They might sound a little out-there to you now, but there’s a solid chance that some of these thoughts will be yours, too, just before giving birth.

illustration of laboring woman thinkingShare on Pinterest
Illustration by Alyssa Kiefer

When my water broke spontaneously at 39 weeks, I was completely caught off guard. That was not part of the plan. I had just scheduled an induction, as recommended by my doctor, and, while I wasn’t in love with the idea of Pitocin-fueled contractions, I had accepted that at least this gave me a relative timetable and (the illusion of) control.

I like control. I could pick the date, the OB in my practice, and relish packing and preparing. Yes, this would be okay.

Alas, the best laid labor plans oft go awry; thus, I found myself rushing off to the hospital a week earlier than anticipated — my mind racing a mile a minute. Of course, my panicked pace wasn’t necessary.

While my membranes had, indeed, ruptured, I wasn’t in active labor yet and wouldn’t be for some time. In fact, I’d have a whole 36 hours to lie around in that hospital bed and think — obsess, really — about everything that would, could, and might go wrong.

I’d have ample opportunity to daydream about being a first-time mama, question my name choice, and indulge my overactive imagination in all the hypotheticals. To say that my erratic inner monologue was scattered would be an understatement.

Let me reassure you: It’s alright to have an array of thoughts run through your head during labor — although, not all of them will be totally normal. And that’s also fine. Here are 15 (interesting? amusing? irrational?) thoughts I had while in labor, and why it’s okay if you have them too.

Why did I think this was a good idea? I have a tendency to question every life decision in the eleventh hour, so it was no surprise that as contractions picked up, I started doubting my readiness to become a parent.

My husband and I were married for just 1 month when we intentionally became pregnant, and I worried that we were robbing ourselves of the spontaneity we relished during our dating years. More daunting still, I questioned my ability to care for a tiny helpless human.

As I paced the hospital halls dragging my IV cart, I knew it was a little late to be weighing the pros and cons of life with a newborn. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my typical game-day uncertainty was proof that I was selfish and not emotionally mature enough to be a responsible mom.

Delivery-day panic can mess with your mind. Don’t freak out if you feel anxiety the second it gets real. Transition is difficult regardless of how welcome and wanted the change may be.

But also really terrified. Waiting around for a baby to arrive can be tedious. The movies lie. Baby doesn’t fly out the second your water breaks. I suppose that may happen occasionally, but, in my personal experience, there is a lot of nothingness in between moments of motion.

It’s an odd juxtaposition and, yet, somehow completely normal to feel both utterly petrified and entirely bored at the exact same time. Oh, and excited and apprehensive and irrationally elated — there’s a whole gamut of emotions you may be feeling, and it’s a lot to juggle.

Suffice to say, you might find it difficult — as I did — to focus on reading or meditating or watching TV or listening to music. (Faith, don’t you dare tell me to “Just Breathe”; I’m huffing with an oxygen mask and, thanks for the reminder, but I’m trying over here.)

Yes, it can be hard to do pretty much anything other than wait and wonder and occasionally yell at well-intended loved ones — or country music stars.

One clichéd tip: Try to soak up the calmer moments of early labor, embrace the boredom, and welcome the quiet. Life is about to get real loud — just breathe. (Sorry, had to.)

No, seriously this is a slipping hazard. Sure, Hollywood embellishes, but, sometimes, that big water-break moment is as dramatic as those heavy-breathing actresses make it out to be — such was the case for me.

I was laying in bed, planning out my day when a little bit of liquid unexpectedly “slipped” out of my vagina. I chuckled and told my husband that I must have peed my pants. But when I went to the bathroom, I was perplexed by the drip-drip-drip I couldn’t quite quell with toilet tissue.

I returned to my bedroom to ask my husband if he thought I should call the doctor when — look out below — an actual monsoon poured out between my legs.

