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What No One Tells You About Labor

It seems as if every woman who has ever birthed a baby has a different birth story to tell. And these stories run the gamut, from amusing to hysterically funny, mildly scary to downright horrifying. But hidden inside every baby delivery tale are some things that are quite common to the experience, gross even, that are often skipped over in the actual telling. You know, the stuff that might feel awkward to mention in polite company.

We place no such limits on ourselves here. Our purpose herewith is to shed some light on some of these lesser-known aspects of the labor experience.

Take when your water breaks, for example. This release of amniotic fluid is not the kind of splashdown moment TV would have you believe. The reality is, your water breaking feels like you’ve just peed yourself, and peed yourself quite a bit—yet it’s more than likely that the shoes of innocent bystanders will survive the onslaught. Remember that episode of Sex and the City when a laboring Miranda drenches Carrie’s pink Louboutins? Funny, sure, but not realistic.

The uninitiated might also be surprised to learn that many women who are in labor will poop themselves at some point and not even know it. The nurses will take care of it. Nothing they haven’t seen before.

While the drug debate often comes up—the question of whether to get the epidural or go natural—nobody can tell you how bad labor pain will be for you. Nobody can know your threshold or your limit, and you won’t know until it’s already happening. We’re not talking about the contractions that come during early labor, when you can still eat lunch, watch TV and take careful notes. Those are cake compared to what comes later. So it’s best to keep all options open. Be ready to accept the relief that’s available, if you need it. Bonus fun fact: you can push the baby out with an epidural still in effect. It might feel like you’re sitting on two water balloons, but you’re not paralyzed.

Another interesting tidbit most folks leave out of their birth stories: Once the baby is out of you, you have to deliver the placenta. It’s no big deal. Anticlimactic even. (It kinda looks like a meatloaf.)

One last thing nobody likes to talk about when they talk about labor: it’s a bloody mess. Literally. Bloody discharge comes with contractions, particularly at the later stage, when they are fast and furious, and when your cervix is fully dilated and the baby has descended, getting ready for passage through the birth canal. Then there’s the blood that comes out with the baby, along with mucus and other fun stuff. And after the baby is born, you will keep on bleeding, probably for several weeks afterward. It’s like having your period, times ten. But it’s nothing you can’t handle.

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