We know childbirth can seem scary—but the fear factor associated with labor and delivery is exacerbated by the fact that first time moms simply don’t know what to expect.
You’ve never given birth before; how can you prepare for something you’ve never done?
The next best way, after taking a birth class and talking to your doctor, is to chat with other encouraging mamas about what is normal, and what to prepare for.
Here’s what Motherly’s mamas had to say about what to expect—
• 1. Early labor can feel like bad period cramps
One mama told us that she woke up two days past her due date feeling like she was having her period—except, of course she was in labor.
Lots of first time mamas wonder what labor really feels like—and how they’ll know they’re in it. For a lot of mothers, it starts feeling like your period. And then it gets more intense from there.
• 2. You'll lose your modesty
It’s hard to imagine now, but during labor and delivery you will likely lose self-consciousness about exposing your body.
It’s true: Some women defecate (poop) while in labor—others labor in the nude—but we promise it won’t bother you. Your mind will be focused on the most important task at hand: having that baby. Try not to worry about being embarassed—it will be the last thing on your mind (promise!) and doctors and nurses have seen everything.
• 3. Your partner needs to be your advocate
As well as your support.
One mama explains: When you’re deep in labor you really are not able to voice your needs, your partner needs to know you well enough to know what you would want or would at least be okay with in any situation.
He or she should be confident enough to advocate on your behalf should you need it. So talk that birth plan over together!
• 4. Epidural doesn't mean "no feeling"
Epidurals are definitely amazing inventions that relieve a lot of the pain of childbirth, but they’re not complete cure-alls for the labor and delivery experience.
Epidurals are typically delivered during labor, so you’re likely to experience the beginning part of labor without pain relief.
Some women have medical conditions that prevent them from getting epidurals.
One Motherly mama shared: “An epidural takes care of the pain, not the pressure. And labor is pretty much all pressure.”
• 5. Just when you think you can't take it anymore, baby arrives
Labor normally becomes increasingly intense as time goes on, particularly the stage known as “transition” (when you’re 7-10 cm dilated and getting ready to push.)
Contractions are very powerful, with very little time to relax in between, as the cervix stretches the last, few centimeters. Many women feel shaky or nauseated. (Source: womenshealth.gov)
The great news about transition is that it means that baby is almost here! The rough part is how intense it feels and how you can often think you can’t go on.
You can. We believe in you, mama.
• 6. You'll feel like a superhero
“I felt so amazingly powerful in those minutes and hours right after birth,” one mama shared.
And you should! You just gave birth to a tiny human being—there’s nothing more incredible than what you just accomplished.