I loved my antenatal classes. I loved the buzz of excitement of the fellow attendees. I loved the nervous hysteria of the group after they showed us a picture of a placenta. And I loved the bizarre things we did in our classes such as rubbing a tennis ball on the small of our back as an example of pain relief.
But how much of the information I actually found useful is debatable.
Despite what antenatal classes may make you think there is no actual test that takes place in labour. You will NOT be required to tick a box when you believe you are ‘transitioning’. That just happens and you won’t be thinking ‘how interesting I am currently undergoing the transitional phase, my cervix will be approximately 8cm dilated and this phase will finish when I am fully dilated’. You will simply be thinking ‘*&^%$£@!’ AND ‘$%^*’ or perhaps, ‘^&*$%^’.
It is not like your driving test in which you now have to pop the bonnet open and show the instructor where the oil goes in. You will not be required to jump up and point at the placenta saying ‘I know this one, I recognise that bad boy, that my friend is a placenta’.
And if anyone had presented me with a tennis ball as a form of pain relief in any of my three labours I would have picked up the nearest object to me, possibly a midwife, and batted that thing back into their face quicker than you can say ‘why on earth would you pack a tennis ball in your hospital bag’.
So save the ‘cotton wool and cooled boiled water vs wipes’ debate for someone else who isn’t trying to scrape poo off a screaming newborns bottom and read about the things I wish I’d known about the postnatal period:
The bleeding can go on and on and on.
Now I’m not sure if I missed this bit of the NCT antenatal classes (there is every chance I was having a snooze on a large knitted nipple at the time) but after labour there can be more blood than in the entire Kill Bill film. Both volumes. I bled for eternity after my first child* (*6 weeks). It’s like Mother Nature is getting you back for every period you missed during pregnancy. You think periods are a hassle? Try bleeding like a wounded animal for 6 weeks. Hmmm.. what could make this harder? Oh I know – look after a helpless newborn whilst you’re at it. PREPARE for this time period (pun intended). However many maternity pads you think you need – get double. You can always use any spares for a strange art and craft project for older children. So Tracey Emin.
Not everyone experiences love at first sight with their baby.
Some people absolutely do. But others absolutely do not. I love all my children more than I love a friendly thumbs up from a bus driver (and that is a LOT) but I didn’t look at them and get that rush of love you read about. You’re supposed to be bowled over with love as soon as you set eyes on your offspring. It’s one of life’s most natural things right? Sure. Except when it’s not. Yep, you heard. Well what then? What happens when you DON’T believe in love at first sight. Especially when first sight follows final push and the object of your supposed affections has just burst into your life via your vajayjay (RIP lady garden). Firstly, no guilt. There’s plenty of time for that later. You have the whole of their lives to feel guilty about what you did or didn’t do for them. Leave your guilt at the labour room door girlpants and accept that however you feel postpartum is natural for you. I am a relationship person, people grow on me over time. My children have not been the exception to this rule. I have fallen in love with them the same way I fell in love with their father; slowly, over time and (don’t tell him) madly. This wasn’t a problem for my second and third born children as I wasn’t anticipating that movie look of love like I was the first time round. But it made me feel bad, and alone, following my first child. Don’t. You are neither bad or alone. You are simply, like me, a relationship person.
You will probably feel worse postpartum than you did pregnant.
This was news to me first time round. After labour you have effectively just run a marathon. When I was pregnant with my first baby I felt pretty good, I had an OK pregnancy: despite moving house, I was feeling pretty capable, you know- playing rounders on my birthday (seriously) and generally swanning around like an enormous version of my former self. But I like a moan as much as the next Brit so I’d complain about ‘broken sleep’ and ill fitting rings. I had no fucking idea. Clearly. Broken sleep is not having to get up for a wee in the night. Broken sleep is sleep that has broken you by it’s very absence. I always thought it was so weird that people stood up for me on the tube when I was 9 months pregnant and still swanning around cradling my bump, and yet postpartum… postpartum… when I felt like I had been popped through a mangler and then hit by a sledgehammer – up my vagina – I was standing on the tube. Not only standing, standing AND jigging a colicky baby. How to be a nice person tip: stand for mothers of newborns on the tube. They need a badge for that – I’d pitch ‘my vagina hurts, please let me sit down’. Catchy, no?.
It’s ok to not love it.
And by ‘it’ I mean occupation parent. Scrap that – it’s ok to absolutely hate it. It’s 100 % ok to think you may have made a slightly monumental error signing up to the parent pack. It’s fine to long for lazy weekends, breakfast in bed, hungover days on the sofa and childfree trips. It’s more than fine, it is in fact, absolutely normal. Don’t do anything about it mind you, Ebay no longer accepts bids for your offspring (apparently) but just know that you are not alone – everyone has pined for life BC (before child) at LEAST one or two (hundred) times. Pop that knowledge into your back pocket and reach for it next time you are marvelling at how much Jemma from down the road LOVES every aspect of parenting so much she’s Instagrammed every poo Bernard has ever had. And Bernard is 12.
So I guess everything I learnt post labour may not happen to you – but forewarned is forearmed right? So brace yourself lady, it can be less beaut than the films make it look is the take home message. That and never, ever Instagram your child’s poo.