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CHILDBIRTH: EXPECTATION VS. REALITY

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

One of the hardest things about being pregnant with your first baby is not being able to anticipate what will happen during birth, especially if the only references you have come from Hollywood. I saw Katherine Heigl give birth in Knocked Up, it looked pretty painful but it was over really fast - I could handle that, right? It’s also a weird phenomenon that when other parents find out that you are pregnant, they want to tell you their birth story. When I was pregnant, I remember complete strangers felt compelled to share their experiences with me at the most random times; for example, as I was purchasing paint for our nursery at Home Depot.

As I approached my due date, however, I began asking a few close friends about the story of their first births, in an attempt to accurately predict how mine could go (even though I now know what an asinine theory that is).

From the stories I heard, I gathered a handful of expectations, including the following:

  • The epidural would hurt a lot.

  • I would have to wear large adult diapers afterwards.

  • I could simply look at the clock while in labor and set a goal for pushing the baby out, and it would work.

True story - these are things I actually thought would happen. Except, none of them actually did happen. The epidural didn’t hurt at all. Because I had a C-Section, I have yet to wear large adult diapers (maybe someday!). From start to finish, the process took hours, and when I was finally able to hold my baby in my arms had nothing to do with the deadlines I had naively set for myself.

Once we’ve been through the act of giving birth ourselves, we gain a lot of valuable information, and it’s natural to want to share our birth story and advice with others. But, besides recognizing that until someone asks for it, they might not be ready to hear your birth story, it’s also important to remember that no two births are exactly alike. By all means, share your birth story with those who ask, but make sure they understand that it’s just one possible process, and the reality will probably be vastly different from their expectations, no matter how much research they do.

Luckily for me, one of my best friends is a Doula (our resident Doula Aaryn Leineke) who grew up surrounded by midwives and family members who all had home births. Her experience with birth was not fear-based, and it was refreshing. Most of all, after talking with her, I felt confident that I would have the support I needed, no matter what my birth experience would turn out to be. She taught me the importance of choosing your birth team and letting go of the birth plan, when necessary.

We would love to hear some of your expectation vs. reality birth stories - please share in the comments!