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Do you have questions about what it will be like to give birth and stay in a hospital? Have you ever wished that somebody would just tell all?
I have always wished somebody had sat me down to explain more about the teenage years, or marriage, or my wedding day, or parenting, or birth.
Not just the happy parts or the more widely discussed facts, but the untold, sometimes scary or even minuscule reality.
I know nobody wants to be a Debbi Downer, but ignorance is not bliss when you could have prepared yourself better, had you known.
Never fear, I will not let you down.
Today, I am sharing everything I know or experienced about birth and hospital.
Disclaimer: there are as many experiences as there are pregnant women. Not one delivery is the same and some of these points below you may never come across. Or there may be some I did not mention. My list is not all-inclusive, but I did strive to make it as detailed and well rounded as possible.
Let’s see 26 insider secrets to help you prepare for birth and hospital.
1. You will not be allowed to eat
This one stinks, because no matter how fast things progress, you will spend many hours in labor and will eventually get famished.
As soon as they admit you to the hospital, that’s it: you will say goodbye to food and start suppressing your pregnant appetite.
You will be allowed to chew on ice and to…wait, that’ s about it.
With my last baby, the doctor was so nice, she let me get away with liquid diet during labor, so I was allowed to drink some broth and eat jello. Seriously, they tasted like heaven, considering the situation.
A simple reason behind the “no food policy” is the possibility of anesthesia or the often expected vomiting during labor.
You may need a C-section or want an epidural, both of which require as little food in the stomach as possible. Certain pain meds may also make you nauseous so it helps to not eat a Big Mac right before.
And, let’s be honest, how on Earth will you push out a baby if you are dead full of food?
2. You are the boss
In today’s culture, where everybody is talking about birth plans and home births, you may be wondering if you are giving away your choices or choosing to be in any way limited by going to a (gasp) hospital to give birth.
Rest assured, you are still the boss.
You can say no and you can ask for things. The nurses are there to help you, and while there may be requests they can’t satisfy, they will try their hardest to accommodate you.
Just ask kindly and politely. Nobody feels like dealing with a whiney, ornery, hard-to-please laboring woman.
You usually receive the same treatment you give.
3. Your gown will be ruined
I have heard and read all about wearing a pretty gown for labor and delivery.
By all means, do that if you feel strongly about it, but my experience is that you won’t want to.
What you wear during labor, delivery and postpartum, will most likely be ruined.
You can take off the hospital gown and ask for a clean one anytime, but you never have to worry about washing it.
To me, the simplicity of the provided gown is way worth it.
4. The placenta has to be delivered separately
Yup, you read that right.
The contractions, the pushing, it’s the same, but it only takes a few minutes.
If you had an epidural, you shouldn’t feel a thing. I literally didn’t even know when all that happened, because I was so busy adoring my brand new baby. (except with my first child, when I asked the doctor to show me everything, because I was curious)
The placenta is usually discarded with all other gross things that accumulated during birth.
5. Size predictions can be off
There are multiple ways to measure a baby’s growth during pregnancy: tape measure, mother’s weight gain, and ultrasounds to name a few.
Getting an estimate of the fetus’ development this way is important, especially because after the 20th-week ultrasound, you will likely not be getting another opportunity to check on your baby while inside.
However, just like a lot of things during pregnancy,this is an estimate, an educated guess.
In an article on FoxNews.com, according to Jeanne Faulkner, a registered nurse,
Ultrasounds can be off by as much as a pound or two, especially in the last weeks.
Just because your doctor told you at an ultrasound that your baby will be super big (or small), doesn’t mean it’s true.
Don’t be alarmed ahead of time.
6. Delivery is gross, scary and beautiful all at the same time.
I can’t imagine a more vulnerable position than when giving birth.
I can’t imagine worse pain.
I can’t explain the scariness that goes with the unknown, no matter how many times you have done it.
There are no guarantees.
Yet, I can’t imagine a more miraculous and tear-jerking moment than holding your baby in your arms for the very first time.
