Lessons learned from our first labor and birth
It is common for first time parents to be anxious and worried about the unknown territory of labor and birth. Therefore, coming out from our first traumatic birth experience, we summed up our lessons learned below. Hope it will help you know more and be better prepared when the time comes!
1. Have your support network ready
We at first planned to have my hubby as the only support person and we realized that was not sufficient.
During our 4 days of labor, my hubby was the only one who did the double-hip squeeze and apply pressure on my tailbone through almost every contraction. His muscles were sore and he was exhausted from staying up all night to attend to me. Therefore thinking back, an extra person staying with us to take turns with my hubby for labor support would give him the rest he needed to keep going strong.
We also learned this lesson the hard way in terms of food preparation. During my third trimester, I prepared some cooked food like stir fry, pasta sauce and steamed ribs in the freezer for postpartum, and simply assumed that if we need any food like congee during labor we can always order takeout delivery. Unfortunately, after having some takeout congee during early labor, I had a bad diarrhea that could lead me to dehydration. We end up in quite a scramble to have my mother-in-law and postpartum doula to prepare homemade food for us.
2. Have over-the-counter medication on hand
As much as we wished to have a natural medication-free birth, we learned that, unfortunately, we overlooked the value of over-the-counter medication for early labor.
Pain medication for taking the edge off
I knew I was not the toughest girl out there. However I thought that with the intense period cramp that I used to experience, combined with my strong willpower to give the most natural experience to my child would be enough to sustain me through.
Nope, I was wrong. If you read it from our birth story, we did buy the Tylenol and I did take it when I started to feel my limit. Unfortunately we did not know that we should be getting the extra strength Tylenol, but got the one for muscle ache instead. Therefore it was not strong enough to help ease the early labor pain.
Sleep-inducing medication for rest
In the birth story, I also mentioned that our friend delivered Gravol for me to rest on the second night. If you are not familiar, Gravol is the product name of a medication for motion sickness with drowsy side effect. It is an excellent choice for early labor not only for possible nausea, but also most importantly allows you to dose off and rest in between or even THROUGH contractions.
You never know how long early labor is going to take and how hard active labor and pushing will be. So it is a good idea to allow yourself and your birth partner to rest and conserve energy for the real deal.
3. Have an induction plan if pregnancy goes over-due
Birth is a highly variable event and especially nobody knows when baby decides to come. In light of such variability, we learned that it is important to think about different scenarios like post-term pregnancy in advance.
From our experience, not having a plan for post-term pregnancy made us unable to react as quickly as we should. We preferred labor to naturally start. Therefore we did not think and discuss much about any induction plan if pregnancy goes past 40, 41, 42 weeks. When the due date and even the 41 week mark passed, I felt like we were living on borrowed time. I was anxious.
Then as labor didn’t progress when we reached 42 weeks, we were too late in booking for induction. By then we could only book for the next day and not the day of. This administrative hurdle made me have to endure labor pain for another night. No joke, it was not fun at all.
4. Be open to accelerating progress
I learned the lesson to not be fearful of but embrace the accelerating labor progress in a regretful way.
During my second night of labor, our midwife visited and offered a membrane sweep to get things going. At that time I was already 3 cm dilated so a membrane sweep was possible. Such procedure can encourage release of labor hormones to speed up labor progress. However due to my fear of rapidly increasing pain for the ride to hospital before I could get an epidural, I declined the sweep offer. Little did I know that meant I had to endure the pain for another 2 days before induction at hospital can be scheduled.
Thinking back, I should have accepted the membrane sweep on the second night. Then let go of the birth center plan and, despite increasing pain, head straight to hospital for an epidural (I wanted a way out on the second night anyways). We could be having baby Giddy by the third day early morning.
5. Change of scenery
Another painful lesson learned from our experience is that a change of scenery can help a lot in coping with the contractions.
For me, it took the ultimate hospital induction appointment to get me out of our master bedroom, where I labored for days. Since day 1 evening, I spent all my time in the bedroom: got into elbows and knees on the bed with pillows to support my chest for every contraction, have my congee and water by the bedside, used the master bathroom…
My hubby and my midwife encouraged me to try walking around during early labor. However there was simply not enough willpower in me to do so. I had my comfort zone in my mind: moving in hands and knees and lying in bed. Anything beyond that would just mean more pain to me, I thought.
However the sensations did feel different when I finally got out of the room. Though I still had to crawl my way down the stairs, I still had to lay down on the couch, I still needed a wheelchair instead of walking in the hospital hallway, it felt a lot easier to cope with the pain and pressure. It would have been nice to realize this earlier.
Music and ambiance
If you notice, we kept the same nature sounds classical music playlist on for the ENTIRE 4 days until getting into the car to hospital. While classical music and sounds of birds and waves can be relaxing and can be therapeutic, it should not have been playing for THIS LONG.
Thinking back, I stressed out even more as I just could not relax with the supposedly relaxing music. It also engraved into my traumatic memory so much. Whenever I played the wave sounds from the white noise machine for newborn Giddy, all I hear in my mind was the music that it accompanied in the track I played along with memories of the painful labor. Not to mention I will never touch that playlist in my phone again.
Now that we learned the lesson, we will probably have a playlist of a variety of music next time that may lift our mood when needed.
6. Be prepared for bleeding
You may have already assumed that delivery will be bloody that you are mentally prepared for it, but do you know that labor can be bloody too?
From what I read in pregnancy apps, I thought the bloody show in early labor would just be like spotting kind of minimal. I was so wrong. Labor progress was literally tearing open the tissues inside to get the baby down and out. Therefore it was painful and BLEEDING. Just be mentally prepared for it and also have some extra long panty liner on hand.
These are the lessons learned from our first labor and birth experience. Hope it helps you prepare for yours to come with information beyond what you can find in the pregnancy apps. All the best and wishing you a safe delivery!