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Wear Your Socks: My Advice on Labor and Delivery

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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  1. Great advice & I am glad I am not the only one that enjoyed my labor & delivery experience. I didnt go in with a plan either & everything didnt go perfect but I think back about it and smile about everything. I didnt do any classes on delivery or breastfeeding, I just went in knowing that the doctors, nurses and staff taking care of me had done this whole delivery & caring for baby thing before & someone would guide me through it. They did a great job!

  2. Love the idea of it being your perfectly imperfect story. I didn't have a plan with either of mine but both turned out fine (actually had to change hospitals because my daughter was early so I was delivered by a doctor I had never met- this would have been a horror had you asked me before she was born but because it couldn't be helped, it wasn't that big of a deal!) I think you have given great advice!

  3. I think the advice you offered is great! I agree with you! Its best to not go in with a plan because you are not in control anyway!

  4. "print it on edible paper and eat it with the placenta". might just be the funniest thing i've ever read.
    seriously though, you are so right. all the preparedness in the world still leaves you unprepared. and that's okay. at the end of it all, no matter how it all goes down, you'll have your baby. and that's definitely perfect.
    and when wearing socks, just don't wear those weirdo non-slip socks they give you at the hospital. the ones that are just flat (with no place for your heel). creepy.

  5. somedaymama says:

    i wish i could say it was all a fairy tale come true when my little girl was born –

    but you know, i was talking about my "no pain plan" with my new OB (oh yeah, i switched) and she was laughing with me giving me the greatest perspective EVER. see, the first time i gave birth i was absolutely terrified of the pain (uhh, i broke my mom's pinky when i got my ears pierced) – but since everything went wrong and i still survived i know that now i can handle ANYTHING baby #2 has to give me. it makes me feel pretty strong, and certain that i will survive the day i meet my hopefully small-headed son.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Don't eat as much as I did when I was preggers. I gained 30 lbs, which was in the middle of recommended weigh gain scale. My baby was 9 lbs. It was not easy. He did not pop out on the practice push, or on any push. The doctor hauled him out. Eventually. Course, I was almost the hungriest I'd ever been in my life, constantly. Only topped by how hungry I was when I was nursing. So it was hard not to eat, but, be good and eat healthy foods. Mostly.
    My DH told me well in advance he would not be staying for the whole event. I was happier to have him leave at the end (much closer to the end than he had planned) than to have to deal with him freaking out on me when I was pushing like mad. Yes, the nurses and doctors gave him a very hard time. They don't get it. Ignore them. I didn't miss him, really. He came back in in time to see them sewing up the episiotomy, which he did not like. Managed to take a photo of it, accidentally. Ah, memories. I've heard they just let you rip now… What's up with that?
    No matter how bad it gets, remind yourself that there IS an end to it. You CAN make it to the end. We all do. Then they hand you your baby and it is beyond wonderful.
    Be prepared for the days afterward. Kinda like the day after running a marathon for the first time, but you have to take care of a baby, and smile a lot and hope the visitors don't notice how bloody your gown is. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AFTERWARDS. Tell everyone to give you and the baby time to recover before you have to start playing hostess with the mostest. Be firm about that. Rude, even. Rest. Let DH pamper you. You do not have to do housework, cook, or go shopping two days after giving birth. The world will keep turning. Protect your health by getting as much rest as possible, and let your baby rest, too.

  7. Great advice! I wore my own socks, rainbow tie-dye socks, and they really helped to cheer me up after I was in a hospital gown and getting treated like just another brick in the wall.

    About the walking: I did feel like walking and did a lot of it, but in a hospital where all 20 L&D rooms were full, I did not see another laboring mother all day. Clearly, it is possible to give birth without walking.

    Anonymous has a great point about taking care of yourself. It is so easy to get wrapped up in being a good mother by taking care of your baby that you might forget to take care of yourself, and even brief delays in caring for stitches or staying hydrated can cause real problems.

    Here are my tips for expectant parents, including some about unmedicated childbirth.

  8. I totally agree with the socks thing. AND to not have a plan. I always say that instead of a birth plan, you should have a birth "general idea," because you never really know how things are going to come together to bring your beautiful baby into the world. The biggest mistake I made was not educating myself about C-sections. I never thought I would have one, and then when I did, I had no idea what was going to happen and I was totally freaked out. I also planned on having an epidural with child #1, and when I couldn't, I thought I was going to die. Of course, I didn't, and I now have 2 beautiful children. We'll see how it goes this next time!!

  9. Kelley @ TheGrantLife.com says:

    I love your take on childbirth!

