When it comes to labour and those awkward few hours right afterwards, there are certain things some new mum’s don’t really talk about. It’s sort of like Fight Club, the first rule of which is that you don’t talk about it. It no doubt comes from a place filled with the best of intentions, where you don’t want to get too graphic or scare a woman who is pregnant for the first time, I certainly wouldn’t want to upset anyone.
But that said, if a first time mum-to-be asked me about the details of my labour or about my body in the days after it, I’d now be inclined to ask if she wanted the sanitised version or the actual truth. Because sometimes, when you’re pregnant, especially if you are a clueless first-timer like me, sometimes you want to hear the real truth.
Because sometimes the fear of the unknown is worse than the actual thing itself.
For me, I know I got to a point where I just wanted to know the facts without any sugar coating, that way I could at least be prepared. Up until then, the books and other mum’s I knew just weren’t leveling with me, and as it turns out, neither did my antenatal class! I can clearly remember one of the midwives skirting around the whole ‘will I poop during labour question.’ As she waved around her creepy baby doll and woman’s cervix model, and told us about dilation and the phases of labour, she then leadingly asked the class ‘does anyone have any other questions?’
We all knew what she meant, but petrified of the answer, no one asked.
‘Are you maybe wondering if you’ll poo during labour?’ To which she received a plethora of head nodding from the women, with the men looking at their shoes, the walls and oh yes, that fascinating tube light on the ceiling avoiding eye contact with their partners.
‘Well don’t worry girls, you won’t.’ Cue relieved gasps from the entire room. ‘The muscles that push the baby out aren’t the same as those muscles, so it’s physically impossible’ she smiled.
‘Liar, liar your pants are on fire!’
Seriously, how could she say that…? Okay look, she probably wanted to spare herself the wails of horror from a class full of prospective first-time mums who were staring up at her like a congregation of terrified deer caught in a 40-foot containers headlights, but looking back I just wish she’d of told us all the truth.
‘Yes you might poop on the table mid-labour, but you seriously won’t give a fuck about it at all!’
And that’s the truth ladies, you might poop during labour when you’re pushing out your baby, in fact your midwife may tell you to push as if pooping is exactly what you are doing.
But honestly, you won’t care a jot! And this is coming from someone who was so shy about their body pre-baby that I wouldn’t go into a changing room where the curtain didn’t pull all the way over. Labour changed all of that.
And while we’re on the topic of poop, what about that first one post-labour? If you’re a new mum-to-be, I know you’re thinking about it, it’s only natural. You’re wondering what the hell will happen, especially if you have to have stitches?
Will they burst?
Will the bottom fall out of my world, literally?
Well, I can only tell you what my own experience was like. I had second degree tearing and therefore stitches, and I too was petrified of that first trip to the bathroom. I won’t lie, it felt a little strange, I felt like I had a lot less control over my muscles down there, as let’s face it, they’d been through a pretty rough few hours, but the best advice I can give you is to just relax and don’t hold it in. It can feel a little scary, but take your time and trust your body. For me, well my stitches didn’t burst and the world did not literally fall out of my bottom, although it felt like it might. But look, those first few hours and days post-labour were tough on my body.
You have to wear humongous pads to cater for the bleeding. Think super, super heavy period that likes to gush out every time you move. I also sweated buckets when I got home and this caught me off guard, as it was not something anyone had warned me about. My ankles also swelled up, again totally normal, but not something anyone cared to fill me in on.
Your muscles might hurt all over your body, that’s a given. I know my legs were really sore because at one point, I had a leg, my husband had a leg and the midwife was contorting said legs back as far as they would go! But prepare to have aches and pains in other places that you wouldn’t immediately think of; for example my hands and fingers hurt a lot, I guess from balling them up into fists, or grabbing my husband’s arms and hands during contractions. My throat was also dry and sore from the gas and air. And yes you’re going to feel swollen and sore down below and walk a little like John Wayne, so don’t be afraid to get some ice, it’s fantastically soothing as is sitting in some tepid water and having a soak. Also when you pee, prepare for it to be quite stingy on your stitches. A good tip is to have a bottle of nice cool water with a sports top and spritz over the stitches when you need to pee.
Speaking of stitches, in the spirit of honesty, I’m going to tell you that mine became infected and it was really bloody unpleasant. I nearly hit the roof every time I peed, it was as if someone was sprinkling acid on me.
I remember asking one of the midwives before I was discharged if I could have baths with just plain water to help with my stitches and she told me no, to have 2 showers a day instead. Now I don’t know if that contributed to my stitches becoming infected, but I do think that being able to sit and soak in some tepid plain water would have been not only soothing, but it would have been a damn sight easier than 2 showers a day. Whatever the reason, they became infected and on the second day I was home, I had to go back to my GP. The pain was very bad, I literally could not sit down and I had a temperature. Nasty all round, but with some painkillers and antibiotics I was feeling a lot better a week later.
So there you have it. I’ve levelled with you about what it was like for me in those first few hours after labour. And if you’re an expectant first-time mum, I hope it might help you feel a little more prepared. That being said, do know that every woman is different and every labour is different. As unpleasant as some of the above sounds, honestly you will get over it and you will feel like yourself again, I promise.