You think you know what you're getting into when you choose (and hope) to deliver vaginally. You do all the reading, Google all the things, ask all the questions, take a birth class (maybe), and start to feel pretty confident in your preparation. Unfortunately, no amount of planning can prepare you for the real deal, my friends. I know there were so many things I wasn't prepared for when I had a vaginal birth, you would've thought I was going into labor and delivery intentionally clueless. Instead, I was just blissfully unaware of what a pushing a baby into the world actually entails.
When I gave birth to my now 18-month-old son, and even though he has an older brother, I felt like a total noob. So many aspects of vaginal childbirth were unexpected and completely foreign to me that I didn't know what to think. Between what I considered to be unbelievable pain and, as a result, my uncontrollable screaming, I was a confused and surprised mess. Even being close friends with a doula hadn't prepared me sufficiently.
So sure, I thought I knew what I was in for but I had no idea what was in store until I was in the throes of constant contractions. In the end, "not knowing" is kind of par for the pregnancy, labor, and delivery course, though. There's no one-size-fits-all experience for childbirth, so definitely keep in mind that what I wasn't entirely prepared for but ultimately lived through, might not even happen during your labor and delivery. Regardless, hold onto a few keys facts and you'll be OK: ignorance truly is bliss, you're more powerful than you realize, and it'll all be worth it when your baby is in your arms. Even if you end up not being prepared for the following:
I was induced the first time around, so I wasn't prepared to have my belly strapped full of fetal monitors and making alarms go off rather frequently. Of course, if you're not induced or you don't use pain medication during your labor and delivery, you might not be strapped to any monitors (you usually won't need to be, really). However, this was one aspect of my vaginal birth that totally caught me off guard.
I knew giving birth was going to hurt, but I had no idea it would hurt like that. I was wholly unprepared for the waves of agony and how it affected everything else. The pain is enveloping and I was not expecting it to completely overwhelm me.
I didn't feel the episiotomy, but the suturing and the aftercare were beyond bizarre. I suggest using the peri-bottle when you're postpartum, and using it extremely liberally.
Talk about shocking, dear reader. Two words of advice, if you do find yourself with a few postpartum hemorrhoids: tucks pads. Get them. Hoard them. Use them.
Also, (as this certainly was a shock to my postpartum system) when the nurses say they need to "check you," be ready. They're totally going to look at your butthole. Literally.
The Postpartum Bleeding
I knew that postpartum bleeding was an inevitability. It stands to reason, right? However, I didn't realize that when I walked to the bathroom for the first time after giving birth, it would look like scenes from a slasher movie.
(Also worth noting: while postpartum bleeding is normal, make sure to consult your doctor about what is "normal" and what is cause for concern.)
The Sore Throat
I definitely had a very sore throat for a few days postpartum. While I was told that yelling would make it harder to push, I found it hard to push without yelling. Every woman is different, to be sure, but without an epidural I experienced a lot of yelling (and of the obscene variety, mind you).
The Way You're Suppose To Actually Push
I thought pushing would come naturally to me, but I was wrong. Turns out, I had no idea how to push "correctly." Talk about a crash course.
I really don't remember the whole "you might vomit during labor" chapter of the baby book.
The Complete Lack Of Anything Resembling Bladder Control
You are going to pee on yourself so many times you'll eventually just stop caring. You pee when you take a deep breath, sneeze, cough, laugh, think about peeing, sit up, stand up, walk; your entire postpartum life is just pee. Well, it was for me, anyway.
The Time It Takes To Birth A Human
I was terribly unprepared for the pushing phase to last so long, and I ended up pushing for 90 minutes. Of course, I know some people have pushed much longer and some people get it done in like 15 minutes, so this truly is a case-by-case situation. Still, it was much longer than I anticipated.