Here’s the truth: You can read every pregnancy/labor & delivery book out there, and there will STILL be something that surprises you or catches you off-guard. Guaranteed.
Bringing a child into the world is a mix of beautiful, unbelievable, and disgusting. So, here are just a few of the things that I wish someone would have prepared me for (not necessarily all that will happen to you, but that definitely could happen!):
- Nosebleeds. Most women know about the nausea, headaches, sore boobs, etc. (the more well-known side-effects of growing a human.) What people won’t tell you is that other things can also happen that are pretty out-of-the-ordinary: Nosebleeds. Floaters in your eyes. Spots and skin tags. Tailbone pain. Round-ligament pain. Tender gums (and restrictions at the dentist. Most require you to have written and signed consent from your OB before performing any procedures, including routine cleanings.)
- Old Wives Tales: Most aren’t true. One that is, however, is the concept of heartburn meaning your child will have hair. So, try not to take too much stock in most old-wives tales, but this one is a good one to pay attention to.
- You won’t have as many ultrasounds as you want. Most often, your insurance will pay for two. Unless you have an unusual circumstance around your pregnancy, you’ll likely only see your little one on the screen twice.
- Hunger, and Lack of Hunger: Pregnancy is often portrayed the same way, all the time. Women that have insane appetites, and binge on whatever craving they have that day. Sometimes this is true, but not always. Some women are sick for so long that the idea of food is the farthest thing from their minds. In fact, some women struggle to keep on the needed weight for pregnancy. For these women, medication is often required so that you can continue to have a healthy pregnancy.
- Not all testing is required. Some OBs will try to convince you that all testing is mandatory, but often this isn’t the case. Do your research and decide what is best for you. I did all the testing of my own volition, but some parents would prefer to avoid some of these tests.
- You may not have the same OB your entire pregnancy. I was shocked to find that most clinics have OBs on a rotation, so you may see a different doctor every time. It makes sense; doctors are busy people. But, it was important to me to have the same OB my entire pregnancy and at the birth of my child. I spent a significant amount of time trying to find a clinic that allowed this, and was thrilled when I finally did. If this is important to you, be prepared to do some digging to find the right obstetrician for you.
- Most doctors will not let you go past 41 weeks. Most of us want to wait for our babies to come on their own, but a great many doctors will absolutely put their foot down. Why? There are some risks, which you can read about here.
- When you’re ready to deliver: be prepared to be examined by 10 or more nurses, a handful of doctors, and possibly some medical students. If this isn’t what you want, make sure you talk to your hospital in advance.
- Labor and Delivery might not be what you expected, in a variety of ways. If you’re like me, I expected to have the cinema-style birthing experience where the actress has her water break, and baby arrives in a dramatic scene within a few hours. More often, your water will leak all day, and all through your labor, you’ll spend hours bored, in pain, eating popsicles and watching reruns of Friends.
- If you have an epidural, you’ll likely have a catheter at some point. Some hospitals keep them in, others just use them periodically. Most often, too much is going on for you to even care.
- Be prepared to be unprepared. You can plan for nine months how your labor is going to happen, but most often you’ll have to do what your doctor or midwife thinks is best. If this means a cesarean, episiotomy, etc., sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. And sometimes, like with my labor and delivery, things can get complicated QUICKLY. Ask your nurses and doctors to explain fully what is happening instead of tip-toeing around you. My son was both face-up, and had the umbilical cord tightly wrapped around his neck. This meant that I had a positioning specialist, internal monitors, and saline injected back into my uterus. I wish I had known more about things that can go wrong in L&D, though I think many people might want the opposite: to not know at all, and not worry about it (I’m just not that person.)
- Things like the “husband stitch” still exist. Sex after childbirth is usually fairly unpleasant the first few times for most people. This will make it worse, so ensure that you have a doctor that doesn’t practice this.
- Post-partum. OH post-partum. It can be a crazy ride, that’s for sure. If anything, know what to expect. Knowing now to care for yourself both physically and mentally are crucial to both your well-being and your child’s. Know the signs of post-partum depression and don’t be afraid to talk about it and ask for help. Accept help. Also, know that post-partum pain and bleeding can last a decently long time. Be prepared for it so that you aren’t trying to run to the store last-minute toting a newborn with you.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. What shocked you about your own pregnancy and labor & delivery?