Ah birth. That baffling event that we both fear and anticipate.
I’ve never been sure if it’s a good thing or a very bad thing that we really have no clue what we’re actually in for. Truthfully, if we did have all the facts, would we still go for it? Debatable at best.
There are so many details about birth that aren’t often discussed. At best, they’re eluded to, or whispered about between friends. At worst, they’re the great ‘unmentionables’.
Here are the five things nobody tells you about birth that I wish I’d known. This is #birthingreality.
1. You start out a prude and get over it super quickly.
Birth has a really good way of humbling you. You start out feeling awkward about examinations down there, but by the end you won’t care if the entire cast of Downton Abbey are in the room. It was a long journey of letting go during my first pregnancy. By my second, my midwife and I were chatting about bands we liked while she was wrist-deep, checking the ripeness of my cervix. Though medical staff respect your dignity wherever possible, you realise that they’re not perturbed by your most vulnerable moments. At all. Even when you poo when pushing.
2. You say embarrassing things to your anaesthetist.
No word of a lie: in those first moments post-epidural, I fell a little in love with the person holding the magical needle. And though memories of my first labour are a little hazy, I may or may not have proposed marriage. It was hard to make eye contact after my baby was born. On that note, you will probably say other weird things while labouring. You may get a bit delirious in the throes of it and genuinely beg for the big drugs when you know you’re already past that point. Or ask if you can just go home and come back tomorrow because you’re that tired. All normal.
3. You realise it is nothing like the movies.
Disappointingly, the medical staff aren’t all hot actors. You generally don’t yell at your husband; ‘YOU DID THIS TO ME!’ whilst crushing every single bone in his hand. You’re often not stuck on a bed, screaming like a banshee, traumatising yourself and everyone around you. This is ‘movie birth’. You will however, get in the zone and just do what you have to do. Every birth is different. Every birth is beautiful. Don’t let the films freak you out.
4. You learn things about yourself that you never thought possible.
I was nervous about birth because I thought I probably wouldn’t handle the pain very well. My first birth was a long process that ended in that (glorious) epidural. I knew that I wanted to try to go as drug-free as possible with my next one. And I did. My body was amazing. Both births were marvellous. Both showed me that I am so much stronger than I ever thought possible. Whichever way your baby enters the world, you will be amazed at the way your body just knows what to do. You will love and hate the process and feel a million other emotions along the way. You won’t forget the pain, but you’ll probably go again because you will learn that you can, and will, get through it better than you could have imagined.
5. You discover that birth is just the beginning.
So much preparation goes into birth. We do classes. We hear stories about the labours of our friends / neighbours / strangers in the supermarket. We weep over One Born Every Minute. We emotionally and physically prepare. What we aren’t often encouraged to do is get ready for what comes after. You’ve just pushed a large baby into the world or undergone major surgery and suddenly, you have this gorgeous little creature to keep alive. It can be overwhelming.
Be kind to yourself and realise that there’s a lot of learning in these first few months. Birth is just the start of a massive, messy, and glorious adventure and soon you’ll be able to impart the untold – and often hilarious – truths to other mamas on their own birthing journeys.