With the birth of your first, the lessons come fast and hard. Before you try to cram that bread loaf of a maxi-pad into your standard-sized Fruit of the Looms, here are 8 things I wished I’d known about having a baby.
1. Your water doesn’t just break and then stop. Once it breaks, you’re essentially a leaky faucet until the baby arrives. This probably isn’t so noticeable if you’re already in the thick of labor when it happens, but if you happen to be washing dishes or doing something equally vertical at the time, with the baby not making an appearance until 14 hours later (I speak from experience here), you’re going to feel chronically damp for a while.
2. Related to #1, the maxipads you’ll be offered at the hospital are more like throw pillows for your crotch. How do you fit those into your normal panties, you might reasonably ask? You don’t. Instead, you’ll be given something that looks like a pair of stretchy mesh hotpants. You’ll never feel sexier, or more beautiful, than when you wrangle those on and shove that throw pillow in there.
3. In the thick of labor, you may want your partner to give you backrubs, forehead kisses, or reassuring hand squeezes. Alternately, you may want the love of your life to just leave you the hell alone. Either is normal, but it’s a good idea to give said partner a heads-up in advance so that you’re not dealing, between contractions, with a grumpy person in the corner of the delivery room muttering, “What did I do?”
4. It’s best not to watch the contraction monitor, if you can help it, or the faux-cheery faces of your partner and the delivery room nurse, who will be glued to the monitors like must-see TV and will know precisely how bad the next wave is going to be. You’ll know soon enough.
5. Right after you deliver your baby, that same nurse who’s encouraged and shepherded you through the entire ordeal will begin kneading on your abdomen like it’s the world’s most stubborn ball of dough to help loosen up the placenta. This may hurt almost as much as the labor itself did and is the ultimate embodiment of being kicked when you’re down. Try to remember that she’s not, in fact, a sadist (even though it may briefly feel that way).
6. Don’t be alarmed if the birthing-room bathroom resembles a gory crime scene shortly after you deliver your bundle of joy. This is normal.
7. Even if you enjoy a blissfully uncomplicated birth, the nurses will not leave you and your baby to peacefully sleep off the exciting events of the day. Expect to be roused at least every few hours for vital stats. (We had one nurse who was particularly fond of weighing the baby in the middle of the night, preferably after she’d just been wrapped into a fresh diaper and swaddle that both needed to be completely removed for the weighing. The idea of disrobing and weighing the baby during daylight hours – you know, when we were all awake – was simply a nonstarter, for some reason.)
8. Regardless of how much you swear up and down you’ll never do this, within a few hours of your child’s birth you will begin speaking in the third person (“Mommy loves you soooo much!”), like Bob Dole. If anyone knows when this stops, please let me know.