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Friday 16 October 2015

Having a baby...the things they never told me about pregnancy, labour and motherhood

pregnancy labour breastfeeding

I almost didn't publish this post - not because of all the new and soon to be mums out there reading this who don't know me, more the fact that the people who do know me will definitely read this and then KNOW...

There is still a huge taboo over sharing the more intimate details of the journey to motherhood - there is still a lot of embarrassment, a lot of 'whispering' of certain words or issues and an awful lot of using alternative words of phrases when talking about or describing your, ahem, you know-nether regions/lady parts/down below/anything but please don't make me say the actual words out loud!

pregnancy labour breastfeeding

Despite the fact I spent a small fortune on NCT classes, read pregnancy books beginning to end and of course, live in a world where we all exist simply because women have been getting pregnant and having babies since the beginning of time - I still managed to cultivate a Google search list of sentences beginning with "is it normal..." Longer than my entire life's shopping lists all glued together (because yes, I do still take an actual list to the shop with me).

I really wish someone somewhere had just sat me down and said - right: this is how it really is. This is how it really can be. These are some of the weird but totally normal things that can happen - so let's be honest and then just crack on with being pregnant and having a baby (instead of spending countless moments at 3am worrying and googling)

pregnancy labour breastfeeding

So here is my list- some of the things that I panicked about (and also some stuff I know some of my friends panicked about) - please share it - not for me, because I know this stuff now, share it for all those lovely new mummies and future mummies out there who might just otherwise waste too much time worrying. If even one person learns one new thing then it's one less worry along a wonderful journey:


We've all heard of swollen feet and ankles, but it's also totally normal to wake up one day (end of last trimester for me) and find that your *lady bits* are so swollen it hurts to walk/sit. I genuinely thought there was something seriously wrong with me.

Stretch marks:

Also totally normal to get stretch marks in weird doesn't just stop at your tummy, they can carry on going. I didn't get a single one until the last 3 weeks (I went 2 weeks over) and didn't realise until I looked in the mirror  - up until this point I had been feeling particularly pleased with myself  - clearly my efforts of rubbing cream and oils in morning and night were paying off....

pregnancy labour breastfeeding

Is my baby in my tummy or my bladder?!:

Towards the end of pregnancy, parts of your baby can get that low down- well into your pelvic region-you can even feel their fingers move near their mouth etc if they are head down - it's totally weird. 


I had this from about 19 weeks pregnant, although not enough to warrant breast pads, but too much to not notice it in my bra at the end of the day. Also totally normal and doesn't mean you won't have any left by the time baby arrives! 

NCT classes:

If you can afford it, do an NCT class purely for  the people you meet in the group who will be pregnant at the same time. They will prove to be an amazing support network and will keep you sane at 3am in the morning during the end of your pregnancy when you've just got up for your 10th wee, your legs are jumpy and you log into whatsapp and find they are all online too with the same problem - I think this will be the biggest thing to have to do without when I decide to have another...i'm  secretly hoping one of them ends up pregnant at the same time as me! Motherhood can be really lonely. Don't believe me? Have a read of some of these experiences of loneliness from other mums.


Use any spare time before the birth you get for sleeping. You wont get much after! ( Or in the hospital before/after)

pregnancy labour breastfeeding

Water births:

 I was adamant I wanted an 'active' labour with a water birth and no pain relief, no interventions etc ( not completely sure i'd ever opt to do that again!) and had been told that water births lower your chance of tearing as well as being a calmer experience for baby- it wasn't until after the birth I was told that a water birth actually increases your chance of a tear. 
It turns out that the midwife isn't able to intervene (putting pressure on the perineum etc to prevent tearing) if it's a water birth in case they cause an air bubble- whereas they can outside of water. I still think it was the best possible birth for Arthur (and the water was a great natural pain reliever, along with proper breathing!) but I would have liked to have had the facts and it's surprising what little advice there was beforehand. 

pregnancy labour water birth

Length of labour:

On the point above, people will tell you that labour can take forever and not to go to hospital until you are having 3 contractions within 5 minutes (or something similar!) which can take doesn't always take hours (especially if you are induced like I was) I was in labour for 3 hours on a ward (in a bath) and they wouldn't let me go to a private room as they said I couldn't be in established labour- in fact I was fully dilated and pushing and almost had him in the corridor. You know your own body- when the time comes don't let them fob you off.

pregnancy labour breastfeeding

Pushing during labour:

Pushing during labour feels like you need a poo! I walked down the corridor in the hospital not realising I was pushing a baby out and genuinely thought I was actually having an involuntary poo. I declared it to everyone around me - You totally lose all dignity and grace and you won't care at all.

Labour 'noises':

During labour you may  actually "moo" - the noise just comes out of you without any control - I didn't even realise it was me at first...


I had contractions and aftershocks down below for days after the birth. Genuinely had no idea what was happening!


