By Frida Mom
The Truth About Childbirth
What the Books Don’t Tell You About Childbirth and the Aftermath
Here’s the thing: you can read every single childbirth book cover to cover, and still not be prepared for some of what goes down in L&D and recovery. Because if authors and experts put all the real stuff in those books, well, you might be a little less excited. Now, we don’t want to scare you - but we do want you to be prepared. So we talked to some moms who’ve been there, and they’re going to clue you in on what you can REALLY expect. This is basically the “The More You Know” star swipe breakdown of this magical and extremely effed up thing called childbirth. Brace yourselves.
Is it baby time?! Who the hell knows, honestly.
The books will tell you that it will happen thusly: you will start with mild contractions that get progressively worse, but not too fast for you to get your butt to the hospital. Then, your water will break, you will push, and voila! You have a baby! Don’t believe the books - or the movies. It doesn’t always happen by the book, and there are all kinds of ways your labor can be different. You can be like Kathy in East Northport, New York, whose uterus cried wolf a bunch before the real deal - after two months of false labor (with two hospital visits!), Kathy’s water broke the day before her scheduled C-section. Or you can end up like Kate in Montana, who was expecting a long, drawn out labor with slow-building contractions, only to end up like a character in the movies, “screeching down the highway and getting rolled down to the maternity ward on a gurney”. Did you know your water doesn’t always break on its own? Because it was news to Erin in Southern California! News that was delivered when her OBGYN brandished what can only be described as a knitting needle and informed her they would bust the bag. Good times.
To epidural or not to epidural, that is the question.
And the answer is, you do you! No one is going to give you a trophy if you go meds-free, and anyone who judges you for getting an epidural can kick rocks. As Jenna in Michigan says, “Epidurals are a godsend. Childbirth is hard enough even with it. Don't feel like you're copping out or that you need to do it natural.” That being said, epidurals aren’t as cut-and-dried as you might think. For example, sometimes they just … don’t work. Molly in Los Angeles got poked three times, and the good stuff never got to where it needed to be. Or, your epidural can work, on one side! Just the one side. If you’re experiencing back labor? Yeah, that epidural ain’t going to do s%*t to help you there, according to several moms we spoke to. The lesson here - don’t put all your eggs in the epidural basket. And heed this warning from Alexandra in Milwaukee, who was in for a rude awakening when things started to get intense: “I wish I would have known that there is a point where you can no longer ask for an epidural. They offered, I was feeling OK, so I declined. Then it got intense and I said, ‘I'll have the epidural now’ and the nurse laughed, ‘OH HONEY, THAT TRAIN LEFT THE STATION A LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG TIME AGO!’” File that under Very Important Information.
C-Sections are precise, surgical procedures. No surprises there, right? Um…
First things first: Nikkaya in New York needs you to know that you may come out of that surgery with A LOT less pubic hair than you had when you laid on that table. She says she was surprised to learn that she got what amounts to a full Brazilian as part of her surgery prep (so beware of that regrowth itch, yikes). Also, Nina in Cleveland didn’t know that she would be strapped to the table “like Jesus on the cross”, with her arms clamped down. That can be a seriously stressful thing to find out at the last possible minute, so heads up there!
Now, the meds you get during a C-section can take you on a bit of a wild ride. Beware of post-surgery nausea and vomiting, too. When you stand up for the first time after your C-section, says Mandey from San Jose, don’t be surprised when it feels like your stomach and organs are going to fall out - they won’t, fingers crossed, but we certainly understand how that would be concerning. And the gas bubbles after your C-section will make you feel like the doctors left a baby up in there and it’s trying to punch its way out with a pair of baby-sized brass knuckles.
Baby’s out, the hard part’s over! No, it’s not.
You may have won the battle, but the war is far from over, moms. See, people put so much of the focus on labor and delivery that they forget about the immediate aftermath and postpartum recovery. And this is where things can go sideways, real quick. For starters, the baby may be out, but you still have to deliver the placenta - contractions and pushing and the whole nine yards. Then, nurses come around almost immediately following delivery and start kneading your belly like a ball of dough. It’s called fundal pressure, but the “fun” in fundal is very misleading because it's not so fun.
Now, let’s talk about the blood. You may stand up the morning after delivery and dump copious amounts of blood onto the floor, which is what happened to lots of moms we spoke with. Imagine the heaviest period you’ve ever had - those industrial-sized maxi pads and disposable underwear are necessary for a reason. You: “Woohoo, no period for like 10 months!” Your period: “Hold my clot.” It will freak you, and your doctor will assure you it’s totally normal, and it is!
But by and large, the one thing moms who’ve been there wanted moms who’re on their way there to know is this: nothing, and we mean nothing, can prepare you for the first time on the toilet after you’ve given birth. You’ve just pushed a human baby out of your vagina. Below your waist lies a painful, burning, swollen war zone. You may have stitches, which adds another, more terrible layer of WTF to the whole thing. But you know what? You have to go to the bathroom. In fact, you probably won’t be allowed to go home until you do. Also, it’ll burn and sting when you pee, so the Frida Mom 5-Step Postpartum Recovery Regimen will be your postpartum pee checklist. However, what you really need to be prepared for is the first postpartum poop. Or, as Mandey from San Jose called it, “pooping daggers”. Kim from Asheville, North Carolina says she wishes someone had warned her that pooping after childbirth would be almost as painful as giving birth, and she’s not wrong. It’s a second birth, if you will. But instead of a baby, you get the cold sweats from trying to go and a thumbs up from your nurse when it’s over.
So much of pregnancy and childbirth and parenting is unpredictable and mysterious and hard, and we just want you to be as prepared as you can possibly be. Will all of this stuff happen to you? Probably not! Will you feel better about going into labor knowing you’ve been taking stool softeners for two weeks so you don’t have to go through poop labor? Well, we certainly hope so. If we can help one mom shuffle out of the bathroom without the shock, then we’ve accomplished our goal. Knowledge is power, moms.