I am purposely not using the word ‘natural’ because I believe every labour is natural, whether your baby came via the birthing canal or c-section.
We have probably all heard that vaginal delivery is totally amazing due to the quick recovery time. The not so amazing part (as we have also heard) is that your vagina will never be the same again., This means that your sex life will suffer. Which means you’ll end up co-parenting while your child has a new stepmom…you get the point. But seriously, people aren’t always honest about delivery. We see incredible pictures on the internet, and read up on the interesting facts and benefits of vaginal delivery, but what happens postpartum? Well, let me tell you what happens but be warned – TMI!
Labour pains: Do you remember the last time you experienced intense pain? It’s nothing compared to what you feel when your little one is making their way onto this earth. This is the one thing mothers ALWAYS talk about; how traumatizing their labour was- and they aren’t lying. It’s a painful but beautiful experience. I could do it again- but only in a couple of years! The honest to God truth is that every woman has a different labour experience. Some women hardly feel the pain and some only push thrice and their baby is out. My sister, for instance, said her labour was just “uncomfortable”. She just felt a bit of pressure when she was pushing my niece out. So, she had an awesome labour experience.
Exhaustion: I cannot remember the last time I felt that exhausted. It reminded me of my first ever 11.5 KM hike. I was well and truly beat. I think it also had to with the constant lack of sleep prior to delivery day. I struggled to sleep, mostly due to the physical discomfort of pregnancy and the regular urge to pee. To put it into perspective, I was up around seven am on October 24th and I was up until six am on October 25th. That means I was up for about 23 hours. I love my sleep, so that was torture. Besides being up for that long and going through the labour process takes its physical toll on you. Therefore, one needs to be physically and mentally prepared for it.
Dilation: Childbirth does not happen the way it does in movies. Movies and TV series’ can only fit in so much in one go. On TV the mom’s water breaks, she starts screaming hysterically, then she pushes like mad a couple of times, swears at her husband, the doctor and the universe, and then the baby arrives. That is not how it happens in real life. In real life, your water might not even break. You might just get to the hospital in serious pain, but in order for you to be booked in, your labour has to be confirmed. And in order for it to be confirmed, a nurse or a midwife will stick their fingers in your cookie jar to check the dilation of your cervix. A dilating cervix means how open your cervix is to make way for your baby to come out. The contractions we feel during labour is directly caused by the cervix opening up/dilating. A mother has to be 10 cm dilated in order to be ready to have a baby. I personally was 4 cm dilated when I got to the hospital. The midwife would come in regularly to check how far the dilation is. This means that someone will keep putting their hands in the cookie jar until complete dilation is complete. Labour happens in stages, and this is directly linked to how dilated the cervix is.
Latent phase- 0-3 cm dilated
Active labour- 4-7 cm dilated
Transition phase-8-10 cm dilated
Full dilation-10 cm dilated
After the cervix has been fully dilated, the baby will be ready to be delivered. This ladies, is not the most comfortable of situations. If I had the option of skipping it, I would. Unfortunately, we don’t, so along with the discomfort of experiencing labour pains, we also have to deal with the discomfort of fingers being stuck in places that they don’t belong 🙂
Placenta delivery: We have all heard that once you deliver the baby you are home free. Well, not really. My pains were completely gone after Tshimo made it out. Then, the midwife delivered some disappointing news. She had to administer oxytocin, a hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus for the purpose of producing contractions. This would induce more labour pains so that my body can get rid of the placenta. After delivering the placenta, the midwife put her hand into my vagina to make sure that the placenta was completely out. I just pushed out an entire human being, can I not have anything going in there for a while?
Tearing: Baby Tshimo came two weeks early. I can only assume that she was excited to get here. She was so excited that she threw her hands in the air a little too early. She threw them up right before she completely exited the birth canal. Evidence of this was the 2nd-degree tear between my vagina and anus, which required stitches. First, the midwife injected me to make me numb. No, not on my bum or my arm, but on my vagina. It is called a local anaesthetic. The only thing that distracted me while I was getting stitched was the amazing skin-to-skin session I was having with my bundle of joy who was lying on my chest. I am not too sure when the stitches dissolved, but it took a little over two weeks to stop feeling any form of discomfort around that area. I had to use a water bottle filled with water and coarse salt every time I peed, to help with the pain.
Bleeding: Not bleeding for 9 months is amazing. Non-stop bleeding for 2-3 weeks or more is downright unconstitutional. I’m sure we all know this. They’ve made special sanitary pads for postpartum bleeding. You’d think: “Do I really need such big pads”? The answer is: “Yes, you need several big pads!” I went through the first packet in two days. I was a walking, talking, bottom-less tap of blood. Luckily, my awesome sister-in-law, Salma, advised that I pack a few black leggings, and that’s exactly what I did. Unfortunately, daddy only managed to bring those to the hospital in the afternoon. Meanwhile, I wore loose black track pants. As I attempted to walk to the bathroom, there was a huge gush of blood on the floor. Messy! I was literally standing in a pool of blood.
Still pregnant: I looked like I was six months pregnant after delivery. This has the potential of crushing every woman’s dream of getting their old body back after giving birth. It definitely crushed mine. The good news is that you gradually lose the big belly, but don’t expect to “snap back” in two days. Snapping back is not a ‘thing’ and I was personally too focused on being a healthy and sane mother to my daughter to pressurise myself about looking like I did not just give birth to a human being.
Incontinence: Incontinence refers to involuntary urination. This is caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are made weak by your growing baby resting on them for a couple of months. I didn’t experience a bad case of incontinence, thanks to my midwife who advised to do regular pelvic floor muscle exercises which can be found on YouTube. So yes, you will most probably pee on yourself after labour.
Haemorrhoids: I had haemorrhoids coupled with a horrible case of constipation for about 6-7 weeks postpartum. I was advised to get some stool softeners, but I did not get the chance to. I just tried eating a lot of fibre, which did not help much. The haemorrhoids went away after a couple of weeks of using a topical cream, but the constipation lasted much longer. So, don’t be like me. Get stool softeners. Who knew pooping could be so painful?
What helped me through the journey was speaking to a lot of mothers, bearing in mind that you need to be very selective on what could work for you. Some moms will absolutely terrify you with a lot of negativity and horror stories. As I said, we all don’t have a good birthing experience. A lot of women told me that they will never do it again, which is okay for them, although the last thing you need to hear when you’re pregnant and planning to deliver vaginally, is how horrifying labour and vaginal delivery is.
For me? I felt the aches and pains and went through it all, and today I sit with the very reason for those pains and she makes it all worth it.