Pregnancy is a wild ride, isn’t it? You’re blowing up into a beach ball, you have to pee every seven seconds, and your pregnancy insomnia leads to late-night online searches like, “Do contractions make you poop?” We get it; it’s normal to worry about how labor and delivery will go, especially after everything you’ve already been through the past nine months. The truth is, the childbirth experience is like many things in life — no two are exactly the same. The truth about labor is it could last one hour or 72 hours. You might give birth vaginally or via C-section. And you might meet your new baby at home in your bathtub or a hospital bed.
You don’t know what will happen, and neither does anyone else. That’s the one constant in childbirth and the truth about labor — you can never truly predict how it will all go. Just be your amazingly strong rockstar self, and you’ll come out on the other side proud of what you did. You’ll be sweaty and stinky, and 83 people will have seen you naked, but you won’t care, and you’ll be proud. We promise.
30 Fun Facts About Labor and Delivery
To show you just how relatable every pregnant person’s childbirth experience is, here are 30 fun facts and truths about labor and delivery to laugh about and share with others.
1. Poop Will Be a Part of Your Story
The chances of you getting out of this deal without a poop story in some capacity are pretty much nil. Whether it’s you pooping on the table as you push, that first postpartum poop being the most terrifying moment of your life, or your baby having pooped in utero and meconium shooting out of your nethers as your OBGYN breaks your water.
2. Speaking of Poop, It Might Feel Like You’re Pooping Out Your Baby
We promise you you’re not, but the sensation of a whole human bearing down on your internal organs feels like you have to pass a bowel movement, and because when they tell you to push, you feel like you’re pushing out a giant late-night-large-pizza-nachos-and-mozzerella-sticks kind of poop, it can be weird and confusing. Don’t worry; you’re doing it right, so keep going! And once you’re done, you can order all the pizza, nachos, and mozzarella sticks you want.
3. It’s Not Pretty. It’s Downright Messy and Gross
There are smells. There are liquids. There’s blood. There might be poop. Or urine. And a lot of slimy gunk is coming out from your insides. (Good slimy gunk; it’s kept your baby healthy and safe for months. But still, it’s slimy and gunky.) So you can take a real moment pic, or wait and get your hair and makeup done and wash some of that realness away. It’s your call. But you’ll always know, no matter how much lipstick and mascara you put on, just how messy that room was as you pushed a new human out into the world.
4. Also, You Might Puke
Of course, right? Because why not? Between the pain, the meds, and if you have a full stomach, vomit often becomes a part of the childbirth story, and it fits right in with the other gross stuff anyway.
5. The Whole Room Will Smell (And Not in a Good Way)
Stinky, slimy stuff, plus some sweat, poop, amniotic fluid, and a little pee or vomit for good measure, equals a rancid mix of odors. You probably won’t notice or care much because the baby is finally out, but if you take a deep breath, you might feel queasy all over again.
6. There’s a Whole Other Part of Birth That Happens Afterward
I did not know this—did you know this? Did you know about birthing the placenta? And how nurses will press on your stomach to help your uterus contract back to its original form. Those pushes might be more painful than actual birth, and you’ll look at that nurse with dagger eyes because haven’t you done enough already?1
For the first few moments of catching your breath and holding your new little person, someone might be stitching you up, cleaning you up, and pulling more stuff out of you. The baby part is great, but others are . . . less great.
7. You Develop Respect for the Metric System
The most wonderful and terrifying number of your life becomes 10 centimeters, and you will never look at a softball the same way again. Also, the length of time to move that needle from 2 cm to 10 cm apparently takes the cervix 1,000 years.
8. The Best-Laid Plans . . . Well, They Often Change
Your “plans” for a vaginal birth may turn into an emergency C-section, and “plans” for happy, exciting rides to the hospital sometimes don’t happen as the baby slithers out on their own schedule in the doorway of your home. You can “plan” for a water birth without drugs, which might work out perfectly. Or you might end up saying, “What the heck was I thinking?”
The truth is, none of us can truly predict how labor and delivery will go. So, we make plans and tell our family, friends, doctors, nurses, and midwives what we want. But we also need to remember that the ultimate goal is a healthy mommy and baby, whatever it takes.
9. Labor May Last 24 hours or 24 Minutes So Be Prepared
My first labor was long. Like looooooong. So, my OBGYN gave me the same induction meds with my second, thinking that would be the best route. Except my body remembered what to do this time, and the medicine worked fast. So fast that my OBGYN barely made it in time. The truth is, there is no way of knowing how long labor and delivery will take. Settle in for a long haul, but prepare to meet your new little one in a few minutes, too, if that’s what the baby has in mind.
