Here’s something no-one really prepares you for. If you’re like me, intensely private, then the idea of giving birth in a hospital can be absolutely mortifying. That’s got a lot to do with the predicted amount of groaning and screaming you’ll be doing. Not to mention, the weird and inappropriate straddling of a Pilates ball you wouldn’t do at home, let alone in public. Add to that a terrifying fear of incontinence, and the mere idea of eating all but vanishes at the slightest Braxton Hicks contraction – 2 weeks before you’re due.
Yup, that about sums up the few weeks prior to a first hospital experience. You can certainly read about it, and women who’ve experienced it before will all tell you about it. Mostly, they’ll remember the good bits and exaggerate the bad bits. But every single one of them will agree that it doesn’t really matter what the hospital experience was, the part that is giving birth is probably the one you’ll remember the most vividly.
There are a few things that might make it easier for you, even if you are as private as I am.
- Maternity ward nurses need to be tough, just like the rest of the hospital staff. They’re exhausted and they might not be so nice to you, try not to take it so personally. It’s your first time, but it’s their 19th birth, and that’s just today.
- Your doctor and the hospital staff do this for a living; they’re offering you professional care. That’s where it stops. They’re not judging you. It may feel strange having 5 people around you, all concentrated on your personal assets, but they’re not seeing what you think they’re seeing. They are, in fact, focused on keeping you safe and clean, and delivering your baby with no misfortunes.
- It may get messy and you may feel horribly inappropriate. None of that actually matters. You’ll do much better to let go of your worries and get on with the actual labour.
- Be ready to throw your birth plan out the window at the drop of a hat. The safety of you and baby outweigh the need for a water birth 100 to 1.
- They’re going to weigh your baby right away. Depending on the doctor or nurse who is attending to your after birth, you may get to hold your new baby for a few minutes before they do. They’ll then do the necessary checks, and yes, it is essential that they do so. Your baby might scream but don’t worry, the nurse is not manhandling her. Your little one is just a tad overwhelmed and likely getting cold.
- Most hospitals practise immediate breastfeeding. It’s not as easy as it looks and it doesn’t come naturally to all women (or babies). This means that the nurse, or any number of nurses in my case, will familiarise themselves with your nipples, without even asking. If this makes you terribly uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to ask them to rather talk you through it. It’s still your body.
By the time you’re ready to leave the hospital, you’ll have a list even longer than mine. The most important thing I want to share with you, however, is that the end result is definitely worth it all.