After 40 weeks of waiting and wondering, now that little miracle is yours to hug, kiss and hold. (getting goosebumps just remembering it).
Try focusing on that part and quickly erase the rest of the experience.
7. Afterpains could be as strong as labor pains
Afterpains are due to your uterus continuing to contract after birth in order to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size.
Remember, normally the size of an orange, with a baby in it the uterus stretches to the size of a watermelon.
Afterpains are most usually experienced while breastfeeding and they get stronger the more babies you have.
You will get pain medicine around the clock and continue to take them for several days after you leave the hospital.
Even with that, you may feel pain, so don’t try skipping a dose for the first week or two.
8. Expect tons of blood and granny panties
Postpartum ain’t exactly the time in a woman’s life to feel sexy. You will soon figure out that your baby is not the only one being diapered.
At least, that’s how I felt wearing those horrifying (but useful), white mesh granny panties and 3 feet long maxi pads.
Your uterus is getting rid of everything it held during pregnancy and sheds its lining, just like when you have a period, but it’s ten times worse than any “time of the month” you have experienced.
Rest assured, that too, shall pass.
9. Sweating much?
Ugh, sweating. A very unexpected and untold side effect of the postpartum body.
According to PopSugar Moms,
your body’s hormones are normalizing, and it’s how you get rid of all that retained water.
Consider yourself warned, there will be more sweat than after a teenage boys’ spin class, outside during the middle of the summer in Arizona.
And this will last for months.
10. Your belly will look like you are still 6 months pregnant
The good news is, it will feel a lot flabbier and squishier. What?
That’s not good news you say? Alright.
Well then at least you have a cute bundle to show for it.
The reality is, that you may even weigh around the same as you did when you checked into the hospital.
During labor and delivery, you receive (and retain) a ton of fluids which add on the pounds.
It will take at least 6 weeks for your belly to shrink, because that’s how long it takes for your uterus to get back to its original size.
After that, you will have plenty of time to lose the excess weight, so I beg you not to start dieting!
11. Your hips will become wider, at least temporarily.
After giving birth, to go home from the hospital I couldn’t wear the same exact pregnancy jeans I wore when I was admitted.
If I wasn’t already bummed out by the size of my remaining belly, I was definitely desperate about my widened hips. I have learned to be thankful for them though, the way a woman’s body is made is simply amazing.
Hip joints (and every other joint really) literally loosens up during the pregnancy and the delivery, in order to aid in an “easy” birth.
I know when you are in pain, it doesn’t sound like a great idea, but your body was made for this and you can at least appreciate the flawless design.
Though my jeans still fit a bit tighter than pre-babies, my hips eventually went back close to their original width.
Now I am definitely a whole size and have the problem of pants gaping at the waist less often.
12. You may push for hours
In her article for the Huffington Post, Catherine Pearson says:
Some women are surprised to learn that it can take much more than the one or two (or even 15) pushes regularly portrayed on TV and in the movies to give birth — and that’s not necessarily something that doctors and nurse-midwives emphasize ahead of time, said Jessica Anderson, a certified nurse-midwife and the associate service director with The Center for Midwifery, University of Colorado Hospital.
So don’t be alarmed if that long-awaited bundle of joy just does not seem to want to show up!
You may be thinking: “what can take so long”? It’s not like the road out is miles long!
Well, every body is different, and depending on the baby’s position and your anatomy, active labor can definitely vary.
Different experts recommend different methods that prove to be the best and most helpful. However, you will have to figure this one out for your own self.
It’s not necessarily true either that epidurals make pushing longer: with all three I pushed maybe 4-5 times and done.
Just listen to your body and don’t compare your delivery to somebody else’s.
13. You won’t sleep even when you technically could
At the hospital, somebody will come in to check on something at least every 3 hours, but usually more often.
Add to that your husband snoring on the pull-out couch, and between your baby crying for food periodically and having to pee, you won’t sleep a thing.
Never fear, it gets worse when you go home, so enjoy what you can.
