So after easing you in with Bailey’s Birth Story and my birth plan post, it’s time we started getting down to the nitty gritty! Everything I’ve talked about up until this point has been kind of rose tinted and frankly far too pristine so far, and that just isn’t the reality of giving birth. It’s ugly, it’s gory, it’s pretty darn disgusting at times, and that’s the truth. Here it is – labour freaking hurts. I know everyone says it hurts, but seriously, it freaking hurts. Like, the worst pain you can possibly imagine. I know sometimes you hear of these women who find the whole thing a beautiful zen-like experience and felt completely at peace and at one with their mind, body and soul and all that jazz, but mine sure as heck wasn’t like that, and I haven’t actually met any of these women either! It is also the most undignified thing you can do. I look back now with a sweet nostalgia to the last few days of my pregnancy when I thought a little bit of poop in the pool might be the most embarrassing thing to happen to me! Nope, sadly not – I now live in the all too real knowledge that there is a young student doctor out there somewhere who had the pleasure of seeing me doubled over, naked from the waist down, bleeding profusely and vomiting over my feet when he met me for the first time. He also got to assist me out of the tub with afterbirth literally hanging out of me and escort me around the room in an attempt to dislodge it – lucky man! So for all my bleating on lately about how women must talk about the reality of new motherhood, it is only right I start talking about some of the less pleasant things I experienced. Here is some of the advice I wish I’d been given to help make the process a little easier…
I really should have called this ‘The Advice I wish I’d Listened To’ because the truth is, I DID get some of this advice. Here’s the thing though – in those last few months of pregnancy you are so bombarded with tips and information it’s kind of hard to remember it all. I’d actually obsessed for the few days prior about the fact we had not bought any snacks for my hospital bag yet, but ironically it didn’t cross my mind that I also should eat before we actually got to the hospital, you know, while I’m in the comfort of my own home with full access to food! That nervous anxiety I’d been feeling all day had prevented me from eating a decent lunch, and I simply couldn’t think about eating once labour started, which was not a great idea. Food is obviously pretty vital to ensure you have the energy to get through several hours of grueling pain, but because all I’d eaten in the last 8 hours or so was a gin flavoured ice lolly and half a peanut bar that Dan had valiantly tried to force down me in between contractions, I was incredibly nauseous and that really didn’t help to make the experience any more enjoyable. By the time the midwife had tried to right this wrong with endless rounds of toast it was too late – I just couldn’t keep anything down. So if I were you, in the days running up to your due date, I’d do all you can to keep your belly full!
Enjoy the last few days…
A lot of my Mummy friends laugh when I say that, because they didn’t find anything at all enjoyable about the end of their pregnancies. I, however, really enjoyed mine, and what with the baby coming much earlier than expected it was a bit of a shock to my system when it all came to an end. I had spent so much time obsessing about the house being finished and completing things at work that I really didn’t have time to enjoy those last few precious days with Bailey safe in my tummy. Obviously I knew the end meant I’d have a baby, but for some reason it hadn’t really crossed my mind yet that this meant I wouldn’t be pregnant any more (yes, I’m aware how stupid that sounds) and when the baby blues hit me on day three this definitely compounded things. It also meant that we didn’t really take the time to appreciate each other a bit more. Life with our little man is wonderful, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find myself missing my partner in those first few weeks, despite home being there with us everyday, because the dynamics of our relationship had completely changed over night. If there is one thing we learned immediately it is that babies really don’t need there to be carpets or a completed nursery or furniture that matches – you can survive on really very little, so you are best off making the most of the last time you’ll spend together as a family of two rather than worrying about ‘being baby ready’!
Take your time…
This one sounds ridiculous even to me, because all I wanted to do once labour had really kicked in was get that baby the hell out of me. Or at least, I wanted it all to be over as quickly as possible and that was the only way to do it! My midwife seemed to be of the same opinion, because as soon as she knew I was fully dilated she was coaching me to push, push, push as hard as I could, and then a little harder! In hindsight though, I don’t know that this was necessary. It wasn’t her fault – once upon a time childbirth was one of the most dangerous situations you could be in so from a medical point of view it was best to get it over and done with, which is largely still how it’s viewed today. Having done some reading up since though I’ve realised that this is quite often what leads to tearing and damage to your pelvic floor. I’m obviously not a medical expert, and I would never recommend you go against the advice of a professional, but since my labour was quick, straightforward and baby wasn’t in distress, I can’t help but wonder if maybe taking a bit more time at the end and just going with my body might have helped me avoid getting the injuries I did.
Know this – the baby will go BACK IN!!
