Childbirth. Leave your dignity at the door, ladies. And let’s be frank: you’re probably not going to pick it up on the way out.
There’s a lot of things I didn’t know about the actual labour and birthing process, which may be down to the fact I wasn’t exactly planning Little Bear and I found out so late I didn’t have much time for things like antenatal classes. But there’s so much that happens I feel we should learn about this stuff in school! Screw the “safe sex” sex ed classes, let me describe giving birth to a bunch of 13 year olds and they’ll never have sex again! So I’m going to try and be really frank about my birth experience- sorry if it’s too graphic for you but you were warned!
Things which surprised me about the birthing process:
1. Your waters don’t just break in one big release.
To those of you who have had a baby or know anything about childbirth, this might be really obvious and I was just super unprepared. But your waters keep coming out. So you’re waddling around being 40 weeks pregnant as it is and then all this fluid starts gushing out of you so you have to put in a huge maternity pad and then you waddle even more and you’re getting flooded by amniotic fluid.
2. “So…did you sh*t yourself??”
…is not a question I ever thought I would be asked by so many people. But the answer is in all likelihood, yes. However, by that point I was trying to push a watermelon out of a hole big enough for a plum, my epidural had worn off, I’d spent the last 12 hours throwing up anything I’d put in my stomach and I had my legs akimbo strapped in stirrups. I really couldn’t give less of a f*ck if there was a little bit of poo coming out of me too. And the midwives were beautifully discreet about the whole thing.
3. I became the queen of bodily fluids.
Blood? Check. Vomit? Check. Tears? Check. Wee? Check. Poo? Check. Sweat? Double check. Literally every bodily fluid you possess can and will pour out of you. I didn’t realise but your digestive system shuts down in labour so everything comes back up. Including Ribena. Which is black when it comes back, and therefore makes you look as though you’ve been possessed by a demon and are in the process of being exorcised. And it doesn’t stop once they’re born… it didn’t help that once Little Bear was born the midwife didn’t clamp the cord properly so there was blood everywhere and then Bear did a poo so there was poo everywhere too. My first cuddles with my daughter had a nice viscous coating of bodily fluid.
4. Your whole body hurts afterwards.
I was expecting some degree of pain, you don’t push a human out of you and expect to come away unscathed (especially in the vaginal region). However, I didn’t expect to feel like I’d just done 3 back to back Tough Mudders and played a week long rugby tournament. All of your muscles work hard and put energy into pushing so they are all strained- my neck and shoulders felt like I’d spent the whole day before doing scrum practise. I did have quite a long and tough pushing stage but still, I just wasn’t prepared for the muscle pain as well as all the pain in the vaginal region. Speaking of which…
5. Bitches get stitches.
I knew I would probably come out with stitches but oh my god you can feel them for weeks. I had an episiotomy to fit the kiwi cup in (the consultant ended up practically dragging Little Bear out) but I didn’t tear, and my heart goes out to any ladies who do tear. I was fairly lucky. But I didn’t expect to be able to feel the stitches all the time. The last four weeks the only place my vagina has felt a semblance of normal is in the bath and even then I still feel aware of the stitches. And that first post partum poo- nobody warned me that it literally feels as though every single one of your internal organs is going to fall out of your bum. And all of your stitches will rip out. And your downstairs mix up will never be the same ever again. But thankfully, I seem to be going back to normal now (fingers crossed). Also you keep bleeding for weeks after bubba is born. As a firm believer in tampon over pad I’ve really struggled with wearing a pad every day which is another thing I totally didn’t expect, and didn’t expect to bother me so much!
6. Baby Blues is a real thing…And it’s tough.
I debated whether or not to include this one- I don’t like admitting to weakness and this was an absolute low point. But I figure, I’m trying to sum up what surprised me and the baby blues definitely did. I consider myself a pretty strong person, physically and mentally speaking- I was so unprepared for what the baby blues was actually like. The fourth day after I bought my little bundle home I found myself sat on the toilet trying to poo, sobbing my eyes out because Bear was crying in her cot and I knew she needed feeding but I couldnt get to her and I knew I was going to be a while on the toilet. So my amazing star of a brother went and got her and I fed her sat on the toilet. I then sobbed because “what will I do when you and mum are at work and I’m on my own and she’s crying and I can’t help her”. I sobbed for what felt like an hour and if my brother hadn’t been there and then a beautiful friend popped in to see me and give me a much needed cuddle I would have sobbed all day. It’s overwhelming and terrifying bringing home a tiny human who absolutely relies on you 100%. But I’ve since realised that sobbing on the loo the day your milk comes in is fine. It’s totally allowed, and being emotional after the trauma of childbirth is to be expected. And it’s always okay to ask for help.
7. I am so loved.
I’ve never not felt loved, but the outpouring of love and support from literally everyone in my life and the generosity of people has been incredible. I am so grateful and overwhelmed by the things people have done for me. My family are the absolute best- my sister washing my hair for me the day after birth because I couldn’t stand up in the shower, my brother sitting with me and talking and soothing me while I had my little baby blues episode on the toilet. My Mum is amazing and if I can be half the mother to Bear that she is to me I will be content with the job I have done. I’ve had so many visitors and Bear can’t actually move for clothes and gifts and cards. We are so lucky and I am bringing my daughter into a world where she is already loved and cherished and held dear in so many people’s hearts and minds.
8.The most surprising thing of all- love.
I can’t believe how much I love this little human that I made. I love her with every fibre of my being and it is the purest emotion I have ever felt. She melts my heart and my soul is hers. We are a little team of two, with huge support behind us and that is perfection.
It’s not been easy- god no. There was a point in my pushing stage when Bear kept on crowning and then disappearing where I was saying to my mum and my sister “I can’t do this any more. I’m trying so hard but I just can’t”. I’ve cried happy tears, sad tears, stressed tears, angry tears over the past 4 weeks. But it’s been an experience, and I truly believe that out of everything I’ve done in my life so far, being a Mum will be my favourite adventure.
I’ve painted it in a pretty crap light. And it is fucking hard and painful and exhausting. But it’s also the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. It made me really appreciate the power and resilience of my body and the miracle of science that having a baby is. It’s an incredible thing and it’s so hard to describe but I am so glad I’ve done it and my heart goes out to all mothers- we are amazing, strong, incredible creatures and do not let anybody make you feel otherwise.
Now, when can I start playing rugby again…?