Mandy Moore welcomed her first child last month — a baby boy named August, a.k.a., "Gus" — and shared her "labyrinthian journey" of birth.
During a Thursday episode of Informed Pregnancy Podcast with Dr. Elliot Berlin, the This Is Us actress took listeners through the chaos of her labor and delivery, omitting no details about the experience, which she likened to an "acid trip." In her February birth announcement, Moore, 36, who is married to singer Taylor Goldsmith, shared a photo of their son writing, "We were prepared to fall in love in all sorts of brand new ways, but it goes beyond anything we could have ever imagined."
The night before her due date, Moore told Berlin that she had wave-like contractions. "I'm like, diving into this wave as it's coming at me. It was crazy. I think that's what was so wild to me about the concept of labor — trying to imagine what it would be beforehand and then when you're in the throes of it, I guess, I'd taken all these classes and we talk about breathing and you talk about the techniques that your husband's going to help you with and the different tips and tricks." That made Moore feel prepared, however "all of that just went out the window" on her due date.
Moore said of labor, "It's like you're on this trip, you're on this acid trip or something. I was in my own head, doing my own thing. I could hear people, I could hear suggestions and sometimes agree with them, sometimes I was like, no, no, no, no, I just have to stay the course of what's feeling good for me. But ultimately it was such an insular experience…my eyes were closed and I was on my own."
"It was my own narrative," she says. "My own story and everybody else was just in the background."
According to Moore, the ride to the hospital was "awful" and she was "writhing around in pain" in the back of Goldsmith's car. She added, "My plan was to do an unmedicated home birth. And then things had to shift and I was getting to go to the hospital and still have midwifery care, which was really a huge priority for me and I was really grateful for. But I still wanted to have an unmedicated birth. But while I was in the car on the way to the hospital, I was like, 'Taylor, I'm getting an epidural. I don't want you to be mad at me, but that's what's happening when we get to the hospital.' We live pretty far away, it was almost a 40-minute ride to the hospital at 3:00 in the morning."
At the hospital, says Moore, "I remember moaning like an animal" through "intense" labor. "It was grueling, it was harrowing."
Moore, who wore a face mask during labor and took a COVID-19 test before she was admitted to the hospital, could not receive an epidural because her blood platelet count was too low, which could cause a complication called "spinal epidural hematoma" (when blood puts pressure on the spine). The actress said she had prepared for labor by telling herself, "I know I'm tough, I know I'm strong, nothing's going to get me down" however she was so "deliriously tired," that pushing the baby out seemed insurmountable.
The actress said physical exhaustion clouded the "relief" of the pushing process, as friends had described the final stage of labor. After pushing for three hours, the baby's heart rate started dropping so the doctor applied a vacuum extraction to his head to guide him out. According to the Mayo Clinic, the procedure can be used if labor is not progressing or if a medical problem poses risk to the baby.
Moore said afterward, she gave one final push and her son was born, flooding her with love. "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, 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."
According to Jennifer Meyers, a certified nurse midwife and Mayo Clinic spokesperson, labor and delivery rarely unfolds as expected. "There can be a lot of social pressure for women to have a 'perfect' birth experience," she tells Yahoo Life, "which causes some to worry that they won't do things 'right.'"
Moore, like many expecting moms had a birth plan, a written or verbal list of preferences during labor and delivery such as taking (or not taking) pain medication, chosen visitors or playlists and photography. These decisions can help a woman's support team because, says Meyers, "Sometimes birth workers forget that what's routine for us isn't for the patient or their family."
But as celebrities have shared, plans can derail. After watching the 2008 Ricki Lake documentary The Business of Being Born, singer Pink planned to deliver her daughter Willow unmedicated, "in the way nature intended," she told People. “She was in the frank breech position, which is head up with her legs up by her head in a pike position. We tried everything to turn her around. Turns out this little girl had other plans — she is my daughter, after all.” And in 2009, Maya Rudolph did not expect to give birth to daughter Lucille at home, however, the girl arrived quicker than expected. "Luckily, she just kind of glided into her father’s arms…It was scary, but it was kind of awesome," Rudolph told Chelsea Lately.
Meyers says the best plans are flexible. "Women with very detailed birth plans might be disappointed by an experience that's unpredictable. These plans are less a contract and more a communication tool."
Whatever happens, says Meyers, women should not judge themselves for births that don't live up to expectations. As she says, it's all about "Empowerment, consent and shared decision making."
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