  10. Woman… you crack me up every time…I have no advice, not that it matters. the baby provably is born now. I could not hold it in after Even Stevens Pictures…too funny. Thanks for always helping me burn that extra 5 calories. They were draging me down.

  11. I totally agree with not having a plan. I didn’t plan because I was too stressed to think about life AFTER being pregnant. I was 19. I loved having my son. It really was wonderful. I had Pitocin and an epidural . . . (can’t spell) it disappointed me but not too much. It was too cool of an experience to be upset about the things I couldn’t change (like my husband sleeping through most of my labor lol). I can’t wait to have the chance to do it again . . . someday.

  12. second or 100th agree the no plan idea. My first was 2 weeks late and no signs of coming. Second I was told I had to go a week late, again no signs of coming and now my 3rd (all boys!) doctor said I can go to 39 weeks. Oh bless him! Not stressing over plans made the first two easy and stressless. I got an epidural both times didn’t slow down anything. I also told my husband don’t worry about looking or cutting the cord but you do have to be in the room with me please LOL. The pushing of the baby on my cervex was ouchy but the actually pushed to get them out felt so good and natural.

  13. christina says:

    what! he left to get chili!!! no way – no food for me no food for you 😉

  14. Great advice !!!

  15. This labor and delivery nurse says great advice. Especially the no plan part. Or have a plan, but know it’s really up to how God designed your pelvis in relation to your baby’s head that really gets to call the shots.

  16. I love your advice, Anna. Too many women think they can control this whole situation and have expectations that may or may not be met. Is it okay to think about it and want it to go a certain way? Absolutely! Should you be prepared for it to NOT go the way you want? That’s a must! Too many women feel like they’ve failed if their labor doesn’t go the way they want. But nature will take it’s course regardless of what you want.

  17. I had no plan other than to have an epidural. My first original plan had me tolerating labor as long as possible so as not to “slow” labor with the epidural. That was not a fun plan and not did it last long. 2nd baby, epidural immediately. My labor delivery room was pretty stress free- my friend was even knitting a washcloth my second go round, and my mom was there bc when I said , “are you headed to the waiting room?” She goes “no, I’m going to stay”. So she did. The only thing I worried about was my husband breaking my leg bc I couldn’t feel it and the way he was moving it did not look natural. But my leg didn’t break and both my girls were pushed out in less than 20 mins. So leaving the “plan” to my girls was a pretty good choice.

  18. My first born starts kindergarten in 1.5 weeks, and if there’s room in that corner with you I’ll join you crying there all day. sigh!

    A friend of mine was in “natural labour” aka “crazy because she refused drugs”, for 3 days. THREE DAYS. When she finally caved and accepted the epidural – boom, baby came out. She was SO tensed that she was clenching all her muscles and the baby couldn’t get through, she almost had to have a c-section!

    So my point is – YAY for epidurals!!

  19. Elizabeth says:

    I’m a labor and delivery nurse!!!!! This is AWESOME and so true!!! Thanks for a good read:)!

  20. Love your birth stories! My first born (boy) is starting kindergarten Monday so I’m a wreck over here in GA! We will cry together!

  21. Lol this is too funny. and true. And I agree, the best plan is to have no plan. Every time I went to labor I told the nurses two things. Do not cut me down below and get me the epidural, stat. Ive had 3 kids,3 epidurals ( which also didnt slow things down all were born within 3 h of the start of it) and 0 stitches. Also, socks are a must. Everything else is so bare and exposed, I felt better having something below belt covered.
    That picture of even steven before and after.. XD

  22. Awwww, so sweet! See, in this book you’re gonna write, full of all the funny things, will be some chapters like this…sweet enough to bring a tear to your eye. Oh, it’s gonna be great! Dona

  23. I LOVE THIS! Very funny stuff – you are seriously creatively funny. I think it is great that not having a birth plan works for you. My personality is a bit different, I am the type of person that when I travel I want a super detailed plan and then when it all goes to *crap* I feel fine because I know that I can use parts of the plan that make sense and let the rest of it go. For some reason my brain can handle upsets in life when I originally have a plan, but when I have no plan – I totally freak out. I have learned this from YEARS of my own personal travel and life experiences. So basically, even if no one saw or used my birth plan (which is what happened) – it still helped me SOOOOO much just knowing that I had one and it also forced me and my husband to talk about things we might not have discussed if I hadn’t created a plan.

