As I've said before, you can expect to be surprised by something in your labor. It's a hallmark of a Rite of Passage that there is something (or many things) to surprise you. After I wrote my first list of “The 12 Biggest Surprises in Labor”, my mind kept spinning with how many MORE there are. So many.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and not every one will be a part of YOUR story. But they are common. Gird your loins.
So here are 12 more Big surprises new parents might experience at the birth of their baby:
1) How Contractions are timed:
When the doctor says, “Think about coming to the hospital when the contractions are 3 minutes apart and 1 minute long for an hour”, you may imagine that there is a 3-minute break between those contractions. Nooooooooo. Contractions are measured from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next. So 3 minutes apart and 1 minute long means a 2 minute break. Now picture that break when the contractions are 90 seconds long and 2 minutes apart (as they are during Transition). Right?
2) How many times you may have to answer the same questions:
This varies depending on where you are giving birth. Some hospitals will have several people run through basic questions with you, “Prior medical history? What was your weight at your last prenatal appointment? Have you felt the baby move? What's your height?”. Not such a big deal the first time, but when it's the fourth person to ask, you may want to break your water all over them. If your partner knows the answers, by all means let him/her answer for you!
3) You're hot, then you're cold:
As labor progresses, the flushes of hormones can give women hot flashes. She may be cold and wanting a blanket between contractions but can't get it off fast enough during a contraction. I call it the “James Brown”.
4) Your Partner may have to leave when you get an epidural:
I talk all about it in my article about having a great epidural. Many couples are surprised that everyone has to leave the woman with the anesthesiologist and nurse while she receives an epidural. The staff is concerned that the partner may pass out, and it also ensures that the procedure has no disruptions.
5) Gook. In your Drawers.
The amount of “bloody show” that exits the body is pretty amazing. Viscous, snot-like and laced with blood, it's a positive sign of the cervix dilating and effacing. The amount increases through the dilation phase and even gets brighter red as she progresses. (If you're ever worried about the amount and color, give your doc/midwife a call. That's why you hired them! Don't forget, I'm not a medical professional.)
6) The puking.
About half of women vomit during the Transition stage. Some vomit earlier, some don't at all. It's a lovely thing to see – it means the hormones are strong with this one. The puking can happen even if the mother has an epidural.
7) Your partner may have some contact nausea:
Depending on how squeamish your partner is, #5 and #6 may tip him/her over the edge. I've been hired by couples who knew the partner needed a tap-out every once in a while. They were quite intuitive because he ran off about a dozen times through the course of her labor to empty his stomach.
8) Newborn “parts”:
Baby genitals are, uh, impressive. A newborn is full of his/her mother's hormones at birth. Wee little scrotums and vulvas are swollen and disproportionate. Normal, normal, normal. So don't get cocky.
9) Newborn “hair”:
If your precious little Matilda has hairy ears and a hairy back, it (likely) won't stay that way forever. It's called Lanugo, and it disappears within a few weeks.
10) Baby's out, and you still look pregnant:
Yeah. I'm so sorry.
Most women still look 5-6 months pregnant for a while after birth. The uterus takes at least 6 weeks to return to its normal, fist size. Your belly will also be much, much softer. However, this is not the way it will be until the end of all time. Many women experience a gradual shrinking and tightening of the skin over the next several months. (but I make no promises)
11) Baby's out, and you still have contractions FOR 6 MORE WEEKS:
Yeah. I'm still sorry.
This is how the uterus returns to its normal size, through more contractions or “afterpains”. They are typically mild, more like early labor contractions. If this isn't your first baby, you may experience more intense afterpains with subsequent children. If you are breastfeeding, you will notice that this triggers more of them. Ask your care provider for pain-relief options if they are uncomfortable.
12) How it feels to announce the baby's name:
Ah, I LOVE this moment. I love to live it, and I love to witness it. Even if you have already decided what you will name your baby, saying it out loud to your family can strike you right in the heart. This is especially poignant if the first time you say the name is after the baby is here. I'm all teary just thinking of it. Gah.