New Mums List Some Battle Stories Home Truths and Biggest Regrets From Childbirth
What we 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 packed.
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.
So childbirth 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 those stories.
What do 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.)
Pain Relief Options
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.
Pain 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 a needle
· 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 too.
Why an 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.
Get your 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 shoes.
· 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 cold again.
· 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 need to
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 later.
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.