There’s only so much you can prepare for when it comes to labour, and because every birth is different, it’s impossible to really know what lies ahead. When I was pregnant, I did everything I could in the lead-up to my big day. Like many others, I went to my antenatal classes and learned about the stages of labour, the different types of pain management and what an episiotomy was all about. I wrote a birth plan and read up on what to expect when my waters broke. I thought I was clued up and knew what was coming.
But while a lot of things happened during my first labour that I had been forewarned about, there were plenty of things that took me by surprise, despite my careful preparations.
1. Never has leakage been this exciting
It was around 3am when my waters broke, and the feeling of warm liquid gushing from my nether regions is up there with one of the most exciting moments of my life. Never had so much meaning and anticipation been behind vaginal leakage. I remember giggling with excitement while I wrapped a towel around my bottom half, thinking that there I was wetting myself uncontrollably and I couldn’t have been happier. Here we go! Bring on the contractions! I thought, somewhat naively.
2. Contractions left me speechless
I did what I was told and stayed home during early labour, timing the contractions and noting when they became longer and closer together. But even for early labour contractions, the pain blew me away. For some reason, I couldn’t stand talking or being with anyone when I was in the throes of one, so whenever I felt a contraction coming I went into another room to rock on all fours while the pain took over my body.
3. Panadol didn’t touch the sides
I tried taking a couple of these, as suggested by the midwife who ran our antenatal classes, but they had zero effect on the pain of contractions. Hell, I even tried sipping on a glass of wine to take my mind off them, but alcohol was the last thing I wanted to taste while I was in labour, so that didn’t work either. I remember looking in the mirror after labouring all day at home, and I was as pale as a ghost from pain and exhaustion. Still, that was only the beginning.
4. It went on forever
I knew the first stages of labour took some time to go through, but it was nearly a whole day from when my waters broke until I had my baby. What kept me going were the exciting things that happened along the way: hearing my baby’s heartbeat, being told I was 10 centimetres dilated and feeling the first urge to push … although that one came with a price-tag.
5. The first urges to push were EXACTLY like needing a poo
I hate to break it to you, but based on this learning, I can safely confirm that pooing during your labour is a real possibility. Sorry. I really am.
6. Birthing wasn’t straightforward
During our antenatal classes, I saw the graphic depicting how the baby goes down the birth canal and emerges head first into the world, but this wasn’t how it happened for me. During the pushing process, we found out that my baby boy had a shoulder stuck somewhere and couldn’t make his way like he should. At one point, his heart rate dropped due to distress, and everyone in the room looked at each other as if to say, ‘Uh-oh.’ It was a scary moment that I wasn’t ready for.
7. Being handed my baby was unbelievable
Then I had a baby, finally. They told me so much about what to expect during labour and birth, but no one prepared me for the incredible feeling of holding my very own newborn, who was handed to me by the midwife and instantly started whimpering into my neck, like he was talking to me and knew who I was. It felt divine, and everything about the world suddenly made sense.
Far out. I was ready to do it all again right then and there for him.