I’m officially in the home stretch of pregnancy with 4 weeks to go, so I’m not going to lie I’m truly starting to panic. I feel like I’ve got to keep it real with you. Whoever said that you forget the pain of childbirth was a liar. I don’t think you ever forget what labor is like. Sure, if you’re one of the lucky ones you may be able to block it out, but as for me and the rest of the mamas out there I can safely say that you can experience a kind of Post Traumatic Labor Disorder (PTLD). Ok so I clearly made this up, but trust me the anxiety and flashbacks are very real.

Labor Photo 1

Enjoying my one hour of pain relief right after getting
an epidural during the birth of my daughter Hannah.
Little did I know it would wear off.

A Baby Story

I can safely say that I miss the days in my pregnancy with my first daughter, when I only had a vague idea of how bad labor would suck. Ignorance and pain killers are truly bliss when it comes to labor. During my second pregnancy I started binge watching TLC’s A Baby Story as I got closer to D-Day (Delivery Day).

16 And Pregnant

Call it a sick kind of torture, but I find myself doing it again this time with (palm to face) MTV’s 16 And Pregnant of all shows. I think it’s part mental prep and part coping mechanism. I mean these young girls surely can’t be as prepared as a veteran mom like myself, right? Surely it wasn’t as bad as I recall, right? WRONG. I don’t want to be like all those, “oh you’ll forget the pain when you see your baby” women who don’t prepare other women for what it’s really like. So here the top 10 things I wish someone had told me about before I had my first child. Some are truly gross and hilarious so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

1. Induction hurts like a B**** – For my first go round I was induced and the pain started immediately. With baby #2 I went into labor on my own and didn’t feel any pain until I hit active labor at 4 cm. If I could go back in time, I would have forgone the induction, which in my case I opted for simply because I was absolutely miserable in the August heat.

2. You CAN forget to breathe – Ok, I know it totally sounds laughable and you’re probably picturing a sitcom where the husband keeps telling his laboring wife to breathe while she does these crazy rythmic huffs and puffs. Truth be told, my contractions got so bad with my first I didn’t even realize I was holding my breath through them. I also did a lot of hyperventilating, which I didn’t know I was doing until I asked the nurse why I felt so dizzy. Luckily I had my husband and sister-in-law talk me into slowing down my breathing, but I still needed an oxygen mask on while I pushed.

3. Pushing is NOT the WORST part – the contractions will be so painful you’ll be dying for the moment you are finally told, “ok it’s time to push.” It may be the part that freaks us out the most, but honestly it’s a huge relief and it means you’re just about done.

Labor Photo 2
Contractions are the pain you remember most.
Pushing is a relief because it mean’s you’re almost done.

4. It is possible to push the WRONG way – If you were like me, you’d seen countless movies that made pushing look like the ab workout of a lifetime. Boy are they wrong! After my nurses scolded me and scared the crap out of me by telling me I was doing it wrong, they made my husband play tug of war with a bed sheet to get me to push right. The correct way you ask? It’s to push like you’re pooping. Yes, indeed. Gross, but tis true, which brings me to #5.

5. Get ready for the grossness – I hear it’s normal for some women to poop while pushing. Like I said, you are doing it the same way so go figure this would happen. I don’t think I did it, but I hear nurses are so quick and discreet in cleaning it up that you may never know if you did anyway. Beyond the possibility of pooping, there’s a great chance you’ll vomit at some point during labor and I’ve heard of people peeing the bed as well.

Let’s face it, while we would like to be in control of our bodies, during labor our bodies take over and we’re pretty much just along for the ride. Truth be told there is no room for embarrassment during labor. You become single minded and you’re only thought is “Get this baby out, NOW!”

6. There’s no way to predict it – You could be in labor for 36 hours or just a few and there’s no way to know which. It would have been great if my nurse didn’t remind me it could take awhile while I was laboring with my first. That’s truly on the list of things NOT to say to a woman in labor. It could be quick as well and you could find yourself urging the doctor to “hurry the hell up” because he’s just casually strolling into your room while you’re fighting the urge to push your baby out while the nurses frantically prepare everything.

