Before having my baby girl, I did a lot of research into what my hospital birth experience might be like. I read lots of blogs, watched lots of videos, listened to podcasts, all the things. I wanted to know what to expect.
However, every hospital, every care provider, every birth, is unique. I knew there would be some unexpected elements to my hospital stay. So in case you’re wondering what those things are, I wrote them here for you. Maybe this will give you a little insight into what might happen when you go to the hospital to have your baby!
1. Starting Penicillin Immediately
At 37 weeks gestation, I had been diagnosed with Group B Strep, a naturally-occuring bacteria in my body that could potentially make my baby sick if she came in contact with it during birth. This meant I had to get Penicillin through an IV every 4 hours, and I’d need at least 2 doses before giving birth.
When I went into the hospital for my induction at 41 weeks, I knew that the induction would likely be a long process, especially since it was my first baby and I was only half a centimeter dilated to start. I expected that when I got to the hospital, the nurses would get the induction started and then give me Penicillin hours into the process, perhaps when they suspected that I was 8 hours or so from actually giving birth.
I did not expect that as soon as I got to the hospital, they would give me an IV and start my first dose of Penicillin. Yet that’s exactly what happened. They started giving me Penicillin RIGHT AWAY!
Now this isn’t harmful, so I get why they did it. There was a chance that my induction could go really quickly and they wanted to be prepared for that scenario. However, my labor ended up being nearly 40 hours long, so I ended up getting 9 or 10 doses of Penicillin before giving birth. That’s a lot more than I had expected!
2. Terrible Food
Hospitals are not 5 star restaurants. I get that. But I underestimated just how bad hospital food could be.
I didn’t want to eat anything during my labor, but after my baby was born, I was hoping to eat something. I tried oatmeal, I tried pizza, I tried cereal. All of these foods were so terrible I couldn’t eat more than a couple bites. How do you mess up cereal? Somehow, this hospital did.
Thankfully, my husband had packed a massive bag of snacks for us, so that’s what we ended up eating for the most part. We were so glad to have those snacks!
3. One Labor Nurse
When I envisioned being at the hospital in labor, I had always thought there would be several nurses flitting about, in and out of the room. However, when it came time for me to actually labor at the hospital, I found out that there was actually only one nurse assigned to care for me during each 12-hour shift. She was the one giving me medication through my IV, checking the baby’s heartbeat, taking my vitals, and all that good stuff.
I liked having that one nurse that I could get comfortable with for half the day. It was a nice surprise to find out that there was someone specifically assigned to me at all times, for anything I needed.
4. Teeny Tiny Shower
I was glad my labor room had a bathroom attached to it with a shower. I loved using the warm water to ease the pain of my contractions.
However, the shower was SO TINY that I had to leave the shower curtain open, or I’d feel claustrophobic! This resulted in a literal pool of water on the bathroom floor next to the shower, and I had to keep asking for extra towels to wipe it up.
Pregnant women aren’t known for being tiny, so I’m not sure why my hospital decided to install such puny little showers in their laboring rooms.
5. Encouraging Hospital Staff
The hospital staff I encountered throughout my hospital stay were all very encouraging and helpful. Despite there being a global pandemic going on, and being understaffed, these nurses, midwives, food service workers, and everybody else stayed positive and on the top of their game the whole time.
Even though I had hoped this would be the case, I didn’t necessarily expect it going into my birth. I’m so thankful that the hospital staff were wonderful.
6. Easy & Effective Epidural
Going into my birth, I saw the epidural as a bunch of risks. I thought about how it could fail and I could be stuck in bed still feeling the worst pain of my life. I thought about how it could result in back pain or awful headaches.
When I ended up getting an epidural though, against everything I had planned, I found out it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. I didn’t feel it going in. The anesthesiologist placed it quickly and perfectly. It took away all my pain while still allowing me to feel pressure to know when to push.
I could still move my feet and legs. I didn’t get a headache, or a back ache, or have any other adverse effects from the epidural. Overall, it was easy and effective for me. The epidural allowed me to get in a much needed nap before pushing, and to relax enough to fully dilate. I barely tore at all during birth, and I credit that to the epidural, too, since I’m sure I would’ve tensed up a lot more without it.
