. You will be asked to get into one of those gorgeous gowns and your doctor will be alerted that you in the building.
The nurse will put a circle paddle with ultrasound jelly on your belly to monitor baby’s heartbeat and sometimes a second one to monitor your contractions. They strap around you with a velcro band. Now is the time to share your birth plan(if you have one) with your nurse. If you think you may want pain medicine the nurse will probably start an IV in your arm.
Your doctor may pop in to say hello and check you (stick his fingers downtown and see if your opening up to have the baby yet). Most likely it will be a nurse who does this and you can expect to not see the doctor until the baby is almost out.
Then for the hard part…
Once you are in active labor, which is considered when you are dilating from 3-7cm, you will know it! The contractions suddenly get very strong when they are actually making big changes to your body. Those nurses are going to be your go to people(but don’t get too attached they may switch shifts while you are in labor)!
Sometimes if your labor is not progressing much the doctor will consider giving Pitocin which kicks you into labor faster. This is not mandatory by any means but something else to consider reading up on.
Everyone always wants to know what contractions will feel like…my best description of how it feels is that it starts with a feeling like you have really bad period cramps. Then ramps ups to feeling like you have a charlie horse all around your stomach and back. I remember both times standing on my tippy toes to try to escape the pain. The problem here is that they get closer together and the break you get between will be a small break.
Epidural or no epidural…
With my first, I was pretty set on having a natural birth but kept a small window of an open mind to pain management. I had read up on the possible side effects of epidurals and was not interested in having one unless absolutely necessary. Well about an hour down the road of intense contractions I was exhausted and starting to fear I wouldn’t have the energy to push if this lasted a long time.
My husband was pretty afraid of me at this point(it was March Madness college basketball and he actually had the nerve to be pouting about a game to me while I was in labor!) because I nearly ripped his head off for everything that came out of his mouth. He does not do well with seeing me in pain and not being able to fix it or help.
I told him I wasn’t sure if my body could keep up with this marathon(I had been contracting for 3 weeks prior in the hospital because my amniotic fluid was leaking) and that I was considering an epidural. I asked the nurse my options and after about another 20 minutes or so I decided that it was the right choice for me. The nurse put in a catheter so I could pee.
Then the anesthesiologist came in with his large needle and made me sit still through contractions while he got the epidural placed in my back. Which was really painful! It only took maybe 10 minutes to get it in and maybe a few more to start feeling some relief. I was very pleased with my decision.
I laid down and took a luxurious nap while my body prepared itself for my baby girl to come. The nurses had me change sides every 15 minutes to even out the pain medicine. Epidural is a personal choice and not right for everyone but for me it was right( I also had one with my second that went even better than with my first because my body was having strong contractions for the previous 5 days in the hospital. I was exhausted before active labor even got going.).
The transition phase…
I was rested and comfortable while my body did the work which was amazing(only took about 45 minutes)! When the nurse woke me up I was feeling a lot of pressure downtown. She took a look and said it was time to meet my little girl.
This is the part where modesty goes out the window. You will at some point be naked in front of a room full of strangers and if the shift changes it will be more new strangers and introductions all while you are sweaty, naked and you won’t care one bit! Your focus will be on the task at hand! There will be a lot of touching downtown and your boobs will be touched(when the nurses help baby to breast for breastfeeding purposes) and out for all to see too. Don’t worry they are used to it, just another day at work(I would, however, consider this when you are deciding who you want in the room with you).
It still cracks me up but this is the time when they finally call the doctor in. I always thought the doctor would be there for the whole thing. Nope, they just come to catch the baby and make sure he/she is healthy.
The nurse helped me with the first few pushes asking me to push like I had to poop. The doctor came in and helped cheer me on with my pushing. It only took maybe 10 minutes and the doctor told me to reach down and feel my daughters full head of dark hair?!!(What I am blonde, my hubby was too as a child I was pretty certain she would be blond but nope out she came with lots of dark hair.) They use this as a tactic to help you push harder at the end so you can see and meet your baby. Worked for me!
The final pushes and meeting my baby…
I pushed hard for the next 5 minutes and out came this beautiful little girl. The reality was she was a blue and white, waxy and blood coated, slimy alien baby. With a cone head that nobody mentioned to my poor husband can happen when they are born and goes back to normal very quickly.
She laid on my chest and cried her first cry and it was love at first sight! Never a more amazing, overwhelming feeling of love will I ever feel again. J was perfect! They let me snuggle her while they checked her out…she was premie so this was a nice treat! It meant she was healthy!
Lots of people were touching me everywhere, helping the baby toward my boob, hands and fingers downtown everywhere. Lots of blood, slimy and mess everywhere. I hardly noticed because I was preoccupied with the light of my life!
After your baby arrives…
Then they took my sweet girl to get her measurements and clean her up. I had to push again to get my placenta out(looks like a liver from Grey’s Anatomy). Then they stick fingers up their again and push on your stomach to get more leftovers out. Pretty uncomfortable but at this point I didn’t care much.
Your family will be moved to a new room for recovery. It will still be a parade of nurses as they prepare you for feeding baby, aftercare monitoring and paperwork too! If you are having visitors it will be a crazy whirlwind of congrats and oohs and ahhs over the baby! It goes by so quickly!
If you are healthy you will be sent home the next day! It will seem terrifying and exciting as your family packs up to go home! Can you believe they will just let you, this brand new parent, walk out the door with that tiny baby(a nurse will actually come out to the car to check your car seat with you)? I bet you will feel the same way!
The birth adventure ends and the real adventure begins…
The first days at home will seem surreal! Having a baby is the biggest blessing there is! Being a mom is so amazing! The love you will feel cannot compare to anything else! Don’t get me wrong you are in for some tough stuff, no sleep, lots of crying, pain and a whole different life than you had just a couple of days ago. The good news is that it is all worth it! A hundred times over!
Please ask away and please share! What are you worried about? Have any questions?
What else can you share about your birth story? Any tips and tricks for new mommas to be?