T Minus 10, 9, 8, 7…


It’s September, which means that any day now, my friend Kelly will go into labor, check into the Kootenai Medical Center, and come out an unspecified amount of time* later holding a brand new baby boy.

She has read What to Expect When You’re Expecting and taken a childbirth preparation class. She’s had her baby shower and she and Martin have tastefully decorated the baby’s nursery with moons and stars and hopes and dreams. They even have a name picked out: Elijah**. All things are ready, and Martin stands at high alert, waiting for launch.

Since this is Kelly’s first baby, I thought I would contribute to the preparations by passing on a few of the precious jewels of wisdom regarding the childbirth experience that I picked up while bringing my own two little bundles of drool and happiness into the world. These are the things nobody told me, but I wish they had:

* Despite what you may have seen on old sit-coms (Episode #56 of “I Love Lucy” is a classic example) there’s usually no reason to rush getting to the hospital. Labor takes a while, especially your first time. Forty-five minutes after you arrive, you’ll have read all the way through the magazine you brought and will be playing your eighth hand of solitaire, wondering why the TV in your room only gets four channels, one of which is in Spanish.

Take my advice: When contractions start, call Martin and go out for a big plate of ribs and a baked potato with the works. You’ll need the sustenance. Because there’s always a chance that you’ll end up with an emergency C-section, in which case those wonderful, loving maternity nurses who coached you through labor will be replaced by stern, unsmiling, ex-prison warden post-op nurses who sentence you to nothing but tepid broth and melted jello for three days and even confiscate the Whopper with cheese that your darling husband smuggles in for you the day before you check out. Hypothetically.

* There is nothing wrong with drugs. Natural childbirth is great. I really admire women who grit their teeth and make it through the process of labor without any chemical help. They should have their pictures put on the front of Wheaties boxes and go home with trophies. All the same, going drug-free isn’t for everyone. A lot depends on circumstances and each individual woman’s tolerance for pain. Epidurals are a gift of modern medicine (the word “epidural” is from the Latin “epidurus”, which means “please make my wife stop cursing at me”), and there for you if you want one. Besides, that nice anesthesiologist went to school for many years, taking a pizza delivery job to pay his tuition, turning down dates with beautiful girls to study in the library, and driving a beat-up ’89 Pinto to save money, just to be there for you in your moment of need. Speaking of the anesthesiologist, don’t be alarmed if, after your epidural, you experience a temporary compulsion to kiss him on the mouth, set up a shrine in his honor, and/or name your baby after him. Fortunately for Katie, that urge passed just in time, and now she doesn’t have to go through life as Buck Zimmerman, Jr.

* Do not be surprised if your body does not immediately return to its pre-pregnancy condition upon delivery of your new baby. Most people go into the hospital looking nine months pregnant, and come out looking six months pregnant. I’ll never forget the day after Katie’s birth, as I was walking around the hospital with Paul, trying to speed up recovery from my C-section. We stepped into the hospital elevator and a friendly young man asked me when I was due. “I just had her!” I wailed, bursting into tears. As punishment for his kindly meant comment, he was stuck for twenty more awkward seconds in the elevator with us, looking acutely uncomfortable while I sobbed and Paul glared at him. I’m pretty sure he took Bill Cosby’s advice and refrained from ever again commenting on a woman’s pregnant belly unless the baby was making his debut at that very instant.

Of course, I gained sixty pounds with that pregnancy, much more than the recommended 25-35. I blame Katie for not eating her share of those daily Butterfinger McFlurries I enjoyed for nine months. I didn’t put my maternity clothes away until she was eight months old, and by then I was ready to burn my gray sweats and replace them with a leather miniskirt and four inch heels. I settled for buying some pants with zippers.

If you do end up being one of those lucky 2% of women who actually walk out of the hospital wearing their size 6 Levis, for pity’s sake, do not tell anyone! Hormonal, sleep-deprived new moms still grumpily trying to shed their baby weight are capable of heinous acts. They may not slash your tires, but you’re certain to find yourself blacklisted from every Mommy & Me group in the tri-state area. Tread softly.

I’m sure there are many other enlightening bits of knowledge I could pass on, but I don’t want to take all the mystery out of this amazing and life-changing event (and besides, my dad reads this blog and I’d be embarrassed to go into any more detail on certain biological matters.)

I know you and Martin will make wonderful parents. Just relax and don’t sweat a few mistakes along the way. This job is learn-as-you-go. And the benefits are out of this world.

*Somewhere between 45 minutes and 9 days.

**Understanding, of course, that the baby may come out looking nothing at all like an Elijah and subsequently demand to be called Ernie, or Fletcher. Or Krull. Whatever. If your baby is talking at birth, you have bigger fish to fry than figuring out what to name him.

Update: The crown prince has arrived! At nearly nine pounds, he gave his mama a run for her money, but she pretty much had the ideal birth: seven hours of labor, perfectly timed epidural, thirty minutes of pushing–and it wasn’t even the middle of the night! Let’s hope baby Krull continues to be so considerate.

