Isn’t it incredible that women are pregnant for nine, sometimes ten months, before they even meet their babies? It’s almost God’s way of preparing us mentally for the incredible journey we are about to go on. Preparing for that journey starts with preparing for childbirth itself, and just like anything in life, unexpected things are almost guaranteed to pop up one way or another. As a birth photographer in Dubai, I’ve learned lots of new and interesting things just by watching on the sidelines, and hence why, I personally think, it is sometimes important to be educated on what to expect, or even better, what are some of the unexpected parts of birth, that most people choose not to talk about.
1. It takes an incredible amount of focus
I always know when a mom has entered the active labor phase, because suddenly, we transition from a woman who is chatty and lively between contractions, to witnessing the pure meaning of intense focus and attention. When labor gets going for real, it is consuming and demanding, but honestly, truly amazing, even otherworldly in it’s own strange way. There are few times in your life where you will know the focus required for this incredibly wild and amazing journey to birth!
2. You will still have contractions after the baby and placenta have been delivered
All the pain and contractions are supposed to end after you deliver your baby, right? Wrong. You will still have some contractions, albeit not at all as painful. This is completely normal. After you deliver your baby, your uterus needs to go back to the size and firmness it was pre-birth. The contractions are nature’s way to ensure that that happens. Here’s the thing though, your body may be doing all the hard work to get this done, but many times your doctor or midwife will also apply a fundal “massage” so that your uterus firms up quicker. This massage is not pleasant, but, believe me, it is necessary.
3. There will be Poop.
I know. It’s embarrassing. But it’s totally normal and natural. Pushing activates the same muscles that humans use when going number 2, so don’t be embarrassed or worried if you poop during labor. Believe me, nobody cares, nobody even blinks an eye, and your care team cleans it up immediately without you even knowing that it happened sometimes. Now, it’s been my experience that some women try to empty out their bladder and intestines prior to birth (to avoid this “poop situation”) by either taking a laxative or sometimes even castor oil. PLEASE DO NOT DO THAT. More often than not, these chemicals will cause your uterus to start contracting, sometimes really painfully, right from the start, putting undue stress and risk on your body and on your baby. So, just embrace the poop. It’s not as dramatic as you think!
4. That water retention theory? It’s not a myth
Labor takes a lot of hard work; you will sweat, you will probably cry, you will definitely pee - in short, you are going to lose a lot of water in the process, and you don’t want to risk getting dehydrated. If you opt for a hospital birth, most hospitals will give the laboring mom an IV during labor to combat dehydration. Well guess what? The day after birth, many women will swell up in their face and/or ankles because of the IV fluids; the body still has a significant amount of blood volume circulating through it (as well as hormones) and would be adjusting to it’s new post-pregnancy state. But don’t worry, the water has to go somewhere, you’ll either pee it all out, but also women may even notice an increase in sweating more after birth. That should take care of it all.
5. You’re going to feel like you’re at a party
And you, darling, are going to be at the center of it, so I hope you like attention :) You’re going to meet and interact with so many different people at the hospital, specially if you have a long birth. You’ll probably be in the middle of many shift changes for hospital staff. The best part? You’ll know when the time is getting closer to meeting your baby; you’ll see a team of staff getting things prepped for your doctor or midwife to use during the delivery. Your partner, doula, nurse, and provider are all focused on you and your little one.
6. Things might not go as planned
This is the hardest part for many laboring moms to wrap their minds around. As you prepare for your childbirth, you educate yourself on all the available options, you get attached to certain things that feel “ideal” to you, things you prefer to happen at the birth of your loved one. Things may not always go as planned, but please be certain that you have every right to speak up, to ask questions and understand why things are happening, the risks associated with certain actions or inactions, and whether there are any alternatives to suggested procedures.
What about you? Did you experience anything during your labor that you weren’t expecting? I’d love to hear more!