22nd April 2020

The A to Z of giving birth

Warning: This isn’t the kind of cute alphabet you can frame for your baby’s nursery….

A is for anaesthetic, in the form of an epidural. In the weeks before giving birth, after grilling mums you know, going to ante-natal classes and consulting Dr Google on an alarmingly regular basis, you’ll probably have developed some preferences about whether or not you want pain relief, and if so what kind. Lots of mums write in their birth plans that they DO NOT want an epidural, because they don’t like the idea of not feeling anything. Some stick to this; others scream “GIVE ME AN EPIDURAL” when they don’t really like the feels in question after all. You won’t always get one, though – sometimes by the time you’re in this much pain, it’s too late for pain relief. The good news is, this means the baby’s coming really soon.

B is for Braxton Hicks. The opposite of your baby coming really soon; Braxton Hicks are pesky fake contractions which can kick in sporadically about halfway through your pregnancy. They can escalate later on, and have sent many a first-time mum trotting off to the hospital, convinced they’re the real deal.

C is for contractions. The real deal. To start with, they’re like period pains. They end up being a liiiiiittle bit more intense than this. But we don’t want to ruin the surprise.

D is for doula. Not just for hippies, doulas are an extra person to have around during and after the birth. They’ll have your back when it comes to your preferences and generally bring the chilled vibes. And possibly some scented candles.

E is for episiotomy. If your midwife thinks your baby is going to struggle to make it out (what with, you know, being about a million times bigger than your vagina) or is already in distress, one of these – a surgical cut to your bits, followed by stitches – might be strongly recommended. The thought might make you cringe, but you’re pretty likely to tear anyway; this is just a more controlled way of doing it.

F is for forceps. Not forgetting their good friend Ventouse. Forceps are the giant tongs, Ventouse is the vacuum cap thing. They serve similar purposes – getting your baby out safely when you or they are struggling – and nobody but nobody wants them, but they’re a safe option and remember remember remember, everyone just wants to deliver your baby safely.

G is for gas and air. A delicious concoction which can send you to a higher plain during labour – if it works for you. If it doesn’t, you might just puke and ask for the hard stuff.

H is for home birth. It’s not as simple as just blowing up the birth pool and getting on with it; if you fancy a home birth, you’ll have put hours of planning into it and will be understandably disappointed if you end up going to hospital after all. An unplanned home birth is a different kettle of fish – but it’s rare in first-time mums, since labour tends to start slowly. But not always…

I for irritated. Plenty of things might irritate you while you’re in the throes of labour. Your partner for tapping their foot erratically (anyone would think they were nervous…), the midwife for not magicking your baby out of your fanny, inanimate objects for touching you, the lights in the delivery suite for being so damned bright… this is your time to be a massive diva. You will be forgiven.

J is for juice. You’ll want to stay hydrated and energised during birth, and juice boxes with straws are a winner, as are isotonic drinks… it’s called labour for a reason and you need all the energy you can get.

K is for ketamine. What you might accidentally ask for when you really mean pethidine (see P). Pretty embarrassing, let’s pretend it didn’t happen.

L is for looooong. Unfortunately this ordeal can go on for days. It’s definitely going to go on for hours. But you get a nice baby at the end of it, hurrah.

M is for midwife. Your new best friend and worst enemy. But really she’s your best friend. If your labour is one of the looooong ones, you might meet several, since it turns out they have lives of their own and don’t work 48 hour shifts, and afterwards you’ll feel bad for not remembering all of their names.

N is for naked. You might have a birth outfit all planned out, but when it comes down to it, all that material flapping around could well annoy the hell out of you, and you’ll just want to be in your birthday suit. Your baby will be turning up naked too, so you might as well set the dress code now.

O is for orgasm. Some women claim to experience orgasms during birth. Most don’t.

P is for pain and pethidine. Which sounds a bit like a Jane Austen novel but most definitely isn’t. Hippy types don’t like the word “pain” to be used about giving birth, preferring to liken it to “sensations”. But we can sensationally reveal that it is quite painful, unfortunately. Pethidine is one way to numb that pain – it’s a morphine-esque painkiller which will be injected into your thigh should you demand it. It can make you feel rather spaced-out, so not all women like the idea.

Q is for queen. We don’t mean to come over all Beyonce, but this is YOU! You’re birthing a baby! You’re amazing!

R is for ring of fire. A jolly little song by Johnny Cash; a not so jolly sensation that you might experience as your baby crowns. But try to think of it as exciting, yeah? They’re nearly here! OWWWWWW, HOLY HELLFIRE!

S is for skin to skin. What you’ll be encouraged to do as soon as you’ve given birth, as long as all is well. And it’s absolutely lovely… even when your shiny new human enjoys the closeness so much that they immediately wee on your thigh.

T is for tens machine. A jazzy little machine that can help with pain relief in the early stages. We’d recommend borrowing or renting one, since you’re unlikely to need it for long (well, until the next time). Also a good distraction for your partner when they’re fannying around desperate to make themselves useful.

U is for umbilical cord. These days some people like to delay cutting the cord; if it’s wrapped round your baby’s neck, this won’t be an option. It’s attached to the placenta, which is bigger and grosser than you ever imagined.

V is for vomit and other bodily fluids. Many women puke during labour; others also wee and poo and generally lose all control of their bits <and> their inhibitions. It’s normal and the midwives have seen and smelled it all before. Just make sure you’ve brought plenty of clean clothes for afterwards…

W is for water birth. Loads of mums want one, not everyone gets one, either because there are no pools available or because there are medical reasons why it’s not advised. If you’re planning to have one, remember to ask if a sieve is provided or if you need to bring your own (see V, above).

X is for eXciting. All of this might sound pretty intense, but it’s also the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to you. You’re about to be a mum! You can think happy thoughts about this during the small moments of respite and relaxation between contractions.

Y is for yodels. Some of the noises you make while in labour might sound like you’re yodelling. Others might sound like a wild animal. Others might sound like the worst swear words you’ve ever heard, which is a good reason to not have your mum as your birth partner.

Z is for zero. This is precisely how many shits you’ll give about everything that’s just happened when you hold your beautiful baby in your arms for the first time. Same time next year, then?

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