By the time I was seven months pregnant with my first baby, I was wearing a home-made Post-It note on my belly that read: “I’m due April 30. No, I don’t know what I’m having. Yes, I feel great. No, I indeed do not look pregnant from behind, mainly because my uterus is not in my ass (at least, the last time my OB checked).” Even the most well-meaning people annoyed me when they were the 87th person that day to ask me the exact same three questions followed by the exact same comment (When are you due? What are you having? Are you feeling good? Wow! You don’t look pregnant from behind).
I was amazed how many “experts” come out of the woodwork, to offer opinions and advice while you’re expecting. Not one of these “expert” opinions aligned with the next: I heard everything from “oh, it’s a girl and you’re going early” to “definitely a boy and you’ll likely need to schedule a C-section.” With all these experts around it’s a wonder we still have obstetricians and ultrasounds! For the record, I had a boy and he came into this world naturally and eight days early.
Enter my second (successful) pregnancy and I’ve had to add a line to my Post-It: “Spare me your labor horror story.” Seriously – this time around, once I was obviously pregnant, and not just fat, I heard it all.
I had women telling me how they barely made it to the hospital in time to deliver their second baby. I had men telling me that they DIDN’T make it to the hospital, and delivered their wives’ babies at home or – worse – in a car on the way to the hospital. I heard about 72 hour labors that ended in emergency C-sections and labors so fast and furious there was no time for an epidural. I heard the worst blood pressure and preeclampsia stories you could imagine – women with blood pressure as high as 600 over 80 (is that even real life?). The episiotomy stories were something out of a seventies horror film – 867 stitches clear up to one woman’s eyebrows!
Really? Your OB was on an African Safari when your water broke? Great – I’ll make a mental note to ask my OB to surrender her passport for the next 40 weeks. Your water broke on a Ferris wheel? Thanks for the tip – I’ll try to avoid amusement parks after 38 weeks.
Look, I may not be driving a Honda Odyssey full of ankle-biters, but this ain’t my first rodeo. And yet, I find my fears vacillating between having my baby two months early on a SEPTA train, and going so late that my OB induces the birth of a small toddler. Literally, all of my worst fears about labor and delivery are realized in these “helpful” anecdotes. As if I wasn’t already afraid I’d miss the obvious signs of labor and give birth while taking a poop, I now know that it can happen, and indeed has – in a grocery store.
As a woman, I get the need to share – really, I do. I even find myself getting the urge to tell pregnant women that, despite what they tell you in birthing class, you may not know when your water breaks. Particularly if it’s not your first kid and you have a tendency to “leak” on trampolines or when sneezing. Our need to share is equal parts our innate desire to help, and the satisfaction we get from talking about what we endured to bring our tiny humans into the world.
But these labor horror stories – cloaked as advice – are not actually helpful. Particularly to pregnant women that might otherwise rethink having a baby after hearing how horrifying labor can be. I think we can all agree that no two pregnancies are the same, so why would one woman’s labor be like anyone else’s? Why should I prepare to deliver a 12 pounder like yours, when I’m 5’4″ and shaped like a boy? Please. My anxiety about labor is growing with every Braxton-Hicks contraction – now is not the time for you to tell me all about how you “went natural” with your birthing ball for 46 hours … or that your damned ball popped mid-contraction.
This may come as a surprise to some, but guess what? The number of people on this earth is directly proportional to the number of times women have gone through labor. No doubt, enduring labor is a tie that binds us, and it’s even fun to bond over the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of childbirth. I like a good labor story as much as the next mom- just not while I’m close to experiencing my own. So, next time we get the urge to tell an expecting mom about the fun that is a “double contraction,” save it. Especially if she is watching the clock to try and figure out if her “gas pains” are lasting a minute and hitting every five minutes. Let’s swap horror stories over bottles of wine, long after the epidural has worn off and we can laugh again without tearing a stitch or peeing our pants.