Wednesday, October 7, 2015

on labor and childbirthing

Disclaimer: All the below tidbits are based entirely on my singular personal life experience. I had a high-risk, medicated hospital birth -- lasting 8.5 hours from start (water breaking) to finish (baby in arms), with 30 minutes of pushing -- and it was hands-down the best day, best experience of my whole life.


*i.e. everything I would tell myself if I could go back in time and wanted to spoil all the surprises

*a.k.a. a different approach to narrating Lilly Beth Dellinger's birth story

These things can be used to help induce labor:  Prenatal yoga. Squats. Lots of sleep. TONS of walks. Spicy food. Pedicure. Eating pineapple.
(Note:  I started having productive contractions one full month before I birthed my sweet full-term baby at 38 weeks. I was 80% effaced and 2cm dilated at 36 weeks, so don't hate me for my delightfully fast & furious birthing if you're reading this at 40+ weeks preggo.)

It behooves you to wear black leggings out and about in those last weeks of pregnancy, especially if you may be showing signs of early labor. I contemplated wearing white jeans instead of black leggings on the day I went into labor. I was very grateful to have on the leggings as my water broke while I was out shopping. Discreet! ALSO -- carry a plastic shopping bag or a wet bag around with you when you're in those last weeks, too, just in case. You need somewhere to put the disgusting soaked clothes once you change into a hospital gown and mesh undies with a mega-pad.

PS - cheap flip-flops are your hospital stay's best friend.

Water breaking is not just a one-and-done thing. It starts to break and you feel like you're peeing on yourself, and then it never stops. You can legitimately pee while your water is breaking (this can help you determine whether or not you're peeing or water actually broke, btw). I recommend trying this on a toilet. ;)

But back to the never stopping thing, I'm serious. It keeps going THE WHOLE TIME YOU'RE IN LABOR, pretty much. With every contraction, WHOOSH -- more fluid. You never knew how much fluid you had in there!

Whole Foods doesn't carry pads, apparently. (Or they're hard to find, if they do.) And while toilet paper can sometimes be a quick-fix for unexpected menstrual bleeding, it doesn't remotely help contain gushing amniotic fluid. So don't even try.

As long as the pain is manageable and you're not too far away, you can totally drive yourself to the hospital in labor. No, it's not ideal. But doable.

(post water-breaking, pre-driving-myself-to-the-hospital!)

PS You totally have time to check out with that pair of shoes you wanted after your water has broken but before you get to make your way to the hospital. And then you'll never forget the story behind them!

(you can dub them your "labor shoes" after the fact! such a great story!)

You have to sign a lot of paperwork when you get to the hospital, even if you pre-registered. You will not actually read any of it and you will start scribbling instead of signing since it starts to really hurt by that point.

If your water has broken, they will make you sit on a puppy pee-pad wherever you go. You'll have to carry it around with you and everything. They apparently don't like amniotic fluid getting all over their (faux) leather chairs and such.

They'll give you a hospital gown to change into. You could stay in your bra, but what's the point? Take your wet underwear off, too. They'll make you if you hadn't already.

They check you out in Triage before they admit you to Labor & Delivery. I thought the first hospital room they took me to would be "it." Nope. Three rooms: Triage to make sure you're actually in labor, Labor & Delivery to have the baby, and Postpartum/Recovery to recover.

While you're in-between getting checked upon arriving to Triage or waiting on the nurse -- this is an excellent time to reapply eyeliner and face powder and maybe some chapstick.

It's actually nice to have something as a distraction while you're in labor. For example, seasons on DVD of Modern Family

If there's any way you can possibly swing it, get your hair blown out the day you go into labor. You will look SO GOOD in all your "I just gave birth!" photos and can even make it last a couple days provided you keep that L&D room cold. (Note: Pack an easily-accessible brush somewhere you can direct your husband to either right before you push or right after baby's born. A rat's nest is inevitably going to form at the crown of your head, so this will make it super easy and quick to fix after the bulk of the hard work is done!)

(our one-last-bump selfie! definitely between contractions. i don't document the painful parts!)

