Jennifer has twenty years experience in the nursing field. For the past 13 years she has loved being a labor and delivery nurse. A pastor’s wife and mother of three great kids, ages 7, 10 and 13, she enjoys spending time with her family, running and writing. Jennifer is originally from Bucks County, PA in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Her husband’s ministry career has taken her family to Roanoke, VA and then to the Eastern Shore of MD where they currently reside. She recently started her own blog about her son’s experience in a groundbreaking clinical trial for peanut allergies. Read more of her work at http://peanutallergykiddos.blogspot.com/
Prepared childbirth is all about finding balance. I’m not talking about a meditation, inner peace, find your center type of balance. I’m referring to a being well informed without trying to plan every second of your labor balance.
As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve seen women come to the hospital with all different levels of readiness.
There is the Type A, ” I have to know exactly what’s going on” mom who arrives with three childbirth books, five suitcases and a 40 page birth plan. Then there are the girls who show up with just the clothes on their back, a cell phone, and not a clue in the world about what’s about to take place.
Honestly, the best possible patient is somewhere in the middle! Know what to expect, but also be open and ready for the unexpected. With that in mind, here are a few things we’d like you to know before coming in.
1. It’s going to take a while.
Especially if this is your first baby. The average first labor is about sixteen hours. Now don’t let that freak you out, it’s not 16 hours of hard labor. It’s a gradual progression in timing and intensity. But more often than not, the day you come in is not the same day you have your baby.
2. Everyone’s body and labor is different.
Occasionally, a first time mom will have labor hit hard and fast. She might have a few very intense contractions at home, race to the hospital and have her baby before the doctor even makes it in. Just know that this is very unusual and will probably not happen to you!
3. If you are smiling, texting, and eating pizza you are not in labor.
You are most likely not in labor until your contractions hurt! And by hurt I mean you can’t talk through them, eat through them, or post status updates through them. When you are in labor you have to stop what you are doing and focus during contractions.
4. No one cares if you lost your mucous plug.
Sorry. Well, maybe someone cares. Like your husband or mother or best friend. But medically, it doesn’t mean a darn thing, so don’t call your doctor at 3am to let them know.
5. It is nice to bring a few creature comforts
By all means, bring things to the hospital that make you happy! A big fluffy bath towel (hospital towels suck), a soft blanket, your favorite movie. Whatever comforts you, go ahead and pack it up. Bring a small fan and/or a cooling pack for your head or neck while pushing. A tennis ball and a heating pad (if allowed) can help with back labor. Also, some light carby snacks and your water based drink of choice.We do have water and juices, but if you love your organic green tea acai berry drink then throw a few in your bag.
6. You really don’t want to be induced.
Especially with your first baby, unless you have to. Obviously if your doctor has a medical reason, or you are 10 days overdue, then do what you must. But if you are just tired of being pregnant, or want to fit childbirth into your busy schedule, wait. Your body will decide when it’s time, and it’s much, much easier to cooperate with your body.
7. If you are being induced, be informed.
Some women arrive for their induction and have no idea what it entails! Most importantly, if you are zero centimeters and less than 50% effaced, it’s probably going to take a while. And by a while I mean two to three days. Seriously. Also, studies have shown that inductions increase your chances of a C/section. So if you are going to be induced, please ask your doctor about these things.
8. You could need a C/section at any time
Always be mentally prepared for this possibility. There are lots of reasons why you might not deliver vaginally. Often it’s because the baby is just not going to fit: you only dilate to 5cm despite our best efforts or you dilate to 10cm and push for 3 hours and it’s not happening. You could also at any time need an emergency C/section because the baby is not tolerating labor, or some other medically justifiable reason.
9. Don’t call your mother to come to the hospital with your first contraction
As I’ve already stated, it’s going to be a long road. You might think you want the whole family there right away, but it gets really old at 3am when you just want to rest and everyone’s talking. Also, there is only room for one person to sleep, so either your husband or your mother/sister/friend is going to be sleeping in a chair, on the floor or on the waiting room couch. If you do insist on bringing the cavalry with you right away, at least warn them they may need to go home for a while if nothing is happening.
10. Trust your doctor but don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Your doctor may want to break your water, use an internal monitor or assist your delivery with an instrument.
As a nurse, my biggest pet peeve is when the doctor doesn’t ask the patient, but rather tells them as they are doing it. “I’m putting a vacuum on the baby’s head”. If there is an emergency situation, that’s a different story, but if there’s no rush then please ask the risks vs. benefits of anything that’s being done to you! The best time to ask these questions is early in labor or better yet, at a prenatal visit.
11. You might not see the doctor until the head is almost out
Depending on what type of hospital you are in, the nurses may completely manage your labor, with telephone orders from the doctor. If you are in a teaching hospital, then you will probably see lots of residents too.
12. Communicate with your nurse
Your labor nurse wants to help you with your labor, but sometimes we’re not sure how helpful you want us to be. If your back hurts, we can rub it for you, but you may be the kind of person who doesn’t like to be touched. You may also prefer your husband/family/doula step in and be your labor coach and then we will happily take a backseat. You aren’t going to hurt our feelings, just let us know. We are here for you.
13. Know your birth facility’s visitation policy
At my hospital, we have a very strict five people only during labor policy, and these five people can not be switched out. Some facilities are stricter, only one or two people can be present, and others have completely unrestricted visitation. It’s just really nice to know before Aunt Mable drives all the way from Nebraska to see you and then is turned away.
14. Lastly, yes it’s going to hurt
I’m sorry, I know this is very anxiety provoking. But I have yet to meet a laboring woman who did not experience pain on some level. Even if you are willing to accept any and all pain medicine, it’s unlikely that you will have a pain free experience.We like to say it’s pain with a purpose. In other words, unlike a kidney stone or an appendectomy, out of the pain comes something beautiful!
So remember to be prepared, be informed and ask questions, but also try to relax and go with the flow! Labor is time limited. It will end, and after it’s all said and done, one way or another, you are going to be a mother. And when you are holding your sweet little baby in your arms you will forget all about the process, and simply fall in love.
All of this advice is SO spot on. It’s so refreshing to hear someone from the medical profession tell it like it is. Especially about how the doctor doesn’t show up until the head is out. It’s totally true. Nurses deserve a lot of respect for the job they do!
Mrs. Bottlesoup says
Thanks! Jennifer’s definitely on the money with this post.
I was one of those first time moms with hard and fast labor. I wish you had been my nurse. Instead I was treated terribly by a nurse who assumed I was a nervous nilly and not in fact 8cm dilated upon arrival. I gave birth in the L&D triage room.