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Ten Things Your Prenatal Instructor Won't Tell You
by Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books

Wondering what your prenatal instructor hasn't told you about labor and delivery? Here are ten things that your prenatal instructor likely won't mention, but that you definitely need to know:

1. If you wait for every possible labor symptom to kick in before heading off to labor and delivery, you'll end up giving birth on your bathroom floor. While you may be afraid of embarrassing yourself by showing up at the hospital in false labor, you'll look even more foolish if you end up giving birth on the side of the highway in the middle of rush hour.

2. There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all labor. You could end up with one of those long, drawn-out labors that everyone that in your life seems to delight in telling you about--or could find your with one of those speedy deliveries that's bound to make you the envy of your prenatal class buddies.

3. Your birth plan isn't necessarily a blueprint for the actual delivery. Just as men seem to think it's a personal failing to look at a roadmap while they're driving, some babies seem determined to ignore the birth plans that their mommies have so carefully drafted. Bottom line? Your birth plan is a wish list, not a legal document.

4. Pregnancy books are big on euphemisms. This point was hammered home for me by one of the moms I interviewed for a forthcoming pregnancy book: "You know how the pregnancy books all describe the 'slight burning sensation' that you're supposed to experience when the baby's head begins to crown?" she told me. "Well, it's like f*&#-ing blowtorch!"

5. You may not feel like bonding with your partner while you're in labor. Rather than being tempted to whisper sweet nothings in his ear, as those women in the birthing films all seem to do, you may want to kick his sorry butt out of the birthing room altogether. After all, he's the one who got you in this predicament in the first place!

6. You may not fall head-over-heels in love with your new baby right away. The fact that you'd rather take a nap than spend a lot of time oohing and ahhing over the new arrival does not automatically mean you've blown your nomination for Mother of the Year.

7. The blood clots you pass during the first few hours after the delivery could be the size of small lemons. For some reason, prenatal instructors aren't big on nitty-gritty facts. They like to compare the bleeding that you'll experience after the delivery to "a heavy menstrual period"--proof positive that members of this profession need to be regulated by some sort of "truth in advertising" code.

8. You may experience some nipple tenderness during the first few days of breastfeeding--even if you're doing everything right. As any experienced nursing mother can tell you, it takes a little time to break your equipment in. (Aren't you glad that Mother Nature had the foresight to equip you with a spare?)

9. You'll be slimmer after the delivery, but you won't be skinny. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to look about five months pregnant after you deliver--a whole lot slimmer than what you've looked in the recent past, but not quite slim enough to be mistaken for a supermodel the first time you hit the grocery store.

10. The real "labor" begins after you give birth. For some reasons, prenatal instructors tend to breeze over those middle-of-the-night feedings and marathon crying sessions. (I'm talking about the baby, by the way: not you!) While those first few weeks of parenthood can be an emotional roller coaster ride for even the most caring and committed parent, they do get better over time. You just have to make it through "boot camp"--the first few weeks postpartum.

Ann Douglas is the author of 21 books, including The Mother of All Pregnancy Books, The Mother of All Baby Books, and -- with John R. Sussman, MD -- The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby and Trying Again: A Guide to Pregnancy After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss. She makes frequent appearances on both radio and television and is regularly quoted in such publications as Parenting, Parents, Fit Pregnancy, American Baby, Working Mother, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. An award-winning writer and best-selling author, Ann is the mother of four young children, ages four through 14. She can be contacted via her web site at http://www.having-a-baby.com.

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