What they should really tell you in antenatal classes.
At 20 weeks pregnant I dutifully booked my place on my local antenatal class course. These are the things I learnt:
1. 10 pregnant ladies in a venue with only 1 loo is a recipe for disaster. Several cheap hospital coffees (I use the term ‘coffee’ loosely) & one chat about out pelvic floor later there was a stampede for the toilet. There were pregnant ladies trampling over each other to get to that loo. It was not pretty.
2. Don’t drink free hospital coffee. (1) it’s vile (2) refer to point above. If you do drink said coffee, be prepared to run to the loo, wrestle your pregnant companions & maybe wee a little in the process.
3. Your waters will break (mine didn’t), your contractions should be regular (mine weren’t) & you ‘shouldn’t panic’ (there is a human coming out of you….it’s ok to panic a little!)
4. Hospital chairs are uncomfortable. If you’re a cheap skate like me & don’t go to NCT classes, you’ll be stuck on that horrible hospital chair for 2 hours. Take a cushion or prepare yourself for some serious numb bum action.
5. I don’t like other people. I particularly don’t like discussing my bodily functions and fears with strangers. I’m quite anti social like that.
6. I should’ve forced my husband to go with me. I endured 2 hours of this for 4 weeks, how did he get out of it? *note to self for next time….there are no excuses, he will come to share the stale coffee, hard chairs & uncomfortable over-sharing with strangers.
That’s about it. The rest of it either came from my rather awesome community midwife, my mum or veteran mummy friends (beware the vet’ mums….they like to tell you their war stories. Be prepared for “I tore from front to back, it was like a scene from a horror film” & “I’ve never known pain like it, I thought I was dying” & “breast feeding is like having your nipples savaged by a shark” etc….They wear their pain like a badge of honour. It’s really not that bad).
This is what they should actually tell you in antenatal class:
1. Everyone’s birth is different, everyone’s pain levels are different, everyone’s bodies react differently. There is no set plan, what will be will be. All you can do is work with your midwife & your partner to get through it any way you can. Birth is incredible, whatever form it takes – natural birth, assisted birth, medicated birth, induced labour, c-sections are all mind blowing & amazing in their own right. Mums are amazing, regardless of how they bring their little ones into the world.
2. Your body will know what to do – trust it. Yes, it’s going to hurt and you’re going to freak out a little but trust your body to do what it’s designed to do.
3. Be assertive. It’s your body and your baby – you know what’s best. If something doesn’t feel right then it’s probably not. If you have questions or concerns then ask & demand answers (you have a right to demand….you’re giving birth!)
4. You might throw up. No one told me this! I heard all the horror stories about women pooing them selves during labour, but no one told me I would be uncontrollably sick for about an hour. (If I’d known, I wouldn’t have sent my husband to M&S for an expensive hospital picnic an hour before hand!)
5. You might not poo yourself! – I didn’t! This was the one thing about labour that freaked me out….it doesn’t always happen. Thankfully.
6. Apparently it’s quite common for your contractions to pause once your baby’s head is out (I think the technical term is ‘crowning’). So you may end up lying there with your baby 1/2 in and 1/2 out for what seems like eternity until your contractions kick in again. It’s delightful. Really.
7. The midwife will expect your husband to dress your baby once he/she is born – choose something husband proof with a zip or 2 poppers. Socks, dresses etc are a big no no!
8. After you’ve had your baby you will literally feel like your insides are going to fall out. I was convinced there was something abnormally wrong with me for weeks after birth – it’s normal, they won’t feel like that forever.
9. You might not be able to feel your pelvic floor, at all. Keep trying, you do still have one & will wake it up eventually.
10. The dreaded post birth trip to the loo….stock up on laxatives (suppositories are BF safe) and drink lots of water. Be prepared for tears & a dose of humiliation – enough said.
11. Babies don’t sleep. Well the majority don’t anyway. There is no magical cure, no amount of money you spend on Amazon at 2am will help your baby sleep. (If you have friends whose newborns do sleep, don’t speak to them for the first 6 months, they will make you so jealous you could kill them.) I nearly spent £200 on a mattress engineered by French astronauts. I kid you not.
12. Sleep deprivation is hell. There is a good reason why it’s used as a form of torture. It will get better & if it doesn’t you’ll go so crazy that you stop caring.
13. Sex….you’ll never have it again! (Only joking, but seriously that’s what got you into this mess in the first place…..it’s just not worth it!)
14. No one has it easy. Our instagram’s lie – all new mums and dads are struggling, you’re not on your own. Get out and about to baby groups and play groups, it might stop you going loopy. Let’s face it, the first few months as a new mum can be quite isolating and lonely (especially when your partner goes back to work and the reality of sleep deprivation sets in).
15. Look after yourself and your mental health. Eat well, drink water & take time (even just 5 minutes) to be ‘you’ again.
16. Sleeping when your baby sleeps is a bit of a myth…if you’re anything like me you’ll spend that precious 35 minutes racing round the house like a lunatic trying to make your home look less of a bomb-site. The second you settle down with a cuppa, your baby WILL wake up. They have a radar that detects bum-to-sofa action.
Nothing prepares you for motherhood. No books you read or pages you google will prepare you for how much you love this tiny little person. Your heart will hurt when you look at them because it’s so full of love for them – nothing else compares to it. All the cheap coffee, laxatives, pain, stress, sleep deprivation & anxiety in the world will pale into insignificance because you love them so much.