The childbirth horror stories were endless. Why is it that pregnant women (especially first time moms) can’t seem to get away from every stranger, friend and relative vomiting the very worst labor and delivery stories they’ve ever heard? When someone found out I was pregnant, I barely had to wait a few seconds before the ever-so-predictable pain riddled story began. I listened patiently to some friend of a friend’s coworker’s neighbor having the WORST delivery ever, followed up with tips (even if they’d never had a baby).
So, are all the horror stories true?
Is childbirth the worst pain you’ll ever experience?
RELATED: I’m super passionate about helping other mommies stay home with their babies. Check out how I did this (and other REAL work from home jobs from other mommies) in order to make a great income and raise baby: How To Work From Home And Make Money On The Side As A Stay At Home Mom.
What I WISH I’d Known BEFORE Going Into Labor!
1. It’s okay to be super anxious about having a baby!
I wanted kids badly but I was SO nervous about the whole labor and delivery thing that I wasn’t sure if I could do it.
The first trimester, I developed some sort of “slash” across my vision. The eye doctor ran all sorts of tests and finally said, “You’re stressed. If you did anything career-wise with your vision, like flying a plane, you wouldn’t be able to. My prescription is to chill out.”
My first ultrasound a few weeks prior was in the ER after an ambulance ride from what I was told was a panic attack. I knew changes had to be made. The doctor had even told me this could affect the baby!
I tried all sorts of things but what helped THE MOST was two things: having everything ready for baby (more on this below) and taking classes.
You can register for prenatal classes wherever you are delivering or a hospital but I HIGHLY recommend registering for Hilary Erickson’s classes. She’s an RN with over 16 years experience in labor and delivery. Best of all, you can take Hilary’s classes at your own pace, within your own schedule. Hospital classes fill up FAST, you may have to take work off and sit for eight hours at a time. Skip all that inconvenience and check out her fantastic courses. I LOVED them.
2. Childbirth IS painful – how contractions really feel
At first, I wondered if I was even having contractions. It felt like stomach cramps or gas. It was 5 am and the weird “gas” movement feeling happened every so often. I was so excited that I got up and after ten minutes, began to time them on an app I downloaded to measure contractions called Full Term.
After about four hours, they progressed to feel like menstrual cramps. I was surprised. On TV, you see women’s water breaking and tons of pain. It was more like a mild pressure for a minute or two, every couple of minutes. As the hours passed, the pain increased. Ten hours after I had felt the first “cramps” at 5 am, the pressure became more painful.
About two in the afternoon (9 hours after starting to feel the contractions) the became so intense, I was throwing up after each contraction. Those contractions felt like the worst menstrual cramps I’ve ever had in my life. I was literally throwing up as they did the epidural. But after that was done (which was painless and amazing), no more throwing up!
Make sure you take classes to prepare you for labor and delivery. These classes will teach you how to breathe through contractions properly and lessen the pain!
3. Prepare for postpartum NOW
I was SO worried about childbirth but what I really should have focused on was the postpartum recovery shock. At least in the hospital, you have a whole slew of nurses and doctors to take care of you and your baby. At home, it’s all you with a newborn and a LONG list of things to remember with no healthcare professional to help if anything goes wrong. This was terrifying to me!
All because I did not prepare for postpartum. Save yourself the anxiety and put together your postpartum kit at least in your third trimester. Having a postpartum kit and all the necessary supplies allows you a speedy and much more stress-free recovery. Be SURE to check out 10 Unbelievable Postpartum Recovery Tips For Healing After A Vaginal Birth.
I also created an Amazon “Idea List” for pregnant mommies to have a quick and easy way to put together their kit (I also go into much more depth about this list here: 20 Must Have Supplies To Speed Up Healing Postpartum After A Vaginal Birth. Check out the list:
4. Stockpile long before you expect to go into labor
I WISH I would have stockpiled necessities BEFORE I came home from the hospital! This is one of my biggest regrets (the top is not preparing for postpartum). At least I had family in town who made quick runs for us but this was still stressful. Avoid the frustration and stockpile as you go through your pregnancy. I will DEFINITELY be stocking up this time around (now that we’re pregnant again).
