Is there any event that is both feared and joyfully anticipated as much as giving birth? For the first-time mother especially, the fear of the unknown can often be overwhelming as she thinks about childbirth, even though she can’t wait to meet her baby.
Thankfully there are thousands of resources available to expectant moms; one of the best being other moms who have ‘been there’. I’ve been through the birthing process three times now and looking back, there are a few things that the books didn’t tell me that I wish I had known ahead of time.
Five Things I Wish I’d Known Before Giving Birth
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PLEASE NOTE: The following list probably won’t make you feel better about giving birth. Although it’s not my intention to make you more nervous about labor and delivery, I’m also the kind of person who likes to go into situations with my eyes wide open. If you’re like that too, read on. If you prefer to take things as they come, read at your own risk 😉
1. It’s Messy
Looking back, I feel like this should have been obvious, but for whatever reason it wasn’t. I guess I thought the actual pushing part might get a little messy, but the labor would be, well, clean… and dry.
Here’s the thing: There’s a kid floating around in an amniotic sac inside you. Somehow, all that fluid (and the baby, obviously) has to come out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t all come out in one neat package.
If your water breaks on it’s own, like mine did for two of my three kids, you’ll definitely be dealing with some messiness ahead of the actual birth. And if it doesn’t, at some point the doctor will probably break it for you and you’ll deal with it then.
It’s not that big of a deal (although I do remember being terrified that my water would break in a public place… it didn’t!), but it surprised me, so I figured I’d pass it along.
2. It Probably Won’t Go According to Plan
Maybe you’ll go to a birth class or maybe you’ll read some books. If you do, you’ll probably hear a lot about having a birth plan. It’s a good idea. It forces you to think through the process and decide how you want it to go.
The thing that the birth instructors and book authors don’t usually mention is that the chance of your labor actually going according to (birth) plan are pretty low. I don’t have any hard and fast stats on this, but I’ve talked to enough moms to know that most of them say things went differently than they planned for or expected.
In my case, I didn’t have much of a plan beyond pushing out a baby, but the thought of a c-section being a necessity never even crossed my mind. So when I ended up being wheeled to the O.R. for an emergency cesarean, I was thrown for a loop.
Hopefully you’ll be one of the ones who has everything happen just the way you want. But you would do well for yourself to expect the unexpected. (This is also excellent advice for the rest of your parenting life. Trust me: Once you have a kid, almost nothing goes according to plan.)
3. You’ll Still Have a Belly Afterwards
Hopefully you already realize that your body doesn’t snap right back into shape as soon as the baby’s out, but maybe you don’t really know what to expect.
Most women look about six months pregnant after they have their baby. I remember looking at my stomach after I’d given birth and thinking it looked like a deflated balloon. You know the ones that have been hanging around the house for a few days and they get a little smaller, but also kinda wrinkly and bumpy? That’s what my stomach looked like.
It will continue to shrink in the days and weeks that follow, but be aware that it’s not instantaneous.
4. You’ll Get a Fundal Massage
Don’t get too excited. This isn’t the kind of massage anyone would ever request.
In order to help your uterus contract (so it goes back to its normal size), to help pass any blood clots, and to reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhaging, every so often in the hours following your child’s birth a nurse will push on your belly. She’ll push really hard on your belly. They call it a Fundal Massage which I suppose is technically accurate, but it’s also very misleading.
It’s super uncomfortable, but also necessary, so just take a deep breath, try to relax, and it’ll be over before you know it.
5. You’ll Bleed a Lot Afterwards
You probably know that you’ll bleed for quite a while after giving birth (it could be upward of 6 weeks… good times), but immediately following birth, you’ll bleed heavily. In fact, you’ll probably pass quite a few blood clots in those first hours or even days.
Ask your doctor or nurse what’s normal and definitely mention any clots that you’re worried about. (As a frame of reference, an egg-sized clot freaked me out a little, but the nurse said it was fine.)
Well, I hope I haven’t scared you too much. I know that most (all?) of these points are pretty gross and/or scary, but I also know that these were all things that I had no idea about before I had kids and I wish I had known them.
Despite the scary aspects of giving birth, women have been doing it since the beginning of time and many women have done it multiple times, which should at least partially alleviate your fears! We’d all be only children if it was that bad.
Remember, this is just the start of the craziest journey of your life. You’re going to need a lot of encouragement in the months and years to come. I’d love to be part of your mom tribe. Will you join me?
Nicole Johnson says
I agree that these are all things I’d wish I’d known. The size of my stomach really surprised me. When I went into the hospital kitchen the day following birth and someone asked me when I was due, I went back to my room and cried. I also wasn’t prepared for the constipation I felt after my c-section. I wish someone would have told me. I think I would have prepared better by taking the stool softeners. You’re right, it is a bit gross. Sorry for TMI.
Oh, that’s a good one! It was the same for me. I should write one specifically about c-sections.
Jennifer Wolfe (@mamawolfeto2) says
Yes, things never go according to plan – twice for me, but then that’s what parenting is all about. I’ve got two teens, and life has been an absolute adventure!
I went to labor with a fairly open mind. My mom had 4 csections (2 emergency) so I knew there was always a chance it would happen to me. Haha I did not expect to have such a fast labor! I was at 7 cm when I got to the hospital. It was pretty intense. I also wish I knew that it’s totally normal to shake during labor. I was dying! Finally I always assumed if you wanted an epidural they would be able to give it to you really quickly no problem. Well I had to wait since there was a csection going on at the same time. By the time they were ready, I had to push!!
Ooh, true! And there’s only a certain window when they’ll do it too, at least where I was. I think it was something like between 4-7 cm.
Heather aka HoJo says
All of these are great points! I quickly realized that if I pushed down on my stomach afterwards the nurses didn’t have to as much. That kept the pain to a minimum because I could do it a bit more gently than they did. And I definitely recommend getting a number to call before you leave the hospital. Thankfully I did, which came in very handy when I passed a tennis ball size clot the night I got home from the hospital. Talk about scary!
Both of those are really good suggestions! I wish I’d thought of doing the massage myself 😛