What REALLY Happens in the Delivery Room

Can’t We Hurry This Along?

“Both mothers and fathers are surprised about how long delivery takes,” says Jane Hanrahan, ICCE-CD, president of the International Childbirth Education Association. “On TV shows like Maternity Ward, four or five babies are born in a half hour.” And the biggest challenge of a long delivery—which can last many, many hours, especially for first births—is exhaustion. “One thing I hear time and time again is, ‘I wasn’t prepared for how tired I’d be,’” says Hanrahan. When you’re tired, adds Moray, you can’t handle pain as well. Starting labor well rested is the best preparation you can get.

Incredible Shrinking Baby?

An increase in older mothers, as well as the prevalence of technology, means that many women get multiple ultrasounds during their pregnancies. The measurements taken during these scans often leave the parents expecting the baby to be a certain size. “One couple I worked with recently was sure the baby would be nine pounds,” says doula Brenda J. Lane, ICCE, CD (DONA), of Annapolis, Maryland. “It turned out to be six pounds.” Be aware that while ultrasounds are reliable when it comes to knowing the gender, the margin of error in terms of the baby’s size means that you should be ready for anything from a petite gymnast to a beefy linebacker.

When You’ve Gotta Go…

A young girl typically learns to be modest about her body and its functions, but after nine months of spreading her legs for medical professionals, a pregnant woman generally loses her inhibitions—except one. “For many women,” says Pearson, “one of the most shocking surprises is that, in front of your husband and various dignitaries, you sometimes have to have a large bowel movement.” It only hinders the delivery process if you try to stop it from happening, so he tells his patients, “Just relax and let go—nature is nature, after all.”

He Can’t Stop Crying

The typical father, say the experts, is simply not prepared for how much he’s going to love his baby. “They know intellectually that a baby’s coming,” says Hanrahan. “But because they haven’t been carrying it for nine months, it’s just not real to them. Mornay agrees: “We see a lot of dads who are pretty cavalier about the whole thing beforehand—and then they just sob when the baby is born.”