When I walked into a crash childbirth course in my third trimester of pregnancy, I knew precious little about what to expect from labor and delivery. I’d vowed not to read or listen to too many accounts of labor/delivery horror stories in order to keep my stress low. And I figured I’d wait to watch birthing videos until the five-hour Saturday childbirth class I signed up for. I’m glad I waited. I may have been freaked out by what I heard and saw that day, but it was great to have so many myths dispelled and so many decisions settled all at once. It’s amazing how much misinformation is out there about what to expect from the birthing experience, and a lot of it has to do with a phenomenon I like to call the Myth of the Sitcom Birth.

Here are a few examples:

1. Water rarely breaks dramatically or publicly.

It’s so simple on sitcoms, isn’t it? On TV, you know it’s time for the big show when a woman’s eyes go wide and her face becomes a mask of distress. “My water just broke!” she exclaims and begins looking down and lifting her soggy feet, mortified. This isn’t usually how it goes. For one, the “water-break” — also known as the rupture of membranes — often isn’t a large gush of uncontrollable liquid that results an instantaneous puddle. Sometimes it’s a gradual trickle, and other times (and this was the case with me), a woman’s in active labor for hours without her water breaking at all. They actually had to break mine, about a half-hour before it was time to push. Even if you do experience a sitcom-level “my water just broke” moment, it usually occurs at home. Not in a grocery store, a broken elevator, or in a corporate meeting. That far into the game, you’re sticking close to home as much as possible, and the likelihood that others will witness the onset of “go time” is slim.

2. Dads in the delivery room: not as universally “touching” as we’ve been led to believe.
As beautiful as it is to witness a child entering the world, let’s not forget that it’s also gory and, for some, disturbing. As progressive as our culture’s become and for as many as have had great experiences with men in the delivery room, there’s something to be said for that time before, when men stayed out in the waiting room, and women rallied in the birthing space. This is a delicate issue. If a man is enthusiastic about witnessing the birth of his child, and his partner is equally enthusiastic, that’s wonderful. But if during the entire length of the pregnancy, he’s expressing how much he’ll dread being there, he jokes about blood making him faint, or he’s generally the type of impatient or insensitive person who’d have a hard time sitting around waiting for a 20-hour labor to “kick into high gear,” there’s nothing wrong with you both agreeing that it’s best for him to sit it out. And even if he’s not the one with the objections — even if it’s you who’s interested in being surrounded by a circle of supportive women — don’t be afraid to voice that to the father of your child. He may be fine with it. And if he’s insistent on being there, at least you’ll both get the chance to work through your concerns about things together.

  • beautyishername

    I’m 22 and never been pregnant and don’t plan on it in the next 5 years – that being said, I have a question: Do women really poop on the delivery table?

  • http://gravatar.com/worshipandpraise JN

    WTF! You have to push DURING?! WHAT THE HELL!!! Psychologically I was determined that, when that time, I would do without drugs, but fugedabouit now! Also, I heard some women poop during labor, is that a myth? Please tell me that is a myth.

  • Laurie

    Unless you have an enema before, which I just learned is no longer standard…yea it’s not a myth, you just might poop-a-doop lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/MrsRisseJ Risse

    Not a myth…some women do.

  • http://stacialbrown.wordpress.com Stacia L. Brown

    I didn’t, but I found out it’s pretty common–and I didn’t find that out until well into the pregnancy. It was another thing to completely freak out about. lol

  • C1

    I wish I could’ve been one of those women without morning sickness. I was sick for four months. I also craved laundry soap powder and chalk (but never ate it) and spicy food. I threw up/dry heaved 4 times during labor but never pooped, thank God.

  • Cee Cee

    I was there during the my nephew’s birth and I was surprised that women sometimes force out feces during labor. It was shocking.

  • http://gravatar.com/sblazer227 sblazer227

    i knew about the poop things but the pushing through contractions just blew my mind. i try to make my body go limp during period cramps cause thats how i zone out through the pain, i cant freaking imagine pushing a big headed baby out during contractions.

  • http://theblackparacosmistmind.wordpress.com theblackparacosmistmind

    Wow this was really educational. Especially the whole rando puddle of water breaking. lol Glad to know it’s not an actually lake flowing down there

  • http://gravatar.com/worshipandpraise JN

    aw, man…

  • Lala

    Don’t forget birthing the placenta. Misfits is the only show i’ve ever seen make reference to and show that.

