The truth about labour

In the weeks leading up to my due date I was determined to prepare myself for labour by finding out exactly what I was in for. So I watched every season of ‘One Born Every Minute’ available on YouTube, and spent hours googling ‘what does labour feel like’. Then, after two weeks of this high intensity internet research I commenced stage two of the investigation – interrogating everyone I knew who had recently had children. There were two statements that I consistently heard;

  1. “Its like really, really, bad period pain”
  2. “As soon as you have your baby, you won’t even remember the pain of labour”

So when I rocked up to the maternity ward, I was ready. I had my heat packs, a handy travel pack of panadol rapid, and my super cute blue fit-ball that I planned to leisurely bounce on in a meditative state while practicing the breathing I learnt in my $300 calm birth class. As it turned out, the only thing the heat packs and fit-ball were good for were throwing at my husband, and panadol rapid for labour is the equivalent of trying to treat a gun shot wound with one of those tiny round finger bandaids.

For all you first time mums out there in the pre-labour investigative stage, and to anyone guilty of using the period pain analogy, let me just clear something up for you. Labour is not like period pain. Not even really, really bad period pain. Labour is like someone has stabbed you in the lower back with a cactus while simultaneously amputating every limb from your entire body. The memory of it isn’t surpassed by your love for your baby, it’s blocked out by your nervous system in an attempt to save the pain receptors in your brain from imploding and causing a major aneurysm.

If you ask me, there is nothing in the world that can adequately prepare you for the horror that is childbirth. I will say though- there is truth to some rumours, and I can confirm that it absolutely IS worth it.

When I packed for Tahiti instead of the labour ward

At around week 30 of my pregnancy I started google searching what to pack in my hospital bag. Such a first-time-mum thing to do. I think I unpacked and repacked my suitcase at least 9 times between week 30 and actual go-time. I had all the necessities.. hair straightener, makeup, 8 outfit changes. My next door neighbour and super mum of two laughed her head off when I asked her what I should pack to wear during labour. Looking back now I can see the joke – because most of my time in labour ward was spent wearing a hospital gown and a three surfboard pads inside a pair of disposable granny panties.

Sadly, i didn’t use the cute little travel sized shampoo and conditioner that I got on sale at Priceline; not because I didn’t need to but because I couldn’t lift my arms above my head to wash my hair (having a scalpel through your stomach muscles will do that to you). I also didn’t get around to wearing the 12 pairs of lacy bonds knickers I had washed and folded perfectly – mainly because the whopper stoppers (maternity pads) provided were a one size fits all and came up around my belly button and bra clips respectively.

On day two my sister arrived with two value packs of the fullest of all full briefs from target, which were perfect and might still get a work out in future as guaranteed husband repellers. SO – in 36 years when I’m ready for another baby ill be packing seventeen boxes of breast pads, a years supply of Bridget Jones undies, and a wheel of camembert. That is all.

I will NEVER co-sleep.. I said

“I will NEVER co-sleep”, “my baby will be in their own bed and if they cry then so be it”, “I don’t understand people who give in to their kids it’s their own fault they end up with babies in their beds”.That was me before I had Henry. If only I could have seen into the future to around 2am this morning after having stumbled between my bed and Henry’s cot like a deranged zombie trying to settle him 84 times. Of course I gave up and put him in bed with me. I made myself feel better about it by deciding he must be coming down with some terrible illness and he needed to sleep with me for comfort or he might not make it through the night – but really I just couldn’t get up again or my eyeballs would have fallen out and rolled across the room.

For the first few weeks after I got home with Henry I would wake immediately and bound out of bed to attend to the smallest cry, sneeze or loud breathing noises coming from the bassinet. But as time went on it got harder and harder – and now at four months in I lie in bed for ten minutes wishing my baby had a snooze alarm before I force myself to crawl across the floor to stick a dummy through the bars of the cot. Moral of the story is – do what works for you and your baby, and if you’re both alive and happy at the end of the day you’re winning.

Breast is only best if you still have nipples

Henry was the product of an emergency caesarean section, after which I spent some time in ICU getting some checks done – so I couldn’t feed him straight away. By the time the midwife brought him to me he was already around an hour old, and to a newborn baby thats like me or you not having eaten in..well.. our whole life. So needless to say he was RAVENOUS. There was no time to wait for that magical moment where your baby is meant to nuzzle around your chest, have a leisurely suck and then fall asleep. Not even close. Henry came at me like a writhing, screaming banshee the colour of a beetroot. The midwife basically threw him onto my boob, with a joking comment “I think he might be hungry” – and told me she would be back to collect him in a while. Henry frantically started rooting around my breast like a deranged parahna and we caught eyes for a moment with a kind of ‘do you know what you’re doing here?’ look. Turns out neither of us had any idea because almost immediately my right nipple was partially amputated.

Because of this initial battle scar, as time went on I became my own worst enemy, favouring my left side to feed at the expense of the milk supply on my right. I distinctly remember sitting on my lounge two weeks post-partum with Henry screaming the house down because he was so hungry, and me crying hysterically because my boobs were so sore that I couldn’t think of anything worse than feeding. I began to dread feeding because I could imagine the pain of the baby latching on before it even started. It took countless tubes of nipple creams, $489,99 worth of fancy boob spa hydration discs, and a lot of tears before I finally got to a point where I could feed comfortably. So if you are struggling with feeding, don’t be turned off by the stepford-feeding-mums in the parents room at Westfield just ‘popping’ their babies on and off the boob with no crying or breast milk spraying at the walls. One day you will get there, and if not that’s OK too.

When i let go of the Blake Lively dream

Before I was pregnant I imagined myself in amazing maternity-wear, rocking my belly like Blake Lively all the way up to labour – at which point I would arrive at the hospital in a pair of flattering yoga pants with a messy but fashionable bun in my hair and just the right amount of makeup to look good in photos with my newborn.

WELL. Firstly, I couldn’t even get my big toe into a pair of yoga pants once I hit about sixteen weeks. My belly sat so far forward that people in the street avoided walking in front of me in case I toppled over and crushed them – and my feet had swollen up so badly that I bought thongs two sizes bigger than the ones I already owned. Secondly, I stopped wearing makeup at about 25 weeks because I was so sweaty that it would wear off by the end of the day anyway, and plus I was too tired to lift my hand to my face.

I wore the same dress in two different colours for the last month of my pregnancy, rocked up to the hospital in a pair of $10 Kmart lounge pants, and any hospital selfies I took were so bad that they needed 58 Instagram filters before they could safely be viewed by the human eye. There are some women who will tell you they just loved being pregnant, “it was so beautiful and natural and i’ve never felt so in touch with myself as a woman”.. yeah nup. The only thing I was in touch with was a can of deodorant a week, and way too many donuts.