So I’d say if you’re considering an epidural, know the risks but also know the benefits. Don’t let fear of the what-ifs get in the way of something that might actually help you a lot. As my midwife kept telling me, just think positive. Focus on what can go right rather than what could go wrong.
To read my complete birth story, check out the post My Birth Story - What Happens When The Best Laid Plans Don’t Go To Plan
7. Starting Pushing Before My Midwife Was Present
While my midwife was with me during much of my labor, she had stepped out of my room for a while during my pre-pushing nap. When I started feeling the urge to push, I called my labor nurse in, and she found out that I was at 10cm and ready to push.
So she got me into a pushing position and said, “okay, you can start pushing now.” I was surprised, since I had expected that my midwife needed to be in the room in order for me to start pushing. But my labor nurse told me we didn’t need to wait - and I just needed to push! So I did, and soon my midwife arrived.
8. Lack of Breastfeeding Support
The hospital I delivered at has been given awards for being “baby friendly,” meaning that they allow the baby to room-in with mom, encourage skin-to-skin time, provide breastfeeding support, and overall keep the whole experience baby-centered. So I had expected that as soon as my baby was born, a lactation consultant would be there coaching me through breastfeeding for the first time.
Well, I had my baby, they laid her on my chest, cleaned her off, gave her a hat, did all the basic care for both of us. Before I knew it, 45 minutes had passed and still, no one had offered to help me get her to latch. I had learned through my own research that it’s most beneficial for the baby to latch within the first hour of life. I was coming up on that, and my little girl was rooting around like she was hungry, so I just followed my instincts and breastfed her.
She knew how to latch naturally. I wasn’t 100% sure how to hold her, but I did my best. She fed for at least half an hour before my labor nurse finally came over to me and said, “Oh! You’re breastfeeding her!” As if she was surprised at that…
I wanted to say, “Well, duh. It had been almost an hour. Shouldn’t you as a labor nurse at a baby-friendly hospital know that breastfeeding should start within that first golden hour?” But instead, I just smiled and she checked the latch to make sure it was good. She then showed me 2 different ways I could hold my baby while feeding.
And that was basically the extent of my breastfeeding support. I had expected a lot more help. Maybe since my baby got the hang of it on her own, they just didn’t see a need to provide me with additional support. Maybe the craziness of the pandemic and being understaffed made it hard for them to give me the proper support.
Whatever the case, I’m glad I did my own research on breastfeeding ahead of time so that I knew at least somewhat how to do it. If you’re pregnant and planning to breastfeed, start learning about it now! Don’t just assume you’ll have someone there to hold your hand and walk you through it at the hospital. You might have that, but you might not. Be prepared either way.
9. All Testing For Baby Done In Our Room
Before giving birth, I was expecting that my newborn would have to leave my hospital room occasionally for various testing. However, as it turned out, all of her tests could be done right in our room. I really liked this because I liked seeing what was going on and being there to hold my baby’s hand when she got upset.
For some tests, I had the option to let them do it in the nursery, or to have it done in my room. I always chose the latter.
10. Seeing a Pediatrician That Baby Could Keep
Before having my baby, I put a lot of thought and energy into choosing a pediatrician for her. Honestly, I felt kind of lost doing it because I didn’t really know what to look for or how I could know if the pediatrician I chose could be trusted with my child. I called around during my pregnancy and finally found a pediatrician with a good reputation who was accepting new patients. All I needed to do was call after my baby was born and schedule her first appointment.
Little did I know that in the hospital, there would be a pediatrician who would see my baby right away, and that I could choose to have her continue seeing that same pediatrician throughout her childhood.
I was so grateful for this option when the original pediatrician I had chosen told me they were no longer accepting new patients - even though they had told me a month ago that they would take my daughter! This was so frustrating, but I was glad that my baby girl could just continue to see the pediatrician she had seen in the hospital, which I actually felt more comfortable with anyway, since we had met and I got good vibes from her.
11. Leaving Early
Going into my hospital birth, I had been told that we’d probably need to stay in the hospital for 2 nights after the baby was born.
Much to our surprise, we ended up only having to stay one night! Since our baby girl was born very early in the morning, we were able to get in all the testing and check all the boxes to be discharged the next day by noon.
And boy, were we glad to be able to go home so soon!
So there you have it, 11 things I didn’t expect for my hospital birth. Was there anything that caught you by surprise at your birth? Leave it in the comments below.
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