11 things nobody tells you about giving birth

Giving birth is the most amazing and most feared part of pregnancy and it's different every time. Here are 11 tips to help prepare moms for the surprises they'll likely encounter along the way.

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  • Whether you're a first-time mom or a fourth-time mom, having a new baby always comes with its own bundle of surprises. Their very size is astounding — how could something so alive be so small, and how could something so big have fit in your belly? It doesn't matter if you're lying on a table following a C-section, sitting in a tub after a water birth, or enjoying the privacy of your own home, the first moment your see your new baby is a very tender time.

  • That special moment doesn't come, however, until you go through the whole awful, wonderful process of labor and delivery. There will be bumps, mistakes, surprises and game changers along the way, and no two times will be the same. So here are 11 things you might not know, but need to understand, about giving birth to your new baby. Here are 9 tips you've never heard of for picking a baby name.

  • Due dates are overrated

  • Women like to have a finish line to look forward to. It helps them get through nine months of pregnancy when they feel like there is a deadline on their discomfort. The truth, however, is only 5 percent of women give birth on their due dates. So don't be surprised if your human bean doesn't sprout right on schedule.

  • Having an epidural doesn't mean you're completely numb

  • An epidural is a form of pain management that can deaden the pain in a woman's lower body. It's administered through a needle placed in her back. But just because you have an epidural doesn't mean you'll have no feeling. Some women have uneven numbing in their legs, others can still lift their legs and lower body, others have feeling in their legs but none in their stomachs. Talk to your doctor if you feel a lot of contraction pain, but you don't have to be completely numb for the epidural to work.

  • You can't eat or drink with an epidural

  • This is a tough fact, because it takes an enormous amount of effort to give birth, epidural or not, but doing so on an empty stomach makes it even harder. So eat a good meal before heading to the hospital if you plan on getting an epidural. Some hospitals may allow you to chew on flavored ice chips during labor, but those will do little to satisfy your hunger.

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  • You might defecate during delivery

  • This is an especially unsavory possibility that happens far more often than most women will admit. If it happens to you, don't feel embarrassed. It's nothing the nurses haven't seen before.

  • Delivery doesn't end when the baby is born

  • You still have to deliver the placenta after the baby emerges, so don't be surprised when you still have more pushing to do. Luckily, it can be delivered quite quickly and painlessly.

  • Babies can look like they're covered in cottage cheese

  • No, your baby's skin isn't falling off and it won't always be coated by a sticky, cheese-like white substance. More common in babies born before 40 weeks, this covering, known as vernix caseosa, was what protected your baby's skin in the womb.

  • Babies can be very hairy — not just on their heads

  • Some babies resemble monkeys more than humans when they're first born, and this isn't just because of the hair on their heads. You might notice hair on your little one's arms, shoulders and even back, and it can be quite dark. This, too, will rub off in time.

  • Baby's head shape will change

  • If you deliver vaginally, the bones in your baby's head will have to compress as they squeeze through the birth canal. They don't immediately resume their round shape. In fact, they may remain rather cone-shaped for several days. This effect can be worse if an intervention was required during birth, such as use of a vacuum or forceps.

  • Someone is going to give you a massage, and it's going to hurt — a lot!

  • Before you're allowed to go home, your doctor or midwife will want to be sure you've stopped bleeding. To do this, a nurse will massage your stomach at regular intervals to be sure your uterus is shrinking back to its normal size. This is possibly the most painful massage you'll ever have.

  • You'll go home wearing mesh underwear

  • The bleeding doesn't stop when you head home, and it could continue for up to 6 weeks postpartum. Some clinics provide a sort of mesh underwear for new moms to wear with thick pads. Other women prefer buying adult-sized diapers. Just do whatever makes you most comfortable.

  • Belly buttons don't start out little and cute

  • Your little one's umbilical cord will be tied off immediately after birth, but a vestige of it will remain attached for several days, or even weeks, before drying up and falling off. It'll be black and a little bloody looking and not at all cute, but doctors discourage parents from trying to loosen them or pull on them.

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  • Giving birth can be an incredible experience, and it can be a miserable experience. Just as no two moms or babies are the same, no two births are the same. The moment you think you know all there is about giving birth and new babies is the moment you learn you know nothing at all. So don't worry about being an expert, take a deep breath, and prepare to be surprised. Here is the truth behind common pregnancy myths.

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Katie Nielsen received her bachelor's in English with an emphasis in technical writing. She has taught English and is a published writer.

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