Jamie Kenney

11 Awesome Things About Labor And Delivery That Are Pretty Gross

Ad failed to load

The word "dread," in American English, usually refers to a creeping sense of horror. Back in the day, however, it was also used to refer to someone or something worthy of reverence. I feel like labor and delivery pretty much sums up both versions of that word. There's no denying that there are awesome things about labor and delivery that are gross, because while birth is beautiful and emotional and profound, it's also completely unromantic, messy, and yucky.

While most women I've talked to will acknowledge the messy grossness of labor and birth, they're usually, and simultaneously, swept up in the overall experience (and, of course, the beautiful and beloved result) to the point that the grossness becomes sort of inconsequential. That's not to say, of course, that one can't have deeply ambivalent feelings about birth, but when it comes down to it, most people don't remember the gory details as much as they remember the emotional side of things. The gory details, in short, are often a footnote in a much bigger experience.

After the birth of my first child, my child-free best friend asked to hear "everything" and assured me that I should feel absolutely free to "spare no details." Per her request, I didn't. As I recanted my labor and delivery, I was still on a high from the experience and, despite the otherworldly weirdness at times, the whole affair seemed totally normal to me. After all, I'd prepared for it, I'd lived through it, and I got a cute baby at the end of it. I really and truly wasn't trying to shock or horrify. My friend's reply to my "no holds barred" play-by-play?

Ad failed to load

"Oh. Well, I guess I asked for all the details."

As I re-read the email, I thought "Oh, yeah, that does sounds really disgusting when you say it out loud or put it in writing so, um, I guess you just had to be there."

So what are the gross but nevertheless amazing aspects of labor and delivery you can expect? They're innumerable, but I'll give you a few...

Ad failed to load

Water Breaking


"Water breaking" is a term used to describe the rupturing the the sac of amniotic fluid surrounding and protecting your baby before they're born. TV and movies usually depict a pregnant woman's water breaking as the first sign of labor that portends an almost immediately impending birth, but that's not always (and in fact, rarely is) the case. Only about 1 in 10 women will experience their water breaking as the first indication that the baby is "coming soon to a birthing bed near you." In fact, many will already be in active labor when their water breaks, either spontaneously or with the help of their provider.

I've depicted it here as a wave because, for me, it was very sudden and very, very gushy. (I was also one of those 1 in 10 women whose water broke before contractions and oh, don't worry, they started pretty immediately after that.) For many woman, amniotic fluid leaks more than gushes, though. I have a lot of friends who thought they were peeing their pants when their water broke (and more still who were peeing their pants and thought their water had broken). The long and the short of it is that this sac of water that has basically been acting as full-body armor for your baby for the last few months is absolutely incredible, but it's also pretty gross once it starts leaking (or flooding) out of you.



Dilation in pregnancy refers to the widening of your cervix (through which your child will pass, if you give birth vaginally). It's pretty awesome, because your cervix opens up from, like, basically closed to 10 centimeters wide. On the other hand, it's pretty horrifying because your cervix opens up from basically closed to 10 centimeters wide. Think of it like this: that's the difference between a blueberry and a bagel.



I've had two children. Between the two, I've been in labor for 27 hours of my life, most of it unmedicated, but I got epidurals both times and, personally, I think of those times as some of my finest parenting decisions to date. Because contracting every 1-2 minutes when you're only 5 centimeters dilated? That sh*t suuuuuuucks. An epidural is like a magical fairy godmother who takes all the pain away but, pretty horrifyingly, she comes in the form of a catheter placed directly into your spine. That second part is, well, less charming.

Ad failed to load

Pooping While Pushing


Doctors, nurses, midwives, and pretty much everyone else who is regularly involved with childbirth will tell you that this is not at all something they especially care about, and yet for all their insistence that, "No, seriously, it's not a big deal," pooping during childbirth is frequently cited as one of a woman's #1 concerns about having a baby. Guys, for real: nobody cares.

"Okay, fine, so no one cares, but why is this awesome?" you may be asking. Well I'll tell you. Pooping while pushing is an indication that you are pushing correctly and productively. Have you ever seen what the muscles of the pelvic floor look like? They're all super-interconnected. That's pretty awesome in my book. Also? Pooping while pushing absolutely relieves some pressure, and you're going to be feeling a lot of pressure during labor and delivery, so pooping can be a bit of a relief. This is, um, you know, just what a friend told me. Yeah. A friend.

Birthing Tubs


Many women have extolled the benefits of water birth, during which a pregnant woman gives birth in a tub of warm water. A birthing tub gives an expectant mother natural pain relief and (hopefully, relaxation) and freedom of movement. Everyone I personally know who has had her baby this way has said she would absolutely do it again, however, you're also left with the undeniable fact that all the gunky stuff coming out of your body along with your baby is going to come out in that tub and float around with you for a bit. Like, it's not that gross and it certainly doesn't really detract from the overall awesomeness of a water birth, but it's still pretty gross.

