By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
Labor is so miserable that it is the standard by which all other pain is judged"-Did it hurt when you broke your leg?" "Yeah but it wasn't childbirth."-and having done it five times I can tell you that there are right things to say to a woman in labor ("I snuck you in a Snickers bar!") and wrong things. Lots and lots of wrong things. Here are the things I most hated to hear while trying to push out the proverbial watermelon.
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1. "I can see the head! Oh never mind, he went back in." This propensity of babies to play hide-and-seek during pushing was news to me until I was in the midst of my first labor. It was both disheartening and horrifying. There should be no such thing as "back in"!
2. "Hey, I'm gonna go grab a burger-you want anything?" At any other time this would be very thoughtful, but coming back smelling like cheeseburgers when all I'm allowed to eat are ice chips and broth you might get punched. And also, what do you mean you're "going"? If I have to stay here then so do you.
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3. "Ready for a cervix check?" If you give birth in a hospital then everyone is going to want to check your cervix, often before they've even introduced themselves, much less bought you dinner. There isn't much you can do about it except insist they wash their hands first but still-I hated hearing it. Plus, they HURT.
4. "How have you been in labor for 24 hours and still only dilated to a 1?" I don't know but were you this annoying when I married you? (It turns out I'm an angry laboring woman-we always know when I'm in transition when I start yelling at people to get out of my face.)
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5. "Can you hurry up?" Oh was that an option? And here I was taking my own sweet time because this is just so. much. fun.
6. "It's not pain, it's just pressure." Upon the advice of a friend who raved about the program, I took a self-hypnosis birthing class before my 4th was born. Their mantra was to tell yourself "It's not pain, it's pressure." Well you know what? It's not pressure, it's horrific PAIN. How anyone can confuse the two, especially intentionally, I have no idea.
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7. "Your husband just fainted." Prop him up on a table, put his feet in some stirrups and shine a light up in his business-he'll wake right up.
8. "Whoops! You couldn't feel that? Wow, that's a good epidural." Wait... what?
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9. "Don't push." This is absolutely the worst thing you can say, hands down. When you get to where your body wants to push, trying not to is as easy as convincing a tween that someday they're going to be embarrassed about their Justin Bieber wallpaper.
10. "You don't need any pain meds-women have been having babies naturally for years!" I am not knocking natural childbirth-my last 3 were born without pain meds-but the only person who gets to say this is the woman in labor herself. You have no idea the kind of pain we are in and besides, as long as the baby comes out I consider that "natural" (That woman who had a fetus inside her for 30 years? That's unnatural.)
What did I miss? What's the worst thing someone said to you while you were in labor?
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a mom of five and the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and the blog of the same name.
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