Preparing for Childbirth

I have been described as organized and a planner. I was a good student in school and did plenty of research for papers and studying for tests. I like to be as prepared as possible for whatever situations I will be facing. This was no different when we decided to have a child. I only have one brother who is two and a half years younger. My family moved away from our relatives when I was three years old. I didn’t have younger cousins close by that I spent time with as babies to understand how child rearing worked. I babysat some as a young teen but that was only for a few hours at a time and never for children under one year of age. As an adult I knew very little about taking care of a baby. So how was I going to get ready for becoming a parent? The same way I prepare for anything else.

LB’s birthday. More confident the second time around.

I checked out multiple books from the library on pregnancy, labor, delivery and caring for a newborn. I signed up on pregnancy websites that would let me know what to expect each week and month of pregnancy and gave advice about babies and child rearing. I signed up for a class at the hospital. Sounds like normal stuff of every expectant parent. A year or so before thinking I was ready to become pregnant I signed up to volunteer in the nursery at church. I thought perhaps a little hands-on experience might help me feel more comfortable with handling babies, changing diapers and listening to crying. Now that was only about an hour per week, but it was much better than no hours per week leading up until childbirth, and I got to test out the 5 S’s I’d read about in Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block book.

The hospital class covered mainly labor and delivery. We received a tour of the hospital and talked about how to recognize the different stages of labor and the many options of coping with pain. I almost felt like I was in the class too soon because I had more time to go than anyone else. I know now I would not have finished the class if I had waited to take the next one. It was kind of fun talking about our ideal scenario for labor and delivery. I thought perhaps I might like to labor as far as I could without an epidural. I wondered if my labor would be short like my mom’s was with my brother. I hoped that it would not be like my birth (I started to arrive feet first so my mom was knocked out for an emergency c-section). The only truly useful thing I ended up getting out of that class was to “be flexible”.

Because I was undecided about an epidural I took an additional hospital seminar, Everything You Want To Know About Epidurals. I figured getting some information about this specific subject would be useful. It was led by one of the hospital’s anesthesiologists. He covered the differences between an epidural and a spinal block and the risks and percentages. Afterward I felt that I would be fine should I decide that I wanted an epidural sometime during my labor.

Fast forward to my thirty-sixth week of pregnancy. My husband and I go into my 36 week appointment together. I had gone by myself the week before and learned that my baby was breach and I had already begun dilating. After stressing and crying about the real possibility of a c-section during the weekend, I came back with my support team. The doctor checks me and then requests the ultrasound technician to take a look at the baby. It is discovered that the baby is still head up and is essentially sitting on the umbilical cord. This means that if I were to go into labor, the cord could come out first and cut off the oxygen supply to the baby which is obviously very dangerous. The doctor turns to us and says, “You are having a baby today!” Definitely not what we were expecting. PB had to drop me off at the hospital and then go home, pack our hospital bags, and come back. And let work know he would not be in that day. Or the next several.

And that is why “be flexible” is the best advice I received from all of my info gathering. Pretty much everything else I read about labor and delivery was not needed. Of course, I should have read more about what to expect with c-sections. No matter what you study, there’s always a curve ball on the test.

Looking back on your childbirth experiences, what was the best advice you received? Did you feel prepared?

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