Childbirth Tips (So You Don’t Have To Ask)

Childbirth Tips (So You Don’t Have To Ask)

I love my friends and family. Honestly, I do.

But not one of my lovely ladies gave me the practical tips that I needed to survive labor and delivery, not to mention those initial, sleepless weeks of parenthood.

I know, I know, I know. Writing a post about birthing and feeding babies is going to be laced with controversy, so let me be clear before I begin: I firmly believe every woman should become a mom when, how, and wherever she wants. That said, I think the women who’ve been on the frontlines of the maternity ward are duty-bound to share their wisdom with other moms.

Women have been giving birth since the birth of mankind. You’d think there wouldn’t be any surprises left. But there are. Or, they were for me. So, here are five things I wish I’d known before having my first child.

#1. To each her own (birthing experience).

Halfway through my first pregnancy, my husband Richard and I signed up for a childbirth class at the local hospital. On the first night, the teacher showed several 30-year-old videos of women giving birth, while screaming and shouting and sweating and scowling. At one point, my astute husband initiated this discussion:

Richard: Were any of those women given an epidural?

Nurse: No.

Richard: Then why the hell are we watching them?

Nurse: Sir, not everyone wants an epidural.

Richard: Well my wife does. So can we see what that birthing experience looks like?

Nurse: We don’t have a video like that. We were only given these to show.


The second half of my pregnancy was haunted by those frightening videos from the 1970s. I wish I’d done more research when choosing prenatal classes. If I had chosen a class more aligned with my birth style, I could have gone into childbirth with more confidence and fewer questions. Instead, we quit class after three sessions.

#2. The nurses can keep your baby overnight.

Following the birth of each of our children, the nurses asked us if we wanted them to keep the baby in the nursery overnight, so we could get some sleep.

Ummm. Yes, please. I hadn’t even known this was going to be an option. It turned out to be a brilliant move.

Our rationale at the time was, A) Nurses are experts and know a lot more about baby care than we do; B) We are really tired and know we won’t be sleeping through the night for years to come; let’s get rest while we can. We took a break at night so my body could heal and Richard and I could go home with a few hours of sleep under our belts. And if you’re breastfeeding, they’ll bring your baby into your room as needed. It’s that easy.

If the nurses offer this during your hospital stay, say yes. Don’t judge yourself for taking them up on the offer. 

#3. You still look pregnant when you leave the hospital.

I’m not sure what else to say here. It’s a horrible fact of life and something no one warned me about, so I’m still flummoxed eight years later. You might not look nine months pregnant when you get discharged, but a stranger might guess seven. On a good day.

#4. Postpartum help is for you, not the baby.

When my mother offered to come stay with me for a week, after each of my babies were born, I said yes without hesitation. Yes, you can come feed, clothe, and change my child while I lounge in the living room.

Ha. That didn’t happen.

Babies sleep a lot during the day. They’re like cats. They wake up to poop, eat, and then fall back asleep before you can put them in a bouncy seat.

I was the one who needed help bathing, walking, and sleeping. The physical demands of giving birth are no joke. To make a long and inappropriate story short, let’s just say that after my first child, my poor mother spent a week holding her crying, pathetic, 150-pound daughter. Not her sleeping, angelic, nine pound granddaughter.

#5. Decide who’s on duty before duty calls.

There’s only one thing worse than your two year old son screaming from his crib at 2:00 in the morning—and that’s you and your husband screaming at each other over whose turn it is to take care of him. One thing Richard and I did that saved our sanity—and probably our marriage—was decide who was on duty each night, before going to bed. Sometimes we agreed to alternate (you first, then me), and sometimes one of us gave the other the night off. Either way, it was always clear and always decided before the heat of the moment.

So, there you have it—my five favorite lessons from the frontlines of childbirth. None of this is rocket science. It’s just stuff I wish I’d known myself. 

What do you wish you had known before you became a mom? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below.

Katherine Wintsch