Photo: Carson Meyer/@mandymoore via Instagram
People love to share their birth stories, but unless they're chatting up their closest of friends they usually gloss over most of the gory details. However, new mom Mandy Moore decided to forego that discretion when she appeared on the Informed Pregnancy Podcast and shared almost every aspect of her experience giving birth to her now three-week-old son, Gus.
Finally, we get to hear a celebrity share what labour is really like, and we're so here for Mandy normalizing the reality of giving birth. Here are five highlights from her birth story that we can totally relate to.
Anyone who's given birth can relate to plans going awry at the last minute. Having a baby is "a wild ride" (in Mandy's words) and in most cases, the best plan is to plan for your birth plan to change. (Although that doesn't mean you shouldn't still make one.)
Mandy had hoped for an unmedicated home birth, but ahead of her due date, she learned she would likely have to switch to a hospital birth. Then, the This Is Us actor's plans were once again revised when her labour came on a bit faster than expected. She had gotten a membrane sweep from her midwife on a Friday afternoon, and she and her husband expected a quiet weekend as a restful last hoorah before the baby came. However, that evening, Mandy felt "a little crampy" as they settled in to watch TV after dinner, but like many first-time moms, she didn't think it was the real deal just yet.
"My husband sort of got wide-eyed and I was like, 'No no no no no no no. Don't jump to any conclusions,'" Mandy told podcast host Elliot Berlin, who is also a prenatal chiropractor, childbirth educator and a labour doula. "I had crazy Braxton-Hicks for weeks and weeks and weeks and every time I walked I would feel lots of contractions, so I was dubious that this was the real thing—and sure enough it was." Luckily her husband, Taylor Goldsmith, decided to start timing her contractions and once they started to get closer together, he called their birthing squad to give them the heads up.
Although her midwives had recommended a peaceful soak in the tub with a glass of wine and a Benadryl, Mandy found this impossible, and she couldn't get comfortable in the bath. Before she knew it, it was 3 a.m., and her midwife and doula were there telling her it was time to go to the hospital. They had made a makeshift bed in the backseat of the car, and she says she was "writhing around in pain" for about 40 minutes while her husband drove along a very bumpy road to the hospital. "Los Angeles roads are notoriously terrible," she said. "So it was like every bump was—UGH, I felt it in every part of my body."
During the ride, she started begging for an epidural, even though her plan throughout her pregnancy had been to have an unmedicated birth.
When they got finally got to the hospital, she recalls "moaning like an animal" and trying to focus on her breath while she was checked in. And once they got settled into a room, it took her a full six hours to go from 6 cm dilated to 10 cm—a period she called "intense," "gruelling" and "harrowing."
"In retrospect, I'd heard and read a lot about labour stalling a little bit when you change locations. I'm curious if I had stayed home if my labour would have been as long," she said.
During her labour, she was adamant about not being on an IV so that she was able to move around and try different positions and move things along. "I didn't want to be just in bed," she explained. "I wanted to go into the shower, I wanted to be able to use the squat bar, I wanted to lean across the bed."
She even tried sitting on the toilet (which isn't a detail you hear about in most celeb birth stories!). "I thought that I would find a position that felt really good—and nothing felt good. Especially the toilet," she said. "I felt like there was so much pressure and I just couldn't settle down. Having a contraction on the toilet was just torture." The shower also ended up being a no-go for her—even thought it felt good, it didn't progress things in the way that she had hoped it would. Ultimately she found it most comfortable to be back in the room, on the hospital bed, using a Rebozo cloth to help her find positions that offered relief.
During this time, she remembers "apologizing a lot to everyone on my team," which sounds downright Canadian. "You have no real awareness of time, but [I] like, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry this is taking so long,' and they were like, 'Why are you apologizing?!'"
"I just remember feeling surprised that I wasn't able to progress things at a quicker rate, even though it wasn't really up to me," she said, laughing. "You know, my body was gonna do what it was gonna do, and this little man [Gus] was also on his own journey."
By the time she got to 10 cm dilated, her platelet levels had decreased enough that she wasn't allowed to get an epidural, anyway.
"Once I was in the throes of how painful it was, it wasn't even an option for me," she explained.
By this point she been awake for about 27 hours, with only apple juice to fuel her. All told, she says she ended up pushing for three hours.
"There was no real relief in between [pushes]—there's just this intense, immense pressure," she said. "I was like 'Damn, this is the craziest workout I've ever done in my life.'"
Eventually the baby's heart rate began to drop and the OB told her that they'd have to do a vacuum-assisted birth immediately. After one push with the vacuum, Gus was born! Mandy said she was a little shocked and confused that it all happened so fast in the end, but she was relieved that the baby was here and healthy, so she doesn't regret the way her birth plan had to change.
Mandy said that once they finally placed her child on her chest, everything was immediately OK, despite the fact that she tore a little bit during the birthing process.
"You're completely smothered in that feeling of, 'I have never felt higher. I've never felt this kind of love.' It was like the world stopped again and you're not aware of anything else that's going on," she said. "That's why the tearing—like all of it—it doesn't exist, it doesn't matter. You just have your baby on you and I couldn't imagine anything else mattering."
She even admitted that while the nurses were cleaning the baby and they were stitching her up, she suddenly had the thought, "I can't wait to do this again."
And since then, she finds herself having that thought each time she recounts her birth story. "As harrowing as the journey was, I miss it," she said. "It's a hard feeling to describe, but I can look back now with such affection and fondness for myself and what that experience was, because it brought me Gus. It brought me this child who is my whole world now, and I'm so grateful for it."
She closed out the podcast with a final message that surely resonates with so many people who have given birth: "It's a ride, and it's wild, but—whew—it's worth it. Every single second."