Giving birth – Expectations Vs Reality
I’m a planner. I love lists. Order. Control… I’m a teacher after all. Needless to say, regardless of my hours of hypnobirthing preparation, my extensive birthing plan and detailed list of what to have at home for our new arrival, the reality of giving birth was not quite what I’d imagined.
Did it all go exactly as I’d planned? Hell no!
I’d been to all the classes, spoken to loads of mums and picked their brains on what to expect. I felt prepared. Boy was I wrong! You see, when mums talk about their experience of giving birth, they somehow forget the reality of what they’ve been through. Either that or they outright lie about it!
My conclusion from having spoken to many a mum and then going through the experience myself, is that we are perhaps so filled with endorphins (the so-called happy hormone) post delivery, that we honestly forget the suffering! Many of us swear never to have another again in the first few hours of the labour, only to be pregnant again within 9 months!
The honest truth about giving birth
A year has passed since my little girl was born and even now I am asked about my birthing story – particularly by new mums and soon to be mums. It’s sometimes hard to be honest without scaring the poor women – so I partially understand why I was given the romanticised version of events. But as much as it’s important to be optimistic and feel calm about the process, it’s also massively important to feel mentally prepared for any eventuality and have a realistic approach to what may happen! After all, all birthing stories are unique… So… here are the 5 expectations I held based on the fantastic birthing stories I’d heard and the reality I faced when the time came.
The five expectations vs reality of giving birth
Expectation - the peaceful onset of labour
The onset of labour is usually a pretty chilled affair – expect mild and manageable contractions and carry on your daily routine. You may be able to relax and breathe through the ‘surges’ at a yoga class, or pop out for a nice herbal tea with a friend. If it’s night time, enjoy some sleep, maybe a warm bath and distract yourself with a funny movie. Ultimately, use this time to relax and store up some energy for what is to come.
Manageable? Sleep? Bath? YOGA!? Distract yourself with a funny movie!? RELAX!? Ha! Maybe my pain tolerance is just incredibly low, but the reality for me was very different!
In fact, we ended up going to the hospital 3 times before they would accept me because I was in so much pain! In my situation, my daughter was in a very awkward position (back to back) so it was apparently ‘normal’ to feel slightly more ‘intense’ than anticipated… All I can say is, don’t expect this phase to be a walk in the park. It may be easy! If so, fantastic! But just be prepared that not all women will be the same.
Expectation - established labour will be a breeze
The labour will be a natural, peaceful and joy filled time… Embrace the moments and enjoy the process. Buy some battery powered candles, pick out some calming music and be ready for a quiet and relaxing time where you will be at one with your body. Most of us will only go through it a couple of times in our lives. Savour every step and cherish the experience of giving birth – it’ll be a breeze and you’ll look back at it with fondness.
Fear, anxiety, dread, pain, panic, more pain and even more anxiety. Not an experience to be savoured! In my opinion anyway! I did get the lights and music – a nice touch! Not sure they massively made a difference to ‘calming’ the environment though!
Expectation – your body will know what to do
Let your body do what feels natural. Your body was made to give birth after all and you will know exactly what to do when the time comes. Don’t overthink anything and just go with the flow. Push when you need to push, rest when you need to rest, pee when you need to pee and all will be fine. The actual pushing part won’t be too taxing – prepare yourself by doing some pregnancy yoga, your kegels, your hip swings, your walks and bounce on a ball – it’ll be fine!
“My body is telling me to push!”
“No no -not yet! You don’t want to tear”
“Tear!? (Breathing heavily)
None of the stretching, clenching, walking, swimming, or hours of yoga will make any bit of difference if your baby is in a slightly wrong position, or just decides they want to stay in there for a little while longer. For me, it was a challenging birth, and looking back, I wish I’d spent less time ‘prepping my body’ for birth and more time on the sofa eating chocolate, watching films and sleeping!
Expectation: you will feel and look like a goddess
You will look the part… pick the perfect bikini top for the birthing pool, a lovely night dress for afterwards, some cute clothes for the baby, paint your nails and get a wax. You’ll want to look the part for all the photos you’ll be taking for your baby’s very first album!
The bikini top doesn’t fit my swollen breasts, the night dress got blood and goo on it, the baby shat all over the beautiful first outfit and I didn’t have time to do my nails or go for that wax! Who cares what you look like!? You’ve just endured HOURS of labour and you’ve performed a miracle! Cut yourself some slack! These social media mums who bring makeup artists in to hospital with them to get the perfect post-labour snaps aren’t doing anyone any favours! You’re more likely to look like a deflated walrus who has just been dragged through a a horde of hungry polar bears than someone just off the runway! Embrace it!
Expectation - your baby will be perfect
After all the effort, you’ll have a beautifully perfect and healthy baby – you’ll take him or her home and everything will fall in to place. Your newborn will smell like milk, will have cute rosy cheeks, huge wide eyes and a perfect little mop of hair…
Your baby will be beautiful (to you) even with a slightly misshapen head, goo all over and squinty little mole eyes, BUT, the likelihood is you may not go straight home and it may take a while for things to fall in to place and feel ‘normal’ again.
How to prepare for the unexpected?
As you can see, so many people will give you their version of their birth story, and more often than not it’s one of pure joy and happiness. I’m not saying that these stories don’t actually exist! In fact, I’m sure there are loads of women who have fantastically easy births and find the whole thing a walk in the path. But, not everyone’s story will be this easy. For many women, giving birth is the hardest thing they’ll ever have to do – being mentally and physically as prepared as possible is key!
One thing I would say is this book on hypnobirthing massively helped me get in the right frame of mind to deal with whatever was thrown at me. In fact I was the one breathing through the pain, while calming my own mum and husband down and telling them it was all going to be fine! Definitely a worthy purchase, especially as every birth story is unique.
What I wish I knew then...
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
- Your birth will most probably not go according to your plan
- It will hurt more than you thought – BUT, you will survive and be stronger for it
- When talking to other mums, ask them for their honest experiences
- Pack your hospital bag as though you are planning on staying longer than anticipated
- Relax and sleep before the baby comes