Hospital births are not for everyone — but they are for many modern moms, still. Although it’s more and more common for mothers to turn to birthing centers and even home births as they expand their families, many still appreciate the security and reliability that a hospital provides. Plus, it’s all part of a much larger system including insurance companies, money-making, and more, but that, my friends and fellow mothers, is another article entirely.
I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve done it twice. I’m the type to reflect on and write about what I’ve been through, and I think understanding what I enjoyed about my birth experiences—as well as what I did—has helped me to be more at peace with them. Or to see them for what they were. Or at least to feel like I have an understanding and therefore some amount of control over them.
Like many women, I appreciated the hospital experience — except for when I didn’t. And so here are the 20 most annoying things about being admitted while in labor.
A quiet, dark room. Or, like, a quiet dark box — if you happen to be a cat or dog… See, we’re mammals, and after giving birth twice, I’ve realized (or had, confirmed, rather) just how important solitude can be. When ‘welcomed’ by nurses in triage, having to answer questions while they stare and type is not ideal.
Preregistration is something that, in my experience, will be encouraged quite strongly during all of those early prenatal appointments. Why, then, with the paperwork done, the health history on file, and all the boxes checked, must they then ask the same questions all over again in triage (where the admission process is carried out — or delayed)?
The nurses working triage in the labor and delivery unit of a hospital have a job: to assess who needs to be admitted and who still has a while to go. The way they judge this is by examination to see how dilated a laboring mother is. If she’s not considered far enough along, she may be sent home. If she’s sorta close, well, check out the next entry…
If not quite dilated enough to be admitted, triage nurses will likely encourage moms to stay mobile and walk the hospital’s halls in order to help labor to continue to progress. This happened to me. It was not fun. Fave place I’ve labored? The dark quiet of my bedroom at night. Least fave? The bright hospital halls with zero privacy.
The lights are bright. You’re wearing a HOSPITAL gown. Your lovely familiar toilet is miles away, along with your wonderful bed. Women’s labors sometimes slow or even stall once they get to the hospital because it’s just not necessarily a place that’s conducive to laboring well. I would have rather been on hands and knees on my clean carpet, and instead was leaning in agony against tacky wallpaper.
I absolutely refused, both times, to be wheeled in. They didn’t insist, but they offered, seeing as this is pretty standard for patients arriving to a hospital. Being seated in the car and strapped in had been agony, and I did NOT want to repeat that. Movement was my friend. Sitting in a chair was not.
Whereas at home I had been coping rather well, right around the time things got intense and I had to start actually coping, we found ourselves heading to the hospital in the car. And as I mentioned, sitting down like that was pretty much the kryptonite to my super-labor-coping success of the hours before. Movement got me through the hard times, and being stuck and seated threw me off, big time.
Dressing and undressing may not seem like complicated things… Try being pregnant. Then try coping with contractions, slowly and steadily building in intensity until another human comes out of you. Nurses will say it’s time to go to the restroom and change into a gown. Amid diarrhea (see next entry), building pain, and more, what an interruption!
Some people prefer to go in their own homes. Some are less rigid about the whole thing. But in labor and right before, the body often decides to let loose, resulting in many trips to the porcelain throne. And so, while a nurse is trying to ask you annoying questions and you’re realizing oh that’s what real contractions are, you may also be doing something that requires frequent flushes.
If it’s not immediately obvious that a baby is coming out of you right here, right now, it’s triage for you, mama, where the nurse assigned to that duty for the night (a common time to go into labor, but hey, it could be any time of day) will suss it all out. It’s a separate little room — an "almost there" room. It lacks privacy and comfort and hope, and it’s full of interrogation and checks and even being left and ignored.
So the preregistration paperwork was completed months ago, sometime around week 19 or even earlier. So why do they need to ask your health history while you’re being admitted, or waiting agonizingly in triage? Sad thing is, it’s not unlikely that there’ll be a shift change or someone will need to go on break, resulting in a repeated questioning by a new unfamiliar face.
Ever been hospitalized before? Any major health problems in your past? Does talking about these things make you feel relaxed and confident — or quite the opposite? That’s what I thought. But being admitted to the hospital means being asked questions about medical history, problems with meds, and more, so be prepared for these stressors.
He (or she) doesn’t want to leave your side. But the birthing partner also cannot leave the car blocking the hospital entrance for all that long. Perhaps there’s a parking garage nearby or a lot around the back. But it can’t be left abandoned, in most cases. And so this is yet another thing the two of you will have to think about — beyond just getting there at the right time.
In all likelihood, there will be a moment or a few minutes or more of having to apart from your support person, which can be very disruptive to the flow of labor and coping. See, they will have to actually go park the car, perhaps getting a ticket or paying or however it works at the hospital in your particular region.
We’re used to keeping the fluids that come out of our bodies quite contained and quite private. It’s sort of just how society works. And although amniotic fluid may leak at a trickle, or in some cases not come out at all until you’re in the birthing room, it may also be impossible to contain with clothing or even the most absorbent of pads, meaning leaving a trail behind you.
Imagine how many births these nurses see during each and every shift, whether they work in the hospital of a small town or a massive metropolis. This can lead to them not reacting how, well, you might expect, given that you are going through something really important and challenging and life-changing.
And so, even if you’d been laboring well at home, it may be that much harder to maintain those good vibes. Yes, while contractions build in intensity and things get really, really real, the expressions and words of the strangers you encounter in scrubs may present yet another challenge in the quest to cope calmly.
Husband (and birth partners of all sorts) are only humans, after all, and they are under no small amount of stress as they are tasked with supporting a woman in labor. On top of being there for her physically and emotionally as it turns out she needs it, the partner will also have to lug in whatever stuff the two partners need, which, I can tell you from experience, may be forgotten in the car amid the chaos, er, excitement.
Moms spend months considering what they’ll pack in that hospital bag. Lists not unlike this one tell you what you better not forget, what might really help you in the labor process and afterward. And I think it helps moms feel more in control of a process that really can’t be controlled in the least. But after the dash to the hospital, grabbing that bag might be forgotten, and so it was all for naught.
Think cats and dogs back on the farm, in the Americana lore of the past. Mammals like to have privacy and dark when they labor, which is similar to how they like to sleep. It all feels safe and secure and comfortable. This is why hospitals can be problematic, in perhaps the most major way; they're actually not only are they bright as can be, but they’re also kept air-conditioned as all get out.