Bringing a baby into the world is an experience filled with lovely and thoroughly awkward moments. After the fact, you'd probably much rather discuss the kid's adorable tiny fingers and that amazing newborn smell than all the graphic details. But here's what women who've been through it want you to know about childbirth.
1. Okay, yes, women do it every day, but it's still a big deal. Around 350,000 women give birth every day, but that doesn't mean it's not earth-shatteringly amazing. Considering they give out trophies for growing giant zucchini (yes, really), every woman who gives birth in whatever way she did it deserves some sort of Champion of Life award. (And if you became a mum via adoption or surrogate, that is also earth-shatteringly awesome.)
2. It can be a transformative and traumatic experience. When we meet our babies, we are forever changed in a heart-exploding, beautiful way. That said, maybe you expected that you'd look like a goddess in a birthing tub while softly humming to coax your child out into the world. But the reality was that you popped blood vessels in your eyes from screaming and basically morphed into a feral animal. Or maybe you had an emergency C-section. (Emergency anything is very scary when it comes to your child, and this one involves a surgeon turning his hands into a giant uterus shoehorn.) So, yes, you can be happy to have a healthy baby and disappointed that you didn't have the birth experience you had hoped for.
3. We are still healing. For longer than you think. When you come over to 'ooh' and 'ahh' at the baby, first, be sure to white lie to us about how cute you think our wrinkled little Gollum is, and second, remember that we are feeling about as well as a deflated balloon that has been run over by a rubbish van. Frankly, no matter how we gave birth, we all deserve to be checked into the Radisson Edwardian with 'round-the-clock staff. So, kindly take your plate to the kitchen. (And maybe wash all the other dishes while you're there, okay? thanks!)
4. Our vaginas aren't 'ruined.' I love a good vagina joke as much as the next person, but when the first thing people ask you after you give birth is, 'How thrashed are your lady bits?' it's kind of jarring. The truth is that vaginas are flexible and were designed for this very event and are really good at healing. While things might be a little bit different moving forward, and we'll definitely need some recovery time (usually doctors give us the Okay to have sex again around six weeks post-baby), we're going to be just fine.
5. Childbirth is not comparable to running a marathon or climbing Everest or that time Uncle Lee passed a kidney stone in 2004. I would love to feel what it's like to cross the finish line or to summit the peak (although you can keep your kidney stones), but I don't presume to know what it's like by comparing it to a completely unrelated event. I get it: There is a mystery to childbirth, and people don't like not knowing! But it is just one of those experiences that is impossible to understand unless you've gone through it yourself. Like losing a loved one. Or the first season of Breaking Bad.
6. Having a scheduled C-section doesn't mean you're 'too posh to push,' and having a home birth doesn't make you a hippie. Let's all check our stereotypes at the door. My daughter was born in a tub at a birthing center with disco lighting. My son was born in the passenger seat of a Volvo. No, I'm not a mermaid, I don't wear hemp, and I'm not someone who would be late for a pedicure, let alone her own birth. I also have a crystal-owning, moon-bathing friend who had a planned C-section, and a type-A criminal lawyer friend who had a home birth complete with a catered mimosa bar.
7. We were definitely scared about of all of the gross things that can happen during childbirth. You may spend your whole pregnancy processing your fear of the 'big three' — pooing, tearing, and blood — but then, at game time, your primal brain kicks in, and you're merely trying to survive by blowing raspberries or 'vocalising' (aka screaming like a dying cat) or slamming your head into your partner's chest in a manner that will leave them with bruises. I pooed, and I tore, and, oh, there was blood. But I had to be told this after the fact, and by then, I had just met my new favorite person, so I did not care.
8. We're not going to be interested in sex for a while. There's never been anything sexier to me than my husband bouncing our baby while softly singing 'Moon River.' But new moms' bodies need a beat. Even after we're all healed down there, our hormones (and everything in our being) aren't ready for another pregnancy just yet. And the baby made through this very act is attached to mum like a precious parasite, draining milk from her body 12 hours a day (that is, if you're breastfeeding — it's totally okay if you're not). So, maybe no physical contact? Well, unless it's a massage! But actually, I'm terrified that might ignite the shred of sex-hope my husband's clinging to, so maybe he can just bring me a ginormous portion of lasagne with a cookie instead.
9. Women's bodies are spectacular, and we don't need to fit into our pre-baby jeans to prove it. It seems like newsstands want you to know exactly how celebrities got their pre-baby bodies back, and you should do all of those things too, like, right now. But some of us actually don't want our pre-baby bodies back, because our post-baby bodies have done mind-bogglingly incredible things like grow, birth, feed, and continue to chase, lift, tickle, and cuddle our kids. And, for that, we're in awe of them. Like, did you know that during pregnancy, the volume of blood in your body increases by almost 50 percent to support the uterus? So incredible.
10. We would do it all again. No matter what it took, every mother would go through whatever agony and ecstasy she went through all over again to have her child. Although, if there's a next time, we'll strongly consider that mimosa bar.