This post was originally published on October 11, 2010, after the birth of my first. But after a recent chat with another mom about things no one tells you about labor and delivery — and recovery — I thought I’d share it again!
When I was pregnant with my first, I desperately wanted to know the dirty details of labor and delivery. I wanted to know what to expect, what I was in for. I wanted to know what I should expect from recovery and when I’d start feeling like myself again. I wanted to know what to expect, especially because I wanted a natural childbirth. Here are a few of the dirty secrets I wish I’d known.
What No One Tells You About Labor and Delivery
1. Yes, it hurts afterward. You will feel like your nether regions were hit by a Mack truck. Actually, your whole body will feel like it was hit by a Mack truck. I used muscles I never knew I had. I had broken blood vessels in my eyes and my shoulders from pushing.
2. You won’t care if you poop. A common fear about giving birth is pooping while pushing. This will be the absolute last thing on your mind. While I was pushing, I had a nurse apologize for taking too long putting in an IV. I told her she could be cutting off my arm and I wouldn’t care. You get in a zone and you lose most inhibitions. (Plus, I didn’t even poop while pushing … early labor took care of that for me before I hit the hospital!)
3. It will feel like … Giving birth feels exactly like you’re having the largest, most painful bowel movement of your life. (See also No. 6.)
4. You can do it. You are so much tougher than you think.
5. The bump sticks. You will still look way pregnant after your baby arrives. Thankfully, a new-mom friend of mine warned me of this, and thank goodness she did. Those basketball-shaped tummies don’t just deflate once they’re minus a baby. Give it a week or two, and then you’ll know what kind of post-baby body you’re really dealing with.
6. Take care of yourself. I cannot recommend enough: Staying hydrated, eating lots of fiber and taking all of the hospital-issued stool softeners. You do not want to deal with issues of the rear, such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures. You do not want your bowel movements to remind you of the pain of natural childbirth. Trust me.
7. Kegels didn’t do Jack.I Kegeled throughout my pregnancy, so I was shocked when I peed myself heading to the toilet one day postpartum. Just goes to show: Shooting a person out of your body won’t leave your pelvic floor muscles unscathed. Things should shape up again, but it may take months. Until then, I preemptively head to the bathroom.
8. You bleed. Sure, you don’t have a period for nine months, but you more than make up for that postpartum. Be prepared for 4 to 6 weeks of postpartum bleeding, called “lochia.” Mine slowed right at the four-week mark and boy, was I ready to see it go.
9. You will be beyond tired. You will never be more exhausted in your life than the first week after giving birth. And the cruel irony? You may not be able to sleep. A nurse told me that hormones meant to keep you awake and alert to care for your baby also keep you awake when you actually have a precious few minutes to sleep. I barely slept that first week.
10. You have no time. During those early weeks, sometimes it’s all you can do in an eight-hour day to keep the baby fed and clean. If you have time to shower, you’re a super mama.
11. You won’t regret it. You’ll love your baby more than life. And it’ll all be worth it.
What dirty secrets do you wish you’d known before giving birth? —Erin