5 things you NEED to know about labor

If you’re a first-time Mom, it can be terrifying to think about labor and delivery. There are so many unknowns that come with pregnancy and delivery that it can feel overwhelming. 

It’s totally normal to have a million different questions rattling around in your head. First-time Mom or not, none of us have all of the answers and none of us can predict exactly how things will go. The best thing we can do is give each other general advice. So, take what works for you and leave what doesn’t. Every Mama, baby, pregnancy, and labor experience is different! 

With that being said, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. 

1. What to bring

We have comprehensive lists of must-haves to bring to the hospital or birthing center for you, your partner, and for the baby. Additionally, there are some “nice to have” items that may make your delivery and postpartum experience more comfortable. Once you have those must-have items down (think photo ID, birth preferences, toiletries, etc.), we definitely recommend bringing some comfort items as well. 

Why? Because the best thing for labor is oxytocin and that’s the hormone you release when you’re relaxed and feeling good.

It’s no surprise that hospitals and medical settings don’t exactly give off ‘Netflix + chill’ vibes, but you can bring things from home to help put you at ease and keep the oxytocin flowing and the adrenaline at bay during labor. Think comfy clothes, a favorite blanket, your iPad, some favorite snacks and drinks, relaxing essential oils, headphones, and your positive affirmations or fav Sunday drive playlist. Let your freak flag fly ‘cos this day is all about what makes YOU feel nice and relaxed. If ASMR videos of someone unpacking Goodwill jewelry bags bring down your heart rate and put you to sleep, go to town.

Only you know what will bring you the most comfort and peace during this experience, so give it some thought and pack accordingly! 

Psst! It’s important to remember that regardless of whether you’re having a home birth, natural birth, or scheduled c-section, your birth preferences are still the #1 way to protect yourself. There are a lot of unknowns with delivery and things might not go according to plan. Planning for the unexpected ahead of time will cause you less stress at the moment, so even if you plan on having a home birth, include preferences around a c-section as well.

2. To shave or not to shave 

Let’s be real, at this point in your pregnancy you’re probably no stranger to OBGYN appointments and having your legs up in those uncomfortable stirrups. And if you did IVF or any other fertility treatments, you’re probably so used to dropping trou, you don’t even check for a white coat first. But still, you may be wondering if you should ahem, groom down there, before the big day.

Short answer: Do what you are most comfortable with. 

If you feel most comfortable shaving, then that’s what you should do. If you don’t feel like shaving, or can’t seem to reach (or see) your vagina to shave, then skip the razor and just enjoy one of the last pre-baby showers you’ll ever have. 

It all comes down to your own personal comfort level. Don’t worry about shaving on behalf of the nurses and doctors. No matter how much (or how little) hair you come in with, it’s nothing they haven’t seen before. They really don’t care whether you’ve got hair or are freshly shaven. What they care about is that you have a safe, positive birth experience.

3. Sh*t happens

A great question, and one that makes a lot of people nervous is: Will I poop myself during labor? We get it. I mean, who wants to poop in front of their birth partner and possibly a room full of doctors and nurses? Not many people. But the truth is, a lot of moms poop during labor, and if you happen to let one slip past the goalie, no one will care or judge you.

You’re pushing really hard to try and get that baby out and using the same muscles that you do to poop. But actually, the most common reason why women poop during labor isn’t that they’re pushing – it’s that the baby is pushing on the intestines as it makes its way through mom’s body.

Most women actually do poop during labor, so you certainly won’t be the first, and if something does slip out, there’s a good chance you won’t even notice. You’ll be busy focusing on your breathing and your labor and delivery nurse will handle it like a pro, so don’t stress.

Dad joke incoming: If you poop yourself during labor, it won’t mean you had a crappy labor experience, just a normal one. 

4. You’re in charge of the guest list

Surprisingly or not, this is also another really common question. Despite the fact that it’s the Mama pushing out a baby and going through quite a bit of discomfort, there’s usually some family tension surrounding who is allowed in the delivery room. 

The most common person to have in the delivery room would be Mama’s partner if they are going to be involved in the baby’s life and possibly a doula. Some women feel pressure from their own mom or their partner’s mom to be allowed in the delivery room as well. From personal experience, the pressure from those other moms in your life may be pretty intense. So, what should you do? Should you allow them to be part of your labor and delivery? 

The main thing to remember is that it’s your delivery and you have the ultimate say on who is going to be in the room with you. You are going to be in a vulnerable position and you want the individual who is going to be the most caring, comforting, and reassuring present – regardless of who that person may be for you.

The best thing to do is to advocate for yourself and, when push comes to shove, don’t worry about hurting any feelings. You have to do what is best for you in what is already a high-anxiety, challenging situation. If someone’s presence will up the drama and stress, go ahead and send them on their way to the tune of Alanis Morissette’s ‘Uninvited.’

5. You know best

If you’ve made it this far, you may have noticed a common theme. The most important thing to know going into labor is that you know best. Trust your gut. Lay out your birth preferences and control as much of the environment as you can.

Ultimately, no one but you can decide who will be the best person to have in the room with you, whether it’s a priority to shave or have makeup on, or what you want your first snack to be after the baby is born.

And when it comes down to the embarrassing parts of delivery? Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. You won’t be the first or last Mom to poop during delivery. And soon enough, you’ll be elbow deep in diapers yourself and sucking snot out of another human’s nose. Motherhood is all things messy, gross, beautiful, and real. Embracing that fact during delivery will make the journey that much sweeter.

We’re all thinking of you, cheering you on, and wishing you a safe, positive birth experience!