Here are several.
#1 No amount of planning helps
Wrote a birth plan? Practised hypno-birthing techniques? Memorised all your prenatal class notes? Well, get ready to toss all these out of the window. It’s not that these aren’t useful ― we’re just saying that it’s highly possibly that things happen too quickly ― and that you should be open to taking a different path from what you’ve meticulously planned. Sheila Zaini, mum to Ina, 6 months, faithfully listened to a hypno-birthing CD for hours on end in the months leading up to her due date. But when the time actually came, “All I wanted was to scream and squeeze my husband’s hand the whole way. Hypno-birthing was the last thing on my mind!”
#2 Other people in the room
Besides your husband, expect midwives and nurses to check on you constantly while you’re in labour. They will use the CTG machine to check on your contractions, as well as monitor how much you’ve dilated — yes, this means sticking their fingers in your cervix to measure how much it has expanded.
#3 Getting an enema
In most natural births, midwives would ask you to take an enema before you deliver. In an enema, fluid is injected into your rectum to clear out your bowels before the onset of labour. This is to reduce your likelihood of pooping during the birth (it may still happen, though — some mums find it quite uncomfortable. Says Tricia Tay, “The enema was more painful than the actual labour! I was told to hold the fluid for 10 minutes before going to the loo, and it was the worst 10 minutes of my life! It felt like I was having severe diarrhoea and not being allowed to go!”
“The enema was more painful than the actual labour!”
#4 How long it all takes
All people see is that rosy picture of a smiling mum and baby that’s sent or posted on social media. But no one tells you that what went on before took hours…and hours…before said mum got to cradle her little one in her arms. While the average labour is 8 hours long, it’s not uncommon for some mums to labour for 20 or more hours. Often, it’s just a waiting game, and you and the hubs will find yourselves simply staring at each other at the delivery ward while you are waiting for your next contraction/to dilate. So, don’t forget to pack books, magazines and your favourite music to keep yourselves occupied!
#5 You’ll feel famished
You might get very, very hungry as the hours pass as you won’t be allowed to eat once you’re admitted to the delivery ward — you’ll have to fast, in case you need to have a C-section. “While my husband popped out for meals and snacks, I wasn’t allowed to have anything except sips of water — I was starving, not having eaten anything for more than 10 hours!” recalls Leena Chua, mum to Samuel, 10 months.
#6 Changing positions helps
Once the contractions start, you may experience anything from mild discomfort to sharp shooting pains. Rather than simply lying in bed and waiting for the contractions to stop, some mums find that it helps to change positions — such as by pacing around the room, lying on your side or sitting and leaning forward.
#7 Your waters breaking
Unlike in the movies — your waters breaking will probably not produce a huge gush of fluid. It probably feels more like a slight pressure and then a light trickle. In all likelihood, to get the contractions going, your gynae may need to break your water bag for you with the pointy end of an instrument.
There’s still the afterbirth ― which is the process of the placenta being expelled through the birth canal.
#8 Prepare for side effects
Did you opt for painkillers, like an epidural? While it does take most of the pain away, there may be side effects, too. You might feel dizzy and nauseous. Tay says she felt as if the hospital bed was going up and down at one point. “I kept asking my husband why he was moving the bed, but he wasn’t! I also threw up right after baby came, which came as a shock to me, too.”
#9 You may tear or need snipping
You may tear down there while giving birth. This happens if your perineum muscles are a little tight, but most tears are minor and a normal part of the birthing process, so they heal quite fast. To aid delivery, your gynae may also give the perineum a little snip. This is called an episiotomy.
#10 The afterbirth
So, your baby has arrived and all is well. But it’s not all over yet — there’s still the afterbirth. This process of the placenta* being expelled through the birth canal usually happens 15 to 30 minutes after your baby is born. It’s definitely not as painful as compared to birthing your baby, but it can still come as a shock to some mums. “I never knew about this part of the birth, though I was pretty sure I read up about everything there is to know about giving birth,” says Chua. “I took a look at it — it was horrible, like a big, bloody, pillow!”
* This organ ― attached to the lining of your womb during pregnancy ― acts as the lifeline between your baby and your own blood supply, allowing your growing foetus to eat and breathe.
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