Next up in this mini-series which mostly involves my friend’s Whatsapping me about poo, we’re talking child birth! It’s one of those things that before you get pregnant you try to avoid thinking about in too much detail, and you’re certainly not going to research, then you get pregnant and you’re supposed to know everything. Do you want an epidural? What’s an episiotomy (we’ll get to it, and sorry in advance)? And most importantly who fishes the shit out of the birth pool?!
I asked my non-pregnant, non-tiny human rearing, Pill-guzzling (especially since these conversations) friends what they want to know about child birth. Warning, this may get graphic…
Ok, it’s the question everybody asked so lets get it out of the way…
Does everybody poo?!
No. A lot of people do, yes. I didn’t (every contraction made me need to run to the toilet instead, which led to quite the inner turmoil about whether I needed to go back to the bathroom or if I needed to push).
I was terrified about this too the first time around, it’s mortifying to think that as a grown adult you may be about to shit yourself in front of a room full of people. We’re not exactly a society who talk freely about our toilet habits, and the idea of losing our dignity to that extent is terrifying to most women.
The thing is though, there’s way more going on down there that you will be far more preoccupied by. There’s an actual human coming out of your vagina. In the moment, you won’t give a shit (pun intended). And afterwards you have a baby, that’s way more interesting than what your midwife subtly cleaned away (yes, if you’re in a pool there really is a little sieve for poo fishing, I don’t know if they make them specifically or if they just grab some from Ikea but they exist).
Does everybody tear?
Again, no. Everybody is left with some level of damage, as much as we’re designed to do this evolution didn’t let it happen easily. There’s a huge range of what can happen down there; from ‘grazes’ to a mediolateral episiotomy. A graze doesn’t need stitches, just a few cuts that will heal on their own, an episiotomy…well that’s basically front to back. I know. I’m sorry.
This is something you can’t predict with child birth, it can depend on baby’s size, their position, the position you choose to labour in, how you push, or just bad damn luck. I have recently learnt about perineal massage though, which can stretch it out and hell I’m all for trying anything to avoid stitches!
I have read about cutting. Cutting sounds awful. WTAF?
Cutting is actually preferable to tearing. The midwife may decide that you need some help opening up to allow baby out, and will cut from your vaginal opening to one side of your anus. Yes, of course this sounds horrendous, makes you cross your legs and makes your eyes water (any guys reading, still sure getting kicked in the balls is worse?!), but this is the better option. If you’re cut it’s done in a clean, controlled way, the midwife knows where to cut and it is an easier wound to stitch up afterwards. Tearing is unpredictable and probably won’t follow a straight line. Think about trying to tear a piece of paper in two or using scissors to do it, one’s going to be neater.
Nobody wants a scalpel being wielded at their fanny, but that’s the joys of childbirth I’m afraid, sometimes it’s the best option.
Why the hell do you have also have to give birth to your placenta? I thought it all came out in one job lot? How long does it take?
Yeah they don’t really tell you about that. Basically how you go about this depends on how you are choosing to labour, delivering the placenta is called the third stage of labour, because two stages isn’t enough obvs. You can either have a physiological third stage, where you wait to deliver the placenta naturally, baby stays attached by their cord (until it stops pulsating – yeah that’s a thing too) and they are able to get all of the nutrients and the best blood from the placenta. Or you can have an injection of syntocinon in your thigh, baby’s cord is cut and you don’t really notice the placenta coming out. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, they just have to make sure it’s all out and intact (came away from the uterine wall properly) to make sure you’re not at risk for heavy bleeding or infection).
Either option is just as safe, and you’re giving baby just as good a start, it all depends on parental preference. With my first labour I had the injection (I didn’t actually know of any other option), this time around I’m thinking of delayed clamping. I didn’t even notice any of it happening and was pretty baffled when the midwife asked if I wanted to look away from my brand new baby to have a look at the placenta. That shit ain’t pretty.
What’s your fanny like afterwards? Irreparable damage?
I haven’t had the luxury of being able to go ‘was it better before? Is it better now? DID IT ALWAYS LOOK LIKE THAT?!’ to anybody. This time round I will be asking for a report card before and after. We’ll put it this way though, I’ve had no complaints.
The immediate aftermath is a bit of a mess, don’t look! Seeing your own car crash fanny isn’t going to do your self esteem any good.
