There are some things that everyone knows about having a baby... such as it's nothing like Hollywood (where labour takes three minutes, involves cheeks attractively blushing and a sneeze-like push).
And there are other things people keep quiet about. To save the human race. (Nah, not really. It's not that bad, otherwise why would women have two..? Dontmentiontheforgettinghormone).
Anyway, this isn't written to scare mamas-to-be. The vast majority of women have smooth, safe births and if things don't go to plan, healthcare in this country is so good that you're in brilliant hands. But there are some things that you might just want to know.
So I crowdsourced mums to ask, what was the birthing experience that surprised/shocked/amazed/disgusted you? Here are the main answers.. so you can be prepared.
1. The animal noises thing
"That it's completely fine to moo on your hands and knees on the floor of the hospital reception..."
"The thing I wasn't expecting was the weird noises I made while in the end stages! I'm not a particularly loud person, and I'm not the type to draw attention to myself really but I was making such bizarre donkey/cow/whale noises!"
2. The shaking thing
"During labour I was shaking hard and my legs were all over the place and it freaked me out. But if I'd known before that it's normal, I wouldn't have worried."
3. The stitching thing
The concept of being stitched up, DOWN THERE, terrified me ever since we learnt about it in year 10 biology. But seriously: if you have to have an episiotomy (medical term for cutting down there), you don't really care. "You don't feel it 'cos your vag is numb in shock," laughs one mama. Although another advises: "they'll stick a paracetamol suppository up your bum at the end of stitching without any damn warning.." :O
4. The water-breaking thing
"I was shocked that, when your waters break you keep on leaking...like constantly wetting yourself...." Adds another mum: "No-one told me that when your waters break, it's not all done in one go. Would have been useful to know when I then got in the car after & it happened again.."
5. The privacy thing
"Despite being quite certain that you won't be able to cope with strangers looking at your secret place, and try to think of a way of giving birth with your tights still on, you very quickly welcome any and all personnel into the room while your feet are up at your ears..."
"To this day I do not understand fully why a nurse stuck her finger up my bum immediately after birth. Something about checking for tears... I remember only that it happened and I was actually not that bothered by that point...!"
6. The breathing thing
How much can breathing reaaaaallly get a baby out of you, I inwardly mocked during NCT classes where our (brilliant) teacher demonstrated a gentle blow, blow, blow like you're taking out birthday candles on a cake method. Well, it can. Seriously. Focusing on the breathing makes the pain manageable - for some until drugs can be found, for others until a baby emerges - either way, the 'breathing thing' works so do some practicing!
7. The blood thing
"I was shocked about just how much blood you lose post-birth. I knew it would happen but just not how much....I was changing a pad every hour. And nobody warns you those pads are HUGE and like wearing sanitary towels of years gone by."
8. The 'get your sweat on' thing
"You sweat loads at night after birth, especially if you have lots of water/swelling in pregnancy. Like, seriously. loads. I had to sleep with a towel under and on top of me for about two weeks after."
9. The epidural thing
"I was shocked / unpleasantly surprised to learn that you need a catheter if you have an epidural..!"
"I didn't know that you are not allowed to eat once you have had an epidural! That meant I was being sick because I was so hungry and then had no energy left to push."
10. The C-section thing
"I didn't realise I'd need to inject myself daily with anticoagulant drugs when I went home after a C-section."
11. That someone will say it's an amazing, beautiful thing
When I asked for mums' experiences, one said this: "I think its a terrible insult to women that most messages about birth are negative. I had a beautiful, stress and pain free birth (despite a ventouse delivery), an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Birth isn't something fearful, distressing or painful - it's something that our bodies were made to do." The final bit is definitely true - and as I said, just trying to share general 'this might be useful to know' rather than share war tales.
12. The "it's not over when the lil babe starts to sing," thing
"I didn't know you got afterpains. I had to do labour-breathing on a few occasions days after giving birth - and when I breast-fed, I got pains like the worst period ever as that's when your womb starts to shrink back apparently." Says another mum: "Afterpains when I breastfed meant, at once stage, I thought I had another one coming!"
13. The bodily surprises thing...
"Nobody told me about the possibility of giving birth to a bloodclot which was larger than my baby's head the day after the birth! I had a complete freak-out at that!"
And one more: The after ows
"That going to the toilet post episiotomy is as traumatic as the birth!!!?"
"The aftermath. Why does no one talk about this or prepare you for it?! Why does no one tell you it is like weeing a knife after stitches ?! I called it the "second birth".
"That afterwards you can't sit down properly for about a fortnight.."
What were you surprised by in birth? Share your tales by commenting below.