This aggressive waterfall flow didn’t stop as I packed my bag, and left my house, and got in the car, and walked into the hospital. I arrived at the maternity wing with saturated shoes and a telltale trail of amniotic fluid leading to my labor-and-delivery suite. What’s more, I somehow managed to wet the nurse’s scrubs so bad that she had to change as well.

If you think there’s something wrong, don’t hesitate to ask a medical professional, but a hearty heads up from one mom to another: If your water breaks spontaneously, grab some towels and check your flood insurance.

Am I doomed? Women have been birthing babies vaginally for thousands of years; I know my vagina is not special — I mean, it’s special to me, but, anatomically speaking, it’s pretty standard.

The vagina has elastic tissue that can stretch and rebound and recover. It’s pretty amazing and resilient. (I guess all vaginas are special.)

Nevertheless, I was scared of tearing, and even more worried about needing an episiotomy. I had been warned that my baby would be on the larger side, and had actual nightmares about the anticipated pain and recovery.

It’s totally normal to worry about the fate of your vagina. It’s okay to wonder if sex will hurt, or feel the same, or be as pleasurable for you and your partner, and it’s fine if your first question for the doctor upon vaginal delivery is “what’s the damage?” — even if it’s before you check on the sex of your new arrival. (Guilty!)

Stitches, no stitches, big baby, tiny baby, whatever the outcome, your vagina will be okay. In time.

Will Postmates deliver here? Labor and delivery is a massive workout. You need fuel to push a child out of your body.

So that “clear liquid diet” your doctor may prescribe, during an especially long preamble, is a total joke. Transparent chicken broth, wiggly-jiggly jello, and a can of lukewarm ginger ale — what’s the point? I remember thinking: “just funnel it into my IV.”

Oh, and if you happen to go into labor before your morning cup of coffee — sorry and good luck. You’re probably going to have to do this ferocious feat without a caffeine boost.

As if being denied a delicious assortment of regular food — sushi, cold cuts, and cured meats — for 9 months wasn’t torture enough, the fact that you might not be allowed to eat solids while you’re starving during labor adds insult to injury.

If you’re laying in that hospital bed daydreaming about cradling a beautiful 12-inch Italian hoagie, nibbling on its toasted edges, and professing your unconditional love to mortadella, know that you’re in good, ravenous company. Planning out your first postpartum meal in painstaking detail is completely the norm. Enjoy.

Like, that can’t be normal, right? I admit I was taken aback by the guttural noises happening in the room adjacent to mine. I even confess to judging — I was convinced this vociferous stranger was vying for her own Academy Award. Then it came time for me to push.

I quickly realized that birthing a child turns a woman into a warrior. My soul-sister new-mom neighbor was connecting with her body and pushing through an epic moment, quite literally.

Lesson learned: When it comes to laboring a child, “you do you.” Grunt, sigh, scream, sing — whatever it takes to make things happen.

This is so embarrassing. No one expects you to groom your nether regions when that first questionable contraction hits. Heck, at 9 months pregnant, it’s hard enough to thoroughly reach and clean all your body parts.

Let me be clear — you don’t have to shave, trim, or wax. It’s also OK to want to. If you’re used to keeping things neat and tidy, it’s completely normal to feel slightly embarrassed by any wild “situation” that may have developed down under.

I made excuses to every single person who walked in to “take a peek.” I must have repeated my conciliatory mantra 20 times, and was about to say it again, when I realized that the new person who walked in was just there to empty my trash.

Listen, labor and delivery is a beautiful and natural process, but it’s also an experience that can make you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable — you are literally spread-eagle being poked and prodded. It’s okay to feel awkward, but, keep in mind that you have nothing to apologize for and that these doctors and nurses have seen it all.

I feel weird asking, but “bleh.” I’m not particularly proud of this line of thought. But, as a squeamish first timer with a case of hemophobia, I wondered if they’d at least wipe the blood, guts, and mystery goo off my newborn before handing them over to me.

I couldn’t wait to lay eyes on the little amoeba that was perpetually punching and kicking and flipping and squirming around inside me, and was eager to put my lips on the cherubic cheeks I had spotted in those early ultrasounds. I just wondered — okay, hoped — that these magical first moments would happen without a layer of caked-on white gunk between us.