This is more a snippet of useful information than advice really, but oh how I wish I’d known this beforehand. This will probably sound so stupid to the rest of you, but I hadn’t ever really thought about the physics of giving birth, and this meant I was really unprepared for some basic facts of science – giving birth was going to be a three steps forward, two steps back kinda thing. That’s probably pretty obvious to the average person, but not me, apparently, and I guess it’s so darn obvious that it isn’t the kind of information midwives or NCT practitioners would think to give you either, so it just hadn’t crossed my mind that every time I pushed with all of my might and felt baby progress out of me, when I stopped it wasn’t going to just stay there, because the body is designed to spring back to it’s original form – it was going to go back in! This made the whole thing excruciatingly frustrating, and I definitely told Dan at one point that it just wasn’t going to come out and stay in me forever, so just in case you are as dim as me, you might want to bear that in mind so it doesn’t come as a surprise!
Buy prunes – and start eating them straight away!!
One thing that I definitely wasn’t warned about was that stitches would be the least of my worries, recovery-wise. I was gutted when I found out I had to have them and had expected them to be the worst part following the birth but oh boy, was I wrong. I mean, they stung a bit of course, and sitting down was no easy feat for a few weeks, but honestly they weren’t that bad. What WAS bad though, were my digestive issues. Nobody told me that what with the lack of proper eating, the crazy levels of hormones and all the additional fluid and nutrients I was losing to breastfeed, going to the toilet was going to be a bit of a problem. Well, the midwife that visited me at home the day after Bailey’s birth did warn me, to be fair, but by then it was too late! Without going into too much detail, because I’m sure you can paint the picture yourselves, when the time came 3 days later to finally go, it was traumatic. I mean, it isn’t pleasant at the best of times, but when you have a load of stitches in your nether regions and the feeling is all too similar to the sensation of giving birth – which you swore blind you were never going to do again in the moments immediately afterwards – the last thing you want to be doing is straining! Cue hysterical tears and poor Dan trying to console me through the bathroom door, followed, when I eventually came back out, by me sobbing that I was disgusting and he’d never be attracted to me again. We went out and got prunes in the morning which helped immensely, but how I wish I’d had them on day 1! Oh, and just to really nail the point home, if you continue to breastfeed this one doesn’t go away either – expect prunes to become your new favourite snack-time buddy for the months to come!
Do your pelvic floors…
No, really. Every time my midwife asked me if I was doing my pelvic floor exercises, I duly said yes, because I was. Well, when I remembered to. Did I do them today? I think I did. I definitely did two or three anyway when I was waiting for the kettle to boil…. Sound familar? Yeah everybody swears they do them but the truth is it’s just all too easy to let them fall by the wayside, or do them a little halfheartedly, because no-one ever thinks they will be that person who wees every time they sneeze, do they? Thankfully, I’m not that person, I have managed to get away without any kind of incontinence (so far) thank god, however I have definitely seen a change down there and had some issues post birth that I wasn’t in any way prepared for, so even though I certainly made an effort to do mine, I really do wish I’d taken it more seriously. I’ll be writing more on this is due course, but in the meantime, GO AND DO THEM! RIGHT NOW!
Never, EVER, consult Google at 3am…
If there was just one takeaway I could pass on to others about new motherhood it is this. All babies are different. All births are different. There are one million and one possible methods when it comes to recovery, sleeping, breastfeeding, playtime etc. Yet whenever you read something on the Internet, I guarantee it will almost always read as though THIS IS THE ONE TRUE WAY!! Every time you read something, the next thing you read will completely conflict it, and of course, when you are sleep deprived and at your wits end about something you will be 100 times more likely to completely misread or over analyse the situation, so please don’t be tempted to do this. You will, of course. We all do. Because you will be desperate to do everything right. The truth is though, you won’t get it right every time because there is no such thing, and reaching out to the Internet masses in the small hours will do nothing but make you feel shitty, and possibly convince you that either you or your little one (or both of you, if you’re as neurotic as me…) are suffering something fatal and are both moments away from certain death, so it’s just not a good idea. Instead try reaching out to your friends and loved ones, who hopefully will want nothing more than to put your mind at rest. I was truly shocked and saddened to hear how many of my friends really suffered in those early days, and that I was none the wiser because they never told me – we really need to break this taboo.
All that aside though, as horrid as all of this is, the main thing is, you CAN do it! What seems like a completely impossible feat at the beginning is completely doable, and you feel like the most incredible human on earth once you do. And most importantly – all the pain, the gore and the unpleasantness melts away in an instance when they hand you your tiny little baby, and it’s the most amazing feeling. Would I do it again? To have Bailey, yes, 100% hands down, I would, and I probably wouldn’t even change all that much about the process. Will I do it for a second time? Well, only time will tell on that front, but I’d like to think I would, despite swearing blind I wouldn’t at the time (those hormones are powerful aren’t they??) One thing I know for sure though? I won’t stay silent about it. The most important lesson of all has most definitely been realising that my experience, the highs and lows, the challenges – it happens to all of us. There is nothing I’ve struggled with that someone hasn’t before me, and knowing I’m not the only one is a huge comfort whenever I start doubting myself. So if you have just gone through this, or if you know someone who has, pick up the phone, go out for a drink or a lunch date or just have a cuppa and a good old chat – because the more we talk about this stuff the more normal it will become. And that can only be a good thing!