Trying to get to sleep, when I woke up and also at random times during the day/night I had awful flashbacks of the labour, birth and surgery afterwards for months and months. This is especially common if you had a traumatic birth.
If this is severe and interferes with your life and enjoyment of your baby, there is help available - speak to your midwife or GP. You can read my story about my own traumatic birth and how a debrief with the hospital 2 years later helped me to come to terms with my experience. 


When your milk comes in they will be massive and they will be heavy...I found myself in constant turmoil over which body parts I would 'hold up' at any one time - boobs, belly, etc etc they were like melons and they just leaked milk. Buy a massive bra and have it ready.
 If you intend to breastfeed get some Lansinoh nipple cream  - you will probably be sore for the first few days of feeding whilst you help your baby with their latch (possibly longer if your baby has tongue tie and isn't able to latch on easily). It is totally normal to develop scabs or what looks like yellowish coloured blisters (from after a milk feed) during this time. Be mindful of the fact that if your nipples do bleed (you can feed through this) your baby may have blood in their milk sick. It wont harm them.
pregnancy labour breastfeeding


For days after birth I felt like I still had a baby inside my tummy. I could feel what i thought were 'kicks' - It is actually just your insides moving back into place. Physically, whenever I rolled over in bed or stood up/down etc it was like carrying a sack of potatoes. I wasn't prepared for that and it felt strange.


I'm not going to include a picture with this one for obvious reasons! After birth you will have bleeding, like a period, for about 6 weeks - you will need to use maternity pads for this and not tampons.  It is normal to pass some clots in the first few days (especially if you have been lying down for a day or two after surgery) but if the clots are particularly large and continue after a few days it is best to ring your midwife or the maternity ward for advice, just in case there is a bit of the placenta left behind.

Baby blues:

I remember going to visit the midwife for our day 5 check in the morning. She asked me if i'd had any unexplained crying or feeling low as day 5 is the typical day to get a serious case of the baby blues. I said I was totally fine in that respect and thought I'd got away with it. By 5pm I'd started to feel very emotional, but we had visitors over and I was expected to join them for dinner. By 7pm I desperately wanted to be on my own with my baby (who was having cuddles with our visitors). At 9pm I snuck upstairs (without any dinner) pretending that i was just really tired ( I was) and found myself crying uncontrollably, non-stop, for a good couple of hours. I was comforted by the fact my midwife had told me to expect it, and that there didn't have to be a reason for the tears. I wish I'd known in advance about 'day 5' so that I could have insisted we had some time on our own without any visitors.

You can read more about my later birth reflections in my post - saying goodbye to an old life.

A baby that cries - alot!

After birth, for the first 3 months (from day 10 onwards)  my baby screamed and cried non stop from 5pm - 7pm  then 10pm - 3am every's SO common but most people never talk about it because most new parents think they must be doing something wrong - except you're not! Arthur suffered from colic and reflux - if you would like to read more about it and what we did to help him, my blog post is available here.


My baby fed ALOT, at least every hour for the first few days plus random 'cluster feeding days' also totally normal but totally exhausting at night time.
Don't live your life around books on baby routines etc -  I've learnt the best thing is to follow your own instincts, and follow your baby! I fed on demand and a few people did criticise me for how often this actually was... Arthur hardly lost any of his birth weight because of it and he slowly spaced out his own feeds getting longer and longer in between. If you just listen to your baby and follow their needs you really won't go wrong.

Cord Blood Banking

I was completely unaware of the benefits of cord blood banking.  The stem cells in cord blood can be used to treat over 80 conditions and are a perfect match to your baby.  Yet it was never mentioned, so it was discarded and the opportunity to store it was lost forever. Find out more about cord blood banking at Cells4Life

Things for the baby:

You don't need as much stuff as you think you will. The only thing I'll do differently next time is buy a 'co sleeper' crib that fits onto the side of the bed, it would have made things a lot easier in terms of getting up at night, lifting etc and feeding - especially if you have a bad back and/or if you end up needing any surgery

pregnancy labour breastfeeding

Birth/gym ball:

It was a life saver- especially after he was born for 'bouncing him to sleep'. It saved my back, and my legs!

Stretchy sling:

 Another life saver. Arthur had such bad reflux he had to be upright for 40 mins after every feed. The sling saved me. If you would like to read my blog post on the different slings I chose to use click here.

Even though you swear you'll never do it again....

...And I mean really swear! To the point I made a serious promise to myself to never ever forget just how much it hurt  (probably should've just had the blasted pain relief...) so that I'd never be tempted to want another - here I am 9 months down the line (no i'm not pregnant again friends/family/husband reading this) already planning out how long to wait until we have the next one. ...because in spite of it all, it is SO worth it. And it really is all going too fast.

NB: I DID go on to have another baby - Charlotte, in 2017

pregnancy labour breastfeeding

Did you go through the same or similar? Is there anything you would add to this list? Leave me a comment below 

Why not read some of my other posts:

For all the Mummies going back to work...this one's for you

The diary of a 9 month old escape artist