After having three babies… 4 pregnancies (I had a missed miscarriage too) I don’t feel qualified to be lecturing people about childbirth BUT I do think it’s only kind to pass on those little nuggets of information that I wish I had known pre-babies. Because people don’t tell you lots of stuff about giving birth.
I have experienced a range of things during childbirth, including… 3 vaginal births with gas and air, one waterbirth, one high blood loss and High Dependency Unit stay, one instance of shitting the bed post-baby, one super quick birth that happened 12 minutes after arriving at hospital, 2 retained placentas, 1 third degree tear, 2 spinal blocks and theatre trips post-baby, 1 birth with no stitches (yay) 2 overdue births and one a day early and I feel like there’s a few things I wish I had known or been told before I’d had my first. Obviously this isn’t going to apply to everyone and everyone is different but this is my list of what I wish I had known.
So… here goes.
- Don’t rely too heavily on your birth plan. It’s nice to have a birth plan but you can’t assume everything will go perfectly. Childbirth can be complicated, messy, scary, easy and you will never know each time how it will go. It’s great to have a loose plan in place, but above all, you need to plan for the unexpected. I planned a hypno birth for my first and it all went out the window as soon as I was made ‘high risk’ due to being ‘small for dates’ on arrival. (Baby was 8lb!)
- Leave your dignity at the door. You will go to the hospital with all the best intentions to ‘keep covered up’ and keep the gore to a minimum. But think about it. A human BABY is going to come out of you. Blood, wee, shit, sometimes sick although I was lucky to not be sick during labour, amniotic fluid, sometimes baby poo, it will all be there and once things get going, you will be concentrating on getting through each contraction, a bit of vomit or wee will not faze you.
- You don’t get any medals. If you end up using all the pain relief, so what? If you end up with an emergency C-Section – so what? As long as you and the baby both end up safe and well, that’s all that matters once the birth is over. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
- It’s normal to feel like you are about to shit yourself. This is the baby’s head ‘coming down’ and basically it feels exactly the same as a giant dump. The midwives will have seen it all and this is normal.
- It is not uncommon to have a vaginal ‘tear’ after birth. Some women are cut (episiotomy) either way, stitches to your vag after birth is quite normal. I had a ‘third degree’ tear after my first baby, meaning the skin, flesh and muscle was torn. BEAUTIFUL! Usually a first degree tear isn’t stitched, and a second degree is stitched with local anaesthetic. After a baby has emerged, this will be a minor incident!
- Weird things can happen. They are all rare and it’s not meant to scare you, but I think women should be told. Complications can arise after birth that you have never heard of. Retained placenta (I had 2 of those!), haemorrhage, etc. It’s not nice but stuff does happen that you won’t have planned for or even heard of – keep an open mind and you will probably not experience it, but if you do – it happens. Remember the midwives and doctors know what they are doing and will be looking out for signs of anything going wrong.
- If you do shit yourself, you really WON’T care. Giving birth is the weirdest thing ever. Before my first baby was born I was so worried about pooing during birth. Having suffered with IBS, I’ve had many poo-induced worries before. However I can safely say I really did not give any fucks if I shat in the midwife’s face. When another human is bursting through your delicate vaginal opening, you will really NOT give any shits, about shitting.
- You may change your mind. When the pain starts kicking in, you may have a fleeting moment of ‘I don’t think I want a baby now’. I remember thinking it was a bad idea and wanting my birth partner to cut off my arm instead.
- You can do it! You are a woman and you were MADE to do this. Your body knows what it’s doing. Stay as calm and relaxed as you can – slow 20/20 breathing really does help. If not, get an epidural and relax!!
- Don’t be worried if you don’t get the RUSH OF LOVE. Everyone and their dog tells you about the rush of love you get when baby is born. I didn’t have it with all 3 of mine. I felt numb, and a bit detached if I’m honest. And quite relieved that it was over. The love came on slowly and gradually for me.
- After the birth you will be shattered, but may be unable to sleep. I remember feeling so tired and so awake all at once, the endorphins of labour stay with you and can make resting tricky. If you are lucky enough to be able to sleep then please DO IT!
- Another poo one. Your first poo after a vaginal birth will be scary as hell. Especially if you are fearful of ripping your stitches out. Breathe, take it slowly and make sure for the love of God you don’t get constipated after the birth.
- It’s normal to feel a bit traumatised. Well I did. Having your first baby is scary shit. I felt a bit numb and zombie like for a good 2 to 3 weeks after having my first. Not to mention hormonal. Embrace help, staying in, and if you want to cry or punch pillows, you do what you need to do. Use the I just had a baby card until the baby is at least 2 years old.
- Nothing quite prepares you for your first birth. You can read all the books, get all the advice and speak to everyone who has been there, but it really is something that everyone experiences differently.
- Lastly. It is one of the most magical experiences, poo and all. Take ALL the photos, even if you hate them at the time because you can see your bum hole or you think you look swollen – because you will want to look back and have these memories for yourself. Time speeds up after the baby arrives and you will wish you had more photos/videos.