There were so many questions I had about what having a baby would be like when I was pregnant for the first time. Would it be really painful? Would I be able to have pain relief? How would I know what to do and would I be able to have control? I wanted the answers and everything I was told, or read was so vague I couldn’t nail down one answer. It took me 3 babies to realize the reason that so much information was conflicting was because every birth is different! Having said that, there are a few things that tend to be more or less universal and these are the things I thought I’d share.
Let me say now this isn’t meant to scare anyone, I was terrified before I had my first baby- I felt ill informed and just wanted someone to tell it like it is, so lets jump right in to it shall we!
It doesn’t have to be a horrific experience
People love to go on and on about how much having a baby hurts, but it got so dramatised to me that I saw labor as an agonizing experience, but the reality was neither traumatic or torturous. Yes it hurts, a fair bit, but it was something that I knew was going to end, and at the end I’d have a baby. Contractions build gradually most of the time and so you have a chance to really brace yourself and get into a good mental place- that’s certainly something that helped me! So the reality is- yes, labor hurts, but it’s going to be over and you will have a beautiful baby- focus on that instead!
When I had my first son I didn’t really read much about pooping as you give birth, but once I had, I started worrying about it- I mean how embarrassing, right!? Trust me when I say, when a baby is coming out of your body, you don’t care all that much, that is if you even realise it’s happening. Give yourself a moment to blush about something that happens to a great many women and get the hell over it- if it happens, it happens and nobody is going to care.
I’ll never forget reading an article in a baby magazine that said pretty much every woman has to have stitches after having a baby- I absolutely freaked out. But then I had 3 babies and needed not a single stitch- 2 were inductions and 1 of those had shoulder dystocia and I didn’t have a single stitch, yes I was lucky, yes I can’t believe it either- but I guess I just want to use that as an example to say it isn’t a guarantee that it will happen- so don’t dwell on it like I did the first time.
Your first shower
I remember the first shower I had with my first baby- it was sooooo good. The hot water washes all the blood and sweat away and soothes those sore muscles. If you’ve had a c-section this will be a little while in coming, but gosh it’s worth the wait- it feels like bliss! It also gives you your first chance to get to know your newly deflated tummy. Fresh after birth it’s still big, but very soft and squishy- it will go down over the next days/ week, but just get used to it for now- it’s normal, if a bit weird at first.
I was so focused on what I thought labor would be like, I was completely ignorant of what I should expect afterwards, and I was in for a shock. Firstly, your body aches- it’s just done something absolutely amazing and it’s going to remind you every time you move! Your joints ache and your muscles are stiff, and lets face it, your vagina is going to be sore (or maybe your c-section wound- either way it’s not a great feeling). If you need stitches they will hurt a fair bit, and I definitely recommend asking for some pain killers and getting a cooling pack or two for down stairs. Plus you are likely to bleed like never before- the lochia is really dark and scary and in my experience you will pass a clot or two (little soft clumps of blood and tissue- tell your midwife so they can check it’s all good when that happens), you’ll want some maternity pads, and some normal ones for when the bleeding lessens.
Everything becomes a blur
I have brief flashes of memory of my 3 births- trying to get my husband to say vajayjay (high on gas), my second son trying his best to fall out into the toilet and having to hold him in, and the moment the OB said our third baby was stuck and it became a bit scary (it was all fine in the end). But other than those few clear flashes, most of those three births are a bit blurry and vague- if you want to remember something specific write it down (or ask your birth partner), as by the next day, there’s a chance you will have forgotten.
Giving birth is something not everyone gets to experience, so I looked at it as something that was special. I hope this sheds at least a little light on what it’s really like (from my friends and my own experiences) and maybe allays some fears. If you get the chance watch One Born Every Minute- it’s one of my favorite shows and it shows lots of the nitty gritty of having a baby!