Expectations: Part 2 – Labor and Delivery
This is part 2 of the series on managing motherhood expectations. You can read my post about managing pregnancy expectations here. In this installment, I want to talk about expectations for labor and delivery.
I think labor is one of the scariest experiences for women. We grow up hearing horror stories from our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and various family friends about labor and its after effects. It becomes ingrained in our mind that labor will be full of pain and suffering and we fear it. That fear only grows as our pregnancy progresses. Taking childbirth classes may help alleviate your fear or it may deepen it. All depends on how you take in the information.
So how can we manage our labor expectations? Let’s start by being honest: Labor hurts! The intensity of the pain, however, depends on so many different factors that it’s impossible to predict how much. The baby’s size, position, your personal pain tolerance level, your comfort during labor, all play a role.
I can personally attest that no two labors feel the same. While my first labor was drawn out and not terribly painful, my second rendered me immobile and in excruciating pain in a matter of 2 hours. I was glad for my epidural, as there was no way I would have been able to deliver without it. And while the pain is scary when you think about it rationally, when you’re experiencing it, you don’t really think. You just ride the wave of pain and do your best to manage it with available pain relief.
Pain Relief During Labor
What about our expectations surrounding pain relief? It depends on the person. Some women will go in wanting an epidural from the moment they get pregnant, while others will stand firm on not receiving one. Whichever way you decide to go, should be up to you.
But I will caution that epidurals work differently on different people and complete and total pain control may not be possible. While I know friends for who the epidural knocked out any sensation below their waist, I personally experienced symptom relief only for contractions and felt the pushing and crowning stage a bit more than I would have liked. While it was painful, it allowed me to get close to the natural birth that I desired.
You also need to remember that there are points when it’s too early and too late to get an epidural. So don’t count on having an epidural the moment your contractions set in. And while that may sound like a great option that will eliminate pain, it’s also an option that will stall out your labor and may very well result in a C-Section.
So when your doctor tells you that you are not far along enough to receive an epidural, just know that they are not being mean to you and only have yours and your baby’s best interest at heart. Just make sure you know how to manage your pain with some natural methods like moving, changing positions, counter pressure, a hot shower, etc.
And if you’d like to find out more in-depth information about epidurals, Sarah Reck, MD has a series of posts regarding epidurals.
Women also tend to create a lot of expectations surrounding a birth plan. You will hear some very strong reasons for and against it. I’m personally very pro creating a birth plan, with one caveat: do not get disappointed if it needs to be changed. It’s OK. Part of labor, and parenting as whole, is that your best laid out plans can be derailed in a matter of seconds. And not only is there nothing wrong with that, but it also does not invalidate the effort you put into creating a birth plan.
As my doula explained, the reason to have a birth plan is to let the hospital staff know your wishes. This way they have a better sense what type of nurse to pair you with and what type of interventions you are ok with. It simplifies communication at a time where you want things conveyed swiftly and concisely. I used a visual birth plan from Mama Natural and it was great. Super simple to create and my doctor loved it because it’s in picture form. So no long drawn out memoirs.
Expect the Unexpected!
Overall, just expect the unexpected. Labor is a force of nature and just like all nature, it’s unpredictable and powerful. Your labor experience may be wonderful, traumatic or anything in between. Just know that you have done what you can and let the experience take over.
You’ve got this mama!!!!
Please, share your labor expectations in the comments.
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