Childbirthing makes you really hot. Turn up the A/C and make sure your husband brings a coat. My parents had to bring one of my dad's for Drew!

Walk for as long as you can when you can. If it doesn't hurt that bad yet, take advantage. It will and you'll be bed-bound.

If you can poop before you have to get hooked up to everything, go for it. But it's okay if you don't. You may not actually poop on the table while pushing, and if you do, hopefully no one would tell you anyways.

Back labor is a very real thing. It's like period cramps in your lower back, only times a zillion. My labor was exclusively back labor. I couldn't walk around or get in varied birthing positions like I thought I would (i.e. no birthing ball or cat/cow poses). I started to walk around and then almost passed out. Back labor is for bed-lying.

St. Thomas Midtown offers blue slushies to moms in labor. (Not for you us, diabetics. Sorry I'm not sorry. Take the ice.)

If you're high-risk, expect to be hooked up to monitors the whole time. It's for you & baby's safety.

Your feet sometimes get cold, even if the rest of you is burning up. Ankle socks are great for this!

Bring a phone charger and have your phone nearby you. When you're not in immense pain, you can take selfies and text your friends. It's a great coping mechanism for the pain. 

(before drew arrived to the hospital, i was alone with my contractions. selfie and group texting time! #millenialcopingmechs)

If you don't like to listen to music while you drive, ain't no way in hell you're going to want to listen to music in childbirth. No use wasting your time making one.

It actually does go by quickly, even with the pain.

Sometimes you can hear other moms screaming in the rooms nearby. This is yet another motivation for medicated childbirth, but to each her own. Do what you want! And don't listen to snarky nurses who push for certain methods if you don't agree with them.

Contraction monitoring kind of freaks husbands out. They can see how intense they get, and especially when it's happening OFTEN AND VERY INTENSELY, it's intimidating to see their wives in so much pain.

Despite the fact that your blood sugar may be low upon arrival (because you haven't eaten since that lowcountry grits meal you had at 11:15AM), if you are diabetic DO NOT EAT THE SLUSHIES. Your blood sugar will spike, you'll have to get hooked up to an insulin drip, and it will cause baby's blood sugar to CRASH after she's out of your warm sugary womb. (And then they may have to take your baby away from you to give her formula so she doesn't pass out. NO BUENO.)

Laughing gas does not work favorably on all people. Just because your best friend loved using it as an in-between before resorting to the epidural doesn't mean it will work for you. It made me feel high as a kite with ZERO pain relief whatsoever. With every contraction I would rip that damn mask off and insist aggressively to Drew that "I CANNOT DO THIS I CANNOT DO THIS I CAN'T DO THIS MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STAWWWWP!"

IMO -- The epidural is the best thing ever. Modern medicine, man. Sweet relief. It allowed me to smile and actually enjoy labor from there on out because it didn't hurt anymore!

Catheters don't hurt once you have the epidural. Nor do you give a shit that you had to get one, since you're feeling sweet relief!

Getting an epidural does not always slow labor. For me, it helped me go from 4cm to 8cm in thirty minutes, and a full 10 by just an hour!

Speaking of which, if you seize up in pain and cannot relax your body in the slightest (i.e. PANIC with every super painful contraction), you will not progress. You will keep yourself from being able to labor. Same goes if you constantly say or tell yourself "I CAN'T DO THIS." You believe you can't, you won't.

If the baby shows any signs of distress, they'll strap an oxygen mask on you. Sometimes this happens because the epidural only works on one side of your body and you have to turn to the right side (which cuts off some oxygen to the baby naturally).

(see that smile? this was OBVIOUSLY post-epidural. there were zero selfies taken between 3 - 7pm, which was the bulk of my incredibly painful back labor / hallucinations onset by laughing gas / hollering at drew to MAKE IT STAWWWWP!)

Right before all the medical staff comes in to have you start pushing is a great time to pray. If yours is like mine, there will be some time to be alone -- you and your husband, knowing what's coming, and hoping for the best.

Your doctor threatening to give you an episiotomy is great motivation for pushing harder.

