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Sh!t No One Tells You About Labor and Delivery

This post was originally published on October 11, 2010, after the birth of my first. But after a recent chat with another mom about things no one tells you about labor and delivery — and recovery — I thought I’d share it again!


When I was pregnant with my first, I desperately wanted to know the dirty details of labor and delivery. I wanted to know what to expect, what I was in for. I wanted to know what I should expect from recovery and when I’d start feeling like myself again. I wanted to know what to expect, especially because I wanted a natural childbirth. Here are a few of the dirty secrets I wish I’d known.

What No One Tells You About Labor and Delivery

1. Yes, it hurts afterward. You will feel like your nether regions were hit by a Mack truck. Actually, your whole body will feel like it was hit by a Mack truck. I used muscles I never knew I had. I had broken blood vessels in my eyes and my shoulders from pushing.

2. You won’t care if you poop. A common fear about giving birth is pooping while pushing. This will be the absolute last thing on your mind. While I was pushing, I had a nurse apologize for taking too long putting in an IV. I told her she could be cutting off my arm and I wouldn’t care. You get in a zone and you lose most inhibitions. (Plus, I didn’t even poop while pushing … early labor took care of that for me before I hit the hospital!)

3. It will feel like … Giving birth feels exactly like you’re having the largest, most painful bowel movement of your life. (See also No. 6.)

4. You can do it. You are so much tougher than you think.

5. The bump sticks. You will still look way pregnant after your baby arrives. Thankfully, a new-mom friend of mine warned me of this, and thank goodness she did. Those basketball-shaped tummies don’t just deflate once they’re minus a baby. Give it a week or two, and then you’ll know what kind of post-baby body you’re really dealing with.

6. Take care of yourself. I cannot recommend enough: Staying hydrated, eating lots of fiber and taking all of the hospital-issued stool softeners. You do not want to deal with issues of the rear, such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures. You do not want your bowel movements to remind you of the pain of natural childbirth. Trust me.

7. Kegels didn’t do Jack.I Kegeled throughout my pregnancy, so I was shocked when I peed myself heading to the toilet one day postpartum. Just goes to show: Shooting a person out of your body won’t leave your pelvic floor muscles unscathed. Things should shape up again, but it may take months. Until then, I preemptively head to the bathroom.

8. You bleed. Sure, you don’t have a period for nine months, but you more than make up for that postpartum. Be prepared for 4 to 6 weeks of postpartum bleeding, called “lochia.” Mine slowed right at the four-week mark and boy, was I ready to see it go.

9. You will be beyond tired. You will never be more exhausted in your life than the first week after giving birth. And the cruel irony? You may not be able to sleep. A nurse told me that hormones meant to keep you awake and alert to care for your baby also keep you awake when you actually have a precious few minutes to sleep. I barely slept that first week.

10. You have no time. During those early weeks, sometimes it’s all you can do in an eight-hour day to keep the baby fed and clean. If you have time to shower, you’re a super mama.

11. You won’t regret it. You’ll love your baby more than life. And it’ll all be worth it.

What dirty secrets do you wish you’d known before giving birth? —Erin

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  1. Kristina says:

    Thank you for sharing! I just found out that I’m pregnant and did not know some of this. Particularly #5- I thought one would have a big flap of skin just after birth.

  2. Nicole says:

    I enjoyed reading this – even if you read all the books out there, it’s great to have a real-life account of things. I don’t have a bunch of friends who’ve been through this so it’s great to read.

  3. Chrystalle says:

    Thank you SO much for sharing this! I am 34 weeks pregnant and am asking everyone for the real-deal on what to expect.

  4. Jenn C says:

    Thanks so much Erin. I read your article a few days before I went into labor. Your comment about labor feeling like “the worst bowel movement of your life” is so dead-on! No one has explained contractions well, and you really hit the nail on the head!

  5. Terra says:

    Be flexible. It will usually not go the way you planned it. Have a plan A, plan B, and plan C ready.

  6. Han says:

    The lack of sleep is what I kind of expected after my baby was born, but I did not know that I was able to sleep almost standing or sitting straight up. I was so tired. The lack of showers was something I didn’t expect though. The only way I would have been able to shower is if someone had volunteered to help watch the baby while I showered real quick. And I mean quick, long enough for me to shampoo my hair and rinse my body off. I delivered my baby via c section, so showering was painful. If I did not have any help from anyone, I would have died from sleep deprivation, starvation, and infection from not being able to shower or wash my incision area. In the first week, I was only able to get 1 hour of sleep at a time. One night, I was so exhausted and still in pain that my mother had to watch my baby while I got to get a full 6 hours of sleep. I fell asleep with the tv. on. and 16 and pregnant came on. I heard a baby crying in my sleep and I was up pronto, so tired that I forgot that my mom had the baby, so I searched all over the house, freaking out until I realized that she was out with her grandmother. When men complain about the things they have to give up after having a child or the things they have to endure, I automatically zone them out because nothing compares to what a new mother has to go through or what she would potentially go through if she did not have the help of others. Going insane from the lack of sleep, no help with food or water, being unclean and smelling like death……those are the things that could happen.

  7. Katie says:

    I wish someone would have told me that you leak amniotic fluid with your contractions. I also did a natural child birth and labored on a balance ball, and so maybe it was more obvious to me than others (I have been told epidurals and laying in bed hides that fact) but that freaked me out a bit. That would have been nice to know. My poor Aunt ended up cleaning it off for me. Ugh!!! But it makes for a funny story!

  8. Stacy says:

    I so pooped while pushing and SO didn’t care!

  9. sistersister says:

    These are some of the secrets I wish I had known: Your milk comes in like a tsunami and swells your breast until you feel like they will burst. You must wear a good bra during and after pregnancy, even if you don’t breast feed. When you put the baby on your breast and he or she starts to suck, you might have major contractions just like during labor that will send you to your knees and put tears in your eyes. I also had to learn after days of exhaustion that babies are not made of glass, that it’s okay if they cry sometimes, that they can survive sleep and you don’t have to watch them sleep, and you can mold their heads so they are not pointed. You can kiss their lips, and if you let them sleep with you, you will roll over on the baby at least once, or force the baby to the floor. So it is a good idea, even if breast feeding, to let the baby sleep in its own bed and get every ounce of good sleep you can. It is not abandonment, even though it feels that way. This is the big secret nobody ever told me: Daddy’s become babies after the baby is born. Don’t neglect him. Your hugs, kisses and overall love for him are more important now that ever. Keep him in the loop and make him happy. Let him hold the baby once in a while 🙂

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