I have been a labor and delivery nurse for over 4 years now. I absolutely adore what I do, and I’m so happy I get to share the most precious/intimate moments with my patients as they become parents! It’s truly a gift to be able to provide support for a woman as she’s in the process of becoming a mom for the first/second/third/tenth time.
With that said, I do notice (especially for first-time moms) that there can be a great deal of anxiety surrounding the delivery room. It’s tough to not have any fear going into a situation where you have nothing with which to compare. Having a baby is truly like nothing you or your partner has ever experienced. While I can’t cover every detail surrounding the birth of your child, here are a few pieces of advice to ease your nerves on the big day.
SUPPORT EVERY STEP OF THE WAY
Your labor nurse is going to be your advocate and your support person for every part of your labor. Unless you want some privacy (or you’ve just gotten an epidural and you want to take a nap!), your nurse will be in your room (or coming in-and-out of your room) for your whole labor process.
Your provider generally has a LOT of patients he/she is caring for, so that’s mainly why you don’t see him/her as frequently as you do your nurse. In most circumstances, you are their only patient so you and your nurse are 1:1 care.
YOU MIGHT POOP
You will probably poop while you are pushing. It may not definitely happen, but there’s a fair chance that a little bit will come out as you are pushing baby out. The reality is, pushing out a baby feels extremely similar to having a bowel movement. You’re using the same muscles. Babies also have big heads that push down on your rectum, so any poop that is in there is going to come out.
Many women have diarrhea in early labor; thus, it’s quite possible that your body will cleanse itself of any fecal matter in your bowels. In all likelihood, you may not even realize you are releasing poop during pushing. Your labor nurse will do a good job of cleaning up any messes, and you’ll be too focused on the task of getting your baby out and into the world.
If you are pooping while you are pushing then you’re pushing effectively and you’re going to have a baby soon, and the fact that you just pooped will soon be something you completely forget. Once you are holding your baby (which may be very soon after you poop), you will forget about anything else.
Sometimes non-optional, unscheduled C-Sections are unavoidable. There are certain situations where there’s absolutely no getting around one (malpresentation of your baby, your placenta is covering your cervix, your baby’s heart rate drops dangerously low etc.).
But, there are also situations (such as failure to progress), when a C-Section is more avoidable (and controllable) by your labor nurse. If a labor nurse can avoid a C-Section for one of their patients, they will do everything in their power to avoid it.
PAINFUL BUT DOABLE
Labor is probably one of the most painful experiences you will go through, but for a good reason. It can be scary, especially if this is your first baby. Early labor can be a lot like really bad menstrual cramps. As labor progresses and you get more and more dilated, the pain will intensify and build.
But don’t get too nervous - labor can be very painful BUT it is doable. Women have been giving birth for thousands of years; you’ll get through it too. Having lots of support and positive energy in your room will make it easier.
For many, it can be more of a mental game. If you have the ability to completely clear your mind, use this to your advantage. Your mind can be your worst enemy in labor (at least it is for many of my patients).
Epidurals can be subject to timing and outside factors. There’s really no set amount of centimeters you need to be for your nurse to tell you it’s too late. It depends more on the situation. A patient who has been laboring and pushing for a long time without any real progress may get an epidural at 10 centimeters. On the other hand, a woman at 7 centimeters, may not be able to get one because she was 4 centimeters just 5 minutes earlier and was clearly progressing rapidly. You can see how things can be different in each scenario.
If this happens to you and you cannot get an epidural, the best thing for you to do in the moment is accept the pain and trust your labor nurse. Luckily if it’s truly too late to get an epidural, you don’t have too much time left until you meet your sweet baby. It may be frustrating in the moment, especially if you had your heart set on pain management help, but sometimes babies and bodies make their own plans.
Even though your birth may not go as planned - you may get an unplanned c-section, progress too quickly for an epidural, or poop all over the delivery bed - know that we as labor nurses will help you every step of the way! Giving birth can be nerve racking (whether it’s your first or tenth time), and it’s our duty to guide you through this crazy little thing called “becoming a mom”. Many of us are also moms ourselves, and we feel your pain (literally!). Here’s to having a perfectly planned birth, but knowing that your baby may have their own plan of action!
Liesel Teen is a part-time Labor & Delivery nurse and mom of a sweet two-year-old boy. Her work and more helpful advice about pregnancy and birth can be found on her site: www.laborteen.com.