Labor & Delivery: A Frank Discussion (Part 1)

Before becoming pregnant I knew nothing about pregnancy — absolutely NOTHING. I was visiting India and staying in a small village, where I had very limited access to the internet, when I first learned I was pregnant. Two weeks later, I returned to Canada and started my research. I wanted to know everything. I signed up with a website that sent me weekly developments of my baby. I understood the weight and hormonal changes my body went through. I ate well and took care of myself. However, one thing that I didn’t know ANYTHING about was what would actually happen during my labor. There was nothing I could find that would tell me how to definitively know I was in labor. So I decided to write something myself. After having 2 kids, speaking with a number of mothers and combining our experiences, here’s my version of everything (well maybe not EVERYTHING, but main pointers) you need to know to prepare you for your labor and delivery. Now, I will advise you, some information may seem a little vulgar or overwhelming, but I suggest that it’s better to prepare for it than panic.

Photo courtesy of Lululemon

Mucus Plug/Bloody Show
This can be the first real clue that you are going into labor — if you go to the bathroom and see a variation of pink and red when you wipe and it has a mucous-like consistency. Sometime after this you will start feeling contractions. It may not be immediate, but your body is preparing for labor.

Initial Contractions
Most women don’t know if contractions are true labor contractions for a long time. Some even have something called “false labor.” This might also be referred to as Braxton Hicks contractions. It’s a way that your body may prepare itself with a “test run” of labor. It will feel like mild contractions but the difference between these and real contractions will all be in the timing. Braxton Hicks are sporadic and inconsistent whereas real contractions usually become regular very quickly. They will be consistent in their duration as well as how far apart they are (the time from which contraction A begins, to the time when contraction B begins). With my first, I was confused for 7 hours. After 7 hours of mild contractions I decided to get checked out at the hospital. When I got to the hospital, about 8 hours after the initial contractions started, I was told I was 4-5 cm dilated. I didn’t know you were supposed to time your contractions. With my second, I thought I ate something spicy that didn’t agree with me. I was having some shooting pains in my belly. However when I noticed the feeling was becoming more regular, I started timing them. I sat down at my computer, opened up Facebook to stay occupied, and had a pen and paper on the side. When the contraction started, I noted the time (the seconds hand) and then noted when it finished. I did this over and over for about 45 minutes and when my contractions were about 7 minutes apart and were about 30 seconds long (and my eyes were watering with the pain) I headed to the hospital, which is only about 10 minutes from my house. Some describe contractions as the same cramping you get when menstruating. Some say it’s a tightening of the belly that they noticed more. Bottom line is if your contractions are either 5-7 minutes apart, or if they start becoming very painful (or both!) it’s time to go to the hospital.

Photo courtesy of Erik Langner

Waters Breaking
My waters never broke on their own for my first-born. The nurses kept saying they can go internally and break them for me but I kept saying I wanted to wait. Stupid idea. I feel it delayed my whole labor. When they finally went in and broke my waters with something like a crochet hook it felt like a big bucket of warm water had burst inside me. It’s something similar to a big water balloon being popped in your uterus. The nurses were so amazing though, they cleaned up the sheets so fast I hardly had the chance to be embarrassed. With my second, I didn’t have the big gush of water, it was more like trickling during every contraction. Yes of course it’s not the most glamorous, but to be totally honest, the nurses are trained to deal with this stuff and it’s completely normal for them.

(To be continued....)