At one time or another, everyone in the room will annoy you
These people will all annoy you: Your own amazing mom, who flew 3,000 miles to witness this joyous event, your doula with the soothing, whisper-sweet voice, and even (make that especially) your doting, brow-mopping husband — the baby’s father, for crying out loud. These folks will chatter and flip the TV channels and have the audacity to nibble on delicious-looking vending machine Doritos while you’re only allowed a few measly ice chips even though you’re the one doing all the work. “You can do it!” they’ll chant in unison as your contractions peak — and it’ll be a good thing you’re strapped to machinery or someone would definitely get hurt.
Your “birth plan” will be a joke
Pregnancy books, prenatal class instructors and helpful pregnancy websites will tell you to create one of these, so you will. “I’d like soft music playing in the background, and the opportunity to get up and walk about or bounce on my birthing ball,” you’ll write. “And I do not want an episiotomy!” In reality, your medical team — whose job is to do whatever is best for you and your baby — might simply make those decisions for you. While it may make you feel good to put your preferences down on paper, your birth plan won’t have a whole lot of influence on what’s going to go down in that delivery room.
If there’s even a chance you might want an epidural, make this clear immediately
Yes, we mean, ‘Hi, my name is Sally Jane and my contractions are five minutes apart and I want an epidural!’ Some hospitals only have one or two anesthesiologists on staff (and they may not even be in the building when you arrive, but at home on call), and they generally operate on a first-come, first-served basis. You can always decide later that you want to forego the drugs, but you need to be on the list if you want to have that option.
And even if you think you won’t, you may change your mind about not getting drugs
You may think that you’d never dilute the authentic experience of your baby’s birth with pain-numbing medications. But here’s a secret: Getting those drugs allows you to be fully present and really enjoy your baby’s birth — which is an awesome thing. Lots and lots of moms go into labor thinking they’ll say no to drugs and end up changing their mind. And that’s okay! Really. Nobody’s giving out any pain-tolerance trophies in that hospital.
Labor is a messy endeavor
Your mom always said “Ladies don’t sweat, they perspire,” but your mom clearly wasn’t including birth when she said this. Plan to sweat. And to bleed. You may even perform unthinkable bodily functions right on the delivery table without even knowing it. Everyone does and it’s nothing to be freaked out or embarrassed about. But — definitely put on the icky hospital garb they give you and save the cute PJs for when you’re having visitors over in the maternity wing.
The nurses clearly run the show
You jumped through flaming hoops to get in with the hotshot OB-GYN who wasn’t even taking new patients, and planned your baby’s conception around her personal vacation schedule for the year so you’d be assured she would be around for the big event. The truth is, it’s the nurses who really matter — and in most cases, you get who they give you. Your OB is likely to swoop in with enough time to catch the baby and oversee the cutting of the umbilical cord before she vanishes again, so don’t expect a dozen or more hours together.
Speaking of nurses — It’s worth sucking up to them
As your due date approaches, bake up a few batches of cookies and pop them in the freezer. Then — and this is critical — write BRING COOKIES really big on your husband’s hospital checklist. Drop these at the nurses’ station when you check in and then bask in the extra added attention (and maybe even an occasional foot rub) the gesture buys you.
You’ll check your modesty at the door
At first, it will seem a bit awkward to have a brand new stranger getting all up in your business every four hours or so. You’ll do your best to drape whatever body parts you can and engage in uncomfortable small talk while she performs her thorough inspection. But by the time they wheel you and your baby out of that room, you’ll realize that a parade of people — possibly including an innocent flower delivery guy and a janitor or two — may have gotten a glimpse of your goods, and as inexplicable as it may sound now, you genuinely won’t care.
You can think you’re minutes away and still have hours to go
You’ve been diligent about your prenatal prep, so you’re pretty sure you’ll know the labor stages when you see them. But every woman and every pregnancy are different and especially if this is your first baby, the whole timeline thing can be one big, confusing blur. You may be giving it all you’ve got because you’re positive that baby is going to pop out any second — and then hear a nurse say “She’s five centimeters, I’ll go call the doctor.” (The doctor who is home asleep.) This is one of the many reasons why an epidural is lovely. Whatever your birthing story, remember that nobody has ever been in labor forever.
On the other hand, delivery may actually be easier than you expect
Plenty of women are pleasantly surprised by their birthing experience. One mom we know — who didn’t even have an epidural — admitted to exaggerating her groaning and grunting because she was afraid she wouldn’t get any post-partum sympathy from her husband if he knew how “easy” it really was. Plenty of women walk smiling into the hospital, get an epidural and then rest comfortably until they pop out baby without a single smudge in their mascara. Here’s hoping this will happen to you.
Your hubby may cry — and it will melt your heart
When you stood at that altar (or under that tree or before that Elvis impersonator) and swore that you’d love him forever, you didn’t think you could ever love him more. But when he catches a glimpse of baby crowning and you see that tear slide down his cheek — because of you — you’ll feel a crushing, overwhelming feeling you couldn’t even imagine before. He’s not just some guy you were lucky enough to land anymore; he’s your family — and he’s in awe of you. Few moments in your marriage will be more powerful.
When it’s all over (maybe even sooner), you’ll feel like an all-powerful goddess
Moms everywhere will tell you it’s true: No physical feat on earth can compare to the feeling of creating a human life and enduring the ultra marathon of labor and delivery. No matter what you thought of your body before D-day, you will have a new found respect for its infinite wisdom and perfection. (Although you’ll still will it to spring miraculously back to pre-baby shape overnight — which won’t happen.)
Your baby might not look exactly like you pictured him
You know those perfect pink newborns they show on TV and in the movies? They’re actually three months old. In real life, brand new babies are generally some shade of hot pink, covered in yellow, sticky goo and sometimes even full-body hair. Their heads may be a little — or a lot — misshapen from squeezing through the birth canal, and their genitals may be alarmingly red and swollen. This will all go away quickly, but don’t be surprised if your very first thought is, “Who is this baby ape and what have you people done with my baby?”
It will take less time than you’d imagine to forget the pain and maybe even consider doing it again
In fact, the very nanosecond you hold your baby for the first time, all of the sweating, moaning, cursing and heaving will already be a distant memory. (It seems like a cliche, but it’s true!) This, of course, is part of Mother Nature’s divine design to make sure we continue to populate the planet. The great news is that subsequent births are almost always faster and easier than the maiden voyage… and next time around, you’ll be a seasoned pro.
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