I became all nostalgic the other day when Princess Kate was in labour. I found myself wondering if she was worried at all about the birth and how she coped, even though she’d been through it once before. I decided she probably still had some worries, just like most of us mere mortals – that strange combination of excitement and fear.
When I was pregnant, there were certain things about giving birth that I worried about a LOT. In hindsight, I realise they were completely normal and in fact now I can see they’re quite funny. At the time though a few of them were downright petrifying! So for all the pregnant ladies who have the same concerns I had, I’m just going to get it all out there and calm those nerves. And if I’m opening a can of worms and you hadn’t even considered these things, promise me you won’t start worrying about them now!
1. Leaving my dignity at the door
I remember before my first baby was born, a friend told me that she was basically hosed down like a barnyard animal after she gave birth to her daughter. Horrific I thought, until it was pretty much happening to me too. The amazing thing was, I just didn’t care. I’m not a total prude but I’m reasonably modest – pretty standard I imagine. However, in that moment it all flies out the window. The noises you make when giving birth are quite frankly mortifying (although completely unsurprising) – I was embarrassed to leave the delivery suite and imagined that all the midwives were saying ‘Oh THAT’S her.’ And I had every intention of being covered up during my labours – um, nup. There was a whole lot of nudity. (I’m trying really hard but I still can’t imagine Princess Kate in this situation, can you?)
And let’s get this topic out of the way up front. The Greatest Fear Of Women During Labour – the pooing. It may happen, it may not. But again, at the time you just don’t care. No really, you don’t. (That didn’t stop me worrying about it AGAIN with my second!) Without going into minute detail, there’s a LOT of all sorts of stuff everywhere. I got the heads up that this was going to be the case when in labour with my first – I knew it was ‘go’ time when my obstetrician started talking to me from the corner of the room as he put on his gum-boots. I kid you not. And a few minutes after my second baby was born I said to my husband ‘Erk. It looks like a crime scene in here.’ But I figured I was now a mum – that’s what we deal with all day every day…..mess and bodily fluids!
2. Not having an immediate bond with my baby
I was really worried about this, particularly with my second child. How could I love this baby as much as my first? What if I felt nothing? What if it just didn’t happen? But it did. The love came and I realised my heart didn’t divide itself up – it simply grew so there was more love to go around. I imagine sometimes it could take a little while and may not happen as soon as you hold your baby for the first time. You’re in shock. You’ve been through this huge life-changing event, physically and emotionally. And then you’re all of a sudden responsible for this tiny little thing 24/7, which is completely overwhelming. If you feel like it isn’t going to happen or your gut instinct is telling you something is up, speak to someone. Tell your partner. It’s not abnormal or wrong. Share how you’re feeling and ask for help and support. You wouldn’t be the first and you won’t be the last.
3. What would happen to me physically and emotionally
In hindsight, I really loved being pregnant. Not so much the waddling, puffy feet, feeling like I was in a furnace, indigestion………the list is endless. But I now look back on it in sheer amazement. The fact that we can grow a human being inside us will never cease to amaze me, even though there are some not so pleasant side effects. Do I have post-baby body issues? Sure I do. But I have sort of accepted that stuff happens – boobs sag big-time, tummy goes all wobbly. Would I swap my kids for a perfect body? No way………unless they were really REALLY mucking up!
What your body goes through during labour is almost equally incredible. I also marvel at my mind in that moment. I actually don’t have a great memory of my births and I’m sure that’s part of the coping mechanism – otherwise everyone would be from single-child families!
Also, I wouldn’t consider myself a huge crier. Maybe at a good friend’s wedding and always during The Notebook, but nothing over the top. However, once I had a baby it all changed. I distinctly remember sobbing into my husband’s chest over a 60 Minutes segment. In those first few days and weeks you may have a little weep at pretty much anything – your beautiful baby, your sweet husband doing something touching or there being no milk for your cup of tea. And again, it’s totally normal. I say go with it – it’s about the only time you can get away with it. That goes for other emotions too.
4. How the labour would affect my relationship with my husband
I really feel for men during labour. Or women for that matter, if that’s the situation. Your other half can pretty much do nothing right. I called my husband names I have never called him before. I literally don’t know where it came from. I suppose if Princess Kate fired off a round of expletives at William during her labour it probably sounded quite refined in her lovely English accent! Me, not so much. In my royal fantasy imaginings Kate says something like “I’ll give you 5 f#$king minutes out the front of this hospital in a dress and stockings, but then I’m going back to the palace and putting trackies on, you ungrateful sod!”
My husband was extremely supportive the entire time but he really couldn’t do anything right. I remember him trying to rub my back. I was insisting that he do it exactly the same as Rosie the midwife. She was doing it perfectly and he just COULD. NOT. GET. IT! Poor poor man. Wonder how Wils was on the massage front during Kate’s birth?
In hindsight, I think going through labour and birth and then the few days afterwards brought my husband and me even closer. There is nothing more primal and exposing. I was at my most vulnerable and needed his support more than I’ve ever needed it. I realised afterwards that maybe men (or partners in general) are forgotten about a little bit in the whole pregnancy, labour and newborn caper. A lot is expected of them and 99.9% of the support during labour is directed at mum, unless they’ve fainted or are drunk!
You’ve got to cut them a bit of slack. There was a study conducted recently in China, where 20 men experienced a simulated labour by having electric shocks sent to their abdomen for 30 seconds. There were 10 levels of pain on a scale of 50 to 500…. all but one of the men gave up at 100. And they didn’t even experience the joy of a baby’s head crowning! They have NO idea what’s going on, they’re seeing you in a position (literally and metaphorically) that’s extremely uncomfortable and foreign to them, its pain on a level that’s completely incomprehensible and there’s often gore involved. Despite the overwhelming joy that comes with the arrival of their child, this can’t be fun for them at all and some would possibly opt to be anywhere else but there. But when push comes to shove (‘scuse the pun), surely most DO suck it up and come out the other side, bless them.
And there are words used and things that happen that no one wants their other half to hear or see – tearing, poo, afterbirth, stitches, haemorrhoids, cords, blood, placenta and so on and so forth. I figured if we came out of the whole experience relatively unscathed, were still speaking to one another and no one ran screaming from the room in a cold sweat then really, that was all that mattered.
What were you worried about before you gave birth?
If you feel like you may be suffering from Post Natal Depression or you’re concerned your partner or husband is not coping, speak with your GP or community nurse.
1300 22 4636
Depression After Delivery