Hollywood, you’ve got it all wrong.

by Ashley Weeks Cart

When it comes to birth, let’s just say that Hollywood has got it all wrong. If birth happened as it does in the movies, you’d gush a quick waterfall of amniotic fluid, be raced to the hospital, scream and sweat and swear for a few minutes, and then bring a 3 month old child into the world covered in some Vaseline and fake blood. End scene.

Not exactly how it goes down.

It is STILL shocking to me that an experience that is so universal is so misrepresented and misunderstood. So, let’s clear some things up, shall we. That way you won’t be surprised when you find yourself slammed with the ring of fire and donning mesh undies. Or it’ll serve as really great birth control. Winning all around.

Things Hollywood conveniently leaves out when it comes to birth and all things maternity*:

+While pushing, you will (probably) poop the table (or tub). Good news? You are not the first, and you certainly won’t be the last. No one in that room will be surprised. And I promise, that’ll be the LEAST of your concerns.

+I’ve talked about the ring of fire before, and I’ll do it again. Imagine pushing a watermelon from inside your mouth, out. I’m talking about that on a different set of lips. Remember however, that as soon as baby is in the world that sensation stops altogether. And while that is certainly the most intense and dramatic part of labor, it is the shortest. YOU CAN DO IT! SI SE PUEDE!

+No, that’s not a tumor growing out of your butt. Invest in a donut pillow and some Preparation H. Thank me later.

+Your baby will arrive looking like a wrinkly, slimy baby Gollum who just did a couple rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson. Do not be alarmed by the cone head, or the puffy, swollen eyes. Much like you did to bring that little person into the world, s/he’s  gone through some shit to get here. Hell, she’s been in the likes of a meat pounder for hours and then shoved through the equivalent of a sausage maker. You will not have that pristine-looking baby like you see on the movie screen. But you will eventually. Promise. Also, I apologize that I just used the imagery of a “sausage maker” to represent a vaginal birth. It’s just all sorts of wrong, in so many ways, but I was trying to stick with the meat metaphor. #fail

+After the baby is born, you get to give birth, AGAIN! This time, to your placenta baby. HURRAY AFTERBIRTH! It’s not nearly as painful as the human baby and you’ll be distracted by the ooey, gooey loveliness of your newborn child, but don’t be alarmed if you find your doc or midwife giving the umbilical cord a tug and some brain-like matter follows. Hey, if you’re bold, you can save it and plant a life tree in the backyard. Or scramble it up in some eggs. Because, yes, people do such things with placenta. You see, afterbirth is booming with nutrients (it did house and grow human life, after all). Sadly, I did not have the stomach to be so adventuresome with tissue from my own person, but there are studies that show that it can ease postpartum depression, so I did consider it. And yes I am serious. Google it.

+While in the hospital, you will be subjected to round after round of a nurse very very heartily pressing on your stomach to ensure that your uterus is contracting properly and to help shed the blood and afterbirth bits from your person. There’s no way around it. It sucks. And you may cower in fear every time the nurse walks into your room during that 48-hour stay. You’ve been warned.

+While you may have enjoyed life sans Aunt Flow for 9 months, you make up for that time in the weeks following baby’s arrival. Do not turn up your nose at those mesh undies. Take home extras when you are discharged from the hospital. You can load those bad boys up with enough padding and ice packs to cover the state of Texas. And you will be thankful you did.

+Stool softeners, they are your friend. Consider starting a healthy regime in the days leading up to your due date, because while the ring of fire may be the worst, the first postpartum bowel movement comes in a close second. I recommend the aid of a pad soaked in witch hazel (cool and soothing) and a supportive and encouraging partner. If they’ve watched you deliver a baby, this will be like a walk in the park. Don’t be afraid to hold your lady parts with said pad of witch hazel to help soften the blow. Trust me on this.

+Those devilish contractions that brought you your baby will also be responsible for shrinking your uterus and putting all of your internal organs back to rights in the wake of baby’s arrival. Expect some serious cramping in the days postpartum. I was warned that they’d be worse with each subsequent child, and oh boy, *they* weren’t lying. Don’t be afraid to say YES to the drugs. While I was all about natural, unmedicated deliveries, once baby was in the world, I was happy to take whatever they offered to help ease some of the postpartum pains. When you’re vagina is swollen like a melon, you’ve got a tear cutting through that melon, tumors coming out of your bum, breasts engorged and burning with milk and are bleeding like a stuck pig, all the while trying to bond with your new child, you will want whatever help you can get. Take it.

+You may find that you sweat more profusely and pungently than you ever did in life before baby. That pool of fluid that you find yourself swimming in is because your body is shedding all the water that you’ve been retaining for 9 months. BYE BYE CANKLES! Hello loads of laundry! Also, this sweat will be accompanied by a strong musk. Yes, your bodily odor will be that of a 13-year old pubescent male, because our babies needs to smell us, in the name of bonding. Blame evolution.

+In postpartum life, jumping rope will never be the same. Neither will sneezing. Or coughing. When working out, consider Depends, or at least a liner. And you women pre-partum, DO YOUR KEGELS.

So, fellow mamas, what did I miss? What can you add to this list of birth realities that can help better prepare our fellow women for pregnancy, labor, delivery and post-partum life?

And those soon-to-be-mamas or one-day-mamas, remember, everyone is here on Earth because some strong and brave woman went through this. So you will be a champ through all of this madness, too. Promise.

*Of course, these are just my opinions and I realize that every woman is different and may experience all or none of these things. Also, this is related to vaginal delivery. I cannot speak to the experience of a C-section and its recovery.