24 responses »

  1. True! All the things she wrote here are true. Might I add as well that you should never believe the nurses when they tell you that that teeny tiny lil pain you feel at the start of labor is the most painful part. It’s not.

    Congrats to your friend!

  2. Wonderful stuff. All of it true. I thought I would be in labor for 18 hours or so with my first. Nope. Less than 8, start to finish, going from 1cm to 10cm in 45 minutes; fast, and I assure you, more than furious.

    I also thought I would be taking home a Nathan or, if a girl, Sydney. Instead I wound up with J., a giant freaking baby with a giant head who did not look like a Nathan and whose pee-pee rendered my Girl’s Name List useless.

    My nurse was evil – EVIL! I spent a whole hour hiding from her while in labor. Second time around, my best friend was the maternity nurse in charge, and amassed a stellar staff of nurses to surround us. It was a dream come true. I highly recommend it.

    And the drugs… yeah. There are no awards, there is no superior suite in which to recover, there is no special menu or privilege to which a drug-free birth entitles you. Do everyone a favor and GET THE EPIDURAL. Don’t worry; you will still suffer when the baby is crowning, especially if your baby has a 15″ head like mine did.

    Sorry – this was very rambly and I hijacked the comment section, but I have some strong opinions about this childbirth thing…

  3. 🙂 for our 4th child……. after having 3 beautiful babies before…. I thought I could not be so lucky 4th time round…… sooooooooo we picked the name we would like our child to be called, BUT had a back up name… incase it was butt ugly……. so that we could use the original name next time round lol……. it was a standing joke in the delivery room lol….. when he was born the nurse held him up and said…… nah I think you can bin the name Eric in the ugly file and still use the original Jacob….. cos this kid is gorgeous 🙂 lol


  4. oops….. not that there is anything wrong with the name Eric…. I understand it is quite popular over there in the states….. its just over here its SOOOOOOOOOO not…. it tends to hang around middle aged suited big bellied blokes with combovers 🙂

    *stepping away from the computer* phew……


  5. Tree-
    I will tuck this advice away should the good Lord ever bless me with kids. 🙂

    There are certain women in our congregation that seem to just snap back to their original size within a few weeks a la Liz Hurley, and it just amazes me. And then there are those who have not. I’ve noticed the two groups don’t mingle much. Hmmm…

  6. it is exactly this sort of wisdom that cause my husband and doctor to completely freak out when I delivered a baby 5 1/2 hours after my first contraction. DO NOT WAIT!! DO NOT PASS GO!! DO NOT COLLECT..oh, you get the idea.

    And about the drugs, do not think, “Oh, I’ll bear the pain for a little while, I mean, I HAVE ALL FREAKING NIGHT (right?)” because 15 minutes later when you’re read to start plucking heads off of people, IT WILL BE TOO LATE and you’ll have no option but to go through labor WITHOUT MEDS but unfortunately, with foreceps. Ouch. That’s all I can say.

    No matter what, though, no matter WHAT, the moment that child is handed to you, you will forget absolutely everything else in the room and you will wonder how on earth the world rotated before this being was ever here to witness it.

  7. That was really interesting. I loved the little tidbits. I guess there really is no prize for natural childbirth but it still amazes me that my mom did it three times.

  8. Very good advice! My sister will totally agree on the epidural thing. She was a champ for 13 hours, then when she couldn’t take it anymore and got the epi, she became the angel once again that we all know and love. Thank the Lord.

    Also, to be totally realistic, if for whatever reason gears change and she has to get a c-section, she and baby will be JUST FINE. The end result is for mom and baby to be healthy and ready for the adventures in breastfeeding. That’s a whole other blog entry…

  9. I second all of Katrina’s advice but would like to add one thing. Figure out the car seat before you are discharged from the hospital. It is not as easy as it looks!!

  10. one suggestion…forgo the ribs and taters before the birthing…nothing worse than being constipated and in labor, and then worrying about what you are actually doing when you are pushing.

  11. Just remember: the nurse who “encourages” you to go natural all the way is usually the nurse who has never had a baby. (One actually had the nerve to tell me, as I was walking the halls, to “hurry up” back to my room because the doctor was coming.)

  12. i found you thru hbo’s bloglist. just got done reading your “jewels of wisdom” and it made me laugh. we have three children and i can relate with some of your words. mind if i add you?

  13. Oh, the collected wisdom represented by these commenters. We should write a book!

    granati–That would be an honor. Thank you! 🙂

  14. This post is so cute! And it really seems like everyone in blogland is either having a baby or really good friends with someone who is. I fit into neither of these groups. I’m just trying to get engaged. lol

  15. oh, and btw, my first born was 6 hours long. she was 4lbs, 5oz. second was four hours. she was 4lbs, 15oz. the third was three hours and he was 6lbs, 7oz. all were premature, but all are doing well.

  16. Karyn–Rest easy! Kelly has, indeed, had her baby. I’m sure all our advice played a key role in her successful performance. 🙂 (See update at the end of the post.)

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