10. Have a Back-up Plan (And a Back-up Plan for Your Back-up Plan)
Especially if you have other children who will need childcare, or you live far away from the hospital, or you have unique medical needs, or really for any reason. Because babies don’t follow clocks. Or calendars. My third child was born during a blizzard. After being completely snowed in and having no way to get down our street the week before, we saw another storm coming in the forecast.
Since I’d hit the 40-week mark, we rushed to the hospital for an induction. Sure enough, we got snowed in there. Even the nurses and staff were snowed in with us, sleeping in empty beds. My parents and other two kids couldn’t visit for several days. So, plan for blizzards. Plan for traffic. Plan for going into labor in the middle of the night, the middle of the day, and every scenario in between.
11. You Might Have a False Alarm (Or Two)
Sometimes it feels like “This is it!” only it’s not. Prepare yourself for excitedly heading to the hospital with your overnight bag in tow, only to be met with the disappointment of being sent home by the hospital staff. But don’t worry, your time will come. For now, try to get some sleep if you can and let the baby hang out in there for a bit longer.
12. Nurses Will Bring Your Partner Food, and You Will Loathe Them for It
You will feel a surge of anger from the depths of your soul as you hit 22 hours on only ice chips for nourishment, and you look across the room and see your husband chow down on a double cheeseburger. When he comes over to comfort you during a particularly brutal contraction, and you smell bacon on his breath, you might squeeze his hand harder than you’ve ever squeezed anything.
13. Also, Your Partner Might Say Something Really, Really Dumb, So Brace Yourself
You might hear a complaint about how uncomfortable the chair is that they slept in. Or how tired their legs are from standing next to you. Or that the burger they just ate was slightly overcooked. Brace yourself for this error in judgment as they know now what they say or how powerful you are to boot them to the moon. I mean, you are giving birth, after all. There’s nothing you can’t do.
14. And They May Not ‘Handle It’ Well
Some partners faint or get queasy seeing the shocking reality of childbirth. You could see the toughest person you know break down in tears or look on in horror and turn whiter than a sheet when they see what comes out of you. The truth about labor is childbirth changes everyone, not just Mama.
15. A Lot of People Will See Your Vagina. Like, a Lot
I can remember being on, like, hour 19 of labor with my first. A second round of nurses, plus my doctor, had been elbow-deep inside my body by this point. But then my OBGYN asked if a group of med students could observe. I was like, “Can any of them help get this kid out? The whole city of New York can come in! I don’t care; get him out!” And they did. The whole lot of them marched in and observed while I was knees-up in stirrups. But did any of them help get my stubborn baby out? No. They did not.
16. Your OBGYN May Not Deliver Your Baby, But By the End, You Won’t Care
A genuine truth about labor and delivery is your OBGYN may already be with another patient or not on call that night. Or, maybe your child is like my second and comes flying out like they’re on the fastest waterslide in the world, and the doctor can’t get there in time, so the nurse catches the baby. Or your partner does! Old Grandpa Joe could be down there, arms outstretched, and you’d be like, “Get ready, Gramps! Here it comes!”
17. Screaming and Other Guttural Noises You’ve Never Heard Before May Come Out of Your Mouth
It’s okay. You’re not possessed. You’re pushing out a whole live human. Of course, many women tout their calm, serene birth practices, and I’m sure that works for them. I did not have serenity. I was more of the “thunderous, ear-splitting, fire-breathing dragon” type of mom during childbirth.
18. You’ll Try ANYTHING to Relieve the Pain of Contractions
Birthing ball? Sign me up. Warm bath? Run it. Walk the halls? Listen to music? Taylor Swift dance party? Watch “Friends” re-runs? Yes! Write out baby shower thank-you cards and crumple them with rage as the pain shoots from your chin to your toes? Done! Whatever it takes.
19. You’re Forever Grateful for Ice
From the ice chips that nourished you for 20 hours while you basically ran a triathlon to the ice diapers that now offer a level of joy and comfort you did not know existed before, the truth about labor is ice will be the hero of the story (other than you, of course).
20. The Second That Baby Comes Out, You’re Ordering Food
After birthing my first child (which took over 24 hours), the cafeteria was about to close. So, while I was being stitched up and gazing at my new son for the first time, the nurses asked if I’d like to hurry up and order food, listing the choices as “pizza, burger, ice cream, sandwich . . .” and my response was “YES, ALL OF THAT, PLEASE.”