It’s time to get used to taking short nap-sleeps. ( I just totally made that word up)
14. You will be treated as a “fall risk”
Your red bracelet will read “fall risk” after you have had a baby.
That means, for the first 24 hrs you will be helped to walk and stand up, go to the bathroom, etc.
Your body has gone through a lot and getting dizzy, slipping or suddenly losing your balance is not uncommon.
If you had an epidural, you will be moved into a special chair that helps you stand as you hold onto it, because you won’t be able to move your legs.
It makes you feel quite incapable and weird, but it’s also very helpful.
15. Epidurals are da bomb, get one if you can
I have given birth 3 times by being induced, got an epidural about an hour after the petocin started the contractions and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I was able to rest and mentally prepare and I was able to be present during the birthing process instead of being in so much pain that I just wanted to be done with it all.
Nowadays, doctors are able to precisely control how much medicine drips in your spine, so you can ask them to turn it up on down, based on your comfort level.
I had no problem feeling how to push, but I was not in pain.
You may feel nauseated from the epidural like I did, but it can be easily treated with some medicine that also puts you to sleep for a little while.
True, the epidural itself hurts a bit and I don’t recommend watching how big that needle is, but other than that, I think it’s one of the best inventions of mankind.
Nobody will give you an award or even mention how heroic you were in the birthing room for taking so much pain. Then why suffer through it instead of enjoying the miracle that birthing a baby is?
I do realize, sometimes you don’t have a choice and you can’t have an epidural. Other also may be very intimidated by the risks involved.
I understand those and don’t want to take the cons lightly or disregard them.
As I have said before, this was MY experience with epidurals and based upon that is why I recommend it.
16. Your water may have to be broken
I have always wanted to experience the excitement of my water breaking. After all, it’s always pictured as such a memorable moment at the end of pregnancy.
I was always looking for that sure sign, telling me it’s time to have the baby, instead of wondering and waiting until the end of the 40th week (or longer).
Well, 3 pregnancies, and I’ve never got to experience the adrenaline rush from my water breaking. But then how did my water break?
Quoting from an article on MayoClinic.org,
…your health care provider might use a technique known as an amniotomy to start labor contractions or make them stronger if they have already begun. During the amniotomy, a thin plastic hook is used to make a small opening in the amniotic sac and cause your water to break.
Pretty anticlimactic, if you ask me. But at least labor usually speeds up afterward!
17. You will be switching rooms
There are rooms designed specifically for labor and rooms for postpartum stay.
The labor and delivery rooms are bigger and equipped with the medical tools needed for delivery and right afterward, such as stirrups, monitors for baby’s heartbeat, newborn bed with a warming light, birthing balls, etc.
When you are almost ready to start pushing, staff will roll in lots of other necessities for the doctor and the nurses to use during delivery, like sterile drapes, gloves, hospital gowns, scissors and such.
You will be helped into a wheelchair and move in your hospital suite a few hours after delivery. The room looks like any other hospital room, complete with a bed, extra couch or pull-out chairs, TV, and bathroom.
18. You will stay in the hospital for several days
Your doctor will keep you and the baby in the hospital for a minimum of 24 hrs after natural delivery.
There are still a lot of things that can go wrong in those critical hours, for example, excessive bleeding, jaundice, feeding problems, abnormalities with the baby, etc.
Since a C-section is a major abdominal surgery, the hospital stay will be longer, at least 3 days.
19. You will get several bracelets and an IV catheter
Not only will you wear your own hospital bracelet, complete with your and the doctor’s information, you will also get a bracelet saying “Fall risk” and a bracelet for your baby after she is born.
This latter is to make sure that they don’t accidentally switch your baby with somebody else’s. The baby will have the same number on her bracelet and every time they take her away or bring her back, the nurse will check both bracelets.
As a preparation for emergency and also just to aid the labor process, you will get an IV catheter put in as soon as you arrive.
20. Your belly will be pushed on a ton
The nurses have to make sure that your uterus is contracting and you don’t have blood clots inside it after baby is born.
A few times a day, somebody will come in and do some rough pushing on your belly, trying to check things out.
