Childbirth is one of the most amazing things you can ever experience, but if you’re a first-time mom, it can be an intimidating event. Most of us have turned to the experienced minds behind our local birthing classes, and while they can be a great resource for learning about breathing techniques and what not to eat, they’re not going to tell you everything you need to know.
Here are a few things they won’t tell you in class, but you will probably need to know before that little one makes their entrance into the world.
Hospital Isn’t Your Only Option
You’re probably familiar with the mad rush to the hospital that is portrayed in popular media once the contractions start or your water breaks, but depending on where you live, giving birth in a hospital isn’t your only option.
Many areas have birthing centers that stand alone or are affiliated with a hospital. You might even have the option for a home birth, if that’s an avenue you’re interested in exploring. If you’re heading to a birth class, especially one that’s in a hospital, they will likely not even mention the other options.
Note: These alternatives are only available if you’re having a healthy pregnancy. If there are any complications, a hospital is going to be your best option for a healthy and safe delivery.
Have a Plan, But Don’t Write It in Stone
Having a birth plan is a great way to let your doctors and nurses — or midwives and doulas — know what you want during your birth. If you want to be able to walk around during labor or want something more substantial than ice chips, make it known! If you’re going to be seeing the same doctor during delivery that you see for your prenatal visits, discuss it with them before the big day so they have a good idea of the kind of delivery you want.
On the other hand, be prepared to throw your entire plan out the window if there are complications or things change. Your doctor’s first and arguably most important priority is the health of you and your baby. If your baby’s heart rate is dropping dangerously or you start feeling faint while you’re walking around, your doctor will probably insist that you return to bed and get hooked up to the fetal monitors.
This isn’t your doctor trying to make your birth experience miserable — on the contrary, they are trying to prevent one of the many birth injuries that happen to you or your baby if complications sneak up on you.
You Will Poop
Every pregnant mother I’ve ever spoken to has been worried about pooping on the table while they’re pushing that little life into the world. We’ve got two words for you — don’t worry. It’s totally normal, and it actually means you’re doing something right. You use a lot of the same muscles to push out a baby that you do to poop, so if you poop on the table, you’re using the right muscles to bring that little one into the world.
And no, no one is going to laugh or make fun of you for it. Your nurses will swipe it off the table and get back to the business of helping you deliver your baby.
You Might Look Like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
While the practice is becoming less common, you may find yourself hooked up to an IV as soon as you walk into the delivery room. It’s got two different uses — first, it makes it easier for your doctors or nurses to administer any needed medications and second, it can be used to prevent dehydration by pumping you full of fluids.
What they don’t tell you is all those fluids might make you look all puffy. In the first picture they took after my baby was born, my face was all puffed up from all the fluids that they pushed into my veins during my 10-plus hours of labor.
Don’t worry — as soon as you get moving around and, more importantly, get to the bathroom, that puffiness will start to fade. You’ll flush out the excess fluids.
The Pain Medication Doesn’t Always Work
Pain medication is a fickle beast. It might work perfectly the first time you use it, or it might wear off in 20 minutes, leaving you wondering what the heck happened. There are a limited number of pain medications that can be used during birth because of the effect the medication has on the baby. Some medications, like Demerol and Stadol, are administered by injection or IV and help to dull the pain of contractions.
Or at least that’s what they’re supposed to do. They don’t always work for everyone.
The same rule applies for epidurals. They can work so well that you won’t be able to feel your bits for some time afterward — speaking from personal experience — or they might not work at all, leaving you to feel all the contractions.
You Will Probably Need Help With Breastfeeding
If you decide to breastfeed your baby, make sure you have a lactation consultant available after you give birth. They’ve been trained to help you learn the best techniques to help your baby latch, what to do for sore breasts and everything in between. They are your one-stop shop for all information breastfeeding and are happy to help. There’s an online directory for registered lactation consultants, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one in your area.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it right away. Some babies latch quicker than others, and some might not latch at all. When it comes down to it, however you feed your baby is what’s perfect for them.
You Will Probably Be Starving
If you give birth in a hospital, chances are you won’t be allowed to have anything more substantial than ice chips throughout your labor. After you expend all that energy to push a new life into the world, you’re probably going to be ready to eat a horse. Have someone on hand to go get you some food, because we all know how terrible hospital food is. Stay away from the heavy or greasy stuff though — it might make you sick to your stomach.
When it comes down to it, if there’s anything we or your birthing class haven’t answered, it’s important to speak up and ask questions. Ask your doctor, ask your nurse, ask your birthing class teacher or your friends who have already had kids.
Birth doesn’t have to be intimidating. Just remember if you don’t ask questions, they probably won’t teach you everything.