Childbirth 101 (Slightly Mature!)

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This post is primarily for me and Cameron to revisit if we get pregnant again in the future. It is a nice way to organize our thoughts and what we learned. It is secondarily for those of you who are just interested in what goes on in a childbirth class!

Childbirth Express Class

Friday 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM
Saturday 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Here is a picture of our instructor for the weekend, Ruby!

Me with Rubina

Stages of Labor

Stage 1: Opening of the Cervix
Phase 1: Early Labor
This stage lasts from 6-12 hours, and the cervix gets to about 3 cm during this stage.

Here’s the stage where you just hang out at home, contractions are regular but not really super close together or super powerful. You can walk and talk throughout. This is a good time to eat some snacks and make sure to stay hydrated!

What you’re looking for, before you head to the hospital, is known as 5-1-1. Basically, if the contractions are 5 minutes apart, last 1 minute each, and this continues for 1 hour, then you should head on over to the hospital!

Phase 2: Active Labor
This stage lasts 3-5 hours usually, and the cervix gets up to about 7 cm.

This is when things get a little more intense. You’re usually at the hospital by this point. If you want to get drugs (particularly an epidural), it’ll happen during phase 2. [Note: I plan on going drug-free!]

During active labor (and the rest of the stages), it’s recommended that you don’t eat anything besides popsicles and ice chips. The reason is that, since you’re tensing up and getting overheated and all that, you’ll probably throw it up anyway. Actually, I forgot the REAL reason, but that was one of the reasons.

Phase 3: Transition
This stage lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. The cervix makes it to 10 cm. Woohoo!

Here is where most folks lose it. 🙂 In other words, you start feeling disoriented and weak and frustrated. Contractions are way closer together and super powerful. But the baby’s getting closer! So stick with it!

Stage 2: Pushing and Birth

This is it. This could take a while, and sometimes this can be frustrating because you FEEL the need to push, but it won’t really be worth it. So the doctor will tell you to just breathe instead of pushing. (I’ll talk about breathing in a minute.)

Finally, when the baby reaches the point where he’s crowned (you can see the top of his head), you’ll push, then breathe, then push, breathe, and so on.

What’s kind of neat is that the baby knows what’s up. He gets into the right position (if he’s head down to begin with), and he’ll turn his little body so he fits easier coming out. When his head comes out, the doctor will wait for him to turn his own head to align with his little shoulders, and THEN the doctor will pull him out the rest of the way. If everything went pretty smoothly, they’ll just plop him down on your chest right away.

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbilical cord has not yet been cut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stage 3: Delivery of the Placenta

Your body knows what it’s doing. Some point after the baby comes out, you’ll have a few more contractions to deliver the placenta. You’ll probably be too busy and overwhelmed to notice it even happens.

Right afterward…
As soon as the baby is born, it’s important to have that skin-to-skin contact (if possible). It’s also a good idea to breastfeed the baby within the first hour. You don’t want to get engorged (that means there’s too much milk in there), and immediate breastfeeding apparently makes a difference. So the baby’s little stomach is only the size of a walnut. Also, it’s not milk that comes out at first! It’s some other stuff (I forget the name of it) that helps build up antibodies in the baby.

NOTE: Here’s another thing to consider: while you’re going through it, you don’t want to respond to phone calls and texts (and neither should your coach <– that’s Cameron). People will want to know how you’re progressing, which is fine. But you shouldn’t keep in touch with everyone. Come up with a system ahead of time. Call your moms, then they can call the grandmothers, and they can call the aunts, and so on. That way, you aren’t on the phone with a bunch of people all day.

Picture from childbirth class

Breathing and Other Relaxation Stuff

Neither Cameron nor I realized that he would be sooo involved. I mean, I knew he’d be there with me the whole time. I imagined he would hold my hand, maybe rub my back a little here and there, tell me I’m awesome, you get the idea. But he’s basically having to do stuff the whole entire time.

Here’s a nice article from a dad’s point of view: Dad’s Experience of the Miracle of Childbirth

On Saturday, we spent a lot of time practicing breathing and different body positions to help with discomfort.

It’s hard to talk about “how to breathe” using words. But basically, we learned 3 types of breathing. Some people will use just one of them up until the transition. During transition, things get intense, and a lot of people tense up and hold their breath. Or they scream. And those are not what you want to do! Relax and breathe. Ruby suggested “blowing out candles”: short, shallow breaths for a short period of time. You won’t really be able to get a good deep breath at that point. And screaming is no good because you’re tensing up and breathing OUT!

Cam got to massage me a lot on Saturday. 😀 There is a touch massage, which is what he’ll do if he notices I’m tensing up my shoulders. He’ll just calmly run his hand down my back or along my shoulders (or wherever he notices the tension).

Guys, never start doing a for real massage without asking! It could be the last thing she wants.

She recommended finding things around your house to use for massage: a rolling pin, tennis balls in a sock, that sort of thing. Imagine if you’re the guy, and you’re having to massage her for 10 hours. I mean, your hands are going to get tired obviously. Those items should help.

The guys in the room seemed to get weirded out by this… But I don’t get the big gross factor.

Basically, if you are peeing, and you can stop the pee, the muscles you use are the same ones you want to strengthen. If you get those muscles stronger, then you’ll be much less likely to tear down there when the baby comes out. She recommended getting into a squat position and trying to tighten up for 10 seconds at a time. Heck, while you’re sitting there in your chair, try holding them for 10 seconds.

Here is a PDF of the stuff that the partner/coach can do!

I have been hearing and reading a bit about breastfeeding, but there were a few things that Cam and I learned.

For one, Cam learned that it’s important to breastfeed right after the baby is born.

Another thing is this:
When babies breastfeed, it seems like it’s all about mom. They smell the milk, they smell mom, they feel mom’s heartbeat, and so on. How can dad get involved at all? Well here’s how…

During the night, when the baby starts to cry, have dad get up first. He can change him and put on a new little outfit if needed. Then DAD will hand baby over to mom. She’ll breastfeed. Then DAD will take baby and burp him, then he will hand him back to mom. She’ll breastfeed a little more on the other side. Then DAD will take baby and burp him again. Then dad will put baby back to bed. That way, the baby will associate the milk with the smells of both mom and dad.

Later, at around 4 weeks, you try using a bottle for the first time. Let Dad give the first bottle! It’ll smell like mom’s milk, but baby will be used to dad’s smell too. You don’t want the baby to freak out all the time if Dad’s the only one around to feed him.


Ruby had a good idea! She said that, after the baby is born, all your peeps are going to want to come over and check him out. Some people end up having constant visitors the first few weeks. They want to see and hold the baby and all that, but mom is exhausted! (Come on, people! Duh.) What she suggested is this: Plan a two-hour window on a weekend day (say, this Saturday from 3-5), and that’s when people can come see the baby. Mom, you can put on some makeup and a normal outfit and look all cute for just a short while. Anyone who wants to come by should do it at that point. Encourage everyone to bring a meal in an oven-safe container! And then you get it all out of the way at once.

The Hospital Bag

This will be a totally separate post, but here’s the short version: You should have 2 bags, one for mom and one for dad. There are lots of items I had NOT thought of, and many are just obvious.

I’ll link up to this post whenever I make that post (it should be later this week, for sure!).

Cameron’s Reflection
Cameron really appreciated learning about the experience of it all. There are so many emotions (for both of us) throughout. At first, there’s anxiety and discomfort. That moves toward frustration and exhaustion. And it all climaxes with relief and joy and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride. In his words, “It’s great storytelling.”

Since I have less than 6 weeks until my due date, there are some things I gots to do!

1. Create a birth plan. I have a doula, Candice, whom we’ll meet with this week.
2. Find out my doctor’s direct number (if it’s different from the main hospital one).
3. Find a pediatrician!
4. Pack the hospital bags.
5. Practice breathing, massage, and strengthening exercises.
6. Ask my doctor about her policies regarding what to do if my water breaks and how she feels about 5-1-1.

That’s it, folks! I’ll probably post an actual “MY childbirth story” some time after the baby’s born.



2 responses »

  1. Love this so fun to read and learn early (not due till oct) thanks so much for sharing this! I especially love the tips about getting dad involved in the feeding process so smart!

  2. I’ve done all this 3 times, but still had fun reading about it since my youngest baby will be 4 soon:) and the stuff that comes in before your milk is called colostrum. and did you know that your milk changes as your baby grows and his needs change? breastfeeding rocks!!


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