It does not feel good, as your stomach remains very sensitive and swollen, but it’s very necessary. No news is good news here.
21. You will see the nurses much more than your OB
It’s funny, but the doctor only comes in to pretty much catch that baby and do stitches if necessary!
I was shocked when I had my first baby: she was already crowning when I finally saw my obstetrician getting to work.
Sure, he came in to check on me a couple times during the hours of labor, but the nurses were the ones taking care of my every need, checking for dilation and practicing pushing with me when it was time to deliver the baby.
22. You will receive a “perineal care” package and instructions
Probably everybody’s least favorite part is taking care of the area where the baby showed up.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that you will care for yourself about as much as for the baby, during the first few weeks.
Stitches, tears, swelling, bruises and other fun remainders of the delivery will require antiseptic, sitz baths, medicine, and a squirt bottle to keep the are clean every.single.time you use the bathroom.
It will be uncomfortable at best and excruciating at worst. However, the closer you follow these directions, and the sooner you get moving and force yourself to sit on your bottom, the faster you will heal.
23. You will be scared to go to the bathroom.
No, not because it’s dark. (you only wish it were)
You might be too afraid to look “down there” and actually see what you are already feeling.
You may be afraid of more pain, or you may be constipated and feel like it’s giving birth all over again.
Ever had hemorrhoids? If not, prepare for the possibility of a meet and greet.
Eventually, though, you won’t be able to avoid the can any longer and have to face the music, however unpleasant that may be.
24. You may mistake your baby for a Smurf
When babies are fresh out the oven, they can look quite blue and white stuff covers them all over. Some have a cone-shaped head too.
A newborn’s skull is not fused together and it molds somewhat to the shape of the birth canal. That is the only way for him to be born without injury.
So depending on how long you pushed, what the exact position of the baby was during it, and whether the doctor had to use any medical tools to help the delivery, your baby may have a completely normal looking head or it may look tall and cone-like.
It will eventually get back to a nice, round head, so don’t worry much! A little hat does wonders.
Upon birth, one of my boys was so blue, I asked the nurses if he was ok. They said he was, and sure enough, a few minutes later he was already a beautiful pink baby color! You will be surprised how much your baby changes during the first few days!
That white waxy thing is called the vernix, and it is there to protect the baby from becoming a prune while swimming in the amniotic fluid for months.
Some hospitals keep it on the baby for at least a day, before giving them a bath, because it protects from infection and has antioxidants too.
As you can see, there’s no reason for alarm if newborns look a lot different than what TV shows portray them.
But when you snuggle him, just try to forget where his head has been earlier.
25. You baby will be a celebrity in the hospital
This cute little bundle you waited so much for will be constantly in and out of your arms during your hospital stay.
Everybody will want to see him and not just your family members. The doctors and nurses will have to check everything out on her several times before you can be discharged.
He will be whisked away for pediatric checkups, jaundice evaluations, hearing test, circumcision (if you opted for it), vision tests, lung examinations and many more.
You will be hearing reports and numbers and instructions on what to do based on the results.
26. Your memory will get blurry
While all these things about birth and hospital may seem overwhelming, or downright scary, give it a few month after delivery, and you will likely have a hard time recalling most of these events.
As Michelle says it in her article for Cosmopolitan,
Looking back, birth is like a weirdly realistic dream that you can only vaguely remember or a crazy, adrenaline-fueled dance recital performance in which you blacked out under all of the lights and cheering.
There were many details my husband had to explain to me much later, because I either didn’t remember it or recalled it completely differently than how it actually happened.
The adrenaline, the fatigue, the joy and all the other emotions involved on that big day are going to leave your memory blurry.
And that’s ok.
Because the most beautiful, most important part of the whole experience, the reason why you would go through pregnancy and delivery in the first place, will still be yours.
As you gaze into your newborn’s eyes, marvel at the perfect little fingers and toes, smell the sweet baby scent, you know that you would do it all over again.
Did you experience any of these during your delivery and hospital stay? What would you add to my list?
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