Good Morning moms and dads of the Internet. I’ve been a mom in the motherhood for quite some time now but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a new mom. It was hard. So hard. I remember those first moments after I gave birth and physically feeling the mental shift in my existence. It was profound. It was terrifying and, if we’re being completely honest (and I always am), it was overwhelming. That’s why I’m starting this New Mom Monday series here on the blog. We all need a little guidance, support and let’s admit a little commiseration.
For this first post, I thought, why not start at the beginning, birth. If you are like the rest of us, you’ve read all the books, blogs and heard all the advice that your brain can hold. I’m pretty sure that when I was boning up on how to treat a colicky baby, how to tie my shoes got shoved right out of my brain. Anyways, as I said, this first post is about birth. Not the watered down version that the book and your moms and sisters have given you. This is the unadulterated truth. If you are squeamish, you may want to look away but if you are pregnant and don’t want to be shook while giving birth, read on, my friend.
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No one can truly tell you what giving birth feels like. Well, we can but it’s sort of like Marie Kondo writing about her folding methods. Sure, we read all about it but reading about it doesn’t quite make sense. Giving birth is something that you actually need to see to understand and to really get a grasp about what it feels like, you have to give birth. It’s a bum deal but that’s the reality. Of course, I never had anyone even try to explain it to me and that’s why I’m going to explain it to you as honestly as possible.
The only thing people told me about giving birth at my baby shower was that it was going to be such a blessing and as soon as you held that new baby, you would forget all about the pain of childbirth. As if pain could just melt away from your memory like an ice cream cone on a hot July day. I knew then that this was suspect.
I was scared before I even went into the hospital to get induced. What if I pooped on the table? I mean what if I full on, as a grown woman, lost control of my bodily functions in front of a room front of people including my husband? What then? Well, I’ll tell you what then…it’ll happen and you will survive and you will get over it because that will not be the most profound thing that happens to you on that day, not even close.
I didn’t eat for 24 hours before I gave birth because, well, my vanity wouldn’t allow me to purposely poop on the table but maybe my body had other plans. I don’t know. No one will tell me. And anyways, who would notice with all that other stuff coming out of you like a human being. By the way, eat before you give birth. It is a lot of work and I don’t recommend going into 13 hours of induced labor without any food in your belly.
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The day was unlike any other day I had ever experienced in my life. I arrived at the hospital at around 6 am. They did all the normal stuff like check me in and check my vitals. Then, after a slight freak out about the gown not fitting me and the “mortification” of my butt hanging out the back, Pitocin was administered. Recalling how crazy I acted about doctors and nurses possibly seeing my exposed derriere, when there would, in fact, be several doctors “checking my progress” throughout the day, is hilarious. Thank you teaching hospital for giving me a lesson in humility.
Shortly after this, they broke my water. I came into the hospital 4 centimeters dilated. You’d think that would mean that I was ahead of the labor and delivery game but you would be wrong. I still had 6 centimeters left to dilate and as far as I can remember, 6 centimeters is about the same distance as a transatlantic flight for babies being born.
I remember my early contractions felt like period cramps. I got all cocky and thought to myself, this is no big deal. It was uncomfortable but nowhere as annoying as my broken water that kept replenishing and gushing out. Yes, that is completely normal and completely gross (to me.) Then somewhere around hour 5 and centimeter 6, I asked for something to take the edge off but refused to get my epidural. Instead, I opted for a drug that ended up making me feel completely drunk but took away none of the pain.at.all. It was the worst.
Finally, around 7 hours in and 7 centimeters dilated, the Big Guy asked me, “Is there anything I can do to help?” To which I whispered (because that was all that I could muster), “Get the anesthesiologist!!!” What I really wanted to say was, “You do this laboring bit!” He told the nurse to which she replied, “Sorry, the anesthesiologist is in surgery right now. She’ll have to wait.” Did I mention that there was only 1 anesthesiologist in the entire hospital and he was now, in surgery?
I’m sure I looked like a caged, wild animal when I looked at the picture window across from where I was laying and tried to contemplate whether or not, in my state, I could make it to the window to jump out. That’s how bad the pain was. My contractions were on top of one another and hyped on Pitocin, they were coming on fast and furious. I was shaking, my teeth were chattering, I was nauseous and trapped. Held hostage by my body, my baby. It felt like a near-death experience only I never saw any white light. I couldn’t talk or yell, all I could do was take refuge in my head. Try to stay as still as possible, cry and survive this crazy ride.