  • A Daughter of Yemoja

    As I am sure you wanted to keep it short but there are over 50+ myths about giving birth. As a doula, a mother of two (all of which have been and will be home birthed and this third one we are planning on a freebirth…no midwife, just myself, husband and maybe our other two youth) and one due in 6 weeks, as well as an aspiring midwife and a woman who witnessed birth as a child (I saw my mother give birth to my siblings VERY SUCCESSFULLY and POWERFULLY at home) I know that birth is a very spiritual, orgasmic and non invasive part of life. Our society misrepresents many aspects of pregnancy, birth and even breastfeeding to the point where we have little to no connection and don’t even realize the important factors missing. First and foremost many of us think that giving birth has to be painful and so we get that wrapped in our brain which then gets embedded within our cells and we automatically KNOW pain will be unbearable and impossible. We feel that we should accept epidurals, lying on our backs to deliver, no movement or changing positions, no being able to moan deeply when we feel the urge, staying in the hospital bed, automatic/ scheduled Cesarean and a plethora of other factors. Even issues centered around (non-religious) circumcision and immunizations need to be discussed further and the myths associated with the MAIN reason we have myths in the first place…they are based on fear and relinquishing our control and innate ability to listen to our spirit with.

    I am pleased greatly with this article and hope that the dialogue centered around birth, postpartum and breastfeeding between us (mostly African-American) women continues to grow. Excuse my passion filled response it is just that I live this life and it hurts me dearly when my SISTARS continue to get caught in the media frenzy of fear and doctor knows best about their own bodies.

    Oh, and having bowel movements and even vomiting is completely normal when you deliver some view as a GREAT sign of active labor. We should NEVER think of our own bodily functions as disgusting that is what we are supposed to do.

    LET US TAKE BACK OUR POWER AND CREATE OUR OWN REALITY!!!
    Peace, love and unified positive vibration with the movement of out great Goddess the Ocean and Mother MOON

  • http://stacialbrown.wordpress.com Stacia L. Brown

    I did want to mention that (also something I didn’t know much about until I saw an unedited birthing video), but I didn’t want to seem *that* ignorant. I had no idea it looked like that.

  • CiCe

    Well I am glad that you resisted the laundry soap. There was this soap at the Body Shop that just kept calling me every time I went in there until I finally broke down and bought the soap. Went home and licked it and that cured my urges right way cause the taste was just gross.

  • Nnaattaayy

    Lol yes some women do, my anatomy teacher said because you’re not supposed to eat/drink 24 hours before labor

  • A Daughter of Yemoja

    That’s virtually impossible to do (waiting 24 hrs before labor), how can you predict something like that unless you have a planned Cesarean? The only real reason not to eat or drink anything before you give birth is if you have a Cesarean due to possible complications and possible choking to death when you get the anesthesia. It is quite encouraged (at least in the non medical and more natural/holistic realm of birthing) to eat light snacks (grapes, or other fruit and easier digestible foods) to help your energy levels while you are going through all the caring stages of labor. Now while you are actually in the active and transitional phases your body may not want to eat and you could regurgitate what you recently ate, but it is best to stay fully hydrated and well nourished (with light foods). In all actuallity it really is dependent on a case by case situation…the best thing to do is if you feel hungry and you can stomach a light snack eat, if you don’t then don’t eat. Unfortunately another myth learned within our culture.

  • A Daughter of Yemoja

    Sorry, caring stages should be “varying” stages

  • L.

    LOVE THIS!!! I can totally relate to #3! I am 9 months preggers and I’ve only gotten sick 4 times (mainly because of the mint in toothpaste made me gag when I’m brushing my teeth in the morning. Tom’s is my best friend now).

    I think it’s important to remember that every pregnancy and delivery is different. People love to share what happened to them 10, 20, 30 years ago when they had a baby, but you can’t take their experience as your own.

  • Side-Note

    The reason why medical staff recommend (YES RECOMMEND) not eating is to protect you just in case they have to open you up.

    Contractions are literally that, your uterus squeezing that child out. Your body naturally pushes at the ‘peak’ of every contraction. You are supposed to REST in between contractions.

    Lastly, listen to “A Daughter of Yemoja,” embrace what God has given you and stop letting society make a beautiful natural process/experience disgusting!

  • Pica?

    Hi C1 that’s very interesting. It kind of sounds like you may have had pica. Pica is defined as “craving and chewing substances that have no nutritional value” and it may be caused by iron deficiency anemia.

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chewing-ice/AN01278/

  • http://gravatar.com/nesheaholic LaNeshe

    Some women have cravings for smells, so you’ll want to sniff strange things and that soothes the feelings of sickness. My boss had no food cravings but craved smelling the types of woodchips you put in hamster cages.

  • http://gravatar.com/nesheaholic LaNeshe

    LOVE THIS COMMENT.

  • E’sMama

    I had a baby last year and I thought I was the only one who got sick while brushing my teeth! I was an avid gum chewer and couldn’t even chew gum for the over 9 months I was pregnant!! or even smell mint!!

    good luck to you

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