Quick note from Carly: ok, ladies-who-have-given-birth, it’s time to gather around the proverbial fire and start sharing those bits of advice that apply to that moment when you’re actually making a human come out of you. Being the good friend I am, I’ve shared all of my details with Kate already, which probably hasn’t helped her anxiety level on any of these…your turn!
Kate’s labor fears:
1 – The Unknown
First, foremost, and the most overarching of all fears is the fact that I have no idea what labor, contractions, birth, epidurals, tearing may potentially feel like. Part of me (a big part actually) rationally realizes that this fear is almost a needless one because why overstress about something over which you have no control? The other part of me thinks that this fear is completely rational because labor and delivery are not generally thought of as peaceful, pain-free times for any woman. I am worried that I won’t know when I’m having a contraction (even though every mom I know says “Believe me, you’ll know”). HOW will I know? I’ve never had one before?
I can read and research and talk to moms until I’m blue in the face, but it seems like it’s different for everyone and, frankly, that doesn’t help much. Some women say it feels like a tightening in the tummy leading down to the pelvis for just a minute then it’s gone. Some women say it feels like strong period cramps. Some women say they only knew they were having contractions because their water broke but they had been feeling “crampy” throughout their pregnancies and thought it was just more of the same. But what will it feel like for me? And how will I know that THIS IS IT? And when it is “IT” how long do I ride it out before “IT” becomes “BABY” and I’m suddenly in the shower shaving my legs and a baby’s head appears?!
It’s totally not the same, but it reminds me of when I joined the Army. My biggest fear of Basic Training was going through the gas chamber. I remember looking at the “schedule” for what would happen during every week and when I saw it on week 5, I was stricken with fear. I talked to dozens of people who had been through it and asked for painstaking details of every minute so I could mentally prepare myself. When it was finally my week to do it, I lined up with my platoon and secretly kept sneaking further and further back in the line until I was in the final group.
Only 15 people could go in at a time and finally, there were only 15 of us left. I had witnessed others exiting the chamber on the other side and, let me just save the details and say, it was not a pretty sight. I was so afraid that my gas mask wouldn’t work. That I would have the one defective one in the box of 50. That everything I had heard or learned in training would suddenly fall out of my head and I would be in there, stranded, choking to death. We entered the room and it was so smoky. Immediately, I felt the prickling on my exposed skin (which wasn’t much since we were in a neck to toe uniform). The prickling turned to burning and I unexpectedly realized that I was breathing… albeit short, scared breaths, but my mask was working like it was designed to do. Long story short, we were in the gas chamber for about 5 agonizing minutes. Five of the longest minutes of my life to date. But I made it. I had done it. The fear wasn’t for naught: it was agonizing and disgusting and uncomfortable but when it was over, it was just that: OVER.
And in a way, I feel like that is how labor and birth are going to be: agonizing, disgusting and uncomfortable. And then it will be OVER. And I will, for the rest of my life, be a mom. I will hold this tiny baby that Chris and I made in my arms and I will never experience his life growing inside me again. I will look into his tiny, discovering eyes and hear the sound of him for the first time ever and I will realize that it was all worth it. That Chris and I are parents. Now and forever. That this is our baby boy. And that it was all worth it.
2 – Being Unsure of My Pain Tolerance
You know when you feel like you’re really strong and brave and can handle any pain that life throws at you and then you stub your toe on your coffee table and you’re like holy crap, this is it. I’m going to die right here in my living room and someone will find me here and I haven’t cleaned out my fridge in months.
I feel like in general, I’m pretty pain tolerant (except at the dentist and I’m not even GOING there). I’d say on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being I just got a paper cut and I’m filing workman’s comp and will not be returning to work because of the many doctor’s visits I’m anticipating for my future and 10 being watch me break my own leg in this bear trap and then chew myself free without flinching, I’m at a good, hearty 7.5. I’m pretty whiny when I’m in bad pain, but I tend to just pretend like it’s not happening and take a walk… or complain about it to Chris until he feels really sorry for me and goes to get me an M&M McFlurry because those things are the bomb. Hopefully a 7.5 is enough to wince myself through contractions and eventual delivery.
