I’m gonna level here, this post is gonna be a little gruesome. It’s gonna be real. It also might be a bit long, because this is not another list telling you to ‘take the pants the hospital give you’ (mainly cause in England, you have to supply your own nasty maternity underwear) No, this is a list of real shit I wish someone had told me about childbirth and the days after giving birth.
#1 Your waters don’t always break before you start having contractions.
This one baffled me. For me, my contractions started at about 1030am, not that I realised. I thought I had gas, or constipation. I got out of bed in the morning with my stomach feeling a little off, but I put it down to a late night take away with my partner. It wasn’t until around noon that I realised I was having contractions, and most of that was because my waters hadn’t broken.
I had this image in my head of Phoebe from Friends when she’s stood in the apartment and they’re all about to go to Atlantic city, when they all take a step back because oh god, her waters just broke!
Mine broke in the hospital, all over the floor and my clothes and freaked me out, but I’ll explain why later on. But sometimes, they don’t break like a wave, they can trickle, and a lot of women don’t realise because they think it’s just baby playing footsie with their bladder again.
#2 Your Body Does The Pushing, not you.
THIS. This is what freaked me out. I thought something was wrong. There i am, squatting on the floor, riding through contractions like a champ (yep, giving myself a pat on the back here) when suddenly, I feel like all my organs are going to come out. Seriously, from my heart downwards, everything was pushing.
This is when my waters broke. This is when I also realised: movies and tv shows fucking lie! Which yes, on hindsight should have been obvious, but apparently I’m not the only one.
I cried and screamed at the midwife “I’M NOT DOING IT! HELP ME!” And I’m pretty sure she laughed, but who knows I could have been hallucinating by this point.
Anyhoo.. Your Body Does The pushing. The midwives do ask you to help once you’re actually legs-up-baby-half-out, but the female body is an amazing thing, most of the work is already happening for you, which in the beginning is really scary, but once you get over it, it’s really awesome. And for whatever reason, this little tidbit of information gets left out from every conversation about childbirth. (I know this because a friend who had their kid after me was just as surprised as I was!)
#3 The pain is not over once you’ve pushed baby out
OHH no, it’s not. You’re there, lying on a bed, delirious from the mass of hormones riding through your body at that moment, you feel no pain, you have no dignity, you barely even realise if you’re covered up down there while various doctors, midwives and family members sail around you.
Oh so peaceful until..*cue music* They tell you to pee.
What? What did you say? You want me to get up? Are you sure that the rest of my organs won’t fall out of the 10cm hole I just squeezed an 8lb watermelon from? Okay, no problem, let me just gather up all these bloodied sheets to drag across the floor and I’ll go pee for you.
This ladies, is where it all begins. The afterpain. You ever had a UTI? A burning when you pee? Multiply it by 100 on your pain scale. And that is how much it hurts when you have a 1st degree tear. That’s MINOR. Apparently.
Until this point you kind of think its all over, maybe it’s cause everyone finally leaves you alone. They’ve checked you over and stuck and needle in your leg to help the placenta birth (which is weirdly relieving!) And you’re kinda numb from it all I guess. Even the walk to the bathroom isn’t terrible, the worst part of that is that your legs feel like jelly.
Any readers who have done that with 2nd or 3rd degree tears, I fucking applaud you for the rest of my life. You are heroes in hospital gowns.
I feel like I’m going to dedicate a whole post to breastfeeding soon. Because this point needs far more explanation than what I can give it within this list. But here are the basics of what no one told me.
Breastfeeding is hard. As natural as it is, you baby can latch on quick or can struggle for days.
It hurts like fuck for a while. Your nipples are sore, and I mean really sore. It’s this weird thing when baby latched for the first time, because you’re super relieved and happy that they’ve done it, and overwhelmed that your body is just feeding another human life without you really having to make much effort, but it also feels like someone has decided to make one of those ‘1000 degree knife vs ‘ videos to your nipples. Your boobs then get enormous and heavy and painful over the next few days, your back hurts from the heavy boobs, and from practically sleeping upright for a week straight, if not longer.
You feel like a cow. No joke, I sat on my bedroom floor 3 days in and cried hysterically to my partner because “I feel like a cow. All he wants me for is food. Every time he’s near me he just wants to eat” Part of this is the huge drop in hormones that’s more commonly known as the baby blues, but even 10 months on, there are times I still feel like a damn cow.
There’s so much to breastfeeding that needs to be addressed. I will write it all out, and when I do, I’ll link back to it.
#5 Have a birth plan, but be prepared to throw it out the window.
I had a birth plan, I mean I wasn’t anything set in stone so much as a guide for my midwives. I said i wanted to start at the bottom of pain meds and work my way up. I said that if I need to have any emergency treatment then to go for it. And really that was kind of it.
But there are women out there who have very particular birth plans, and something i have seen across the internet is women who have become massively distressed at the fact their births didn’t go to plan. To the point where they have focussed on that so much that they have disconnected from their baby in the months after giving birth.
Childbirth is natural. It is instinctual. And it doesnt always go to plan. Sometimes babies have a different agenda, and what you sat and planned out isn’t possible. Sometimes (God forbid) something goes wrong.
I couldn’t even take gas and air during my labour. I hadnt eaten a thing that day, the contractions made me feel nauseous, and gas and air made that worse. I had no time for any other pain relief. I entered the hospital at 4.16pm and by 4.55pm, my son was in the world. I did however find a way for that gas and air while pushing, trust me, when you have to make the decision between throwing up again, or labour pain, you pick throwing up.
And last but most certainly not least
#6 PEOPLE WILL JUDGE EVERYTHING YOU DO BUT IT’S BOLLOCKS.
Everyone will judge you. Whether you breastfeed or formula.
Whether you bed-share or put them in a separate room from the start.
When you want to wean, leave the house, take a shower etc etc. The list is honestly endless.
It is all bullshit.
Judgement of how people want to raise their own kids is bull. As long as they are fed, watered, happy, healthy and gaining weight, and as long as (obviously, but some smart arse will point this out) you are not abusing or neglecting your child, then you are doing what is best for your child.
Yes some people will raise their kids to be assholes, but some people raise kind and genuine people. It’s all about balance.
I felt like I was being judged before I’d even given birth. I wanted my partner and my mum in the room, no one else. People got offended. I told them I didn’t want him being passed around like a party game when he was barely an hour old. People got offended. I wanted to go home the same day I have birth. The hospital got offended.
So as a final note, my best advice to anyone about to have a baby: Just say fuck it and do what you want to do, and what you think is best for you and your baby. That’s all that matters!