Ok so I only said, “Could you hurry up.” But looking back on my second labor experience, I think I was laboring down for a good 45 minutes while I was waiting to push. That means my son was working his way down the canal, which is probably why it hurt like a B**** despite my fabulous epidural those last 45 minutes and why he came out in only 3 pushes. Once you’re on the rollarcoaster there is no getting off till the ride is over. And by the way it’s totally normal to say, “I can’t do it” a LOT during labor, but you do find inner strength you didn’t know you had.

7. Pain relief does NOT work perfectly – I felt a thousand times better once I got my epidural 6 hours into labor with my daughter, that is until an hour later when it wore off. Since I was in active labor and had my water broken for me at that point, feeling the pain at its new level of intensity was truly the worst. It took an hour to get the anesthesiologist back in the room since he was in the OR assisting with an emergency c-section. Despite my hour of pushing, this hour of waiting for a second dose of pain relief was the worst hour of the entire 12.

With my second they gave me a drug called Stadol while I awaited my epidural. I can’t recall if it helped much with the pain because it literally knocked me unconsious, that is until I came to every few minutes when my blood pressure cuff went off. It was like a bad cartoon. People would be standing on one side of the room and then the other in what felt like seconds. Imperfect as it is, you can bet I will be getting pain relief during labor this time around. I applaud the women that can do without it, but I don’t aspire to be like those women. Call me selfish, but I’m in it for the baby in the end and the labor is really not a “special experience” so much as a “trial by fire” I need to get through in order to have my precious child.

 8. Modesty is NOT an option – I’m probably one of the most modest people I know and the idea of someone looking at my downstairs really freaked me out  before I went into labor with my first child. By the time I had to push however I didn’t bat an eye when my sister in law asked to watch my daughter coming out. I had other things to think about besides my lady parts being exposed to the world. But I will tell you that I kept my socks on as my small act of modesty. LOL Ironically it did make me feel a little better, though it’s not like anyone was looking at my feet.

9. You’re not done yet! – I remember a sort of denial setting in as my daughter was placed all purple and white on my belly. “She’s really out,” I said, even though I could plainly see her. I was like, “Oh thank God it’s over.” Little did I realize I had to wait while the placenta came out and during what felt like a hundred stitches being placed. I was so over people touching me by this point, but it’s something you just gotta put up with.

With my second, the doctor was pressing hard on my belly, massaging my uterus after my son came out. Little did I know he was just trying to stop what was a very large hemorrhage. Luckily he stopped it, but at the time all I knew was that it was supposed to be over at this point and he was hurting my belly. The ghostly look on my sister-in-law’s face just told me I better shut up and deal with it.

10. The second the baby is out, you’re chopped liver – The second the baby is out, everyone is all about the baby. My husband was too busy counting the baby’s fingers and toes to pay any attention to me and I get it, but it still kind of stinks when you’re still in pain and nobody is left standing by your side. Of course you care about your baby too, but sometimes motherhood doesn’t “hit you” so much as “settles in.” With my first it wasn’t until a few hours later that I was  like, “wow, I’m really a mom now.” With my second it was the instant I held my son. No matter when the feeling hits, that feeling of overwhelming love is incredible. This single moment makes you feel like you just won the greatest battle of all time and this little being is a symbol of your victory.

Labor Photo 3
Of course this is why we all do it – our children.

So if you ask me, nobody ever “forgets” how bad labor is, they just choose ignorance and denial as their refuge. It’s a survival instinct to push the trauma way down deep into your psyche so it doesn’t threaten to choke you. You don’t really need to relive it until you’re like me sitting in your living room, ready to stare down D-Day once again and asking yourself, “why on Earth did I sign up for this again?”

There’s nothing I can do at this point except wait and try not to hyperventilate about it. I try to focus on how much better it will feel to have my body back to myself without the acid reflux, the need to pee every 10 minutes, the sweating and being uncomfortable in the heat, and of course meeting my new daughter face to face.

Read my labor tips in Hudson Valley Parent’s Baby Guide. What was the most unexpected thing that happened to you during labor?