Let’s be clear here. When coming up with our “birth plan” (which, by the way, I’ve heard is generally a joke because you really need to expect the unexpected in this whole process) Chris and I talked over medical intervention. We decided that I am going to try to do it naturally as long as I can and if the pain gets intolerable or is going on for what feels like forever, then I will opt for the epidural. I think the main thing for us in our makeshift birth plan was that we wanted to know (and wanted our doctor and nurses to know) what we DEFINITELY did or didn’t want. And as far as we are concerned, I will trust my instincts on my pain threshold ending with or without an epidural and trust my doctor’s instincts (or facts) on what medical intervention I need if my baby is in distress.
We have spoken at length with our doctor about this potential part of the process and he has a pretty low C-section rate but if the baby is in trouble, he’ll do what he needs to do, which we fully agree with. The one thing we did discuss was the fact that I want to be the one to bring up having the epidural. I don’t want nurses coming in offering it if I don’t ask for it and I’m not sure whether that happens in a delivery room or not.
I feel like it’s when you are on a diet and someone is like:
“Hey, want this amazing donut with sprinkles that I just happen to have more of than I can possibly finish?”
And you’re like, “no thanks” (to be polite and to stick to your diet guns).
“Are you sure? Because it’s extra and it’s super good and it will taste delicious. I know because I just ate the other one I had.”
And you’re starting to lose your willpower at this point and thinking about how scrumptious it WOULD taste and how the last time you had a donut that looked like that, you were happy and skipping through the rest of your day. And then all of a sudden, you feel like you’ve fast forwarded time and you’re standing there with sprinkles stuck to your cheek laying on the ground smiling, wondering what happened and how this was NOT what you planned, but damn, does it feel good.
That all being said, I’m attempting to go “au natural” and if that doesn’t happen, then so be it, but I want it to be on my terms. I’m sure I will look back on this post after I give birth and laugh that I tried to have a whole plan laid out. But at least I will be happily eating a donut while reading.
3 – Tearing / Getting an Episiotomy
I mean, really? TEARING? Holy crap. How big does something need to be to push out of something so small that it TEARS. Oh. My. Ow.
My last appointment, I asked about my doctor’s opinion on perineal massage. He told me that it was useful for getting your body ready for what the sensation will feel like, but if I was trying to do it for the sole purpose of stretching myself out, that wasn’t going to happen (… damn). Is there a way I can just hold a nerf football in there for the next 6 weeks? LOL.
Seriously though, I think this is one that I’m scared of because the thought of that part of my body ripping open for this to happen is just terrifying (I mean, ANY part of my body ripping open is terrifying, but there’s some seriously sensitive bits down there that I want to use again in the future). I have heard stories about the giant pads and the circus tent sized underwear and the spray bottles with witch hazel that you are forced to bring to the bathroom with you when you pee. I’ve been told to not even THINK about looking down there with a mirror after it’s all over because, holy Lord, you will never look at that part of your body the same after you see what looks like Rocky’s face after that first really bad fight with Apollo when his eye is completely purple and bloody and nearly swollen shut.
And stitches. On your nether regions. Like with thread and needles and ties and knots. In your crotch. There is no pleasantry about this process and I can’t imagine how bad it feels to pee after that… I suppose that’s where the mysterious witch hazel comes into play. That’s it, I’m just gonna have my doctor punch me really hard in the face if I start tearing so I can focus on something else. Rocky, here comes your competition.
4 – That Something Will Go Wrong During Birth
Of all my worries, this one is the lowest on the spectrum. I’m a little concerned that something may go wrong because, hey, I’m realistic and things go wrong during birth all the time, but at the same time, I feel comforted by the fact that we will be in a hospital with professionals who are trained to deal with those problems should they occur. It may be morbid but I want to know what COULD go wrong so I’m not totally sideswiped if it does, but I feel like everything will be handled well and that Chris will be there to support me and the baby if there’s a problem.
Sidenote: I also want me mom in the delivery room with me. I know there are a lot of differing views on who women want in the delivery room with them when giving birth but my mom was a nurse for decades. She was there when her youngest sister gave birth to my nieces, she was there when my sister gave birth to every one of her 4 kids, and I want her there for me. She is totally calm under stressful medical situations and she can talk the lingo which is nice for me because I know that I will be taken care of and she will say something if she needs to. Chris and I also live closer to my parents (and his parents) than we have since we both left for college and joined the Army and that is such a blessing.
Another sidenote: everyone that I have personally invited into the delivery room (Chris and my mom) I have asked to remain at my HEAD. I don’t think I need to go into further detail about that because, just ew.