As I think I've said before, in Little Bear's first few weeks of life the 6 words that passed my lips most often were: why did no one tell me?! There were so many things about labour, birth and newborns that came as a massive surprise, and when I accused my friends and family (and one or two of the lovely midwives who visited when we got home from the hospital) of deliberately keeping me in the dark, they all just laughed. One of the midwives even said that if she had told me it would have scared me off (I could have pointed out that I was already heavily pregnant when she met me so the ship had kind of sailed, but hey.) Anyway, I felt most indignant that all of these things sprung themselves on me in the moment, so I thought I would give you all what the world did not give me: a list of weird shit that happens when you give birth.
Waters breaking is not like on TV. Like, at all. So, I thought I already knew this one. I knew that it wasn't always a massive gush of water; that sometimes the waters break behind the baby and their head blocks the exit, as it were. If that happens then the liquid can't come out in a rush, it just comes out in little bits when the baby's head moves. Hashtagknowledge! But actually, as it turns out, even if your waters do break in a massive gush, that's not the end of it. They keep bloody going! For ages! I'm talking, like, hours. And every time you think you're done, it turns out you're not. So advice time: don't put on your yayit'shospitaltimeandi'mtotallygoingtogivebirthinthiscomfyandpracticaloutfit clothes as soon as the first gush is done, there's plenty more where that came from! You should definitely sit on a towel on the way to the hospital (sorry about the car Papa Bear...)
They try to give you paracetamol. No joke. Actual paracetamol. You know that stuff that doesn't work on headaches? They give you that when you're in labour. They use the words 'it will take the edge off'. Will it fuck.
This was taken about 20 minutes after I had an epidural. Epidurals are nice.
So. Much. Blood. After you have a baby, the blood is just ridiculous. Even if you don't give birth naturally. Who knew?! Also, every vaguely medical person you see for the next two weeks asks you pointed questions about the colour and volume of the blood and you feel all awkward and embarrassed but then you stop caring because you left your dignity behind at the moment of conception anyway.
You don't care who sees your fanjo. People actually did tell me this one quite a few times but I didn't believe them. I couldn't imagine a scenario in which I wouldn't mind an army of strangers looking at (and poking at) my nethers, but when it came down to it, I gave no fucks at all. In actual fact, several times I was so desperate to know how things were progressing that I berated the midwife for not being up to her elbows in cervix.
The drugs make you itchy. I'm not sure exactly which one of the cocktail of drugs I got for pain relief after the section was the culprit here, but omg I've never been so itchy in my life. It's actually the bit I remember as being the worst of the entire birthing experience (that can't be true though, I must have just blocked out the bit that actually was the worst bit, right?). Just afterwards I still couldn't sit up, or move anything from my ribs down, but my whole body itched like a motherfucker and I couldn't scratch. It was like some kind of horrific torture and they should totes add it to their repertoire at Guantanamo. If I ever have another baby I'm taking a truckload of Benadryl and one of those extendable back scratchers.
You don't get to choose. I had a good idea of how my labour was going to go. I would give birth at the birthing centre, in the pool, to the sound of classical music. I would hold out on pain relief for as long as possible, because my body was designed to give birth and there would be nothing to be scared of. At the end, I would have gas and air. Lovely. What actually happened was that LB was born in an operating theatre to the sound of Emilie Sande (we didn't know there was a CD player in the theatre so we left our choonz behind). Before the section, I'd already had an epidural after my first desperate gulps of gas and air resulted in me barfing on the poor student midwife. I spent a total of about 8 seconds doing calm visualising and then begged for painkillers. Instead of her being delivered straight into my arms, my first glimpse of LB was when the surgeon lifted her above the screen that stopped me from being able to see them gut me like a fish. But you know what? LB's birth was absolutely beautiful. It was the most emotional experience of my whole life. My heart still feels all full and glowy when I think about it. You don't get to choose the birth you have, but that doesn't mean that there won't still be a moment of utter, utter perfection in there somewhere.