17 Surprising Difficulties During Labor & Delivery (#232)

Around here, we do things The Hard Way.

  1. Let’s start with your baby not wanting to make an appearance. Like mine. He was late and big. Once the doctor made it clear that there was no benefit to Baby D remaining in utero any longer, we opted to induced labor.
  2. Turns out, if you’re having contractions already, the doctor isn’t allowed to speed things up with a little Pitocin. “How could you not notice you were having contractions?” one nurse asked me. “I dunno,” I answered with a shrug. “Maybe because I’m itching so badly that I want to rip off my own arms?”
  3. Unpleasant Exams. You’ve probably heard terms like “effacement” and “dilation” being thrown around in delivery rooms. These basically mean that your cervix, which holds the baby up and in the uterus, is getting thinner and wider. When your OB examines you and discovers that your cervix is 10 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced, you’re ready to give birth. But you know what all those helpful little links above don’t tell you? Exactly HOW the OB examines you. She shoves a couple fingers up your vaginal canal and checks your cervix by feel. THIS IS NOT PLEASANT. This exam is actually on par with your annual pap smear—no curling iron-like speculum, but way more digging around. (Hey, you men bemoaning the horrors of your first prostate exam at age 50? Woman the fuck up.)  
  4. You might hurt someone. It might not be your husband, either. If you think those checks on dilation and effacement are bad, try coping with the doctor breaking your water. (Breaking the amniotic sac is another way to help move labor along after you’ve been in the hospital for a day.) Your OB will now be up your vaginal canal with two hands, one holding a sterile wooden swabby thing to poke a hole. If you’re a control freak with “no touchy!” issues and freakishly strong leg muscles, your semi-involuntary thrashing may send your OB to the hospital floor. (On the upside, it may also motivate your nurse to get the anesthesiologist in ASAP for an epidural, though, since she doesn’t want to risk catheterizing you until your lower half is numb.)
  5. Your amniotic water isn’t clear and pretty. In fact, it could be filled with greenish black baby poop. All babies swallow and pee in the womb, but big, late babies are more likely to start pooping before delivery. Problem is, too much prenatal poop (known as meconium) in the amniotic fluid can block airways. It’s another worry when your baby is a late arrival. 
  6. You’re not the only one having a baby. In fact, your hospital might be having a “baby blizzard” the day your son finally shows up. This means that your OB and your nurse are running from room to room. With 58 babies born on the same day as your son, they may not notice when you’re a) fully effaced and dilated, or b) start running a fever.
  7. You’re feverish and puking when the nurse and OB insist it’s time to push. 
  8. Your baby might decide to present himself on his back (face up, also known as posterior) with a lifted chin. This means that each time you push, the baby tilts his head back, instead of forward, blocking his own exit. And if your baby has a big head? He can get stuck.
  9. If your fever hits 102 and your baby’s heartrate goes up, you’re gonna need an emergency Cesarean section. Doesn’t matter if you’ve been pushing for hours and your friend KL can see a hint of baby’s head. Baby needs out, fast.
  10. No matter how quick your emergency C-section needs to be, someone will find time to shave your pubic hair. 
  11. You’ll have a second OB in for your C-section. One will say, “In a minute, you may feel a little pressure.” Translation: one doctor will throw their entire weight across the top of your midsection while the other hauls the baby out of your uterus. 
  12. Your husband may hallucinate. Sure, you’re the one with the fever and the puking and the abdomen open to the elements, but he’s had a long day stroking your hair and lying about how great you are doing. Ignore him when he tells you he keeps counting eleven fingers and toes on your newly delivered baby.
  13. You might not get the much vaunted “skin on skin” contact after a tricky delivery. Baby D was all cleaned up and swaddled up when the nurse handed him to me. I was okay with that, since he wasn’t in distress. (Instead, he looked up at us with big grey eyes and a puzzled expression that clearly said, “You guys are it? Seriously?”)
  14. As much as you want to hold your newborn, you might not be able to do it for very long. You might be feverish, exhausted, and shaking so much you can barely hang on to him. 
  15. It’s really, really hard to watch your husband leave the room, carrying your baby off to the nursery. But you know your baby has to be weighed, measured, and examined thoroughly, especially after a traumatic delivery. (Also, someone in better shape than your husband needs to check on those fingers and toes.)
  16. Being stitched and stapled back together takes a lot longer than being scalpled apart. At least an hour. You will have plenty of time to wonder if your husband passed out or dropped the baby. But then you’ll remind yourself that you carried Baby D for ten months. It’s someone else’s turn. Ultimately, you’ll realize that it this is just the first of many times you’ll have to hand your baby over to someone else. And yet…

17. Even after a miserable pregnancy and a grueling delivery, the most difficult part of motherhood will always be letting go.