OK so they do tell you some of this... but mamas these are from my personal experience with my first birth and going in for round two, these things would have been handy for me to know personally - or actually believe!! So I thought I would share and hopefully you find some handy info below.
Disclaimer: If you would rather be have the bliss of ignorance going in first time round - don't keep reading! Birth is so different for everyone and you will come to find that I had quite the love/hate relationship with my labour! I truly think it is amazing and I was lucky to go through mine with no complications.
Firstly, a due date is typically not the date you will give birth. Your baby will be deciding to come whenever it wants and you could end up; (a) delivering earlier, not getting in all your jobs or break from work you wanted in the weeks before baby arrives, or (b) deliver MUCH past your so called 'due date' in much anticipation, end up growing the size of a house and trying a heap of weird old wives tales to get your baby to come! They say two weeks either side of your due date is considered normal, most midwives will request an induction by 10 days past your 'due date'.
Probably one of the most disheartening things to experience when you are already past your 'due date'. You can literally experience full labour symptoms and think you are ready to go - all for it to stop suddenly and potentially not re-start for days! I woke with consistent pains at about 3am one morning that went through to around 10am - all to stop suddenly and not return for TWO WEEKS!
You truly neeeeeeed your energy! They say labour is like running a marathon. I most definitely have never run one, however I have walked 100km in 24hrs as well as given birth in 24hrs. Endurance wise, definitely the same! Pain – I would say the same except the pain is in your torso and vagina instead of legs and feet! Labour may just last for up to 48 hours so be prepared - try to keep exercising lightly and consistently during pregnancy to keep a base fitness and be ready to be in for the long haul. If your labour starts off slowly, try to resist the urge to go for a huge walk on and off curbs to speed things up.
They say there is nothing like it - I sure haven't experienced pain like it, it's weirdly painful but also satisfying knowing those pains are bringing your baby closer to being with you. There will be times where you want to give up, and you will think you can't carry on, this is absolutely normal, especially during transition, but focus and push through Muma, you've got this!
I was told during my labour with Billy that rule of thumb is 1cm of dilatation per hour of labour - I was only 3cm on arrival at the birthing centre and in full blown, backache labour. So to be told I had 7 more hours was completely disheartening and demotivating. I clock watched and had to work so extremely hard to tell myself I could carry on - Billy was born just 3 hours later - not 7 - thank goodness! But it just shows, everyone is different, go with and trust your body.
All the childbirth on TV and in movies show the doc or midwife telling the woman to push - ha! Your body literally just starts doing this for you, you can either simply go with your body, or just help give that extra 'oomph'. I was expecting to be told when to push, then when my body started doing it - it was quite a freaky sensation! It was so good to finally feel like something is actually happening, pushing was probably one of my favourite parts of labour!
The Birth Plan
Be sure your midwife and birthing partner know exactly what you want. A fantastic thing my midwife provided was an information sheet for me to fill in, outlining my ideal birth plan. So when I was zoned out focused on birthing - she didn't need to ask me, or my panicky fiancé anything about our wishes, she could simply refer to the sheet. The sheet consisted of things from pain relief, to vitamin injections and placenta, who would be there and finer details like music. Do be prepared for change to the plan - as I learnt with my second birth experience - sometimes things won't go how you imagined, but being prepared that things could change will help you cope if they do (this can also be a part of your plan!).
With this I would recommend ensuring any assistance that comes i.e. other midwives/nurses/doctors are also informed as well as possible in the circumstances. A midwife who came to help at my birth rubbed Billy down with a towel as soon as he was born - me in a haze, wanting to say "STOP!" (the vernix is so super good for baby’s skin!!) but couldn’t, and Todd freaking right out about Billy being blue and taking a second to have his startle reflex, had no idea it was even happening.
If you have a straightforward delivery you will have your baby come to, or be put to your breast for their first breastfeed. This is such an amazing moment, and one that you could feel a little anxious about but try your best to, and get the help you need to get right. It's normal for your breasts to feel supple at this point as your milk does not 'come in' straight away. In this feed your baby will take in colostrum which is full of amazing nutrients to get them the best start.
Squish your breast flat, into a 'boobie patty' and make sure you get your full nipple and majority of the areola into your baby’s mouth for a good latch. Don't be rushed, let baby take their time to feed well and you may just be in for a five hour 'birth sleep'! I had no idea of this 'birth sleep' business and being a bit hazy, I'm not sure how long Billy fed, whether it was insufficient or just because he was ginormous and needed plenty of boob - but there was no such thing as a five hour sleep for us!!
One thing I wish I was more prepared for mentally, was the immediate aftermath of giving birth. I almost found it more uncomfortable, mentally challenging and at times more painful than birth. Everyone's experience is different so you may not find this, but prepare for the worst and hope for the best is how I would like to have done it. Going into my second birth and knowing what could happen again, I am happy that I am equipped to deal with what's to come...
There is a lot of blood. It all gets cleaned up pretty quick, but with the birthing of the placenta, comes a fair lot of blood. You might have to push again! Seriously, when your insides feel as though they are going to fall out if you so much as laugh they want you to push! But, you’ve got to get that placenta out! I was told it was as easy as a light cough, but for me it was a full blown push after I had an injection to get it moving - horrendous after a 24 hour labour with a 10lb 6oz baby.
Pushing and Prodding
Your midwife or doctor will be pushing on and prodding your torso to check your uterus is going back down in size and get out any excess blood - ugh prepare that this is not a nice feeling and brace yourself. I actually think I preferred labour to this part!
Baby, Feeding & Sleeping (Or Not Sleeping)!
Your baby will be taken from your arms at some point after birth and baby's first feed. Measurements, checks, clothing all need to be done, and you need to heave yourself into a shower to try clean up. I say try because this can be hard when you are still bleeding, fatigued, sore and potentially light headed or nauseous. Ask for help if you need it - the quicker you are done, the quicker you can get back to your new wee baby - and bed!
Generally night two with baby is a lot of cluster feeding and sleep deprivation.. I had no warning of this, but literally your new baby will want to spend all night attached to your boobs. I now know it’s a mix of comfort, warmth, food and security for baby - but at the time I questioned whether all this feeding was normal and if I could; (a) stay awake, and (b) do this mum gig if this was what it was going to be like!
Be prepared to be up a lot in the night in this time and try to do shifts with your partner so they can take baby from the room to give you a break and some zzzzz's - you need them! If you are comfortable to, ask a midwife to show you how to breastfeed laying down so you can rest your neck and body. Do this earlier than later if you think you may need to so that you aren't in a state of exhaustion by the time you try it. I think after about eight hours straight feeding on night two a miracle midwife came on duty, wrapped Billy super tight in a swaddle and "put him back in the womb" I think her words were! My goodness what a lifesaver - I got some sleep before morning came!
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