Baby Heads Sticking Out Of Vaginas


Remember the dual meaning of dread? That also applies to those moments when a baby is, in essence, straddling two worlds: part in, part out, seen and unseen, here and not here quite yet. Yep. An entire bloody baby head sticking out of a vagina.

The majesty of it all. The horrifying majesty.

Ad failed to load

C-Sections In General


I am in awe of c-sections. I am in awe of the medical technology that enables them. I am in awe of a doctor's ability to perform this surgery. I am in awe of a woman's ability to endure and recover from it. I am in awe of a baby's total chillness with and about the whole endeavor. I frequently refer to c-sections as "Viking Births," because I honestly feel like there's nothing in the world more badass-sounding than a c-section. It's also sort of gross. Like, someone is cutting into you and you're awake and if you or your partner peeks over the curtain they usually set up you're going to see inside yourself. I'm sorry, but gross, even if it's also incredible and awe inspiring.



Vernix aka vernix caseosa is the greasy deposit covering the skin of a baby at birth, which sounds about as gross as it actually is. If you're thinking, "Oh, that actually doesn't sound so gross" please know that "vernix caseosa" actually means "cheesy varnish." So, yeah, pretty gross. No one is 100% certain as to the point of vernix, which is made up of shed fetal skin, lanugo, and fat. Some say it helps the baby slither on out of the birth canal. Others say it helps regulate body temperature after birth or helps moisturize their delicate skin. Whatever the purpose, it's awesome, but also pretty disgusting. Like, some cheeses can be covered in a protective wax and that's cool. But newborn infants? Barf.



The L&D nurse, a super amazing sports mom who helped deliver my daughter, was, by her own admission, obsessed with placentas. "Here, look at your placenta!" Without warning, she brought the surgical tray over to my bed and held up my discarded organ so close to me, I could have touched it without reaching. (Fortunately, I was curious myself and not squeamish.) "That's pretty awesome," I agreed. "Yeah," she said, with a gleeful glint in her eye. She wasn't looking at me, she was gazing down at my placenta. "It looks like raw steak." You'd think maternity nurses would be used to placentas at this point. Not so much with Jennifer, it turns out. But I get it, because placentas are absolutely amazing, they're just also bloody heaps of blegh.

Ad failed to load

Umbilical Cord


It looks like a stringy, vein-covered intestine attached to a screaming, bloody mini-human. Yes, it enabled them to be nourished by your placenta for months and months, but it's still pretty yucky. Then, after it's cut (my midwife offered my husband the honor to which he replied "No, thank you" because he and I are on the same damn level) a tiny stump of it is still left on your baby (gross) and then it dries up and looks like a cat turd (gross) and then one day it falls off and you can't find it and then one day you find it when you're not even looking for it (so gross: why do we even have babies)!

First Post-Birth Meal


This isn't a general rule. I'm sure most women can do this with grace and decorum. I am not one of those women. I was starving after I gave birth. (It wasn't even like they were starving me: I had been allowed to eat during labor.) So, when my French toast and ice cream came I seriously destroyed it. I was like an animal. To quote my sister, "It was savage and beautiful."

Labor and birth are full of these awe-inspiring contradictions. In a word? It's dreadful.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In April

It's that time of the month again: as March draws to a close, Netflix gets ready for a little bit of spring cleaning. Though some TV shows and movies will have to find homes elsewhere, their departure makes room for all kinds of exciting new media. A…
By Megan Walsh

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s BS

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

I’m Registered At Babies “R” Us, & I'm Freaking The Hell Out

Hi. My name is Abi, and I’m registered at Babies “R” Us — and I’m freaking out. This may sound silly, but after being a die-hard Toys “R” Us kid, I was so excited to register at their baby store once my husband and I finally got our big fat positive …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

Women Who Miscarry Early Deserve To Grieve — Here's How Hospitals Should Be Helping

When I lost my baby back in 2013, it was because of a very early miscarriage. Because of the little amount of time I spent being pregnant, it was though my child had never really existed, which made the next few years hard — I felt like they had been…
By Risa Kerslake

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

7 Reasons Why March Babies Are Total Badasses

From the moment you become pregnant, you begin to wonder what your little one will be like. Will they look like you, your partner, or your Great Aunt Edna? Will they be the quiet, thoughtful type or arrive on this planet raring to go? It's fun to ima…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

12 Overnight Face Masks To Use To Wake Up Feeling Pampered AF

Spring is right around the corner, and as far as I'm concerned, the sunshine and warm breezes can't come soon enough. But now that we're about to say goodbye to winter, it's a good time to take stock of your facial skincare routine. You know, in the …
By Katie Malczyk

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How Early An Ultrasound Can Actually Determine Your Baby's Sex

From the moment you see those two lines on a pregnancy test, there are a few markers along the way that stand out as especially exciting. Amongst them are hearing your baby's heartbeat and feeling that first, sweet little kick. And if you are finding…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik