You take all the birthing classes and read all the books on what to do during baby’s first few weeks of life. You’ve been working with a doula, a midwife, a spiritual healer and a pregnancy yoga teacher. You know what to expect during pregnancy, during (most of) the actual moments you deliver your baby, and after your baby. (If we’re honest you think you know what to expect during all of these events, but each will be full of surprises). There is just one thing nobody seems to cover. Maybe it isn’t glamorous, intricate or exciting enough to warrant its own book or class, but it is important: the delivery room. You could spend hours or days in there, depending on the length of your labor. The delivery room will become its own ecosystem, highly affected by the people in there, the layout of the room and much more. It can feel like a war zone at times and at others, a holy shrine. Here’s what to expect in the delivery room.

Some equipment looks scary

The equipment in the birthing room can look rather scary at first. You’ll likely be met with uplifting wallpaper and nice pillows, but it’s hard to warm up a room filled with what looks like mideival torture devices. But if your doctor needs that equipment later, you’ll be glad it’s there.

There will be fumes

You’re going to fart. A lot. In the face of the doctors and nurses helping you. Literally in their faces because they’ll be down in the trenches. But don’t worry about being embarrassed or apologizing because every woman does it.

You may wet the bed

There is also a very good chance you’ll wet the bed with more urine than you even knew your bladder could hold. Try not to feel bad when the nurses have to clean off the bed and change the sheets; it’s part of their job.

Epidurals can be tricky

The nurse may need several tries before she is able to get in the epidural. Most women are surprised by how tricky it is to get the epidural to stay, and can start to panic that it won’t kick in in time.

Sometimes epidurals don’t work

Here’s something your doctor probably won’t mention during the pre-labor days: your epidural may not work. It’s a rare occurrence, but in some women, it just doesn’t take and they have to feel every part of that labor.

It could be a learning experience

Don’t be surprised if you look around the room and notice a young person standing behind your doctor, taking notes—that could be a a medical student learning on-her-feet. And you can’t always trust medical students to behave themselves; they may ask you inappropriate questions like, “Is that smell normal?”

People can sneak in

The nurses and doctors will do their best to keep visitors to a minimum while preparing you to give birth, but once you’re crowning and things are in full swing, they’ll be too distracted to play security guard. For that reason, you may look up to see far more people than you expected around you.

Labor can last 20 minutes to days

Some women are told they’ll experience a long labor and pop out a baby in thirty minutes. Some women are told this one should be a breeze, and are in labor for a day and a half. Be prepared for either scenario.

The cord is hard to cut

The umbilican cord is surprisingly tough and hard to cut. Make sure someone with strong hands does it, or else it could take a while.

The cord can spray

Once you have cut the umbilical cord it can spray blood, like a scene out of some horror movie. But everybody in the room will already be covered in all types of fluid so it won’t matter.

Your pain meds game plan can change

If you can have a natural birth, that’s wonderful, but don’t stubbornly hold onto the idea. You could walk into the delivery room certain you won’t need pain medication, and end up screaming at the nurses to give you all the meds they have in the hospital. That’s okay.

The size of the baby may shock you

Between everything going on, you may not realize that you’re pushing out a rather large baby. Some women are surprised, due to the size of their stomach during pregnancy, and when they deliver, by the size of their little one.

You may have to wait to hold your baby

The second your baby comes out of you, he could be rushed off by one nurse for cleanup. Meanwhile, another nurse could be stitching you up. You may have to wait a little while to hold your little one, and he could pass through a few other hands first.

Your doctor will wear fishing gear

Well, not exactly, but between the galoshes and what looks like a rain pancho, you’ll think he’s getting ready for deep-sea fishing. He’s really just getting ready for all the fluids that are about to go everywhere.

A birthing plan? Ha.

Don’t get too attached to your birthing plan, as things in the delivery room rarely go according to plan. Have one, because it will give you some peace of mind walking in, but be ready to throw it out the window if the doctor says you have to.

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