Before I got pregnant, I thought nine months was a long time. But between preparing the baby’s room, going to birthing classes, and reading every book, magazine article, and blog post I could find about what to expect when I delivered my child, the time flew by! Still, all of my preparation did not prepare me for the surprises I faced once I entered the delivery room—and even after I took the baby home.
As a mother of three, there are things I’ve learned with each birth at each step in the birthing process. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share what I’ve learned so there are not as many surprises for other soon-to-be mothers. Listed below are the seven things I wish I knew before giving birth.
1. Choose your OB wisely
Not every expectant mother gets to choose her obstetrician, but if you do have that luxury, you may want to prepare a list of questions to interview doctors before you make your final decision. These questions might include:
- How many babies do you deliver each year?
- What is your C-section rate?
- Do you perform episiotomies?
- How do you feel about adhering to my birth plan?
- Who will be there if you aren’t available when my labor begins?
In addition to how the OB answers your questions, do you feel like they are really listening to you and paying attention to your concerns? That’s a sign of a good doctor.
If you don’t trust your doctor, don’t be afraid to switch. I did not feel completely comfortable with my OB the first time I gave birth, and it made the delivery process a nightmare. It’s worth it in the end to know that your OB has your best interests and your child’s safety at heart.
2. Definitely tour the hospital
The more prepared you can be, the better you’ll feel during the chaos, stress, and—let’s face it—pain of labor and delivery. A few months before your due date, take a tour of the hospital where you plan to give birth to help you understand the hospital policies and what your stay will be like. You might ask questions such as:
- Will I have a private room, or need to share a room?
- Who can be in the room with me during delivery (or a C-section)?
- Can my partner spend the night in my room after delivery?
- Is photography allowed?
- What will be done with my baby after they are born?
3. Ask questions
Particularly if you’re a first-time mom, you probably have thousands of questions. Be sure to write them down so you can get the most out of your appointments. Some of the more practical questions new moms may forget to ask are where to park when you arrive for labor and delivery, what needs to be done before your baby will be released to go home (like providing proof of an installed car seat), and whether or not you’ll be permitted to eat and drink during labor.
4. Make a birth plan, but know it’s subject to change
Writing a birth plan is great, and it will help inform your doctors and nurses about how you’d like your birth to go. Examples of things you might include in your birth plan are whether or not to get an epidural, if you want the birth photographed or recorded, how and when the cord will be cut, whether you will opt for a Caesarean, or if you would like the baby placed on your chest immediately after delivery.
Understand, though, that you may need to deviate from this plan. Childbirth isn’t easy, and it’s rarely predictable. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow and understand that things may not go according to your original plan. Moms hear a lot of opinions throughout pregnancy, and many may feel pressure to have a vaginal birth, an unmedicated delivery, a C-section, or another delivery method. It’s important to remember that each delivery situation is unique; the most important thing is that you and your baby are healthy. That said…
5. You are your own (and your baby’s!) best advocate
Even once you have been admitted to the hospital, you have the right to refuse any treatment you do not want to have. With that in mind, it’s important to understand the risks and benefits of the procedures you may be offered during your hospital stay and during the birth itself. This is called informed consent—because you are informed about your options.
Why does this matter? Sometimes doctors and nurses simply tell expectant mothers what to do rather than asking us our preferences. If you don’t want IV fluids, painkillers, and so on (and they are not medically necessary), you have the right to speak up and say so. This goes for your baby, too! It’s part of a medical professional’s job to communicate clearly and openly with you so you and your baby receive the best possible care.
6. Know that C-sections aren’t the “easy way out,” and sometimes they’re absolutely crucial
Caesarian sections happen very frequently these days—we all know someone who’s had one. Common as they may be, they are still a very major surgery. During the surgery, you’ll be awake, but numb. Most mothers-to-be only feel painless pressure as the doctor moves the baby into position. The baby is out before you know it; most C-section deliveries take less than 30 minutes. The task of stitching you back together is the most complex part of the process.
Opting for a C-section doesn’t make you any less of a mother and it doesn’t mean you simply chose the easy way out. In fact, there are many situations where a C-section is the best option. When certain conditions, fetal presentations, or risk factors are present, your baby may be at risk for injuries like oxygen deprivation or head trauma.
7. You’ll look back on everything and realize what a miracle it is
Childbirth is a lot of work and pregnancy can be pretty uncomfortable, but remember that it’s worth it in the end. I know there is a lot to think about and remember, but try to take time to enjoy the process what it is. Over the last nine months, you’ve grown a human inside your body! When I reflect on that, I remember just how extraordinary pregnancy, delivery, and parenthood is.
Article submitted by Laura, a loving wife and mother of three sons based out of Michigan.