After Birth and Birthing the After-Birth
Now you've had your baby, they pass him to you and you feel a surge of love like you've never felt before, glowing you smile peacefully, cradling your newborn while your husband kisses the top of your head, and life with your baby begins. Well that's the movie version of immediate post-birth. The reality? My reality was more shock and awe. I'm going to do a whole separate blog post on the supposed 'surge of love' because that needs it's own separate unpicking! But back to immediately after having your baby.
I delivered vaginally so after what can only be described as the strangest sensation ever of a human being quite literally falling out of me (think slippery, wet, pointy elbows and knees exiting alongside a huge release of pressure) he was passed up between my legs for my husband and I to see and hold. We didn't know the sex of our baby and there was some confusion about that at first. Don't worry my baby boy is perfectly developed but my husband thought the midwives had said it was a girl, I was oblivious and didn't hear anything because I was quite focused on said exiting sensation, but when they passed him to us he quite clearly wasn't a girl. So my husband announced we'd had a boy I thought to myself "Of course we did we'd thought it was a boy all along" then lay down for him to be passed to me for some skin-to-skin. The cover picture for my Birth Story blog post is of that moment. As you might see from that photo I look in shock and exhausted...because I was. There's no other way to describe it because I felt a wave of "Oh my god I can't believe I just did that" coupled with "F**K I JUST HAD A BABY." Our son didn't immediately cry, it took some pretty ferocious rubbing by the midwives but then he got going and we all breathed another sigh of relief. It's a strange one that - you're desperate for them to cry then a few days later all you can think is PLEASE STOP CRYING.
My little boy, Abel, had a short umbilical cord so while doing skin-to-skin I couldn't get him too far up my chest, or do a first feed then, as he was obviously still attached to the placenta which was still very much inside me. We had requested delayed cord clamping, and it turned out to actually be standard practice at least at our hospital, so while we all waited for the cord to finish doing it's thing I just held him, again in shock and awe (common theme here!). In this short period of time Abel managed to do his first poo on me. For those of you who don't know about the first poo you are in for a treat (not really.) The first poo babies do is called Meconium and it's like black, sticky tar. Abel decided to do his all down my side and it's a sign of how unaware I was of what was happening at that point that I didn't even realise until a midwife was kindly clearing it, and me, up.
Once the cord had stopped pulsating my husband cut it and Abel was wiped down and wrapped up for him to have a cuddle. Now the cord had been cut the midwives turned their focus back to me because, if you don't already know, once you've given birth you have to give birth again to the after-birth. Because your vagina hasn't been through enough already. All jokes aside it's not like giving birth fully again, although it is still a part of labour - it's literally called the '3rd Stage of Labour'. So yes the placenta has to come out, and you have to deliver it, but it's obviously not as dense or solid as the human being that's already gone before it so it more kind of slips out! I had what is called a 'Physiological Management' for my 3rd stage of labour. This basically means it all happened naturally. It can take up to an hour for the placenta to come away but then usually only a few minutes to push out. I was able to have physiological management and my 3rd stage only took 26 minutes. The other option is 'Active Management' where you're given an injection of oxytocin into your thigh as you give birth, or soon after, to help with the delivery of the placenta.The injection can also be given if physiological management isn't progressing quickly enough. Active management is used to speed up the process and reduce the risk of postpartum haemorrhage so even if you would like a physiologically managed 3rd stage be aware that this might not be possible for medical reasons. Regardless I will never forget the sensation of the midwife gently tugging at the cut umbilical cord that was hanging out of me to see if the placenta was ready to be delivered yet. Even after the experience of giving birth, that was a strange one and it still makes me shudder if I think about it. It's one of the reasons I am pleased I was able to deliver my placenta with contractions (oh yes because the contractions keep going for quite some time after you have given birth - I mean days not just hours!) because with active management it does sometimes need some *ahem* help from the midwives and those little tugs were plenty for me thank you very much.
Once I'd delivered it I was weirdly fascinated by the placenta. I hadn't been before having the baby at all; I hadn't really thought about it! But as the midwife checked it over (they have to be sure the whole placenta has come away as it's very dangerous if any is left inside) I asked to see it. It's a bizarre looking thing I'll tell you. Much bigger than you'd think and kind of like a piece of cows liver from a butchers shop. Apologies if that visual was too much for you but I did promise warts and all story sharing! Looking past how it looked, I was just suddenly amazed that my body had not only grown a baby but had created a whole new organ to sustain it's life. Pretty bloody incredible that. I stopped short of doing anything else with placenta, that wasn't for me, although I know lots of people swear by encapsulation. My interest did not stretch to consuming my placenta in any form.
So now you've birthed, and after birthed, what's next you ask? Stitches. Tears, grazes and yes, stitches, are also getting their own blog post because this was something I was terrified about before giving birth, something that happened to me, and also something that didn't really have any affect on me in the long-term if I'm totally honest so I will be talking about that separately as, as a topic, it deserves it's own screen time. As does the first shower. That is a story and a half that'll be coming soon.