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3 Things to Know About Childbirth

by Jane Wangersky | March 3rd, 2014 | Pregnancy

hospital ward signWhen I read first-time moms’ stories of their labors and deliveries, the words “nobody ever told me” or “something they never tell you” often jump out at me. Though it’s hard to believe today’s mothers-to-be could be uninformed on anything to do with pregnancy, still I know what they mean. For one thing, pregnancy is such a huge subject to learn about that it’s easy to miss taking in a few details. For another, there are some things that may not sink in till they’ve happened to you.

So here are three things I felt no one had ever told me about childbirth.

The most important one — they call it “labor” for a reason. It’s not a procedure the doctors and nurses perform on you (unless, of course, you’re having a C-section), it’s your job. You’ll hear a lot in prenatal class about how the medical staff and your support person can help, but that’s all they can do — help. I didn’t fully realize this till after my first child was born. But it’s good news in a way. You’re the one who’s most necessary, not any of the people supporting you. Knowing this was reassuring when my second child was born before the doctor could get to the hospital.

Something a little messier — as you push the baby out of your lower body, other stuff in your lower body gets pushed out too. This is  why nurses used to give enemas to women in labor. These days, they’ll just clean up after you and probably tell you not to give it any thought. And with all that’s on your mind during labor, that will be easier than you think. (I was sure nothing would ever embarrass me again.)

While we’re on the subject — when you leave the hospital, they may send a few sanitary napkins with you, as well as diapers for the baby. You are going to have a discharge called lochia for up to six weeks after the birth. It starts out somewhat like menstrual bleeding and gradually grows paler. Though it can be a nuisance, it’s normal and not painful.

It would be a mistake to dwell on these things before you go into labor, because you’ll find they’re swallowed up in a rush of more important things, both physical and emotional. But it would also be a mistake to let yourself be hit with them unexpectedly. What I once wrote about older moms-to-be also goes for all pregnant women, especially those in their first pregnancies: Get informed, not obsessed.

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