15 Things That Surprised Me During My Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery
Being pregnant and knowing I was about to give birth gave me great anxiety-- not in a way I couldn't handle but more so I wanted to research as much as a I could before I gave birth. Like all first time moms, I did not know what to expect and there are only so many YouTube videos to watch, online articles to read and other fellow mamas to talk to. Since each pregnancy and birth experience is so unique, I decided I was going into it all with an open mind that anything can happen. There are so many things I prepared for mentally, emotionally, and physically throughout my pregnancy and for my labor and delivery. Some of it helped, some of it didn't matter because it went a completely different way. So if you're pregnant, about to have a baby, thinking of becoming pregnant, or are just curious to have a read, here are 15 things that surprised me throughout my pregnancy and labor and delivery experience.
Couple of quick caveats-- I am not a medical professional. I am only sharing my personal experience with you. Also, I completely understand EVERY pregnancy and birth experience is special and unique so however your personal experience went is awesome and you rock mama! I am sharing my experience understanding that it could have went several different ways for me. So whether you had a hard, average or easy pregnancy/delivery, used pain medication, epidurals, medical interventions, c-section, had an unmedicated birth experience, hospital or home birth, water birth, etc. YOU did it! You have a beautiful baby as the end result. So no judgement and please feel free to share your own experience in the comments! Please keep it respectful :) Also this article may get a little TMI so if you don't like reading about female things, ie vaginas, blood, tearing, etc.) you can stop reading here :)
1. My food cravings and aversions were not mine during pregnancy
The moment I became pregnant I knew it because I didn't want the foods I normally ate. For example, I love root veggies like carrots, zucchini, celery, etc, salads, and lean meats. It was near the end of the summer when I became pregnant so salads were a good choice-- cold and crisp tossed with some chopped chicken from the grill. I did NOT want anything to do with these foods. In fact, I threw up after eating a salad for lunch in early pregnancy. Instead I craved JUNK or fast food-- Taco Bell, Wendy's, you name it. I also wanted juice all the time-- orange, mango, grape, etc. I also did not want Starbucks (BIG change for me). For the first trimester of pregnancy I ate so much differently than I normally do. There were a few exceptions of course, but for the most part, I felt like my body and food cravings didn't belong to me!
2. I smelled everything during pregnancy
I know they say your senses increase during pregnancy but I literally could smell anything and everything almost like a dog. If someone was cooking food down the street in their home...I could smell it. On the train to and from work I smelled interesting odors that nobody else could pick up. I also felt like I smelled differently too thanks to those pregnancy hormones! It was pretty wild what I was able to smell.
3. My labor didn't go as I expected it to
Here's the deal- my plan was to have an unmedicated birth and that is what happened...for the most part. Although I save my actual birth story for another blog post (check it out), I ended up delivering my son Donovan vaginally without an epidural and no pain medication. Of course I am proud of myself for this but what is most important is both of us are healthy. It could of went any other way and I still would have been proud (hey its a miracle that we women even give birth no matter how the baby comes into the world!) Despite having no pain meds, my labor was long and very intense. When we arrived at the hospital at 6 am (after laboring for some time at home,) I was 6 centimeters dilated and 90 percent effaced. I thought for sure this would be quick but it definitely wasn't! I labored some more that whole day and didn't begin pushing until 4:30 pm. My midwife even had to break my water bag because the pressure was unbearable for me. When things weren't progressing quickly enough, I agreed to start pitocin to move things along. I pushed for almost 4 and a half hours and it turns out Donovan was stuck in my pubic bone so the doctor had to bring in her vacuum to help him out. Big lesson for me here, as a first time mom, labor really wasn't that quick! I felt like I knew that beforehand but it didn't really sink in for me until I was in it.
4. The "relaxing props" were not very relaxing to me during labor
This kind of goes with number three in that I didn't expect things to go this way. So I bought a birth ball, a rebozo blanket, and electrolyte ice cubes with me to the hospital with every intention of using them all. I even had my doula, Leslie bring orange and lavender essential oils. During labor I was so uncomfortable I didn't want to move to even position myself on the birth ball or even be touched for that matter. All I could do most of the time was pace up and down the halls every so often, and lay on my side on the bed with the peanut ball between my knees. I was in so much pain and there was so much pressure on my lower body, I had to have my husband Brett put the ball between my knees. I also had every intention of laboring in the bathtub and I did get in there for 10 minutes but I quickly wanted to get out. It was relaxing for a little while but I wanted to keep moving and the water and heat became too much to bear. I actually spent a lot of my time on the toilet since that was the only thing relieving the intense pressure! I also kept making myself pee since I was scared to death to potentially get a catheter. With regards to the other props, I will say I enjoyed the essential oils and the electrolyte ice cubes mostly because I had my doula helping me with that :) (by the way having a doula during birth is a game changer..feel free to message me on that!)