There’s a lot more blood that you expect post birth, it’s like the heaviest period you’ve ever had times ten. That lasts for a fair few days and is quite miserable, not least because maternity pads are essentially adult nappies.
Also one thing nobody told me first time around you keep getting contractions!! Literally nobody told me. I thought I was either dying or there was another baby in there that everybody missed. Turns out it was just my uterus going back to the size it should be but you really ought to warn a girl! (This is worse when breastfeeding, because obviously breastfeeding isn’t painful enough)
Weeing and pooing after? I’m terrified. Were you terrified? Was it really painful?
There’s no way to sugarcoat that one. If you’ve ever experienced a really awful bought of diarrhea that’s left you a little sore you might have some idea of what’s to come. Basically wee on an open wound doesn’t feel all that great. You will need a jug of warm water to pour over you at the same time (in the hope that it washes some away) and to lean riiiight forward to try and direct your stream away (if you’ve ever tried to ensure your pee hits the side of the bowl so a new boyfriend doesn’t know you have bodily functions you’ll have this bit down).
I have never been more terrified of anything in my life as I was about going for my first post birth poo, this is the poo you should care about, not the mid-labour one. Giving birth you’re pushing in much the same way as when you poo, the urge to push is the same as the urge to poo, so going through those actions again can feel like…well like your fanny might fall out. I can’t imagine how much scarier this would be with stitches as well. Fuck. I’m starting to regret this blog…I’ve got to do all this again!
What would be your best advice for a man during labour? What should he do and what should he really not do?
This is actually a whole new ball game for me. My first labour I was alone for almost all of it, so I haven’t learnt just what I need and what I really need you to stop doing. Also, I happen to have procreated with what may well be the most annoying man on the planet, don’t get me wrong, I love the bones of him, but there’s a time and a place for songs about pigeons flying away – labour isn’t it.
I think a lot of men can feel very helpless during labour, especially if there are any complications, there’s not really that much they can do to help and they get shouted at a lot (it is your fault). The main thing is to prepare with your partner, know their birth plan, know what they want and what they don’t want, know their planned positions, pack the hospital bag and know where the spare hair bands are, and listen. You hear a lot of stories of dads moaning about being tired, hungry, or bored during labour, don’t be that guy. Your partner is about to do something bloody impressive, she’s bringing life into this world – your job right now is to do everything she asks, to be her cheerleader, and to be her support. If things don’t go to plan it’s down to you to keep calm and hold her hand.
Sound like a lot of pressure? Know that deep down you’ll want to faint at the sight of it? Tough shit. You’re not the one getting sliced from fanny to arse.
Oh, and never, ever make a joke about the ‘husband’ stitch. You’re paranoid enough about your post-baby body without that misogynistic bullshit.
What’s it like to lay eyes on your baby for the first time?
There aren’t words to describe this feeling. Every cliché out there about love at first sight doesn’t even come close. The rush of hormones that your body goes through and the emotional onslaught is like the best drug ever, if you could bottle that feeling you’d be a millionaire.
It’s also a big fat dose of reality. You’ve been carrying them for nine months and of course knew you were going to have a baby, but the reality of holding this tiny ball of responsibility for the first time it really sinks in. You’re a mum. A grown up. This person will rely on you for everything. I think for dads this is often when it really hits them too, not having carried the baby the connection isn’t quite as strong for most dads until they have a baby physically in their arms.
This is what makes it all worth it, honestly. It’s why I know that no matter what happens I can do labour again and I keep getting butterflies just thinking about it.
Birth can be awful, it can be scary, and it can be really, really painful. It can also be a beautiful experience. You have to go into it with a positive attitude towards birth, a strong understanding, and an absolute faith in your body. We are women, we are built for this. Allowing your body to do what it needs to do and feeling prepared and calm about labour can mean that birth is far from the screaming, panicked, emergency labours we see on One Born Every Minute (I fucking hate that show for many reasons, its unnecessary need to scare women about childbirth being one of them). You don’t have to have a scary labour.
But even if things don’t go to plan, even if the birth plan gets thrown out the window, you’re still bringing a life in to the world, and the first time you see that little person and hold them to your chest you will experience love like you never knew possible. And it’ll all be worth it.
It’s still worse than being kicked in the balls though. No matter what he says. I’d be more than happy to offer my services as a mid-contraction ball kick to test it if needed…
Next up I’ll be talking breastfeeding and the first three months, hit me up if you have any questions that you want answered, not just those of you on my Whatsapp 😉