Everyone is different, but if you are like me, you will be completely enamored and heart 1,000% transformed forever by the baby they place on your chest the second she's placed there. You will think, "I HAVE NEVER KNOWN LOVE IN THE SLIGHTEST UNTIL THIS VERY MOMENT!" Seriously, heart burst. There is literally nothing that compares. 

(note the smeared mascara from sobbing my eyes out at that gorgeous little pink baby perfection that just CAME OUT OF MY BODY!)

This also may hurt your husband's feelings. Be kind.

Your husband may or may not have the same or similar reaction. Both situations are totally okay -- he will love the baby as much as you do eventually if he doesn't immediately.

(good Lord, i love that man.)

The cord that attaches the placenta to you is curly like a spiral noodle. It's crazy!

If you pull your baby closer to you after she's placed on your chest, all the doctors will FLIP OUT because you're yanking your placenta out and it's NOT READY. DON'T PULL YOUR BABY.

There is no fifth degree tearing. Fourth degree is it. And it's from Point A to Point B. Gruesome. Your doctor may say, "Your stools are going to need to be the consistency of a milkshake post-birth." You may ask for how long. She may say six weeks. WHAAAAT?! But you won't care, because you have a baby! And your husband may be absolutely horrified by all of it. Because he can see it. And he may ask "Umm, how long is this going to take until it's back to normal...?"

Epidurals help you not notice the process of getting stitched back together. Yay!

Epidurals help you not notice the delivery of the placenta. Yay!

They don't teach you how to breastfeed right off the bat and it's not something you just inherently know how to do. For me, they didn't even teach me until the second day in the hospital. You may be terrified your baby is starving.

Sometimes you can walk totally fine right after you've given birth, even with an epidural. You can feel your feet while you're laboring/pushing, too.

They help you pee after you've given birth. You have to fill up a bucket attached to the toilet seat which they call a hat for some odd reason. You're supposed to make it fill a line. PS they teach you how to use the peri bottle and it's awesome.

They give you food after all that laboring! YAY Sprite Zero and cheese & crackers!!! Best meal. Only it's sad if you're alone and no baby.

Sometimes babies are taken to the NICU shortly (or immediately) after birth. This may mean you're alone for a while. It can feel very surreal -- you go through this huge life experience and then you're by yourself. Know yourself, and know what you may need in this moment. The second you're reunited with that sweet baby you'll appreciate the opportunity to hold her even MORE.

After all is said and done, you don't get to go up to your cozy room with your sweet baby and go to sleep. They have to do orientation in your room, check a million things on you and baby, give the baby a bath, etc, etc etc... It takes all night. You won't get any sleep your first night. But your husband might. You may resent him a little for it. Or a lot.

A Starbucks run is an excellent thing for your husband to do upon waking the next morning. I recommend the new Tiramisu latte! And a bacon gouda breakfast sandwich. Because the hospital cafeteria's graham crackers and peanut butter and Raisin Bran sucks. So does their coffee.

Take those meds religiously. Remember when your last doses were. Don't feel bad for asking for the maximum dosage EVERY SINGLE TIME. (And don't feel like a drug addict either. They put limits on those refills.)

You're still going to look pregnant the next day. Your stomach will be all mushy and there's a lot of skin leftover. It happens! Believe it or not, there is a chance it will go back to mostly normal.

It's totally OK to ask visiting friends or family to leave when you need to try to breastfeed the baby. Like I said before, it's not something that comes immediately naturally, so it can be awkward and weird trying to figure it out (even with the assistance of a great nurse or Lactation Consultant). And even if you're totally pro-breastfeeding in public and all about awareness and being bold, it's ok to not be so much so in the beginning.

It's totally OK to ask visiting friends or family to leave when you want a freaking nap. It's even better if your sweet Granny comes to visit during Quiet Hour and brings you a sandwich and rocks the baby while you nap. She's the best!

It's normal for your baby to fail her first hearing test. It happens because her little ears still have all that fluid and gunk in them from being in utero. It's okay.