I never used the breathing that I learned in all of those Lamaze classes. I think I kept waiting until I “needed” them but we went from annoying contractions to frantic, trying to escape the situation contractions in the matter of a few minutes. I laugh at naïve me who wanted a natural birth. I ended up getting accidental non-medicated transition labor anyways thanks to my refusal of the epidural when it was originally offered.
By the time the anesthesiologist arrived, my teeth were chattering so hard I thought I might have broken some and my head felt as if it was going to spin off of my neck from the pain, while he was trying to inform me of all the side effects. I foggily remember something about migraines and paralysis and me telling him, that I didn’t care if I couldn’t walk, just put the damn needle in my back so the pain went away. Mind you, this was after the nurse annoyingly had asked me if I could sit “Indian Style” while I was experiencing off the Richter scale contractions only a minute apart.
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*Now, I think I should reiterate here that both of my births were induced and, though I’ve never gone into labor naturally, I’m assuming (hoping) that going into labor naturally is less painful as your body is doing what it needs to to not being forced into labor before your body is quite on board. **
All of that being said, after finally getting the epidural, I laid back and they checked me, I was fully dilated and ready to push, if I wanted to. There is nothing quite like experiencing transition labor unmedicated only to lay back, get checked and hear the nurse say, “Well, would you look at that you are fully dilated.” Then the anesthesiologist says, “We’ll just turn this up high enough to take the edge off the ring of fire.” I felt pretty jipped but at least I didn’t want to jump out of any windows anymore.
The nurse asked me if I wanted to push or wait for the doctor. Since I was much more comfortable, I opted to wait for the doctor. 3 hours later she arrived and I pushed my baby girl into the world, with the help of a mirror and the support of my husband and a needle the size of Texas in my spine.
The “ring of fire” was nothing in comparison to the Pitocin fueled transition labor. Bella came flailing into the world at 4:54 p.m. on a Thursday in March. She weighed 7 lbs. and 13 ounces and was 21.5 inches long. The cord was wrapped around her neck and she didn’t cry at first. She was purple.
I didn’t scream or yell once…because I couldn’t. I didn’t have the energy; I was in too much pain. I had a silent birth and I still don’t know if I pooped on the table. No one told me if I did and I really just didn’t care to know at that point.
They laid my sweet baby on my chest and I simultaneously laughed and cried. Joy makes you act like a psycho, in case you experience the same. You’re not crazy, just blissfully happy. The first thing I did once I let my baby go to be checked was call my sister-in-law and ask her why the hell she didn’t warn me and she said, “Once you’re pregnant, what’s the point. It’s coming out and it’s going to hurt whether you know it’s coming or not. There’s nothing you can do about it but worry for 9 months and what’s the point of that?” She was right.
But I’m here to tell you, those who want to know, unless an anvil falls on your head after you give birth and causes you to completely lose your short term memory, you will never forget what giving birth feels like. It’s indescribable, unforgettable and unexpected but 1000x worth it. And while you might not forget about the pain, after holding your new baby and looking deep into the soul of those eyes of the human being you made, you won’t care. You’d go through it a million more times if in the end you got to hold this baby and that, my friends, is how the species survives. Not because women forget but because we are tough and love really does trump everything else.
My advice to you, try to go into labor naturally if medically possible. Get the epidural before you are in excruciating pain, maybe around centimeter 5. There are no awards for experiencing pain. Your baby won’t pop out and hand you a trophy and it won’t prevent the eye rolls that they will give you as teens. Bring Dermaplast with you to the hospital. It will be a savior after giving birth.
A birth plan is not a guarantee so unclench your hands from around that piece of paper, unclench your jaw, forget about what you look like and try to relax and enjoy the experience. It only feels like it lasts forever; before you know it, you’ll be choosing to do it all over again.
If you’ve already given birth, tell me about your birth story. If you are pregnant and about to give birth for the first time, please leave any questions that you might have about it in the comments. I’ll answer any that I can.