Check out Preparing For Baby: What You NEED To Stockpile Before Baby Arrives! and get your stockpile going!
5. Being submitted to the hospital may take FOREVER
I thought labor wouldn’t take too long. I mean, TV shows us that the water breaks, everyone freaks out and suddenly the baby is coming during one mad dash to the hospital. This theatrical version may be a reality for some but most women will wait forever to be submitted to the hospital.
Your doctor probably recommended heading to the hospital when your contractions last one minute and are spaced five minutes apart for at least an hour (this is called 5-1-1). Give the hospital a call first and they’ll let you know if you’re ready to come in.
My contractions were 5-1-1 and when we called in, they told us to come on in. It was 9 am. I was dismissed pretty much right away to go “walk around” four times because I wasn’t dilated enough! It took until about 3 pm to be submitted. That’s SIX HOURS of walking around the park and waiting while the contractions continued to build. Most clinics/hospitals won’t take you in till you are dilated about 4 centimeters. Good to know!
6. I wish I’d known read up on real-life labor stories
We took all the classes but I wish I had asked or read blog posts on how labor went for other women. I was SO concerned about the whole delivery part, I really didn’t pay attention to everything that leads up to or after. Here’s my story, so you’ll have some sort of scope to understand what real-life labor and delivery is like:
- 5 am. Woke up with a gas-like pressure feeling and kept feeling it so I got out of bed. After 10 minutes, began timing on my phone while laying on the couch, feeling very excited. Started putting everything next to the door to go to the hospital and got dressed to keep myself busy.
- 6 am. Knew FOR SURE there was a consistent pattern. I felt a contraction every five minutes or so. Woke the hubby up.
- 9 am. Called the hospital. The contractions had sped up quickly, coming about every 2-3 minutes for almost a minute. They had me come in because the time between the contractions was so short. After check-in, the nurse brought me into a tiny closet-sized room they called “triage”. This was where they’d hook me up to a bunch of machines and see if I was ready to be submitted. I was about 1.5 cms dilated. I needed to be at least 4. The nurse told me to “go and walk a lot” to speed up the delivery.
- 9 am – 2 pm. This time was all a blur of going back to the hospital after about every hour or two hours. The pain increased, walking became difficult and I forgot to eat!
- 2 pm. The pain was SO intense, I told my husband we had to go back up to the labor and delivery floor. At this point, we were walking the first floor of the hospital and memorizing the paintings. Shortly after we got up to triage, I started feeling the WORST contractions yet. After that first super painful contraction, the second one came and I threw up. Apparently, the labor and delivery room wasn’t ready, so I had to wait, throwing up for about five minutes before they rushed me up there. They sat me down, gave me a robe and all this time, I was throwing up with each contraction. The epidural was painless and the effect, amazing. The vomiting stopped almost immediately.
- 2 pm – 5 am. Yes, that long. I got on the phone with different people. My mom arrived (she flew in). I was in zero pain and excited. I could feel the pressure but not the pain. 12 am to 5 am was pretty rough. I was hooked to so many machines that sleeping was difficult. Also, they had to turn me every hour or so and put an oxygen mask on me because every contraction was severely affecting baby’s heartbeat. The nurses were concerned. Sometime during this time, they manually broke my water to help speed up the delivery.
- 6 am. “Alright, you’re ready to push, missy.” The nurse said. She asked another nurse to go get the doctor. I had one nurse holding my right leg, my husband holding the left, my mom on my left – holding my hand, a nurse in the receiving position and the doctor showed up to speak encouraging words about half-way through. The pushing is called “active labor”, this felt like 10 minutes but it was about an hour and a half. To see the brand new life and hold her was life-altering. I felt exhausted and SO thankful it was over!
Your labor and delivery might be very different but at least now you know a little bit how someone’s birth experience goes!