    And just like you mentioned that Even Steven didn’t want to look – I really wish I didn’t look or follow the excited advice “to feel the head coming out”. I really wish that I hadn’t. I was kind of in the “zone” and it really freaked me out to “connect the dots” between what was happening in my head and what my body was feeling. Here is our son’s birth story written from both my perspective and my husband’s side of the story too. http://judifoxblog.blogspot.de/2013/01/isaacs-birth-story.html

    Thanks again for sharing these stories and being seriously funny!

  24. My only plan was to not have a plan, and that worked out just fine. The only advice I give people is to try not to eat, just in case. I was induced the night before our son was born, and given breakfast the next morning under the assumption that labor would progress throughout the day. Except I had a big baby (9 lbs, 4oz) who was head-down but face-up and showing no interest in coming out. I had to go through contractions for an additional 5 hours while they waited for the food to get out of my system so they could do a C-section. Good times.

  25. Even Steven is wearing a zip up jacket with a collar at every birth. And girl, you look fabulous after birthing each of your children! I looked like hell. But I had the horror story of 46 hours of labor followed by an emergency C-section. I hope no soon-to-be moms just read that.

  26. YES!!! to all of it. My first baby was determined to stay in (or was I so tense that he couldn’t get out???) Either way, as soon as I had an epidural, things moved along quickly. My second son was born in August and I was HOT the whole pregnancy, so there was no way I could wear socks. I got an adorable pedicure the week before my due date, complete with flowers on my big toes, and every single nurse AND the doctor commented on how cute it was.

  27. ah, the ‘Birth Plan’. i made one up knowing that it more of a loose guidelines document. and really, it was mostly for my husband to have something to fall back on if something major happened to me and had to know “what she wanted”. the nurses all chucked and thought i was being so quaintly naive with my ‘plan’. mostly b/c i said i wanted to keep things relatively calm and quiet. well, it was. b/c i was. end of story. thank you epidural. the only reason the epidural may make things take longer -did for me- is if you can’t feel enough to push. my kiddo didn’t want to come out. but we took our time and barely any tearing from that 10 pounder. it wasn’t hard or terrifying or anything of the sort. it was incredible and magical (yes!) and funny and my greatest accomplishment so far. ignore horror stories of big babies and epidurals as being the status quo. we’re all individuals. make your own story. plans are just guidelines, not the plot.

  28. My first was three weeks early. My husband and I were organizing baby girl clothes and trying to figure out how to set up a hand me down pack and play when my water broke. There was no birth plan or bag packed. She’s four and I still haven’t got clothes put away! I had back labor with both deliveries and was more than happy to have a large needle inserted into my spine to deliver that epidural! Both girls are healthy and happy, but I don’t plan on having another.

  29. My advice… don’t worry about doing anything embarrassing. I heard all these horror stories from women, like pooping themselves from pushing too hard, etc. Should I start looking for a new Doc now in case I poop on mine, I wondered? God forbid I have a disgraceful delivery! Thankfully that never happened but trust me, even if it had… You simply won’t care! I’m a pretty modest person, but in the midst of my labour nothing mattered to me but getting that baby out! You want to bring in a class of Interns to take a look at my woo hoo? Sure! Why not! Bring the janitor too… It’s all good! 🙂 …. Don’t sweat the small stuff…. Also…. never ever ever lock the bathroom door when you’re in full blown contractions…. it freaks the nurses right out 😐

  30. My daughter came late and her delivery was long and difficult. The epidural wore off, I struggled to push, all natural birth at the end. She had her own way of wanting to do things and she still does. She’s still constantly late and stubborn but it was all perfect (so is she:) and any pain is a distant memory which made me want to have a second.

    5 imperfect pregnancies later came my son:)

    One week early. Great epidural, short push time, easy. Just like him. He goes with the flow:)

    I think children are like your delivery with them. Wear socks, enjoy every moment because you wil forget some of it as they grow up. Ask for stool softener right away and drink lots of fluids after to help with recovery. Don’t make your Husband watch or tape a birth if you don’t want to. It’s beautiful even if you (or him) don’t see every second up close and if I could have left the hospital myself for Skyline, I would have!

