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Sanity Central > Columns > Stretchmarks on My Sanity

What To REALLY Expect During Labor & Delivery
by Linda Sharp

Last time I attempted to shed light on the differences between real life pregnancy and that which is depicted in books such as What To Expect When You're Expecting. Don't get me wrong. I still present newly pregnant friends with this helpful Birth Bible, but I also gift them with what I call, The Real Deal. Where the first book describes the baby's head upon your cervix as unpleasant, I explain that it feels like a knitting needle being shoved up their . . . well, you get the picture. This week we will deal with the onslaught of labor and the joys of natural childbirth.

The beginnings of labor are actually hard to recognize, especially if it is your first time. Expect anything from a crampy feeling to back pressure to a sudden rush of water down your legs. As labor intensifies, contractions will become much more distinct. What does a contraction feel like? Well, imagine being plunged into freezing water, every muscle in your body tensing up, and then being slowly lowered into warm water, muscles relaxing. Repeat the process every 5 to 10 minutes. If your water has broken, just strap on a new Depends with each contraction. Your body will replace the water continuously until the tiny Elvis has left the building.

Once at the hospital, you will be greeted by a team of nurses who, although friendly, will be terribly matter-of-fact. While bearing down, also bear in mind that you are probably the eighth birth on their shift and they just want to get home to watch Friends. While in the hospital, your husband's primary responsibility will be to feed you ice chips and serve as a human dartboard for your very pointed tongue. After all, none of this would be happening if he hadn't plied you with margaritas nine months ago. As you continue to dilate towards the magic number 10, your internal progress will be gauged by at least 25 different people and an audience of new residents. They prefer to do this WHEN you are having a contraction, a somewhat risky affair. (A friend of mine actually kicked a nurse in the head during one such exam. Don't worry though. A laboring woman is not legally responsible for her actions, so feel free to wear cleats.)

Most hospitals will have you hooked up to a monitor. Hooked up meaning they strap a belt around your middle that serves to check the baby's heartrate, measure your contractions and insure that you are unable to find a comfortable position. (Cannot disturb the monitor, you know.) Your husband will become the biggest idiot you have ever had the honor of knowing. He will become the Monitor Quarterback, informing you of the beginning of a contraction . . . as if YOU might not notice it on your own! He will touch you when you do not wish to be touched. He will talk when all you want is silence. He will even have the audacity to breath. Idiot. Cut him some slack. From his point of view, he is watching Sybil give birth to his child. In between contractions, you will declare your love for him. During a contraction, you will speak in tongues and wish him leprosy. Take heart, the end is near.

Carol Burnett once described the pain of childbirth as, "Taking your lower lip and pulling it over your head." She must have had an epidural. What To Expect describes it as discomfort. If you are contemplating natural, drug free childbirth, take it from one who has been there. Have your husband stand five feet directly behind you. NOW, take your bottom lip and pull it over your head and back over his. Have him hold it in place with his heels. That's about right. To replicate a really intense contraction, have him perform Lord of the Dance.

At 10 centimeters, you will be told to start pushing. I pushed for three hours the first time around. First time babies are notorious for peeking out and hiding, peeking out and hiding. You will find yourself pushing so hard, it would not surprise you to see your own head pop out before the baby's. When the baby finally arrives, you will be exhausted, jubilant, teary eyed and . . . exhausted. You will also be sporting a cluster of hemorrhoids that would make a vineyard in Napa proud. No matter. For there is one thing from the book I shall always agree with. You will forget all about the preceding nine months, and your husband standing on your lip, when they hand you that baby.

NEXT TIME: Surviving the First 8 Weeks (or what I Refer to as "The Black Hole")

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