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5 Things Nobody Told Me About Giving Birth

Photograph by Twenty20

Like many first- and second-time moms, I read every book and watched every documentary show about giving birth that I could find. I had my birth plan set (yes on the epidural, no IV drugs, episiotomy only if absolutely necessary) had my overnight bag packed and felt pretty confident by the time baby No. 2 was due.

Then, in a cruel twist of Murphy's Law—you know, that universal rule that whatever can go wrong, will—I pooped on the delivery table while pushing.

No one told me I was going to poop in front of my husband, the delivery doctor and two nurses. Not one single book said, "Hey girl, heads up, you might poop on the table." How could they leave me hanging like that, so vulnerable? I trusted those books!

That wasn't the only whacked-out thing to happen, either. It turns out there are lots of weird and yet perfectly normal things that can happen while giving birth (or shortly thereafter) that rarely are talked or written about.

That changes today. Here are just five of the weird things that happened to me, although I know there are many more ways our bodies can surprise us when we're making a miracle.

If there's one thing you should know about giving birth, it's that there is no single version of normal. You will most likely have a totally unique experience and still be just fine, even if you happen to poop on the delivery table. Just bring some wet wipes and hope for the best.

1. Defecation during childbirth. Here's the thing: It's totally normal. You're using the same muscles to push out your beautiful baby as you would to push out a bowel movement. While I was told that my urinary tract and bowel would naturally shut down during childbirth, the reality is that sometimes we go on the table, and life goes on. Here's the good news: Anyone who delivers babies has experience with this and will more than likely clean you up, remove the incriminating evidence and say next to nothing about the event. If they do, you have every right to deny it was you.

2. Bloodshot eyes. Don't be shocked if you look in the mirror after giving birth, or see your face in a picture and notice that the whites of your eyes look like they've recently starred in a horror flick. Pushing puts pressure on the blood vessels in your eyes, and sometimes, they can burst, leaving trails of blood right underneath the external layer of your eyeball. It looks scary but is virtually painless, and will heal up naturally within a few days to a few weeks later.

3. Play with your nipples. I had stalled at about stage 4 during my son's delivery, and the nurse told my husband, "Play with her nipples." We both turned red, and then played dumb, pretending we didn't hear what she had said. Sensing our apprehension, she clarified. She told us that nipple stimulation is known to activate the uterus and trigger stronger contractions. My husband awkwardly got to work pinching my nipples while the nurse watched with an odd sense of approval. In less than a minute, my water broke and I was back in active (and painful) labor. Weird as it may sound, nipple-play worked. I later learned this was a well-known folk cure for stimulating labor.

4. Strange giant blobs in the toilet. This, by far, is the most disgusting, and I have no idea why no one tells you about it. At some point after you deliver, you're going to use the bathroom, and when you do, you may wipe and find what looks to be a blackish-red Jell-O blob that you're pretty sure is your liver or some other internal organ, slipping out of your war-torn body. Some of these blobs can be the size of your hand. It's kind of terrifying, but don't worry. It's probably just normal discharge, usually comprised of small segments of the placenta still left in your body. If you're worried, ask a nurse or midwife to take a look.

5. The biggest granny panties and pad in the whole wide world. You've just produced a miracle, and how are you rewarded? If you gave birth in a hospital, the likely honor for your achievement is a giant pair of mesh granny panties with an even bigger maxi-pad stuffed in the center. The pad is so big it reaches your butt crack and comes all the way up your front. Here's the strangest part—those two ugly items are some of the most comforting things ever. It's like a soft, clean hug from someone who loves you.

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