Google: "What does childbirth feel like?" Google: "Epidural; pros and cons." Google: "How painful is delivery?" Google: "Episiotomy."
Does this sound familiar? This was me during pregnancy. It was like watching a car accident. I knew I shouldn't look, I knew it would just freak me out, but I kept Googling in hopes that I would ease my anxiety about the impending birth of my baby. Of course, it had the opposite effect. The more research I did, the more scared I became. I was terrified the epidural would wear off and I was so afraid of this "ring of fire" moms talked about. What did it feel like? How would I handle that much pain? I was terrified of the after effects; what was going to happen to my body? I had lots of friends who were pregnant too, and they seemed to be doing the same thing. We'd talk about waking up at 2 am just to Google some fear that had been clawing at our subconscious all day.
My obsession was fed at work as well. Co-workers bombarded me with stories of their own births, of epidurals not working, (my other big fear), of babies coming too fast for medication and of horribly painful contractions. I knew I shouldn't listen, but I couldn't help it. At night, I'd have conversations with my cousin, and she'd say things like, "I didn't want to tell you this until now, but here's something else about post-delivery..." She'd protected me from all the information for years, but now that I was getting ready to have a baby, it was time to tell me everything.
I started to realize that pregnancy was like an exclusive club. Before I got pregnant, I knew a little about what happens through the 40 weeks and beyond, but nothing at all compared to what people told me. It's like this big secret women keep from each other. They let other women in slowly, when they're ready, but not before. Why is this? Is it because women who've been through it don't want to scare other women? Is it because in the end, as they say, once you see your baby, none of it matters anyway?
On my son's birthday, after 14 hours of labor and my his little heartbeat getting dangerously low during contractions, my doctor decided that an emergency c-section was the best choice. "You'll be sore for a little while," she said. "And it'll be hard to stand up for two days or so, but women get exponentially better after each recovery day."
After shedding a few tears at the initial shock of this news, I acquiesced and was wheeled into the delivery room, chatting with the nurses about how this OR looked nothing like the one on "Grey's Anatomy."
Interestingly enough, one emotion I didn't feel while being prepped for surgery was anxiety. And here's why. A cesarean was the one thing I didn't read about. I didn't even think about the possibility of a c-section, so I had absolutely no knowledge of what it entailed, what the risks were, and what the recovery was like. As far as my recuperation, since I hadn't heard any horror stories, I just rolled with the punches. Some days were painful, but soon I was better. Plus, the baby provided an amazing distraction. If I had known everything that 'could've' happened in regards to the c-section, would I have had a panic attack going into the OR? Maybe. But since I didn't know anything, I wasn't afraid; just excited to meet my son.
So the question is this: What does information overload do to a person? Each birth is different and each woman has her own experience. Does reading and learning from other women help or just provide endless hours of anxiety? You can read experience after experience, hoping to predict your own, but in the end, the birth of your baby will be unlike any other.
So yes, learning the facts is important to stay healthy during pregnancy. Having a flexible birth plan in place and knowing what you want for delivery are also important components. But can we learn too much? Is it better to just deal with it when it happens instead of spending hours feeling stressed and nervous? Or is learning as much as possible necessary for a successful childbirth?
Where do you stand on this issue? Do you think it's better to have all the information or would you rather not know everything?
Sarahlynne is a Parenting Guru and is working on a novel for young adults.