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Triathlete Blog

Labor & Delivery 101

By February 26, 2010July 20th, 2015No Comments

The other day I was reading a book about labor and delivery. And I was only 20 pages into the book when it occurred to me at some point this will pregnancy will end. I will have to deliver this baby. And it will not be fun.

For the most part, pregnancy is fun. You get a free pass to just “be” for 40 weeks of your life. You have an excuse for everything. It’s like training for your first Ironman. You are a rock star. Everyone is excited to talk with you about it, to share their experience and offer their support. I’ve heard that by the second pregnancy, you’re lucky if someone even holds a door open for you. I imagine by the third people are asking you to open the door for them.

But at some point you realize that the fun will come to an end. I was in a store the other day and a baby was wailing. Not just crying – wailing. It struck me that in less than 5 months, that mother trying frantically to rock and hush her baby might be me. It also struck me that I might not leave the house after July for a very long time.

At first I wasn’t even going to read the book. Angela gave the book to me a few months ago and mentioned that once she was giving birth, she was glad she had read it. But I was hesitant for a few reasons. First of all, many have advised me not to read books. Too much information, it will scare you, go by your intuition, do what feels right. Secondly, do I really want to know? I coach some athletes who refuse to do a half Ironman before the full Ironman. Why? They don’t want to know half of how bad it’s going to hurt. I finally get it. Because there is something about reading about birth that makes me a little scared. Do I really want to know how excruciatingly painful, awful, messy and get this baby out of me RIGHT NOW it is going to be?

I don’t know.

Finally, I gave in to the book. It was time to face my fears and get me some labor and delivery education. Soon I realized that there are things I already know, things I should know, things I don’t want to know. This book covered all of it.

A few chapters in, the author started talking about pain. It occurred to me that most women may not have a scale to measure pain – know what I mean? Sure, there is emotional pain, and ow I stubbed my toe pain but how often do most “normal” women experience pain when they go from bed to car to desk to couch to bed again? Where is the pain?

I think I may have an advantage here. You see, I have spent years burning in my own physical pain. I know what it feels like to get to zone 5c. I have blown up. I have done 25s no breath underwater and then peed myself. Pain is a familiar language to me. I get it. The up to my eyeballs in lactic acid pain. The shaky I just spent too long above my threshold pain. The I missed the interval but oh shit I have to keep swimming hard or else I will get lapped pain.

I miss pain. Really, I do.

So when the author started talking about pain, I listened. But she explained something I really didn’t understand. She said that most physical pain we have experienced usually lessens over time. Labor is the opposite. It worsens then it stops. I thought about it in regards to my pain experience. The pain I know doesn’t stop until you hit the rest interval. The pain I know builds. I thought about Ironman. At no point did the pain of Ironman subside. It got worse and worse until finally at mile 22 it felt like two explosions that were really just blisters bursting followed by my quads tightening. I continued to run – even faster – to get to the finish line. The pain continued to worsen until I crossed the line and even at that point the pain did not stop. Instead my body just throbbed with hot pain.

So maybe, just maybe, I am one step closer to grasping the pain of labor because I have done Ironman. Or maybe not. I am sure it is 100 times worse because at no point in Ironman does a small person travel down your backbone and through your vagina.

Though it feels like that around mile 80 of the bike.

The next thing the author did was talk about how to prepare for the pain. She suggested taking a bowl of ice cubes, grabbing a handful and squeezing it tight for 90 seconds. Is it wrong that the idea of doing that does not leave me scared? I go outside to my car each morning and sit on the ass cold seat when it’s below 20 degrees outside. It’s safe to say my ass grips a handful of ice cubes every day. I’ve sat in a sub-50 degree ice bath, completely naked, for 10 minutes. WITH NO MAGAZINE. Is this where the ordinary woman draws the line for pain tolerance? If you told me to shove those ice cubes in my mouth for 90 seconds while standing outside in 20 degrees, naked – NOW we are talking pain.

The book, though, was informative and prepared me – at least “theoretically” – about what to expect in labor. I anticipate it will hurt – bad. Very bad. I’ve been there in my mind and sometimes I get scared. I think most women have a vision of themselves giving birth or envisioned it at some point in life – and it involved a bad fitting hospital gown, screaming, gritting, pooping and … all I want to say is please spare me the post-labor close-up face picture. I don’t think I will want to revisit that look.

But while I might be “prepared” what about Chris? The ignorance of all things childbirth is so blissful husband. There are things he should know. Things we should talk about. The other night when Chris was riding in the basement, I took the opportunity to park myself in my basement-comfy-chair with the book. Then, I announced to Chris that I had a few questions to ask him about having the baby.

This is my time, he said as he turned back to look at me from the middle of his warm-up.

In the category of things never to say to your pregnant wife: That is not the correct answer.

I gave him that look back like listen I am sitting here with a stomach bursting out of a pair of cupcake pajama pants, 12 pounds heavier, I have urinated at least 20 times today and all I want is a glass of wine, the least you can do is answer a few questions about what is going to be the most painful experience of my life.

I am just kidding.

That is the correct answer. Thank you.

What is your feeling about drugs during delivery?

It is your pain.

What about an epidural?

Whatever makes you happy.

How do you do with the sight of blood?


What about lots of blood and a placenta?

Ok, I know all of that stuff has to come out of you.

Do you want to be at the head of the bed or watching the baby come out at the end of the bed?

It doesn’t matter. Where ever you want me to be. Some people need to be in their box of pain by themselves. If you want me in there with you, I will be there.

(I got the sense that to Chris, having this baby will be like doing a 12 minute interval at CP6 – you just put yourself in the pain box and gut it out for the prescribed time no matter what it takes. This will be far worse than CP6 though. How about CP.2 for 26 hours straight).

So you don’t want to watch the baby being born.

(you could tell he hadn’t thought about it like that)

Let me put it this way, if you watch a small person come out of me will you ever been able to put your woo woo into my hoo ha again.

He paused, with an empty look across his face then said: I don’t know.

At that moment, it became clear. He has no idea what is coming. And so it was decided (by me). He will be standing at the head of the bed.

Time to move on to the more important isuses: What are you going to do if I poop myself?

You could tell that he had answer but like the questions above could sense there might be a right and a wrong answer. So I filled in his blank.

You will call me poopy pants.

I read through some of the other scenarios and questions – if I have C-section will he stay with me or go with the baby, what should we bring, who will call everyone. Having a baby requires some planning!

Then, things took a more serious turn.

Did you know there is no sex after child birth for at least 6 weeks?

Really? I figured it would be at least 8 weeks.

I was thinking it might be more like 8 to 10 years.

We both laughed. But as ridiculous as the conversation was, I think it helped. Because how often do you talk about these things. Sure, we know what life is like preparing before baby and roughly anticipate how completely disheveled life will become after baby. But in those hours directly en route to baby – how many couples have covered that?

Not that we have the road map – turns out, there is none, you just go the way the baby wants you to go – but I feel like we at least know the direction of where to go. And the things that may come up. Or, honestly the things that may come out (ewww). I feel one step closer to being prepared.

Heck, I’ve even started to make a list of things I will need when I come home from the hospital. And I am pleased to report that a 24-pack of granny panties is right up there next to wine, lots. Along with my post-delivery order for sushi.