I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been creepily lurking on…er, I mean, looking for information on…mom forums where brand-new-spankin’ mothers expressed their outrage about being clueless and unprepared when it came to the, um, after-effects of childbirth. That’s because some of those effects are unpleasant, embarrassing and, to be honest, totally forgotten within minutes, which is how the human race continues to live on. I mean, if most women clearly remembered how they looked in those mesh panties…well, let’s just say chimpanzees would be ruling this world (if they don’t already).
Having been in your position not all that long ago, I thought it might be helpful for the pregnant ladies out there to have a comprehensive list of all the strange things that may occur — the things you won’t find in What to Expect When You’re Expecting, that’s for sure. I know I would have appreciated a heads up. So, to all the expectant mamas out there whose baby showers I can’t attend: This list is my gift to you. Just keep in mind that every woman’s experience is different, of course — my observations are based on two smooth, epidural-enhanced vaginal deliveries.
With that verbose introduction, here they are:
#1 – What does childbirth feel like? Will I be able to handle the pain? all nervous pregnant women wonder. Yes, ALL. How can you not look down at your vagina and wonder how it can possibly accommodate your baby’s monster head? In my experience, it didn’t really hurt. (Don’t give me that look. I’m serious.) I had a highly effective epidural — in fact, I wish we’d dialed it back during my second delivery because I could barely feel what was going on down there — plus, there is an amazing rush of adrenaline you get that supersedes any discomfort. I just felt pressure, which was my baby making his/her way out, and then another huge surge of adrenaline when my doctor suggested reaching down and touching the baby’s head. I was initially uncertain about touching my daughter WHILE SHE WAS STILL INSIDE OF ME — afraid that I might, like, faint or something — and am SO glad that I changed my mind. The second time ’round, I didn’t even hesitate.
#2 – What does an epidural feel like? It made me feel relaxed, numb and loopy — a good thing, because I was becoming rather cranky the second time ’round, what with having to induce (because of my monster-sized kid) and worrying about how my 23-month-old would react to her new baby brother. I also shivered like a dog on crack, I kid you not. That was something for which I was unprepared: the shivering and the shaking. A common side effect, apparently. Can’t say I enjoyed that. But totally worth the relatively pain-free deliveries, that’s fo’ sho’.
#3 – Will I poop on the delivery table? Many of my friends did. I did not — either time. And if you do…? The nurses are clean-up pros. Really, anticipating it happening is much worse than when it actually does happen, from what I’ve been told. So just get over the poop thing already.
#4- For those who are considering the natural childbirth route, my cousin, who is a labor and delivery nurse, said the part that often shocks natural childbirthers the most is the pain they feel afterward…when they have to get stitched up with no pain relievers or adrenaline rush.
#5- And what about getting stitched up, anyway? Again, this is only my experience: no tearing the first time and only a miniscule tear the second time ’round, which my OB still stitched up with a wink of sorts. Being, you know, a little loopy and all from JUST HAVING PUSHED A 9 LB., 12-OZ. KID OUT OF MY VAGINA, I didn’t think much about it — until later on, when Mr. Candy crowed about the “husband stitch” she gave to him, er… to me. Uh, what? Turns out, for naive women such as myself, “husband stitch” is slightly insulting slang for an extra stitch to make the vagina tighter — and I’ll be damned if it didn’t do exactly that. Yes! Complimentary vaginal rejuvenation! After my first pregnancy, I always peed when I laughed. True story. After my second…? Not a single drop. As far as sex went at first… all I can say is, ouch. My hymen was all, I’M BACK, BABY. So maybe ask your OB about that if you’re interested in pee-free laughter and a hymen that can suddenly talk.
#6 – Even though you’re holding your beautiful, wrinkled baby in your arms — it’s not over yet. You will still have to push and deliver your placenta. (Good eatin’ for later, according to January Jones!) It’s not painful, just an inconvenience because all you will want to do is focus your attention on the baby. Kind of anti-climactic. Maybe it would make the moment more exciting if the doctor announced its arrival: Congratulations! It’s a gooey one-and-a-half pounder!
#7 – I mentioned how the epidural made me shiver and shake uncontrollably — that continued for hours after having the baby. It sucked.
#8 – After you have the baby, and they weigh the baby, and you Tweet and Facebook and text the world about the baby, the nurse will ask you to try to pee — just to get things goin’ again. The first time I had a baby, this experience was accompanied by a nurse who squirted warm water on my vagina (to alleviate discomfort) before I did so. Let me repeat: I have had a woman use a water bottle to squirt my vagina. Although I had shed most of my modesty by that point (you kind of have to), that remains one of my most bizarre memories of post-childbirth. The second time around, I did it myself. (I’m talented like that.) Although, I should mention, it took me a long time before I was able to pee after the second birth, whereas I was able to do so immediately after my first baby. So perhaps nurses really do wield some magic when it comes to the vaginal squirt bottle.
#9 – This may be the most important thing to know: YOU WILL BLEED A LOT. For a long time. Like, for weeks. My husband assumed the vagina was like-new as soon as you were done giving birth. Foolish, foolish man. At first you will have to wear a maxi-pad approximately the size of Texas, covered by the aforementioned mesh panties (sex-ay!) because you will not want to stain your own underpants with the endless stream of blood. (Side note: This also makes lovely dinner conversation!) Whenever I see pictures of new moms in the hospital, wearing their silk pajamas from home, I’m like, Oh yeah, THAT’s a good idea. And did I mention the blood? Yeah, lots of it.
#10 – After my first birth, I wore an ice pack on my vagina overnight because it stung. It really, really stung. The second time, I barely used it.
#11 – You may be constipated afterward, so you will likely get laxatives in the hospital. When I did my first post-birth poop, the nurses cheered as if I had just crossed the finish line of a 10K marathon.
#12 – That lovely catheter they inserted into your bladder in the delivery room? It may cause urinary tract infections later on. I got them the second time around, some of my friends got them… weeks afterward. So if you notice a pinch when you’re peeing, cloudy urine, etc., don’t hesitate to call your doctor and say, THAT DAMN CATHETER!
#13 – In my personal experience, sex was uncomfortable for nine months after giving birth. Both times. Breastfeeding makes it particularly uncomfortable because your usual lubrication goes toward the production of milk. Your husband may or may not pretend to care about your discomfort.
#14 – Breastfeeding may also make your breasts veiny (because the hormone surge increases blood volume). As if pumping didn’t make you feel sexy enough.
#15 – You probably know this, but having a baby often makes your feet bigger. Permanently bigger. I went up a half-size — just what I needed, already being a size 9 1/2 and all. So you may want to start saying your tearful good-byes to your favorite pair of Stuart Weitzmans.
#16 – Because of the postpartum drop in estrogen (even more so if you’re breastfeeding), I would shake and shiver whenever I would emerge from a hot shower or bath — to the point I could barely move. It was actually debilitating. This lasted for a couple of weeks.
#17 – I still have nighttime sweats from breastfeeding — and my baby is 10 months old. My OB/GYN said it could last the duration of our nursing relationship.
#18 – Postpartum hemorrhoids. Enough said.
If you are like many women, the memory of this will eventually fade and you will willingly suffer through the craziness AGAIN — all for a whiff of that yummy newborn smell. Suckas!
Have I forgotten something? Wouldn’t be the first time. Feel free to add your two cents’ in the comments section.