** Warning: if you are easily offended by the word ‘vagina’ or talk of poop, then don’t bother reading any further!**
I’ve decided to write this post, not because I want to be self-indulgent, nor because I have some weird desire to overshare intimate details of my physical being… but because when you have a baby, and indeed after, your body has to deal with an awful lot. And as I found out (the hard way) everyone is so focused on the actual labour, that they neglect to tell you a few details about what you might experience afterwards (and indeed during), and I really wish someone had had the balls to tell me some of the gory details so I could get my head around it before I was faced with it.
So here we are, here’s some home truths we’re faced with in the aftermath of giving birth, but that everyone’s too polite to talk about. Let’s talk poo, stitches, nudity, and generally losing any dignity you ever thought you had!
First let me say this; whatever ‘horrors’ await you during and after birth, It’s SO worth it, and the moment you meet your baby, nothing else matters, so leave your dignity at the door, embrace your vulnerability and remember that you’re about to perform the most amazing physical miracle of your life, and the people in that room with you know that – if your partner/baby’s dad is in the room, he doesn’t care how unattractive you look, or whether you fart, puke or (horror of horrors) actually poo during labour – you’re bringing their child into the world. And any midwives and doctors present are professionals, they’ve seen it all before and knowingly chose a career that entailed seeing vaginas every single day!
So now down to business….
1) “Oh my god – what if I tear down there?!”
I think this is something all women fear pre-birth, in such a sensitive place it’s definitely a scary thought and it sounds totally gruesome!
The truth of the matter is that actually, over 90% of women tear, so chances are you’re going to be one of them, so my advice would be to relax and try not to think about it. If you’re thinking that sounds easier said than done, I can at least promise you this as one of the 90% myself; you won’t even notice!
There’s lots of pain going on ‘down there’ – it all hurts, you’re concentrating on pushing and at this point you just want baby delivered. I had a second degree tear (meaning it went through to the muscle), and I wasn’t any the wiser.
Unfortunately the worst part of it all is the stitching up, not that you feel that either thanks to local aesthetic, but the embarrassment factor. At this point you’re exhausted, you’ve pulled unattractive faces, made unattractive noises, possibly farted, maybe even pooed (more in that next) all in front of someone you hadn’t even met a few hours previously. In my case you’ve also been completely naked because you didn’t think you’d use the birth pool and therefore didn’t think to pack a bikini top or tshirt to wear in it.
And now, your dignity no longer exists, so forget you ever had any.
Now you find yourself spread-eagled in stirrups as you make polite chit chat with the nice lady who is darning your broken vagina.
2) “Oh my god – what if I poo?!”
The first I was aware that this was even a possibility was when I read a post on a pregnancy and parenting Facebook group, where a girl had written something to the effect of;
“I’ve heard that you can poo during labour and I really don’t want to! How do I stop this happening?!”
Horror of horrors.
I mean seriously WTF?! As if it isn’t bad enough, the pain, the people becoming more visually familiar with your foof than you ever will be… now you might poo yourself. With people in the room!
So what’s the answer to the girls question?
There is nothing you can do about it!!!
Sorry girls. Much like the possibility of tearing, you can’t stop this, it’s a natural and common part of labour. Your colon is right next to your vagina and as the baby squeezes out, unfortunately, so might yesterday’s dinner.
So what’s my silver lining for this little gem?! Can there even be one?
Yep! Firstly, again, you might not even notice you’ve done it, and secondly, you quite literally (and the pun here is fully intended) won’t give a shit! While trying to squeeze a baby out, your toilet habits will honestly be the least of your worries! Also remember that the midwives and doctors have seen it all before and understand it’s totally involuntary and natural, plus they chose their career and the consequences of it!!
If baby’s dad is in the room, don’t worry either, you’re performing the super human triumph of bringing their son or daughter into the world- a little bit of poop will soon be forgotten!
3) SO much blood…
I was somewhat surprised to open my eyes after Lochlan made his appearance and discover that I was sitting in a now bloody bath.
As I walked from the birthing pool back to the bed, I left bloody footprints – I would’ve been quite concerned had my midwife not been very quick to reassure me that that was normal and it was just where the placenta had detached itself from the wall of the womb.
I look back and realise that for a supposedly (relatively) intelligent girl, I can be totally dim!
A friend of mine who had her baby a few months before me, was kind enough while I was pregnant to send me somethings she hadn’t used or had finished using. This included things like some baby bath products that she didn’t want, a few sample nappies, and the tail end of a pack of maxi pad sanitary towels.
“How odd” I thought, “I’m pregnant, obviously I’m not having periods!”
What. A. Twit.
If you usually have a period every month, it stands to reason that after giving birth, you’d have one enormous period!
It can last for weeks too. Yay. If you haven’t checked out maternity pads yet, they’re a gloriously thick pad that is both absorbant and cushioning. That’s right, your foof will be so sore you need cushioning! Your baby isn’t the only one wearing nappies!
Oh, and PS. It smells weird.
4) The first post-partum poop.
Remember how I mentioned how close to the vagina your colon is….?!
Never would I have imagined in my wildest dreams, that your actual arsehole would be so heavily affected by childbirth! The poor thing is totally caught up as collateral, and you know about it for a good couple of weeks – unfortunately your first venture to the loo is quite possibly more terrifying than childbirth, because it actually feels like childbirth!
I don’t really have much more to say on the subject really other than I’m sorry to be the barer of bad news, and as with the rest of the experience that is birthing your child, you will get through it!
5) After the event, and there’s still someone asking to see your vagina.
“How’s your pain?” Get used to this question, you’ll be asked it a lot if you stay in hospital a little longer. If you’ve had stitches, midwives will regularly ask if you’d like them checked – don’t be shy about this, particularly if you’re uncomfortable or think that something might be wrong, again, they’ve seen it all before.
6) Breastfeeding?! This gives all midwives the right to touch your boobs.
I’m actually going to do a whole post on breastfeeding but for now I’ll just mention getting started…
For something so ‘natural’ it’s actually not that easy, and some babies really struggle to get it. Particularly when like my son, they have a tongue tie making life difficult!
Midwives will dutifully offer to step in and offer guidance (and thank goodness they do, as their assistance is genuinely really helpful), this means that a) you need to prepare to get your baps out in front of people, and b)midwives will grab your boobs in a bid to connect it with your newborn’s mouth! Your boobs are up for grabs, they will be manhandled! (That said, they will always ask your permission, and if you’re not comfortable, just say so!)
So there we have it, six gruesome truths about childbirth and the aftermath. Everyone’s experience is different, so don’t let peoples horror stories scare you, and believe me, when you look back you’ll end up laughing!