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Boy did I have some misconceptions about labor, delivery & parenting a newborn (that’s part 2). I read multiple books and took a few classes but it is just as they say — you don’t know until you experience it. I found myself with several revelations over the past week and wanted to share them with you.

Expectation: It will be one of the hardest, most painful experiences of your life — to be dreaded!
Reality: It was actually very exciting and positive. I know I was lucky to have a positive labor experience but with an epidural, the pain was totally fine and I spent the 14 hours of labor just looking so forward to meeting Jacob and enjoying that time leading up to it with my husband. I hope this helps some moms who have read “bad” birth stories and are scared!

Expectation: Painful, excessively long needle that is given only after you’ve been suffering awful contractions for hours.
Reality: They numb the injection spot first and you don’t feel a thing. It barely hurt at all and started working almost immediately. You can get the epidural immediately when your contractions start if you want — avoiding almost all pain entirely. I didn’t do that, as I wanted to feel contractions for awhile, but…I could have.

Expectation: Torturous pains that wind throughout your whole midsection, causing you to moan in pain and feel like you may die.
Reality: Not totally off target but of course, I never got past 4 hours. I can’t imagine what they feel like during the transition phase and when you are pushing without medicine. Don’t want to know either! Sufficient to say, not as bad as I thought knowing I had pain relief at any time.

Expectation: Once you start pushing it’s pretty quick for the most part and with epidural, just a lot of pressure and probably some awful tearing down there.
Reality: I learned that pushing is NOT always very quick, though I did have a rather quick pushing session of under 40 minutes. It was mostly pressure, no pain, and I didn’t tear nearly as bad as I expected to.

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Meeting Baby
Expectation: I was worried I might I be so tired and in pain from that “awful” labor that I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate what was happening. I was also worried from people saying not everyone immediately feels connected to their baby.
Reality: It was truly the most surreal, beautiful moment of my life. He was the most unbelievable being there on my chest, like magic, and I felt immediately love and connection that has strengthened every minute since.

Post-birth experience
Expectation: I’d be so exhausted and out of that it would all be a haze. I would be in a lot of pain “down there” and have awful cramping to deal with for days.
Reality: I felt actually very alert with a renewed energy (despite having gotten 0 minutes of sleep the night before.) I enjoyed visitors and just relished every new moment with joy. I also had almost no after-labor pain aside from light cramping, a healing vagina (to be expected) and tender boobs. Again, I’m very lucky.

First feeding
Expectation: I just recently learned about colostrum, the very thick “liquid gold” substance that comes out when you first give birth (rather than milk.) I had no real expectations, just figured it would all workout as it was supposed to. I also though milk came in within the first 24 hours — wrong again.
Reality: Feeding in the first 48 hours (and more) has been one of the hardest, most frustrating things. I was getting very little Colostrum and felt like he was barely getting any nutrition. He would not latch so I constantly had to hand express it, which hurt like hell and was like squeezing nearly nothing out. Milk came in mostly by Day 4, so I was painstakingly pushing everything out I could as much as possible then. I have had to use a nipple shield for any latching and am worried about his reliance on that. Breastfeeding is the hardest part so far!

Hospital stay
Expectation: I had no idea what happened during your stay or how long you stayed…
Reality: You stay 48 hours after baby is born (at my hospital) and the nurses check you and baby’s vitals every 2 hours or so. There is a constant barrage of staff coming in your room and it’s overwhelming. It’s hard to actually try to sleep because they come in all the time…for medicine, lactation help, consulting, testing, etc. By the time we left, I was ready to get out of there!

Expectation: I didn’t want to think about it but figured it would work out like it does for everyone else.
Reality: They did ours only 2 hours before we left so we had to remove the gauze and care for the very fresh wound right away at home. It was awful and terrifying. He screamed bloody murder and I wanted to as well. I wish they had done the procedure on time the day before we left so they would have taken care of the fresh wound and not us. It was awful and I hate that this is a thing that we do. I know I could have chosen not to have it done but we were just doing what we thought he’d appreciate later in life, I guess. I don’t know, I hate it.

Those are just a few of the things I didn’t realize about the whole process. Overall, I would tell my pre-labor self not to worry so much. The hardest part of this whole pregnancy was the first trimester nausea — now THAT is something I will be dreading for round 2!

Perhaps you can relate to some of this stuff. I wanted to write it to let expecting moms know that not all the stories out there are bad — and not everything is as it seems.

I’ll be writing Part 2 of Expectation v. Reality for when we got home soon!

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