Preparing for Birth: Beyond the Books

I’m a researcher and planner by nature. I genuinely enjoy it! I like being prepared and informed and knowing as much as I can before something comes my way. So of course when I found I was pregnant, it was ON. I consumed every article and blog post I could get my hands on like a crazy person. “How to Survive Your First Trimester” turned into “Breastfeeding Basics” and then to “What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag” and “What You Need to Know About Labor & Delivery”. I was ready and waiting for labor. I knew that there were things I couldn’t prepare for, but I honestly felt like there wasn’t much that was going to be able to blindside me.

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And then the first serious contraction hit. I couldn’t remember the stuff I’d read about how to breathe. I remember saying to someone through gritted teeth “no amount of research prepares you for thiiiiiiis”. Contractions would be the first of many things in the next hours and days that I would be surprised by, both good and…less so. Like pushing! I had an epidural, so I kind of assumed pushing wouldn’t be too bad. Except that I felt like I was going to black out after holding my breath and bearing down through each contraction.

I did more breastfeeding research than you’d believe to be humanly possible. I’ve seen more strangers’ boobs than I can even begin to describe. You hear over and over how hard it can be, so I was determined to be ahead of the curve. And I do believe all the reading and classes equipped me, but it was still unexpectedly difficult. And hurt more than I planned on. I needed lots of help from the lactation consultant and encouragement from my husband.

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But the thing I think was most unexpected, that I was the most unprepared for, is how much I would love that girl from the second the doctor placed her on my chest. {Honesty moment: I struggled from time to time during my pregnancy with the fear that I would be apathetic about my own daughter. A fear I now know to be a complete nonsense, but it was real during its time.} I spent most of my time crying and staring at her in the hours following her birth. We actually had to send her to the nursery for a few hours our first night, simply because I couldn’t put her down to even attempt to sleep. Nothing I read, no amount of conversations with veteran moms could have prepared me for how much I would adore this little piece of me. Or how much my love for her father would multiply.

While I’m definitely still a proponent of researching and being prepared for birth, I now firmly believe that there’s only so much you can do. You can read every mommy blog out there, and still get hit by curveballs. And that’s okay! Very normal, actually. Birth and things that follow are so beautiful, but so complex. There’s no way anyone could ever prepare for every facet. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride.

What surprised you most about labor and birth?

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