As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve pretty much seen it all — butts and boobs, blood and babies. Many women, especially new moms, wonder just what goes on in that mysterious delivery room. If you’re expecting your first, here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Poop is good
You may have heard the rumor going around that some women poop while giving birth. I have news for you: It’s true. As horrifying as it may sound, pooping on the delivery table is actually a good thing. It tells us that you are pushing the right way. Yay! You may be relieved to hear that your body naturally clears the way for baby before the active pushing stage, so if your nurse gives you the okay, visit the facilities during early labor. And to further put your mind at ease, know that I mean it when I say: your poop is really nothing special.
2. You really don’t have to lie down
When you think about birth, what image comes to mind? A woman in the semi-reclined position, sweating while screaming obscenities at her clueless husband, right? Well, believe it or not, you do have a choice in the position that you deliver in. The whole semi-reclined thing came about more for doctors’ convenience than anything else. Listen to your body while you are in labor and go with what feels right to you. Depending on limitations from your form of pain relief (like an epidural) you may be able to deliver squatting, standing, side-lying, holding onto a bar, or even on all fours.
3. Bring cookies
This one’s important, especially if you deliver at night. I’m a night-shifter, and I can tell you right now that nothing gets a patient more on my top-priority list than the promise of chocolate-chip cookies at midnight. Put a kindly grandma on a grocery run for a post-delivery snack.
4. Think of your birth plan as a birth guide
Nothing ruins a birth plan faster than trying to stick to it. The best births I’ve seen are the ones with relaxed moms — moms who have a general idea of what they want but are also realistic and flexible when they need to be. A no-intervention, dimly-lit room with soft music and fresh flowers really isn’t the goal, is it?
5. Shaving is optional
So maybe you’re a little hesitant to let it all hang out in front of what will seem like every doctor, nurse, and random housekeeper in the whole building. That’s understandable. But trust me when I say that preggo-scaping is really not necessary. Besides, who’s going to blame you for not shaving when you can’t even see over that belly? The same rule applies for painting your toenails.
6. Don’t be alarmed if your doctor discussed lunch
… Or your nurse, or your midwife, or that person who draws your blood. There is something about sticking their hands up a woman’s crotch that always makes healthcare workers want to discuss their lunch plans. Weird, I know.
7. That drape is kind of necessary
If you get a C-section and are worried that you’re missing out on the action, take my advice and just go with it. The things your doctor will be pulling out of your body can be quite shocking. And the re-arranging and re-insertion bit is not exactly pretty either. You may not be ready for the sight of your uterus, you know, outside your womb. Enjoy the blue view from above and focus on what really matters — your baby.
8. If you’re cool enough, they’ll let you catch the baby
Play your cards right and we just might let you try on the catchers mitt. Show us you can handle it (read: don’t pass out) and promise not to sue us. Talk to your midwife or doctor during your prenatal check-ups if you think you might want to try your hand (pun clearly intended) at baby-catching. Or have Dad do his part. My husband delivered both of our girls. Coolest.Thing.Ever.
9. Speak up for the important stuff
You do have a say in your labor and delivery. Whether you have your eye on that room with the whirlpool tub or the nurse who delivered your neighbor’s sister’s friend, you are entitled to the birth you want. But you have to let us know.
10. The real reward comes after birth
Sure, your baby’s cute, but I’m not talking about her. I’m talking about that glorious, calorie-laden first post-delivery meal. Giving birth is like the best workout of your life. So go ahead, order the double bacon-cheeseburger with French fries and a chocolate milkshake. You deserve it.
11. Find a focal point
You probably learned this in those childbirth classes you remember nothing from, but this one’s actually helpful and really easy. It goes something like this: Find something, anything, to look at during your contraction. Focus on that thing and that thing only through the contraction. Rinse and repeat.
12. In this case, the hips can lie
I know there’s some old wives tale out there that promises to predict success in childbirth based on the size of one’s hips. But I’m here to tell you that I’ve seen an 80-pound woman push out a baby the size of a Thanksgiving dinner without so much as a Tylenol. Big hips do not necessarily an easy birth make.
13. Sometimes, we let you sneak in booze
Hey, we’re happy for you too. We might just let you sneak in that beer to celebrate.
14. What massacre?
So a bloody battle happened between your legs, but thankfully you’ll never know. Labor and delivery nurses are quick on the draw when it comes to cleaning up the aftermath. Look for phrases like “a little tear” or “a quick stitch” for clues to what really happened down there. Hint: Use that squeegee bottle (you’ll know it when you see it).
15. You don’t have to breathe like that
Really, I’m not sure where that whole hee-haw breathing while giving birth stuff originated. Don’t worry about doing it the “right” way. Some women breathe normally, some hold their breath. As long as those little alveoli in your lungs are receiving oxygen, we’re good.
16. Think of it as a hall pass
You have permission to say exactly what you’ve wanted to say to your partner all these years. Every balled-up dirty sock on the floor, every “Honey, have you seen my wallet?” without even looking for it, every last little annoyance — all vented in the perfect cover-up of labor. Now is your chance to let it all out. Your secret is safe with me.
17. Some women are screamers…
… and that’s ok. I’ve seen timid wallflowers transform into raging rivals of ring wrestlers and even one strange case of a woman singing soprano. Hey, whatever it takes. That baby’s coming out one way or another.
18. All women labor differently
Try not to listen to your neighbor, your great-aunt Mildred, or even your mom on this one. The fact is, no woman experiences childbirth the same way. My mother swore up and down that contractions were hard but pushing was painless. Fast forward a few months and after cruising through my contractions, I found myself cursing her as I pushed out what felt like a burning bowling ball of fire. You can’t predict how labor and delivery will feel for you, so don’t even try.
19. Yes, it’s a little awkward for us too
No, it doesn’t come naturally to us to stick our hands up where the sun don’t shine. In fact, I think that’s why so many of us are compelled to tell you about that awesome salad we ate for lunch (nerves).
20. Before you, there was Regina
If you’ve ever wondered just how labor and delivery nurses learn to “check” their patients, allow me to introduce you to Regina. Regina is our resident vagina-in-a-box. We’ve all paid a visit to Regina in the backroom before turning loose on real, unsuspecting patients. So next time you enjoy a quick and pain-free vaginal exam, just thank Regina.
21. That said, you really can’t shock labor and delivery nurses
From a patient watching The Jerry Springer Show while pushing, to a woman who lost her underwear in her girly parts, I’ve seen it all. So fear not if you have Jekyll and Hyde tendencies when giving birth — we expect it.