Before I went into labor and delivered my baby boy, I wrote a blog post about my labor fears. Now, one month after giving birth, I wanted to take a moment to follow up on those fears and talk about what was and wasn’t worth fretting over.
My list of fears from that blog were as follows:
1. The unknown, including contractions, epidurals, and labor in general.
Let me start this off by saying one thing: labor and delivery are different for every woman. There is no cookie-cutter story or set of experiences that I could type out to make it so all your questions and fears are addressed, but in my experience, it was so easy to fear the unknown and there was nothing I could do about the stress it brought upon me. People can tell you not to worry about it or that there’s no reason to be anxious when you don’t know what’s to come, but let’s be real: you’re going to worry.
A lot of this relates back to my birth story so I’ll be brief here. I was worried for all the right reasons. I didn’t know what I didn’t know but, in all honesty, nothing I experienced during the entire process was horrific. There were moments that I was scared (“time to start pushing”), there were moments when I was in pain (7 contracting hours into labor), there were moments when I was unsure (“it’s always difficult to administer an epidural when someone has this big of a tattoo on their back!” Hardee har har), and there were moments I was extremely uncomfortable (shuffling to the bathroom and being sponged down for 10 minutes by nurses while trying to pee for the first time since the catheter was removed). But it’s all possible. I’m not going to say it was the most pleasurable experience in my life, but, honestly, I would rather give birth again (with an epidural) than go to the dentist to get a cavity filled. Yes, I’m totally serious.
2. Being unsure of my pain tolerance
From what I’ve read, contractions are different for everyone and that’s what I mentioned in this first blog. I wasn’t sure what they would be like for me. In a word: painful. In two words: painful but tolerable (I suppose that’s three words). In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was a contraction or if it was just cramping until it happened again, with the same duration, same cycle, (build up, painful peak, and slow taper) and closer and closer together. I’m not gonna lie, the peak of the contraction, although only about 20 seconds for me each time was pretty painful. It felt like having a period cramp times 50 where you are incapacitated. I couldn’t talk or walk, I just had to breathe (hee-hee-hooo Lamaze style) and rock back and forth while leaning against something (usually Chris).
There was relief between the contractions but when they got so close together, the relieving moments were few and far between and by the time we decided to go to the hospital (7 hours after the first contraction) I was feeling exhausted and extremely uncomfortable. When the time came that the nurse asked me what my plan was for pain management, I immediately said “epidural.” Apparently, 7 hours was long enough for me. It wasn’t that the contractions were excruciating, it was more the fact that they were exhausting. When they got so close together, it was like, as soon as one ended and I could catch my breath and regain myself, another one would start. And the bottom line for me was, no matter what I decided or how this baby came out, I would still be getting the same baby! There’s no “downgraded version” that rears its ugly, misshapen head because you choose to have an epidural. Birth is birth!
3. Tearing / getting an episiotomy
I spoke to my doctor about his thoughts on an episiotomy during my appointment in month 8. He told me that his episiotomy rate was low and that he generally preferred not to do it if it could be avoided. That being said, I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t need any “assistance” because my vagina would magically stretch to the exact size it needed to be and then retract down to its original size by the time I left the hospital with my newborn baby in tow. That, unfortunately was not the case.
I talked a lot about this in my “Things Women Rarely Talk About Postpartum” blog but let’s just be brief and say that I did tear. Not in the muscle, which I am grateful for, but I did have 4 small skin tears around my vagina and urethra. The pain following the birth in the days I came home was, in a word: extreme. It really was something I was not fully prepared for (I’m not really sure how you can ever be prepared for that) and I was tremendously uncomfortable for days, being unable to sit without my donut pillow, and unable to pee without numbing spray. The fear was real, folks. I honestly should have put much more merit into this fear because this was all I was focused on for about 10 days following my hospital stay.
4. That something will go wrong during birth
This one was at the bottom of my list for a reason: I wasn’t that worried about it because I knew that I would be delivering in a hospital and that the medical staff was set to handle 99% of all situations. The only thing that was a little unnerving was the amount of suction they had to use for Steven. Apparently he had taken a gulp of amniotic fluid on his way toward the light and his breathing was muddled and labored when he arrived. The nurses kept using the bulb syringe on him while he was laying on my chest and seeing how difficult it was for him to breathe and cry at such a close proximity was unsettling to say the very least. After about 2 minutes, he was good and had a hearty sob going but those first 120 seconds were difficult for me emotionally.