Wear Your Socks: My Advice on Labor and Delivery

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Labor and Delivery Advice

I am 6.5 months pregnant and nervous about labor and delivery. What tips do you have to share?
-Nervous Nora

Dear Nora,

You have come to the completely wrong place for advice on labor and delivery – but I will share anyway…

But before I share, you need to know that I proudly had an epidural for every single one of my deliveries – which may make a difference in the advice I give. If you’re looking for tips on natural childbirth, c-sections or delivering large babies – this isn’t the place for you. (Simon was my biggest baby at 6lbs, 10 ounces.)

It’s totally normal to be nervous for labor and delivery when you’re pregnant with your first child (or your 2nd, 3rd, etc.) When I was pregnant with Miles, I felt like all I heard were the horror stories.

“My baby was born in the car…”

“I was in labor for 65 hours, with no epidural, and then I had to have a c-section.”

“My baby weighed 18 pounds…”

And then one day near my due date, a friend pulled me aside and said this:

“Everyone will tell you their terrible stories – so I’m going to tell you my story. It was amazing. It was beautiful. The pain was nothing as bad as what you’re imagining. I would give birth again right this second if I could.” (Thank you, Jennifer!)

I remembered that, and I held onto it, and I said it over and over to myself when I was awake at night and worried about pushing this baby out of my body.

And she was exactly right. About every single one of my births – she was right.

It was amazing. It was magical. It was perfect. And I would give birth every day for the rest of my life if I could. Well, maybe not every day – but maybe once a month.

My Labor & Delivery Tips for You…

In my experience, it is best not to have a plan. Any book, video or class will tell you to HAVE A BIRTH PLAN. Write down what you do and don’t want. Make copies, memorize it, print it on edible paper and eat it with the placenta after birth….

I was going to have a birth plan for my oldest, but my water broke at Macy’s five weeks before his due date. I didn’t even have a crib or a car seat, let alone a birth plan.

And that seemed to be what kept me from totally freaking out.

If I had created a birth plan, I would have been so panicked when nothing was happening the way I had planned, that I would have hyperventilated myself (and Even Steven) into a total mess.

And every time I went to the hospital to deliver a baby without a birth plan, the nurses and doctors thanked me. The lack of a plan means that everything goes according to plan. It just may not be YOUR plan – and that’s okay.

Everything that happens during your birth experience is what makes it so special and memorable. It may not be the gooey, romantic, spiritual event that you read about in magazines, but it’s YOUR event. It’s YOUR child being born. And everything that goes right and wrong is part of what makes it so special.

When my oldest was born five weeks early, it’s not at all what I envisioned or what I wanted. But he was perfect – and the whole series of events made it even more special. From my water breaking at Macy’s, to my mom just happening to already be in town, to my husband not answering his phone for me to tell him to get ready for the hospital, to my neighbor helping me pack a bag (and buying us a car seat) – I will remember every detail forever because it’s our story.

Did I really want my husband to leave me laboring at the hospital for all three births so that he could leave and get takeout? Nope. But did it become part of our tradition? Yes!

Did I really plan on having a Seinfeld re-run on the television when my daughter was pushed into the world? Not a chance! But will I always remember that? Yes!

Would I have preferred that my husband NOT drop my leg after every push instead of placing it nicely in the stirrup? For sure…. But in three tries, he hasn’t gotten it right once – and I don’t think he’s going to have a fourth shot at it. So – it’s just part of our perfect, imperfect story.

Walking isn’t Mandatory. Everything you read, watch or attend will tell you that you MUST walk around during labor. Get in the tub, sit on the ball, walk, walk, walk. I never walked a step in all three of my labors. With my boys, I was hooked up to Pitocin and not allowed to walk. With my daughter, I didn’t feel like walking anywhere. And you know what? I had fast labors with all of them – so walk if you feel like it – but don’t be worried if you don’t want to walk or can’t walk. It may not be that big of a deal.

Everywhere you turn, they’ll tell you that epidurals slow down your labor. Not for me! I was only 4cm dilated when I had my epidural with my oldest. And before the anesthesiologist even left the room, I was at a 10, and the nurse was paging the doctor so I could push.

My daughter was born within an hour of my epidural – and she came out on the practice push (make sure someone is standing there when they tell you to do the practice push).

And my youngest came within two hours of my epidural – the doctor kept things slow and steady after his sister’s rush into the world – I won’t bore you with what happens to your body when a baby comes barreling out on the first push – but it ain’t so pretty.

And just a few more random thoughts:

You can wear your socks if you want. I have big feet. They were in the doctor’s face. I felt better knowing that I had socks on. Do what makes you comfortable.

Don’t spend any of your time worrying about your water breaking in public. It’s not so bad. But I’d keep a blanket or a vinyl tablecloth in the car just in case.

Don’t force your partner to watch. My husband accidentally watched our first being pushed into the world, and he’s never been the same since. He got a lot of pressure from the doctor to watch the second, until I finally said, “He doesn’t have to watch!” It’s okay if he doesn’t watch – it’s still special.

So – Nora – I’m sure that does absolutely nothing to calm you down.

But relax. Take deep breaths. And know that what you’re feeling now is great practice for how you’re going to feel the rest of your life as a parent.

You are not in control.

All you can do is try to enjoy the experience and be grateful for whatever the plan my be – even though it’s not yours.


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