This should go without saying, but if you can possibly avoid it, don't do any work from the hospital. Don't check your email, don't answer your phone, forget everything but your health and your baby. (Note: This is particularly hard for business owners. Come up with a SOLID plan for what happens in your absence. And then come up with a SOLID backup plan in case anything happens with Plan A.)

Everyone will freak you out about NOT FALLING ASLEEP WHILE YOU'RE HOLDING THE BABY. This will likely cause anxiety for several weeks months postpartum. Their fear is based in true concern -- babies get hurt when sleeping parents drop them, and some babies suffocate or die from SIDS when parents co-sleep, so do be conscientious.

On sleeping in the hospital -- babies make a LOT OF NOISE. They're gargling and grunting and making all kinds of very distracting sounds. It can be impossible to sleep through. It may stay this way, or you may learn to sleep through it juuuuuust enough.

Motherly intuition is a very real thing. I knew nothing about dealing with babies and was super anxious about all of it, but nothing has come more naturally to me than mothering my child. It may or may not be this way for you, but there are inarguably certain things that you'll be surprised to know you're evolutionarily wired to do/handle/understand.

This is probably one of the only times in your life where you will have gotten the least amount of sleep ever but give the least amount of bothers about it. I'd never been so happy in my life despite the insomnia.

(skin-to-skin -- it's what it's hyped up to be! helps with breastfeeding, bonds you to your baby by incredible hormones, regulates baby's temperature... so many benefits.)

You are welcome to take advantage of the nursery if you happen to want a few hours of sleep without baby in your room. You most certainly don't have to -- they strongly recommend "rooming in" with the baby. People tend to feel VERY STRONGLY one way or another about it, so maybe don't ask anyone's input on the matter. :) Do what you want! Know thyself.

Mom guilt is a really real thing. It comes early and often. Just remind yourself -- I am a good mother. I am doing the best I can with who I am and what I have.

The first shower you take after birth is incredibly necessary and does, indeed, feel wonderful.

Don't freak out about the baby not getting to eat enough. It takes time for milk to come in, even if you've got a good supply of colostrum from the get-go. If baby's not requesting food, don't worry that she's withering away. Her appetite will come, and with a vengeance.

Pain meds help you care less about nurses and doctors massaging your uterus so it goes back to normal size. If you're unmedicated, this part can REALLY suck.

They told me they don't discharge you from the hospital until after you've cried. I don't know if this is actually a "thing," but (because) I was sobbing the morning they discharged me. (Granted, it was from a stupid external situation that was somewhat related to my giving birth but didn't have a thing to actually do with the baby or me or birth...) Hormones come surging at LEAST by that 36 - 48 hour postpartum stage, so I'm guessing it's a verrrrry normal occurrence, no matter what you're dealing with. (Spoiler alert:  they keep surging FOR A LOOOONG TIME. Just not quite as much. Thank God the night sweats and insanely potent sense of smell do die down a little after that initial first few weeks, but you may still be crying at your 6-week postpartum OB appointment when you thank her for being so incredible delivering your baby and you may still be very moody 6 MONTHS postpartum if you're breastfeeding. Thanks, hormones.)

A new pair of pajamas will feel like a major luxury, and you should be pampered in the days immediately following you giving birth. I looooooved my super-soft knit jersey robe (BLACK!) and nightgown and pretty button-up pajama set I wore in the hospital.

Colostrum stains come out of light-colored pajamas with Oxyclean. :)

(also -- southern belle baby requirements: bonnet and ridiculously beautiful going-home outfit. trillion bonus points if baby's kick-A grandma makes it herself. trillion billion bonus points if your baby's kick-A grandaddy makes a gorgeous wooden stand to display it on so your OB can swoon over it when she comes to massage your uterus for the millionth time.)

Take it all in!! It's exciting! You have a brand new baby! Your life just changed dramatically. CONGRATULATIONS!!! You may actually miss your hospital stay one day. And you'll be shocked how quickly you forget all the negative parts of birthing a baby. God designed it that way so we don't all die out. It's a glorious thing!

Post on what to expect and good things to know about postpartum life coming soon!


  1. I'm not sure if there is anything I love more than reading birth stories! They are all so incredible and beautiful!