5. The "ring of fire" was very painful
I watched several YouTube videos during my pregnancy with women swearing the ring of fire wasn't that bad. Um for me, it was beyond painful. I'm not sure if it was because the doctor used a vacuum and he came out so fast with my last monster push (I also had a minor perineal tear) but that was the worst part for me. Luckily it all went by so fast but it literally felt like a little alien ripping himself out of my vagina and the burning sensation was intense! This is another reason why each labor experience is so unique and we have to go in with an open mind...
6. However, the after labor stuff wasn't bad at all
I also watched videos on women claiming the stuff that happens "down there" after birth is painful and uncomfortable. Granted the experience wasn't pleasant, it wasn't bad for me at all. I wasn't in too much pain and I had no major issues going to the bathroom, etc. I had some minor burning sensations near my stitches but nothing unbearable and of course I bled but nothing a giant pad and mesh underwear couldn't handle. (Yes I said it!)
7. Pushing was the most intense part
My expectation before birth was that I wouldn't have to push for that long and the labor part would by far be the most intense. After 4 1/2 hours of straight pushing, this was by far the most intense part. I kept imagining myself doing squats at the gym every time I pushed and I do consider myself pretty strong, but nothing amounted to the challenge of pushing out a 7 1/2 pound baby out of my vag. I honestly thought by the time I was ready to push, he would slide right out but that definitely didn't happen. I was laying on my side and holding my knees back. I had no strength left towards the end so the oxygen mask was my best friend!
8. There were several "shades of Amanda" during the labor and delivery process (personality shifts)
Obviously childbirth is painful and intense. I had zero patience and tolerance for any small talk or friendly gestures. During labor, the nurses would change shifts and one nurse smiled and introduced herself to me during a very painful contraction. My normal response would be friendly but this time I completely ignored her. She was very nice too and later on I apologized to her. Brett was also munching on some crackers and I told him to stop crunching so loudly. He even offered me food and water and I just pushed it away. I definitely was not in a great mood most of the labor process but once my son was born, I was immediately back to my old self. It was such a relief that I wasn't in anymore pain.
9. I never asked for an epidural or pain medication
I definitely thought even if I didn't get an epidural or narcotics, I would still ask for them! Not once did I ask for an epidural or pain medication. Yes I was in pain and no I am not against pain medication! It just surprised me I didn't once ask for any of it at all.
10. I never had the "can I just be done with pregnancy" feeling at the end of my pregnancy
Many women get very uncomfortable during the last few weeks of pregnancy. I can say I was indeed uncomfortable at times but not terribly ready for it to be all over. I actually enjoyed being pregnant. It may have been the time of the year of the end of my third trimester (hello springtime) but I wasn't ready for it to be over and I expected to feel this way.
11. The new parent high
I heard about this prior to getting pregnant that new parents feel a high as soon as their babies are born. Yup-- this is true and its amazing what nature can do for you to bond with your baby right away. I had Donovan at 9 pm so naturally I should have been tired from labor and delivery and ready for bed at this time. I stayed up with him most of the night because I was so happy. I was a little surprised I wasn't feeling more tired and didn't sleep. The fatigue definitely caught up with me though a few days later!
12. No shame or embarrassment during labor
I was worried about this prior to having baby that I would care about the whole world seeing everything that was going on "down there" during the labor and delivery process. To be honest, I forgot all about it because I didn't have any time to be embarrassed since I was in so much pain.
13. The labor pain was indescribable
Yes this is the number one question I got after having a baby-- what did labor feel like without using pain medication? I always wondered about this myself prior to having a baby too. Would I be able to handle it? So I know this doesn't help people much but the pain is honestly indescribable. It hurt like hell, yes and it is only a pain that I can remember parts of and it reminded me a little of the time I broke my ankle. There is a ton of adrenaline helping your body but during labor, it feels more like intense pressure and shooting pain in the pelvis, hips, low back, thighs, and glutes. And yes there's more-- at the same time, it feels like the most intense period cramping ever combined with pressure to take a huge poop (except the huge poop feels like you're about to shit a human out of a small hole which is the reality.) I remember feeling like I wasn't going to make it (yes a little dramatic I know). Its the type of pain that you know hurt like hell but is hard to describe to someone else that hasn't been through it. The contrast is amazing-- I felt a lot of pain AND that pain was combined with the most intense pleasure and relief of pushing out and meeting my son for the first time. I felt it ALL-- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
14. Labor is a long process and you're left alone for much of the time
Yes there are nurses and if you choose to have people with you (in my case my husband and my doula) then you're not really alone but I was surprised the rest of my birth team was in and out making their rounds. There were times when I had questions and I had to wait until the nurse or my midwife came back or I would have to use the call button. I understood that they had other patients to attend to and they were busy but I guess I expected them to stick around with me throughout the entire process. The doctor and the midwife didn't pop in regularly until I began pushing and didn't stay the whole time until the last half hour.
15. It was the most rewarding and gratifying experience of my life
That pretty much sums it up right there...all of the pain was worth it and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.