With a first pregnancy, it’s natural to feel apprehensive—even a little bit scared—about labour and delivery. Soon-to-be-mums often talk with their friends who have given birth to get the real story and prepare themselves for the experience. Their biggest concern is the pain and duration of labour, but there are other things that frequently happen during childbirth that even your best friend might hesitate to talk about.
1. Cleanup in aisle 5
When your waters break, it can be embarrassing—especially if it happens in a crowd. Imagine that you’re just cruising along the supermarket aisles with your cart half-loaded when suddenly there’s a flood: your waters break, soaking you and leaving a spreading pool at your feet. It happens when it happens, and can take place anywhere from home to the hospital to the most public, exposed place. On the up side, you can leave the scene of the crime immediately, because you’re in labour!
Labouring women often experience extreme nausea. It’s not uncommon to vomit during the transition phase. That steak dinner with creamed corn that you enjoyed a few hours earlier may make a sudden, violent appearance – spattering you and anyone near you. It can be gross, and certainly explains why hospitals only give mums in labour a few measly ice chips to suck on, and no solid food until the baby makes an appearance.
3. Golden showers
Don’t be shocked if you pee when you push. If you’ve had an epidural, your lady parts are already numb when the delivery team starts urging you to push. All of that effort can produce results, but sometimes what comes out first isn’t the baby…it’s a loud fart, or it’s pee. A lot of urine shoots out, soaking both you and the bedding. At this stage of labour you probably won’t even be embarrassed anymore. You’ll just be zeroed in on delivering the baby now.
4. Oh poo
This is the one that women fear: pooing on the delivery table. Let’s get real here: passing an 3kg or so human out of your body compresses the intestines and there’s a point where the natural tendency is to push. And when you have to push so hard, it’s probable that you will also push some faecal material out. It can be humiliating, especially in front of your partner and a roomful of medical personnel! If you’re lucky, you might truly not even realise it when it happens. Either way, the medical team will quickly clear away the evidence and get right back to business. They’ve seen it all before and to them it’s no big deal.
Birthing requires bravery because sometimes the cure can seem worse that the condition it’s trying to correct! Episiotomies are sort of like that. A scalpel makes an incision from the bottom of the vagina downward to the rectum. This is done to prevent tissue from tearing as the baby is delivered. The cut is made at about the same time as the baby’s head is trying to force its way out. Ouch. After this procedure, it takes a month to six weeks to heal, so look forward to sitting on an inflatable cushion, using ice packs and some uncomfortable swelling down below.
6. Cottage cheese
If you give birth vaginally, you’ll be able to hold your baby right away. Nobody warns you that your little angel will be initially covered in blood and slime and have a yucky substance that resembles cottage cheese clinging to her body. Vernix protects the baby’s skin in the womb: after all, the kid has been floating in fluid for nine months! It can be somewhat of a shock to get that first look and see a blueish, cheesy, slimy and wrinkled newborn when you were envisioning a cherub with daddy’s nose and your eyes.
The ordeal isn’t over when you give birth: oh, no… you still have to deliver the placenta. Sometimes it’s easy, and separates from the uterus on its own. Sometimes it needs a little encouragement, so the medical personnel massage – pressing down firmly on the uterus to help expel placenta and blood clots. A retained placenta clings to the uterine walls and won’t come out. This is more common than most women realise. If you have a retained placenta, brace yourself for the moment someone goes in after it. A hand reaches in and up into your cervix and pulls it out manually. Yikes.
8. Alien-shaped head
You do realise that a baby’s head is soft and won’t get hard until months after they’re born, right? The upside of this is that it makes it easier for them – and certainly for you, when they try to squeeze their way through the birth canal. It’s the difference between passing a bowling ball versus a ripe melon. So appreciate the fact that it spares you some birthing pain and don’t totally freak out if your baby’s head is pointed. Seriously pointed. Many newborns have this scary alien look, but it corrects itself naturally over the first week or so.
9. Bathroom shuffle
You’ll probably be surprised at the amount of postnatal bleeding and gunk your body will continue to expel after you give birth. Anticipate plenty of exercise shuffling back and forth to the bathroom to change the monster-sized pads and to spritz yourself with a numbing spray. Hospitals will usually supply you with disposable mesh big-girl panties and ice packs to place strategically to numb throbbing areas and reduce the swelling in your sore hoo-ha.It helps a lot.
10. Wash and wear
Nobody warns first-time mothers that after giving birth they just can’t use toilet paper. The trauma to your nether regions during delivery means that the friction of toilet tissue has to be avoided. Wiping would not only really hurt, it could further damage an area that’s already plenty sore and swollen. Instead, you will have to squirt yourself clean using warm water from a peri bottle. Bidet, anyone?
More aspects of pregnancy and birth you probably don’t want to hear:
- 9 Celebrities with Outrageous (& Amazing) Birth Stories
- 10 Things to Remember to Do Right After Giving Birth
- 5 Horrifying Ways My Body Changed After I Gave Birth