One thing that almost all women who have given birth will happily do is regale you with their glorious story of their time in the labour ward trenches. And it does seem like going into battle.
wish we had known…
When faced with your first foray into childbirth, you come armed with a
lot of knowledge and some good ideas about how you would like things to go.
You have researched and prepared for this. You may have read all of the
checklists of what to take to the labour ward and have your suitcase already
You may have saved all your birthing songs on your playlist and told
your partner your specific instructions for pain relief when you are too
delirious to ask them yourself.
You probably have the right kind of birth plan, which is a flexible
list of guidelines really, because you have heard that anything can happen, and
it doesn’t pay to be too rigid in how you want things to go.
You are armed and ready and can tackle this labour thing with all of
the multitasking and problem-solving skills that you would use for a big
project at work.
will all go well, right?
One thing that almost all women who have given birth will happily do is
regale you with their glorious story of their time in the labour ward trenches.
And it does seem like going into battle.
No birth story is uneventful, and inevitably you will come out the
other side of your experience a better, stronger person, and all women will
have greater respect for you.
But is every labour story a cautionary tale? Can’t you read the
checklists and get all the pain relief options information and have the
flexible plan, and then end up on the other side of your childbirth experience
feeling content with how it all came out (so to speak)?
But not in my personal experience. And anyway, no one wants to hear
real women who have been there have to say?
We have interviewed some tired mothers to find out their biggest
regrets from childbirth, in the hopes that this will still arm you a little
more about what can happen.
Because the checklists don’t tell you this stuff. Because no matter how
well prepared you are, things will happen during labour that you never could
have planned. So, use this wise insight to prep yourself a little more, and
learn from these wise women’s battle scars.
(Bear in mind, this is all from the mouths of mothers, and is not based
on actual medical knowledge or practice.)
When planning for childbirth, you will probably find out everything you
can about the different options for pain relief, how they affect you and how
they affect your baby. Most women will have some idea by this stage which will
usually be one of the following:
I will see how I go, and use
the pain relief options available to me as I need them
I am a superstar and will
need no pain relief except maybe the natural options
I like pain relief, but am
scared of needles, so won’t be going for the epidural, but by all means bring
on everything else
You might be thinking that the pain relief option is mostly up to you,
and the idea of having a plan would lead you to believe that somewhat. But in
our real mothers’ experiences, your pain relief options seem to be about 20%
what you want, 40% what your current physical stage while allow, and 40% what
your doctors or anaesthetists feel like doing.
relief options are not as flexible as you might think
Something like the gas is available to you all the time, and they seem
happy to give you that.
Other options are not so flexible. You may hear some or all of the
following statements during your labour:
You can’t have an epidural
because it is too early in the labour
You can’t have an epidural
because it is too late in the labour
You can’t have an epidural because the anaesthetist is with another
patient, or home in bed or stuck in peak hour traffic
You can’t have pethidine because it is too late in the labour
If you want pethidine you are going to have to get used to the idea of
What makes you think you
have any say in this anyway?
More women will end up wanting epidurals than think they will, once
they experience the full exhaustion and pain of labour.
This is a good idea to
accept and embrace before childbirth even starts.
However, a lot less women who want them will actually be allowed to get
them, because of many timing and logistics issues and if Mercury is in
retrograde apparently. Many women in pain have faced this frustrating actuality
with furious anger, so you may want to accept the chances of this happening
epidural could be a good idea
An epidural will however let you be completely lucid and present in the
birth experience; you will still be able to push, you will feel pressure and
sensation but not pain, and your mind will be as clear as can be expected when
you haven’t slept in days.
What you don’t get told about pethidine or gas is that you may end up
quite dopey or spacey (not medical terms) and not be lucid about what is going
on at all.
You be prepared to relinquish some control, but it may help to be a bit
more prepared. At the end of the day you will just be happy if you and your
baby come out healthy, and you can sort of remember some of what went on.
Most women prefer not to be induced, but very few women will be given
an actual option about this. If your doctor tells you it’s time to induce, then
it’s time to induce.
This involves a needle (yes, again!), and can bring on a more painful
labour, but also may bring on just a regular labour, or may slow labour down so
much that you feel like packing up and going home.
There is really no point worrying about being induced, because if
physically you need it, it will happen. You won’t regret being induced later
because it gets your baby out.
Any step you take that ultimately gets your baby out you won’t really
regret after the fact. If you choose a caesarean, or one is thrust upon you,
you will usually be mentally present at the birth and involved in the
proceedings, and afterwards you will wonder what you were worried about.
Often women go into childbirth actively protesting against the
caesarean option, but trust me, when it happens to you, you’ll wonder why you
were against it. Your newborn will have a much more rounded head for starters.
partner ready for some gross stuff
Surprisingly more partners than we would like to think would be happier
in the waiting room handing out cigars than in the trenches with us. One of the
best things you can do is get your partner used to the idea of some gross
things happening, some uncomfortable sights seen, and a lot of discomfort felt
on their part.
Prepare them for the following:
They may not be allowed to
go down and move the car or top up the metre, so park correctly the first time
They may not be permitted to leave the room for at least a full day, so
shower beforehand, and bring snacks, drinks and a change of clothes (this is
good practice for anytime they go anywhere with an infant anyway)
There may be lots of blood or amniotic fluid. Don’t wear your best
If they want to cut the cord
without cutting the baby by accident, they may need to get a little closer to
the action end of things
Here are some tips and regrets from our mothers in the trenches:
Don’t buy anything specific
to give birth in, chances are you will end up naked in front of everyone anyway
You will want real underwear in the days after you give birth, but you
will never want to use that underwear again. Buy about 8 pairs of cheap black
comfy undies and be prepared to throw them out after
Anything like candles, massage oil, incense, diffusers etc is likely to
be completely forgotten, or used once and then thrown at someone
Layers are good because you will get hot then cold then hot then cold,
then you will need to discreetly breastfeed, then you will throw off all your
clothes because you don’t know how to discreetly breastfeed, then you will get
Don’t worry about what you
pack for the days after you’ve given birth, either for you or your baby,
because any of that can be bought or brought in. Worry about the things you
will need in the room during labour because you might not let anyone leave to
get them. I recommend lip balm, stress balls and snacks for your partner.
Things mothers worried about but really didn’t
Getting your playlist completely
right: Chances are you will listen to one song, realise in this moment that
you hate that song, and then throw your music device at the nearest person.
Pooping during labour: You
may or may not poo or wee while you are pushing the baby out. No one will tell
you if you did, no one will care, and you will want your baby out so much by
that point that you won’t care anymore either.
Farting in front of anyone,
again because medical professionals don’t care. Unless, like me, you have a
random TV repairman in the room fixing the television while you are in labour
(TRUE STORY). He was a bit surprised by all the farting.
Being naked in front of
everyone: You will almost certainly be naked in front of a bunch of people.
When the magic moment starts after hours of build-up, about a dozen people will
appear out of nowhere and have a small conference in your nether regions. You
won’t care anymore, you will just be glad the time has come. (By then the TV
repair guy has left hopefully)
Bonding with your baby: You
may not bond instantly with your baby, depending on your current physical and mental
state you might not even be aware of your baby. This will come, so the less you
worry about this better.
So, in conclusion, don’t worry about anything really. You are almost
guaranteed to get your planning wrong and have to make decisions you don’t
like, or face facts where you don’t get a choice, or do things you will regret
The things you think will bother you actually
won’t, and you’ll find some weird new ones that will. But those ones will form
the basis of your battle stories, so you accept them too somehow.
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