Am I a mermaid?

Epidurals can be amazing. One second you’re doubled over, shaking the bed rails in absolute agony, and the next you’re giggling about something silly your anesthesiologist said. But occasionally an epidural needs tweaking — as mine did.

I was skeptical about its effectiveness after the doctor came in to give me a little adjustment, and then the fentanyl mixer kicked in.

Instantly, my mind transported to a different plane, a dreamlike state of half-awakeness where I convinced myself that I was part mermaid, and subsequently imagined a whole episode of the 1990s hit medical drama “Chicago Hope.” What a trip.

The effects eventually tapered off, and I realized I was 100 percent human, but it was a wild ride while it lasted.

I hope it works. Managing external expectations is hard enough, but acknowledging that internal voice that says, “It’s not going to work, you’re going to fail,” can be even more difficult.

I put so much pressure on myself and worried that breastfeeding wasn’t going to happen for me — for us. Despite my pessimistic inner monologue, I had moments of overwhelming excitement. I couldn’t wait to hold my baby and experience what I hoped would be totally natural, innate, and beautiful. It was hard to believe that, after 9 long months, the first latch was imminent.

Are you kidding me?

My husband must have gone to the cafeteria every hour for a coffee, sandwich, bagel, smoothie, energy bar. You name it, he ate it. To this day, I’m not sure whether I was actually annoyed by his periodic absence or if it was jealousy masked as irritation — give me those carbs.

Either way, with hindsight — and a satisfying meal in my belly — I came to the realization that he was just trying to work out his own nervous energy.

Our partners hold our hands, and breathe with us, and stroke our hair, and advocate for our needs. But beyond providing occasional support and care, they can feel helpless. They have to find ways to cope, whether that means playing games on their phone or pacing the confines of a tiny hospital room. My husband? He ate his feelings.

I’ve got this. Experiencing and surviving the most intense moments of labor made me feel empowered and proud. Mama bears are born in delivery rooms and ORs, and you should remind yourself to celebrate this truth before, after, and during childbirth. You’ve got this.

Holy crap. My nurse told me that I’d know it was time to push when I felt like I had to poop. So when the pressure started to get intense, I dutifully informed her that, well, duty was calling. It took a good 5 minutes for them to locate my doctor, and in that time, I was writhing in the bed, yelling incoherently about crowning, baby claws, and bowel movements.

Heads up — or should I say head down — it can feel like your bottom is about to explode with the impending arrival of your child’s huge noggin. You may feel the need to tell anyone and everyone that you are definitely, definitely pooping.

One and done.

The physical and emotional pain of bringing a baby into the world takes a toll. In 24+ hours of labor, I wanted to “quit” no less than a dozen times. I couldn’t fathom how women do this over and over again — that moms of multiple kids willingly go through the contractions and confusion and complete chaos of childbirth more than once.

In the heat of the moment, I decided I wasn’t cut out for a repeat performance. You, too, may make a game-day decision: one and done. Don’t worry — no one will actually hold you to it.

I wish I could rewind and do it all over again.

And then, with one last push my baby was born. Time stood still and the world forever changed. I kissed that vernix caseosa-covered head (didn’t care at all) and ignored the OB dutifully at work, mending and tending and stitching.

I knew, without a shadow of doubt, I was ready to be a mom. And that Italian hoagie I pined for? Well, it could wait. Nothing else mattered. I had just survived the longest, quickest, hardest, most incredible 24 hours of my life — and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.


Lauren Barth is a freelance writer, online editor, and social-media marketer with 10+ years of experience in the ever-evolving media space. She has been featured as a lifestyle expert on national television and radio programs and in digital and print magazines. She lives with her husband and their three little comedians in the suburbs of New York City. In her very limited spare time, Lauren likes to sip coffee, stare at walls, and reread the same page of the book she falls asleep to every night.