My First Birth Experience: What I Wish I Had Known

Mother between contractions supported by husbandGina B., Illinois

It’s almost embarrassing to look back at my first birth experience and see how unprepared I was for what was the most important event in my life up to that point. Since then, I’ve heard “You do the best with what you know at the time” over and over again. It’s not that my daughter’s birth was overly traumatic, but I think if I had been more educated and aware of the consequences of my choices with what seemed like small, insignificant decisions, then my birth and maybe even my early breastfeeding experiences might have been different.

During my pregnancy, I attended the childbirth preparation classes offered by the local hospital where I planned to give birth. I’m sure I read books and talked with friends and family about birth and newborns, but now I don’t recall specifics about those resources or conversations.

It was a Sunday afternoon two weeks before my due date. I started to have some contractions – none that were difficult to get through. They were starting to come fairly regularly, and I remember having read that once contractions were regular and there was a certain amount of time between them that I should head to the hospital. I ate just a little bit of an apple, because I also remembered reading that I shouldn’t eat while in labor. So, my husband and I left for the hospital. The staff apparently agreed that this was the real deal and I was in labor, because they admitted me.

I continued to have contractions, although they weren’t progressing very quickly. In the evening, my doctor decided it would be a good idea to break my water since contractions hadn’t let up. He said it would help my labor move forward more quickly. After that, my contractions did intensify but not by much. I had been at the hospital for about six hours by now and had spent the majority of time lying in bed. Again, it’s embarrassing to think that I didn’t know that movement and changing my position could help labor progress as well as probably making me more comfortable. At some point in the night, the nursing staff gave me pain medication, which took the edge off and allowed me to rest a little.

The rest of the night was a blur, but I continued to dilate and my contractions grew stronger and stronger until just before 7 a.m. when I was ready to push. I still cringe thinking about this, but my doctor told me it would be best to first do an episiotomy to prevent any tearing. It was a large episiotomy and I still ended up tearing. I had no idea how painful that part of the recovery would be or of any lasting negative effects of an episiotomy. But, by the time a new shift arrived on the floor, I had given birth to my daughter, who weighed less than seven pounds and would be by far the smallest of my children at birth.

Mother working though contractions while husbands supports her backWhen I look back at my daughter’s birth, there are several things I would change that seem so obvious now, but I know it does no good to berate myself for what I can’t change. Maybe this will help someone else, though.

  1. I would stay at home as long as possible. Now that I’ve experienced labor, I think how much more relaxing and helpful it would be to remain in a familiar environment until I had progressed much farther. I would have been able to move around, which could have helped labor progress more quickly, and I could have avoided early and unnecessary interventions.
  2. I’m not a medical professional in any way, shape or form, so of course I can’t say with absolute certainly what interventions would ultimately be necessary. But I wonder to this day if I had stayed home longer, would my labor have stopped only to start up again a few days or a week later? Did having my doctor break my water force my body to do this before it was ready?
  3. I wish I had been more prepared for pain management, including ways to manage the pain that didn’t involve medication. I mentioned before that I really just stayed in bed. What if I had moved around more? Walked the floor? Stood under the shower? What if I had additional support (other than my husband)? A doula? That wasn’t even something I was aware of until after my daughter was born.
  4. I would educate myself more during pregnancy and have a support team in place before the birth. I found out about La Leche League after my daughter was born, and I know now how helpful it would have been to be able to call or text a Leader with my questions after getting out of the hospital or even while I was in the hospital. I could have even started attending Series Meetings during my pregnancy.

Those are just a few of the things that come to mind when I look back at my daughter’s birth. I hope they help someone out!


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