- Babies are SLIPPERY. Seriously, that may sound obvious if you think about it, but the thing is that you usually don’t think about that exact thing when there’s a brand-new human about to emerge! I was expecting to have shaky hands, but not to almost drop the baby. And it doesn’t help that often there’s a gush of amniotic fluid which emerges behind the baby with that final push, further drenching the already moving child, and you too. Sometimes the woman may be perched on the end of the bed or standing when giving birth, which makes this piece of knowledge even more important. It’s a balancing act, using the right amount of force to hold this slippery child and prevent them from dropping to the floor. Which leads me to my next point.
- Babies are TOUGH. Yes, they have weak neck muscles, yes, they have a fragile skull with soft spots where bones have not fused together, but they are seriously able to withstand a lot. Almost every new parent picks up their newborn with such care and precision, worried about hurting them, which isn’t helped by their inevitable cry. Babies are not used to being touched or cold, and they sure do let you know how much they dislike it! And this doesn’t help my pep talk when I tell the new dad ‘don’t worry you can pick them up more quickly than that. Don’t forget, many of them get pulled out by their heads, sometimes with salad tongs and sometimes with vacuum – I’m sure they will survive you changing their nappy.’ Of course, if you have never delivered a baby, you’d feel the same way and would not for a second think about lifting the baby up under the armpits, but always one hand behind the head and one behind the bottom. But trust me, they’ll be ok.
- Birth is MESSY. Everyone knows that before you give birth your waters will break and after, there’s a little bit of bleeding. But there’s more. When the membranes have ruptured, it isn’t just one gush and that’s it – the amniotic fluid will keep coming out as long as this baby, who’s head is acting like a plug, is moving around, allowing the fluid to slip down beside it. Sometimes the fluid is just a nice clear colour, like water. But sometimes there’s a bit of blood in it, or even meconium – baby’s first poo. Yep, some babies are born covered in their own faeces, and they usually don’t live it down. During the actual birth itself, there is more likely going to be bowel motions from the mother – but that’s not usually mentioned or talked about. It’s pretty impossible for there not to be, seeing as there’s a human head squashing the rectum and squeezing out whatever is in it. Finally, the ‘little bit of bleeding’. More like 500ml. Or 1000ml. Not to mention the fact that it will continue to be heavy for the next couple of days. It can come as a shock to the untrained eye how much blood loss is considered normal, and where it can be found after all is settled. The sheets are drenched with it, the floor is covered with it, the new mother is soaked in it, and your partner might find it on that hidden spot behind your elbow later that evening when you’re eating dinner. Which may result in one or both of you suddenly not feeling hungry any-more.
- You will forget to check the time of birth. Even 4 years after qualifying as a midwife, I still forget to check that clock at birth. This is why we have a second midwife in the room; just in case of an emergency – or in reality whose mind is not preoccupied with an emerging human, and therefore remembers to look at the time. There’s a lot going on, and you are in charge of two lives – who prioritises checking the time?
- Birth is BEAUTIFUL. Despite all the hard work and pain, there is no preparing you for that moment when a brand-new baby is given into the arms of its waiting mother. She finally has a reward for the sweat and tears, and finally the contractions are over. Take time to capture these moments for the new parents, take photos of them (with their own camera and permission) with the expressions which may never again be repeated. Never forget it is an amazing privilege to support someone through such a vulnerable time and be sure that they will never forget you. You may end up delivering hundreds of babies and the faces all blur into one, but each woman will not forget how you treated her, the exact words you said when she found it too hard to carry on, and the smile on your face when it was all over.
Author: Lara is a UK-trained midwife living in Australia and after four years of midwifery couldn't think of doing anything else as a career! She is also part of Team MyMedEquip and helps run our social media in her spare time.