Moms Share What They Wish They Had Known About Childbirth

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For the WNYC series, What Hospitals Deliver, we asked moms for thoughts on their delivery experience, particularly what would have been good to know ahead of the big day. 

To start — in case you have not heard, contractions, while painful, won’t feel totally unfamiliar.

I wish I had known...that the feeling you have is that of doing a massive poop!

— Radha from Murray Hill

(And by the way, you might poop while you’re pushing if you’re having a vaginal delivery. It’s totally normal.)

It can be hard to know when to go into the hospital. Early labor with its irregular contractions can last for hours or days. Some moms said they felt they went in too early:

I wish I had known that it was better to labor for a while at home and not rush to the hospital straight away with my first, but it was all so overwhelming and exciting and terrifying.

— Sarah from Inwood

You should of course talk with your health provider about when to go to the hospital. But your home is generally more comfortable.

As some explained:
I wish I had known how many people would be coming in and out of the room [at the hospital]. You are at your most vulnerable — exhausted, naked, and in pain — and all of these new people keep coming in and out of your room. It can really mess up the vibe, when stress is the enemy of productive childbirth.

— Mary Elizabeth from Prospect Lefferts Garden

I wish I had known how invasive monitoring can feel.

— Sarah from Harlem

Monitoring usually requires the expectant mom to wear a fetal heart rate monitor around her belly and, to get an accurate reading, mom isn’t supposed to move a lot. A dropped or missing heart rate will usually prompt a nurse to rush in.

That monitoring, and active labor itself, could go on for many hours — or it could be less than an hour.

Pain is completely different when you're being induced….There was no gradual come-on of labor symptoms when I had my water broken. It all happened at once, and it hurt so bad.

— Maliyka from Bed Stuy

Even though the delivery resulted in a healthy baby, some women had some regrets about how they delivered, particularly if it was by C-section, a major surgical procedure in which the baby is removed directly from the uterus.

I wish that I hadn't been so set on a natural birth. I felt so guilty for a long time that my body had failed me when it really wasn't my fault.

— Gwynne from Windsor Terrace

C-sections usually cost much more than a vaginal delivery and requires a longer recovery, typically four to six weeks. And despite the growing national rate of C-sections, there’s been very little improvement in overall outcomes.

I wish I had known how harrowing a C-section really, truly is. It is a major abdominal surgery that takes a minimum of 6 weeks to heal. Because I never really believed I would have to have a C-section to deliver my son, I did very little research.

— Judith from Midwood

But sometimes surgery is necessary, so it’s good to learn about its implications.

Never in a film or a television program that I’ve ever seen do they have a woman having a C-section.

— Eisa from Fort Greene

After delivery, some moms wished hospital providers had done a better job telling them what happened to the baby.

I wish they would be more explicit about what they do with the baby once it’s born. I didn't feel I was the person making decisions over my child. 

— Tania from Harlem

But it’s also easy to be so focused on the delivery process that you spend less time that you’d like planning for afterwards.

I wish I'd approached it more like a wedding. That it's one day, and the hard part, like marriage, comes afterwards when you get home.

— Sara from Inwood

I wish I had known more about how to care for baby while recovering, especially from a C-section. I felt like every piece of information only came to me right before I needed it or too late.

— Sukjong from Williamsburg

And while many moms expect to be happy after delivery, it’s also normal to feel down. Federal health estimates suggest around 13 percent of new mothers experience postpartum depression.

#WishIHadKnown that postpartum anxiety/depression are not disorders to be ashamed of! Millions of women suffer + need treatment.

— Amie (via Twitter) 

Ultimately, moms felt grateful if they had a good health provider, whether it be a midwife, nurse or doctor, to help them through the transition.

I didn't need to be ‘in control’....If my care provider had told me that I needed a C-section, I would have trusted her decision -- not because I went into it blindly, but (quite the contrary) because she and I had had long conversations during my pregnancy about risk and benefit, and I knew that she understood my desires for my birth....

— Katie from Cobble Hill

To help you find the place and team that’s right for you, here are some questions to ask your provider.