On the day my son was due to be born, I woke up at 5 am because I had to pee and I was a little crampy. When I went to the bathroom, my mucous plug plopped into the toilet and I realized I was in labor. My first thought was, “Oh my god, I literally have to push this baby out of my body TODAY.”
My second thought was, “I can’t do this” and I panicked a little. Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this is literally the task my body was built for and women have been doing this for thousands of years and it would be only a matter of hours before I got to meet my baby.
All my fears melted away and I had a perfect and painless birth experience with angels singing and nothing embarrassing or stressful at all. The end.
My third thought, right between “I can’t do this” and that deep breath, was, “Welp. You have to do this. You have no choice. This baby is coming out TODAY.”
I’m pretty sure that moment of panic is normal. For nine months, you hear labor stories from other moms (solicited and unsolicited) that range from “I was in labor for 8 days and all my hair fell out and I needed 83 stitches on my you-know-what!” to “I was only in labor an hour and with just two little pushes my angel popped out on a cloud of perfection.”
It’s okay if you low-key wanted to punch both those women in the face, by the way.
No matter how well thought out your birth plan is, the fact is, you can’t really know what’s going to happen when the day comes.
Giving birth is the most natural thing we do as women. It’s also the hardest and it’s definitely scary. The first step to dealing with that fear is to acknowledge it and accept that it’s completely normal. The second step is educating yourself as much as possible.
Take a childbirth class if this is your first or if it’s been a while. My two children are almost 16 years apart in age and I can tell you with absolute certainty: The baby birthing process hasn’t changed but the way hospitals do things definitely has. The class is totally worth it.
Next, identify the things that scare you the most and get even more educated on those things. This will prepare you to deal with the situation if you end up facing it in the delivery room.
We’ve rounded up some of the most common labor and delivery fears to help you separate myths from realities, ease your mind, and be as prepared as possible when your big day arrives.
Labor & Delivery Fears
1. Backseat Birthing
This is one of the most common fears and it’s also one of the most statistically unlikely. The average time a woman spends in active labor is around 8 hours. That’s more than enough time to get to the hospital. Despite what tv shows and movies would have you believe, labor doesn’t happen all that quickly and water rarely breaks all over the place at an unexpected moment, in dramatic or hilarious fashion. Even if your water does break before you get to the hospital, you’ve probably still got plenty of time.
Remember, producers have to fit labor and delivery into a relatively tiny time slot and they’re often going for a few laughs. You don’t have to worry about either of those things.
The best thing you can do is educate yourself beforehand. Call your OBGYN and time your contractions. When they’re regularly five minutes apart and they don’t go away when you lie down or change positions, is usually when your doctor will tell you it’s time to head to the hospital.
This is a big one and I’m not going to lie to you, labor and delivery are painful. Luckily, you exist in 2019 and there is a plethora of pain management options available. The key to this, again, is educating yourself on your options. (Are you sensing a theme here?)
Different pain medications have to be administered at different times and vary in how long they take for the doctors and nurses to prep and administer. The epidural, for example, can take a little extra time. Only certain doctors can administer the epidural so it’s not like asking for extra Tylenol; there are some logistics involved.
It’s also worth noting that many hospitals can, at your request, turn down the intensity of the epidural. Once upon a time, it was an all or nothing thing. Your epidural was either on or off. Nowadays you have the option to have a lower dosage in your drip that will allow you to better feel to push when the time comes if that’s what you want.
The important thing is to know what your options are and what your hospital’s protocols and procedures look like. The truth is, you won’t know how you’ll respond to labor pain until it starts, so make sure you have all the information, so you’ll be ready to make a decision when the time comes.
Many women have fears about pooping on the table. That’s normal. I did. In fact, I asked if I could have an enema with my first because I was so mortified at the thought of pooping in front of a room full of people. The nurse calmly informed me that they hadn’t done that regularly for many years and then (I assume) went off to laugh at my absurd request.
The truth is, the nurses are so quick and stealthy at swiping it away you probably won’t even know it happened unless you ask after the fact. More importantly, when you’re pushing, it will be the last thing on your mind, I promise.
4. Battle Damage
Doctors used to routinely cut the perineum (the tissue between the vagina and anus) to allow more room for the baby. I don’t know about you, but my butt clenches up just reading that sentence.
The good news is, they don’t do that much anymore. The not as good news is, that’s because most OBs opt to allow the vaginal tissue to tear naturally.
Yes. I know. That is also a scary sentence.
The actual good news is, most tears are minor and don’t even require any repair. Some tears will require stitches, but the vagina is an incredibly resilient organ and heals pretty quickly.
Perineal massage in the weeks leading up to your due date can help reduce the chance of tears.
5. Getting it Right
This is such a common fear and it’s absolutely, without a doubt, the one you need to worry least about. There is only one “right way” to have a baby. Ready? Here it is: Give birth to your baby. That’s it.
Your birth plan might go out the window. That’s okay.
Your labor and delivery might be vastly different than your best friend’s was. That’s okay.
You might end up needing a C-section. That’s okay.
You might go into it thinking you want to do this drug-free but then decide you’d like that epidural after all. That’s okay.
You might even forget to bring something. That’s okay. The hospital has literally everything you need and chances are you’ll have plenty of friends and family who are eager to run an errand or two to help out.
Every pregnancy, labor, and delivery are different. And that’s okay.
The Most Important Step
The most important part of all of this is owning your own strength. Know that you can do this. Your body was built to carry, nourish, birth, and care for a tiny human.
Channel the spirits of all the millions of women who’ve come before you if that helps. Create a playlist for the delivery room with whatever music helps you feel calm and confident. When my son was born, I chose classical music. When my daughter was born, I went with various film and TV scores; lots of Star Wars and Doctor Who.
Do whatever helps remind you that you are strong and capable and literally built for this.
You’ve got this!