7. Surviving sleepless newborn nights was ROUGH
A coworker of mine just had her baby, I asked her how the first few weeks went. Nonchalantly she said,”Oh, it wasn’t bad at all. Don’t believe the things other people tell you. It’s not as bad as you think it will be whatsoever.”
Bringing our baby home was like survival of the fittest. I had no idea human beings could function off of zero sleep. The meltdowns, pain, sleep deprivation, stress, and anxiety were doubly worse than the entire pregnancy. Seriously. And, I’m not alone. This is one of the first things I ask new moms: “How were the first few weeks?” Every time, I get the same response. I’ve even had a neighbor confess how she didn’t know how they would make it, tearing up!
You may be like my ex-coworker and compare those first few weeks to rainbows and butterflies but likely, your story will be like many other mommies: survive, survive, survive. Here are a few things that helped and for SURE I am noting these for our second pregnancy:
- Taking newborn classes. This helped with understanding when to burp, what to know with spit up, what to expect with newborn poop, how to handle the umbilical cord, when to wash baby, and SO much more. Hilary talks about surviving the first few weeks in her Online Prenatal Class For Couples. I highly recommend you check it out!
- Establishing any sort of routine. This may be challenging but try to dress, bath, play and/or stroll around the block at the same time every day. This REALLY helps start your baby’s internal rhythm and therefore she will sleep through the night earlier.
- Swaddle! Some babies hate the swaddle but most like it, especially if you have a good quality blanket. I know this sounds silly but it seriously makes all the difference. We were given all sorts of swaddling brands at our baby shower but hands down the BEST were aden + anais. Compared, the other swaddles are not even worth it. Aden + anais blankets are pricier but all you need is that one pack of three. They stretch sooo well, are large and incredibly well made. I guarantee if you get a pack of these and receive any others, those “other” brands will turn in to burp rags or collect dust.
- Keep a good bassinet right next to your bed. Then when your baby cries, try to care for him immediately. This kind of attention is okay for the first few weeks because you don’t have to worry about sleep training yet. Try not to turn on bright lights, sing, talk or wake your little one up beyond keeping them awake to feed. This will help establish a nighttime understanding.
- Things I learned to help calm a crying baby:
- The Graco Glider was the BEST item we purchased. I can’t tell you how much it calmed our little one down when she was fussy. Nothing else did this! Amazon carries Graco gliders in Pierce (which is the one we got) and two other almost identical syles: Affinia and Abbington. Check them out here.
- Singing and rocking.
- A pacifier after four weeks (since I was breastfeeding).
- Gripe water. Seriously one of the best things invented for babies. Babies can’t burp by themselves, so gas builds up in their tummies. This can cause frequent pressure and crying. Gripe water is a natural solution and helps SO much!
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is the BEST book EVER on how to deal with a fussy baby and understanding why. The book goes over sleep schedules and how to prevent fussiness. Seriously, this book saved our lives. Following the outline is like magic. I couldn’t recommend it more! My husband’s boss gifted it to us, telling us the same thing. Whenever we know someone that’s pregnant, we ALWAYS recommend this book or GIFT IT. It’s that good.
- A few other things that helped: Having a Bobby. Buying a zillion burp rags, the Gerber “cloth diaper” kind (DO NOT use these for cloth diapers). We bought 40 of these and will be buying more for baby #2! Also, freezer meals are the way to go! Prep these in your third trimester if you can.
8. Pack your hospital bag the right way!
I read many articles on what to pack in my hospital bag, preparing for the big day. I loaded our bags up with everything everyone said to pack! We used almost none of it. I felt so silly lugging around those huge bags. We had to leave the hospital several times, waiting for further dilation. Each time we carried the heavy bags in and out. Finally, a couple of the nurses kindly offered to stow our bags in a closet so we wouldn’t have to keep bringing them in! Embarrassing. So, I removed all the extra stuff that I didn’t use and created the perfect list:
Check out: Hospital Bag Checklist, For Mom To Be
Pack your hospital bag at least a month before you are due or whenever is best for your situation. Make a list of what you still need to pack the day of (like your phone, phone charger, toothbrush). Finally, pick the bag up and make sure the weight is comfortable.