  31. This is just great, every bit of it! I love your honesty, I love your spunk, and (of course) I love your humor. I thought I was a funny mom once, then I started reading your blog.
    I too had epidurals with all (4) of mine, and they were all relatively quick labors so unlike the awfulness I feared about childbirth. There were a few gross parts but really, compared with some of the day to day mom stuff I go through, no big scary deal. I could do quarterly probably (props to you for saying monthly).
    I am a third grade teacher, and my older kids started 5th, 4th, and pre-K this year. It was a bittersweet first day of school, especially for the 5th grader (last first day of elementary school!) and the pre-Ker (first venture into ‘school’). Having them there where I work helps though. Hope you are adjusting ok and not too down. School days are fun- now you can be on the PTA committee, make baked goods for the fundraiser festivals, help with home projects, and all that exciting jazz. Your son’s teachers will just love you to pieces! (Well, unless Miles is a terror, which I somehow doubt with such cool parents). 🙂 Thanks for the brilliantly hilarious posts!

  32. Yes to socks!

    And my personal advice…pack your hospital bag and keep it in the car at all times, even if you are only going in for an appointment. With my first I went in for a regular appointment, got shipped to the hospital, had the baby and finally, three days later on my way OUT of the hospital, my (now ex) husband finally got his you-know-what together enough to bring it to me.


  33. My advice would be….Skip Flossing! I flossed religiously and diligently packed my floss in my hospital bag thinking that I would not miss a beat. Of course, it just did not happen in the hospital! Socks, socks, socks…..definitely pack socks!

  34. Kat Caldwell says:

    My advice is wear your husbands undies, he may not like it but saves yours lol oh and his work socks will be thicker and warmer and saves yours as well!

  35. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This Is the first post I haver ever read online that gives tips for those getting a medicated birth and not making them feel bad for doing in their way! I had an epidural with my son (loved it!) and in two months I will be having a c-section for my daughter to some unplanned things that happened last time. It’s not ideal and it’s not what everyone else is doing, but it’s what is needed for my situation. So thank you again for sharing it was an awesome post!

  36. Thank you so much for this post. I had epidurals with both of my births, not to mention two unplanned c-sections and everythiwonderful! I had great experiences both times ! I wouldn’t change a thing, even if I could. My girls were both healthy and perfect, something that, honestly, may not have happened had I made, and insisted on following, rigid birth plans. My goal was just to have the healthiest babies by whatever means necessary. 🙂

  37. Anna,
    you just absolutely made my day!! im 7 months now (first child) and was researching “what to wear during delivery” (yes you may laugh at me for that one).. when i stumbled on your little article and you just made me feel so much better!!! all i hear is crazy stories, birth plans… classes after classes and i felt like i need to do it all, buy it all, read it all….getting more and more overwhelmed and anxious. your words and all the beautiful pictures just changed it all for me. “just stay calm and go with it”. it will all happen just the way it will, its an adventure 🙂
    thank you so much 😀
    you rock! and such a beautiful family. congratulations!

  38. I know this is a couple of years old but am so glad I found it! Our son is almost 2 and I remember every book I poured over preached having a plan and trying to avoid a medicated delivery. Well thank goodness I didn’t have a plan, my son had to be delivered 5 weeks early and I only remember parts of the day. As long as you and baby are here and safe that is the only thing that matters.

    Ps.. I didn’t have on socks haha the medicine they had me on made me HOT!!! When the nurse was putting it in my IV drip she told me it’d be like the flu in that I’d have the sweats and be flushed/hot from the inside. I wanted to be naked haha so yea, no socks.

  39. As a first time expectant motha, I am trying to psych myself up for pushing this child out of my vajaja. I am grateful to know I won’t be condemned to Hades for not having a birth plan. In fact, the very idea of having to create a birth plan and print it on said edible paper, was one of the things that had me most worried. I cannot say I will heed your advice and wear socks, because I hate advice as well as socks. So glad I stumbled across this gem. THANK YOU!

  40. I enjoyed reading this…. Will remember my socks for baby #2 who will be arriving in August.

  41. This is ALL SO TRUE! I am very much an OCD Type-A planner. I had my notebook with plans, directions, call lists, and more, all typed up and ready to. Then the doctor’s told me on a Monday that I needed to have an OCT (oxytocin challenge test) on Thursday. This was to make sure the baby could handle the challenges of deliver (I was a Type 2 diabetic with extreme weight issues). Little Samantha did really well during the OCT…momma not so much. My blood pressure went thru the roof at 196/100! Talk about seeing stars and NOT being ready! This was 5 weeks before I was due! My baby shower was to be that weekend! We had a crib and a changing table and that was it…no car seat, no diapers, no cute little onsies or socks! But I was having a baby that day. The book/plan went out the window and I had to get on board that Sammy was coming fast and furious via c-section. She was totally perfect! And looking back on things now, I’m so glad she arrived when she did. I could not have dreamed of a better situation. No baby shower, but she was perfect and totally healthy. I could live without a party for that…

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