Back when I was pregnant with my first child, I felt quite overwhelmed by the amount of advice and horror stories that I was told by the women around me.
I was quite lucky in a lot of ways. Being a larger lady, I barely showed so I didn’t have quite the onslaught of stories that I might have had if my pregnancy had showed to strangers. My mum friends and work colleagues certainly helped fuel any anxiety I had about labour though. My own mum didn’t help either. She went into labour with me on a Tuesday and had me on the Saturday. Yes, every pregnant woman wants to be told a 5-day labour is possible!
I read a lot of Ina May childbirth stories, to give myself a more balanced view of how labour might be. However, no matter how many stories you hear or read, experiencing it first hand is always going to be an eye-opener.
Your Waters Breaking
I was so paranoid that my waters would break, and I would be completely unprepared. I slept on a Brollysheet and sat on the sofa on a Brollysheet. I had been given the “waters broke in the supermarket” story from a few friends as well. So, I was paranoid about going out, unless it was to the outside where clean up was a hose away.
Luckily or unluckily for me, depending on how you look at it, I ended up having to be induced so my waters were broken for me, on a hospital bed. Nothing could have prepared me though, for the sensation of a small spa pool’s worth of hot liquid leaving my person. My husband was not prepared either, as he was holding my hand and had to jump out of the splash zone.
What Contractions Feel Like
I had heard that contractions would be painful, that they would feel like “pressure” or would be like waves of sensation (pain or otherwise). Only a few mentioned it being like menstrual cramping or needing to go to the toilet. Pre-induction I had had a few niggles, that could have been contractions or not. Some were definitely the ol’ Braxton Hicks. Some were likely the baby having hiccups. Real contractions are unmistakable, and I would say they are definitely more like waves of menstrual cramping.
I remember one of our friends laughing at me when I said I was planning no pain relief during labour. “You’ll be screaming for the drugs.” That just made me even more determined not to be. I think everyone is different when it comes to labour pain though, and there’s no shame in getting some relief if you need it to get through. It’s definitely a marathon and not (normally) a sprint. With my first labour, it was nine hours and my pain level wasn’t too bad. My body had time to build up the endorphins, and I had plenty of breaks between contractions to chat and have a few laughs.
When I finally felt like pushing, the pushing itself helped to relieve a lot of the increased pain. The worst part of the whole labour for me was baby crowning. Someone described it to me as a burning sensation, which gave me an altogether different impression of what to expect. It’s not a hot pain, it’s like peeing glass. I’m sorry.
Immediately after having baby things are going to be sore. If you have a tear, or even if you don’t have a tear there’s likely to be grazing. Going to the toilet is a necessary evil, and some of it will be mind over matter! But when peeing, if you can lean forward as much as possible and if you have a squeeze bottle you can also pour warm water on your perineum as you go to minimise the sting.
Things are also going to be swollen for a while, and I would NOT go looking right away. Just get onto your kegels! I also made the mistake of looking in a mirror directly after birth. I looked like a deflated sausage casing. So, there was that. And then there was the six weeks of having to wear sanitary pads as your uterus goes back to its normal size and has the mother of all clean outs.
I joke with my friends that my mother’s guilt kicked in the moment that second line appeared on the test. But if you think you are feeling guilty about the soft cheese you had two weeks before you knew you were pregnant, it’s nothing compared to when the baby is here. Those first days when you can barely sleep because every snuffle or delayed breath makes you paranoid. Every cry – is that colic? Every nappy – should it be that colour?! Every feed – are they getting enough?
It’s normal to worry, and it’s normal to have a few blue days – your body is pumping you full of hormones and it will affect your mood. But if you start to feel like it’s a never-ending spiral of hopelessness, or it’s affecting your ability to connect with your baby then talk to your midwife or go and visit your GP. Post Natal Depression is not a fun ride (I know) but there is help out there and talking about it really does help.
Written by Kym Moore
When she isn’t herding kids or cats, Kym loves to drink craft beer, or share a whine and a wine with friends. She is also partial to a well-made cocktail. Her happy places include sitting on couch watching British Comedy and daydreaming. Lots of daydreaming.
Favourite artist: Bowie