9. Get everything done during your pregnancy
I wish I would have known how considerable complete preparation almost 100% removes childbirth anxiety. Don’t make the same mistake I did and wait till the end of the third trimester to completely prepare. This post gives you everything you need to prepare for your baby and rid yourself of those labor and delivery nerves:
10. Labor and delivery wasn’t as bad as I thought
All in all, childbirth wasn’t all that bad. I took all the classes, prepared each trimester and packed our hospital bags in anticipation. It all paid off tremendously. Even though it all wasn’t perfect and I wish I had known much more, it ended up working out in the end.
The pain of childbirth was doable, the epidural was amazing, and the all-night-long labor was not painful. It was a very exciting time and seeing our little one for the first time, changed my life forever. I never knew there was so much more to love than I had ever experienced before.
- It’s okay to be super anxious about having a baby! I was SUPER nervous too!!! The absolutely best thing I did to help squash those feelings was taking some fantastic prenatal courses like Hilary’s.
- Childbirth IS painful – how contractions really feel. Contractions felt like gas at first and then bad menstrual cramps. I was throwing up by the time I was almost 4 cms and right before the epidural. Download the Full Term app to measure your contractions.
- Prepare for postpartum NOW. I was SO worried about childbirth but what I really should have focused on was the postpartum recovery shock. Be SURE to check out 10 Unbelievable Postpartum Recovery Tips For Healing After A Vaginal Birth and 20 Must Have Supplies To Speed Up Healing Postpartum After A Vaginal Birth.
- Stockpile long before you expect to go into labor. One of my BIGGEST regrets is not stockpiling before our baby arrived! Check out Preparing For Baby: What You NEED To Stockpile Before Baby Arrives! and get your stockpile going!
- Being submitted to the hospital may take FOREVER. I was in labor for about nine hours before they submitted me, 4 cms dilated.
- Reading real-life labor stories would have helped tremendously. I would advise reading up on labor stories along with taking labor and delivery classes, so you will know what to expect and be prepared!
- Surviving sleepless newborn nights was ROUGH. Here’s how to help:
- Taking newborn classes. I recommend Hilary’s Online Prenatal Class For Couples.
- Establishing any sort of routine.
- Swaddle! Buy a pack of Aden + anais blankets. Nuff said.
- Keep a good bassinet right next to your bed.
- Things I learned to help calm a crying baby: Buy a Graco Glider, sing and rock, use a pacifier, have Gripe water ready to go and read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
- A few other things that helped: Having a Bobby. Buying a zillion burp rags – the Gerber “cloth diaper” kind (DO NOT use these for cloth diapers). Prep freezer meals.
- Pack your hospital bag the right way! Don’t forget the toothbrush but the kitchen sink isn’t helpful either. Pack what you need to pack. Check out: Hospital Bag Checklist, For Mom To Be.
- Get everything done during your pregnancy. Calm those childbirth nerves and get check off all your baby prep. Download some beautiful checklists here: The ULTIMATE Pregnancy To-Do List, + FREE Printables.
- Labor and delivery wasn’t as bad as I thought. Take classes, prepare each trimester and pack your hospital bags. The pain of childbirth wasn’t bad at all and labor was easier than I thought it would be.
All in all, labor and delivery can be SUPER scary. Postpartum recovery can be seriously tough. The good news is when you begin steps to educate yourself like taking courses, and reading posts like these, you will be prepared. Preparation will lighten the load and help tremendously on your labor day. Once you’ve educated yourself, purchased everything you need for baby, set up the nursery, packed your hospital bag and have everything done, you can breath easy. Now you know what to expect and you’ve done everything you can to prepare for your new little one to be here. Pat yourself on the back, and take it easy until that exciting day. Congratulations!