Almost a year ago, on a warm summer day in June, my water broke at home. Just over 24 hours later, my daughter was born — and my life, as I knew it, was changed forever.
Before my daughter was born, my husband and I took a childbirth class, went to several group appointments, and asked approximately 10,000 questions. We tried not to Google strange pregnancy symptoms (because let’s be real, no good ever comes from that), and we felt pretty prepared once we arrived at the hospital.
As it turned out, there were about a bajillion things that came up on the actual day-of that I was completely and utterly unprepared for — both good, and not-so-good. But I’ll give you the short list. Here are the top 10 things I wish I’d known back when I was pregnant:
1. You can lose up to 12 lbs. during the delivery alone — and lots more in the days that follow.
All told, I gained a whopping 62 lbs. when I was pregnant. I am a pretty average-sized person in real life, and had no prior experience with rapid weight gain (or loss, for that matter), so gaining 62 lbs. in nine months was … definitely an experience. In our childbirth class, we did a project about how the “average pregnant woman” (who doesn’t really exist, let’s be honest) gains about 30 lbs. during the course of her pregnancy, and it’s distributed between the weight of the baby, the extra blood your body produces, other fluids, and the lovely euphemism “maternal stores” (aka “fat”).
2. Your appetite after pregnancy is nothing like your appetite duringpregnancy.
Toward the end of my pregnancy, I was starving all the time. I could eat full restaurant-sized portions of everything, which amused my husband, since he’d never seen me finish anything I ordered in the past. Also, I had a rampant sweet tooth. In real life, I prefer salty snacks to sweet. But in pregnancy? I wanted a sweet treat after every meal.
3. You cannot actually prepare for the pain of labor.
Maybe the reason nobody tells you about the honest-to-goodness awful experience of giving birth is because no matter what someone says, you will not be prepared for the pain. (Sorry.)
I could tell you that contractions feel like there’s a blood pressure cuff inside you that somehow went haywire and squeezed for just long enough to make you think you’re not going to make it, only to have the contraction end and allow you to take a breath again. I could tell you that the pain is different during the contraction stage and the pushing stage, and that the contractions are probably worse. But until you go through it yourself, you’ll have a hard time believing me. And by then, it’ll be too late.
5. There are serious differences between the contraction stage and the pushing stage.
I might be the only one who got through nine months of prenatal appointments and a “how to birth a baby” class without realizing that once you’re in the pushing stage, everything is different.
6. You’re actually supposed to poop the baby out.
Oh, and speaking of the pushing stage, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have to spend the first 45 minutes of that stage figuring out what exactly they want you to do. “Push down toward the floor,” I was told. “Take 10 seconds and push, then do it again two more times. Try to take three breaths during this contraction.”
7. You will lose any inhibitions you had when you walked in.
I’m a modest person by nature, and often get teased by friends about being prudish for various things. When we were in triage, I even asked the nurse to leave the room while I went to the bathroom because, even though there was a door, I knew that sound carried through and I didn’t want her to hear me pee.
That prudish modesty lasted until the pain washed over me, then it was gone. I stopped caring about who saw which part of me. It didn’t matter that there were people in the room staring at my crotch. It didn’t even matter that perfect strangers were getting handsy. I simply didn’t care.
The complete lack of inhibition stayed with me throughout my hospital stay. “Come in,” I’d answer when I heard a knock at my door, even if I had an exposed breast. The nurses and lactation consultants would ask if they could touch my breast to help with breastfeeding. “Sure!” was my response, every single time.