Planning for Labor
When I was in medical school two of my friends became pregnant (I’ll just call them Mom and Dad). They did everything you can think of to plan for labor. They researched doctors to find one that fit with their philosophy, they found their perfect birthing center. They took classes on natural childbirth. They had thought of everything, they even planed out what song would be playing when their baby was born.
When I saw them a week after the birth, they both looked out-of-sorts, so I asked them how they were doing. When I asked, they both tensed up (Dad became slightly agitated, and Mom became slightly tearful) and told me that things were horrible. I ask how that baby was and they said the baby was doing great; I ask if Mom was okay, and she said that she recovered really quickly. At this point I was a little confused, so I asked the obvious question, “What has been so horrible?”
A Change in Plans
They told me that the whole birthing experience was horrible. Nothing had gone as planned.
First, when Mom’s water broke, she quickly went into intense contractions and, because of this, they when to the hospital nearer to their house instead of the birthing center that was a hour away. At the hospital, Mom’s blood pressure was low, so the doctor and nursing staff insisted she get IV fluids (they were planning on doing everything naturally, without any IVs). The labor was slightly prolonged, so despite doing her best with breathing and relaxation techniques, Mom became exhausted with pain and asked for an epidural (again they were planning on doing everything naturally). There was meconium in the amniotic fluid (this is stool from the baby, it happens in about 1 out of every 4 births) so when the baby was born, the doctor immediately handed the baby to the baby nurse, so she could suck out his airways so he would not breath the meconium into his lungs (they were planning on Mom holding the baby immediately after birth).
After talking to them some more, I came to learn that Dad was feeling guilty about insisting on going to the nearby hospital instead of the birthing center. He told me, “I was so freaked out that Mom would end up delivering in rush hour traffic, I was afraid to take the chance. But labor took so long, we could have easily made it.”
They both blamed the hospital staff for “forcing” Mom to get an IV. Dad was resentful that Mom asked for an epidural because “it was not what we agreed to,” and Mom was feeling guilty about this, “I don’t know why I asked for it, I feel like a failure as a mom,” she told me. They were both worried that their baby would not “properly bond” with Mom since she did not get to hold him until about 4 minutes after birth.
A Different Perspective
A part of me wanted to tell them how ridiculous they were being, but this couple really was hurting. They had spent 9 months dreaming about the birth of their baby, and how wonderful everything was going to be. They had things so “well planned” that when things did not go according to plan, they truly felt devastated. So I took both of their hands, looked at them sympathetically, and said, “Your baby is healthy, Mom is healthy, this was a very successful labor.”
Planning for Labor
After this experience, one piece of advice I give all my pregnant women is that “Every labor is different. The only thing that you can expect for sure is that something will not go exactly as expected! As long as you and your baby come out all right, then it was a successful labor.”
That being said, there are some basic things that can help you prepare for labor:
- Take a birthing class. This will help you better know what to expect, and give you a plan for what to do in labor.
- Maintain good nutrition. Having proper nutrition will maximize both your health and your babies. You can read my other post about nutrition in pregnancy.
- Go to all of your prenatal visits.