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The Truth about Delivery
by Rebecca Garland

 

Pregnancy is an exhilarating, sometimes exhausting, ride. For months you silently communicate with the little one inside you. You read, you prepare, you wait impatiently for ultrasounds to check on her progress and you plan for her future. Suddenly, while rearranging the adorable collection of pink dresses and overalls, you have a realization – the baby that is inside of you must come out. And you suddenly have a sneaking suspicion it won’t be anything like births you’ve seen in the movies. You are exactly right.

With all the technology available these days, there are a few ways the baby can get inside you. There are however, only two ways the baby can come out. The method of the ages, of course is a vaginal delivery, and the much more controversial method is the Cesarean section, or C-section. You have a 100% chance of having your baby one way or the other.

Getting Ready
Your body often begins preparing for a vaginal birth weeks ahead of the actual event. This can be very confusing and exciting for an expectant mom. Her doctor will announce how much she has dilated and effaced and she will anxiously call her family to tell them to prepare – only to be back at the doctor in another week for the next set of statistics. Dilation is how wide the cervix has opened (your goal is 10 centimeters) and effacing is how thin the cervix has gotten (obviously, the thinner the better – 100% is your goal here.)

Some mothers may walk around for weeks with a cervix already dilated and effacing and others will be closed up tight as a drum until the day of delivery. There is really no way to tell what your body will do unless you’ve had a baby before.

Mothers are constantly on the lookout for signs of impending labor.

Mucous plugs, loose stools, early cervical changes and even mood changes can be a sign that labor is coming. The hardest part for many mothers is deciding when contractions have gone beyond the Braxton Hicks practice ones she’s been feeling for months to the real deal.

Unfortunately, for most women, their water doesn’t break immediately preceding labor to give them a nice sign to head to the hospital. In fact, most new mothers don’t have their water break until they are safely in a hospital bed breathing through contractions. They have to rely on the guess and check method.

If you get sent home from the hospital for “false labor”, don’t be embarrassed. Ask around and you’ll see that a surprising number of your friends had the same trouble figuring out what was a “productive contraction” and what wasn’t. Besides, every woman feels contractions differently, so there is no standard answer to what a contraction feels like. In fact, even practice contractions are preparing you in some way, so there is no “false labor” either.

At The Hospital or Birthing Center
Once you have finally arrived at the hospital, and been invited to stay until delivery, there are all kinds of routines and procedures. IVs are inserted, clothing is changed, monitors are put in place and then, suddenly, you wait. And wait. Your cervix has to dilate to 10 centimeters. The average time for each of those centimeters is about an hour. This means that labor takes on average ten hours. Some of those hours are spent at home, and since the number is only an average, there is a chance you’ll go faster…or slower.

While you wait, you’ll have plenty to do to entertain yourself. You might practice your breathing as each contraction hits or you might practice paging the anesthesiologist to see what the hold up is on the epidural you requested within seconds of admittance. Your patience will be rewarded by routine visits of everyone in the hospital as they come to do an internal exam and update you on your progress, or lack there of.

During all this labor and waiting, if you’ve made it this far, many mothers begin to see a conventional childbirth fading away. If the baby isn’t sitting just right or if the mother’s pelvis is too small, all the contractions in the world might not get the baby ready to come out. This is politely called “failure to progress” and is one of the most common reasons for a C-section.

Other mothers never even made it to the labor part of delivery and had a scheduled C-section for something like a very large baby, multiple babies or for health reasons. A C-section is a surgical delivery where the doctor carefully cuts into the uterus at the top of the pubic region and pulls out the baby. The recovery time from a C-section delivery is longer, but this style of delivery saves lives every day.

The Hard Work Begins
Once you’ve reached ten centimeters it will be time to push. This is the part of the delivery that is grossly misrepresented in the movies. Pushing actually requires a great deal of work and is not over in a few dramatic moments. It can take hours.

A few more mothers run into trouble in the pushing stage. Their babies might not be able to tolerate all the pushing or the mother is too worn out from a difficult labor to push the baby out. Depending on where the baby is, some doctors choose to use forceps or a vacuum to get the baby out, while others opt for an emergency C-section. Either way, the pushing stage will result in a baby being born.

Baby is Out!
The end result of all this pushing may not look or smell very nice, but the mess does happen to contain the most wonderful creation in the world – your child. Most new mothers are so immediately infatuated with their new baby that the pain of delivery or the shock of an emergency C-section disappears, at least for a while.

It doesn’t matter how the baby arrived in the world. A healthy baby is a healthy baby. The fact that you delivered him in any fashion makes you a mother, and you are due all the love and respect that comes with that term. Congratulations!

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