There’s really only one thing you need to know about preparing yourself for giving birth, and it’s that nothing on earth can ever truly prepare you for it.
You can arm yourself with a host of breathing techniques to help you cope with labour or practise Hypnobirthing until you’ve mastered the art of astral projection but the truth is that much of your birth prep will utterly desert you in your hour (or hours and hours and hours…) of need. No amount of mantras, panting or visualisation can overthrow the overwhelming urge to dig your nails into the palm of your partner’s hand and threaten to maim his manhood if he ever so much as ever looks at you with those come-to-bed eyes again.
Still, they say fore-warned is fore-armed, so here are five things no-one told us about giving birth, which might mean they come as less of a shock to you if you’ve yet to do the deed, or at least give you a laugh as you look back (eyes watering and knees-a-trembling) on your own first birth experience…
You really might poo
It’s a simple fact of the mechanics of expelling a sizeable human from a small (albeit stretchy) orifice that your bowel has no option but to get dragged along to that particular party. As you’ll know if you’ve ever inadvertently peed your pants whilst laughing / sneezing / coughing, it is nigh-on impossible to push with all your might from, um, 'down there' without also, alas, activating certain other muscles usually reserved for straining of a different kind. Never mind pooing myself during delivery, I was surprised I didn’t lose an eyeball in the process.
Indecorous as it might seem to take a dump on the delivery table against your will, poo is really the least of your worries at that point but the good news is that most midwives are adept at dealing with this issue delicately, and thus will have deftly whipped away the offending article before you so much as get a whiff of it. In fact a midwife friend reliably informs me that the vast majority of women don't even realise they've done the deed - midwives are *that* discreet at dealing with it.
The downside to that, however, is that when the post-birth high has finally worn off and you’re debriefing with your birthing partner over every detail of your delivery, you may not cope well with the dawning realisation that watching a face emerge from your lady bits isn’t the only strange new thing your other half might have witnessed that day. But if pooing during delivery is a cloud of sorts, then its silver lining is that having someone watch you crap yourself and still claim to find you beautiful afterwards is pretty damned marvellous.
Your baby might seem a teeny bit ugly
At Playpennies Towers we’re all agreed that the whole swept-away-in-an-instant-bond-of-unbreakable-love thing can be a total myth for some women when they become mothers. Of course, you might be one of the lucky ones who feels overwhelmed with the warm fuzzies the moment she claps eyes on her progeny, but for most of us the sentiment that best sums that moment up is more like ‘Eeeeeuuuurrrrgggghhhhhh,’ swiftly followed by a compulsion to hand the baby to someone else while you have a nice cup of tea and cry silent tears of thankfulness that you survived the whole ordeal.
And aside from the fact that most newborns wear a startled facial expression that resembles a really angry bulldog chewing a wasp, the whole covered in blood and weird-smelling sticky stuff thing can be pretty off-putting too.
Plus if the pushing part takes a while or requires certain kinds of intervention, your baby might well arrive sporting a cone-head, which can come as something of a shock. Of course none of this matters in the great scheme of things, but I’m just saying that it’s totally normal to feel a tad squeamish by the sight of your brand new baby so don't worry if that's your initial reaction. You certainly don’t see *that* in the movies.
Afterpains can hurt like hell
Sweet mercy, nothing upon God’s green earth could have prepared me for the soul-sapping, mind-bending agony of the afterpains that followed the delivery of my third baby, who popped out within minutes of our arrival at hospital. I wondered if my midwife had been making a cuppa shortly before delivering my baby and had inadvertently left her knitting, a teaspoon and a packet of chocolate Hob Nobs behind after my last internal examination, because I couldn’t believe anything could hurt THAT much and yet be so unproductive. Never mind pain relief in labour, it was afterwards that I needed the good drugs, and plenty of ‘em. Fortuately by that stage in the proceedings it’s totally acceptable to down several glasses of champagne in a bid to numb the blistering pain. I mean celebrate the joy of new life. (I'm also told that not everyone suffers afterpains this bad, and that mine might have been on account of the speed with which my baby arrived. So maybe it's my comeuppance for feeling smug about having quick labours...)
There’s usually a lot of blood
When I was expecting my first baby, a male friend commented that the floor of his wife’s delivery room looked as if someone had been beheaded following the birth of their first child. Suffice it to say that giving birth to a baby involves a lot more blood than you might expect, and it doesn’t really stop flowing for a good while after you give birth. I’m talking days and possibly weeks, not hours, so no matter how many packets of maternity pads (otherwise known as unmentionables in my house) you’ve stashed up on, add another half dozen and you might just have the first few nights covered. Again, it's a small price to pay for even one good sniff of that delicious newborn's bonce.
You might be too tired to care about anything
After months of excitedly waiting to discover whether she was having a boy or a girl, one of our team admits to being so exhausted and overwhelmed after giving birth that she says she couldn’t really care less which it was when her daughter finally arrived. “I was too tired to ask, and had to be told,” she recalls.
So there you have it; the truth about labour. I hope it doesn’t give you nightmares or burst any bubbles but in a funny sort of way, accepting that nothing can truly prepare you for labour might be just about the best form of preparation there is.