21. Labor and Delivery Isn’t Like on TV or in Movies
First of all, one truth about labor is that it’s unlikely your water will break and gush out as you walk down the street. Usually, it’s a slow trickle and feels like you’re peeing yourself. (Neat, right?) Also, it’s common not to have your water break at all. Instead, your OBGYN or midwife can do it as your labor progresses and you’re already spread-eagle on the table.2
22. Getting an Epidural is the Most Difficult and Glorious Experience Imaginable
The anesthesiologist appears in a glow — like the angel they are — ready to relieve the constant uterine stabbing, making you question every life choice you’ve ever made. However, they make you hunch over and sit perfectly still, which (spoiler alert!) is damn-near impossible to do through a contraction, but you do it because you know that good juice is coming and you will feel its miraculous power soon.
23. You Might End Up With Tearing or an Episiotomy, and It’s Okay
This was my greatest fear, and these words haunted my dreams for months before my first labor and delivery experience. But once it was all said and done and I’d delivered my first 9-pound baby (I’d go on to have two more), I learned that my body knew how to heal just fine. (The ice diaper was my bestie for a few days, though.)
24. And You Might Have Stitches
Ice diapers are key, as is numbing spray. And hemorrhoid pads! You won’t want to touch that area with coarse toilet paper for a while, so soft, soothing pads and anything to help with the pain and discomfort of peeing, pooping, walking, sitting . . . and well, being awake, you’ll take it.
25. Have You Ever Cleaned Up With a Squirt Bottle? You Will Now.
Your blessed nurses will add this gem to your “going home” kit, and you’ll be eternally grateful. Fill that sucker up with warm water for a nice, soothing wash after your trips to the bathroom, and thank the gods of plastic for sending this invention down to earth.
26. Mesh Underwear Enters the Chat
Just in case no one tells you this, you won’t wear regular underwear for a little while once that little wet, slimy bundle of love is in your arms. Instead, you’ll instantly have a new love and appreciation for disposable mesh underwear. They are large, stretchy, and accommodating for all the pads and diapers essential to your well-being and recovery, and you’ll be grateful for them, even if they creep you out.
27. It’s Going to Be Messy for a While
Picture a really, really, really bad period. Then, add in some blood clots for good measure. That’s your reality for a few weeks, so plan on doing nothing other than snuggling your new baby. You’re not making a HomeGoods run or grabbing lunch with your bestie anytime soon.
28. This is Your Moment, So Soak It Up and Be the Queen That You Are
Want your comfy robe and slippers from home? Bring them. Want visitors? Don’t want visitors? Want your mom there? Don’t want your mom there? Your decision. If the tub feels good, get in. If it doesn’t, get out. If walking helps, walk. If lying down helps, lie down. And the minute that baby arrives, make sure your partner knows you’ll want some real food, and they’ll make that happen. This is YOUR show, Mama, so you can run it however you like.
29. You Might Want To Capture This Moment, the Blood, Sweat, Tears—All of It
You’re in the throes of contractions and having your body ripped in two, so you might not be able to fully appreciate the beauty of what is happening. But a truth about labor is it’s truly beautiful, so consider letting your partner or mom or best friend (or even a professional photographer) capture it on film so you can go back and revisit it all once you’re calm and peacefully holding your baby in your arms. You might be surprised at how proud you are of the goddess you’re looking at and how amazingly strong she is.
30. You’ll Realize How Invincible You Are
Childbirth is painful and messy but also beautiful. It might be only be hours, or it could be days long. It can go according to plan or involve unexpected, terrifying scenarios. But the one constant through it all is you—the mother. Your strength will endure, you will persevere, and your body will do what it needs to do because you’re the mom. It’s your job. And you’re already amazing at it.
The truth about labor and delivery is no experience can compare to the grueling intensity, followed by the joy and beauty of childbirth. Nothing else is as gross and horrifying while also being as miraculous and breathtaking. So, go into it with a plan, knowing that plan might end up in the trash. Don’t hesitate to state your needs because you’re the one doing the work. And try not to break your partner’s hand when they tell you the pillow they slept on is lumpy. Just smile, say I love you, and hand them the baby who just pooped and needs a new diaper. Then sit back, take a sip of your Starbucks latte, and bask in the glory of motherhood. You’re rocking it.