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What does labour feel like?

A real conversation I had with two youths at church a couple of weeks before I was due...
"Hello Serene! Wow, you are still here. Is the baby due soon?"

"Yup, still here. Baby should be coming any day now."

"Really? You mean like it can even come today?"

"Yes, who knows? Quite possibly."

"Oh my gosh! So if it happens what should we do? Like what happens if your water breaks here? Man, that will be so exciting!"

"*LOL* Well, labour doesn't always start that way. It's not like in the movies."

"It isn't? So what is it like?"

"Erm... well, usually the woman will start feeling some contractions at first. Something like a tummy ache which gradually become more painful. Then we can call the hospital so they can advise us when to come in.

"Oh, I see. Then after the contractions, you will 'pang' the baby out, right? What does that feel like? Is it painful?"

"Well, it kind of feels like doing the biggest poo of your life... but not from that hole of course."

"Huh? Then which hole???"

Every now and then, a pre-parent would ask me about labour. The topic would comes up more often recently since most of the conversations I have revolve around how I am doing after the birth.
I'm never sure how much information to give. I always worry about burdening these future mothers or mums-to-be with too much information and scare them off.

The classic question I always get asked is, "Is it painful?", which is usually followed by a wince and grimace upon hearing my frank answer.

Here is my attempt to give a full response to this frequently asked question... so far I have never been able to give a complete response because we always get sidetracked by other questions one after another.
Many pre-mothers tend to fixate only on the labour... particularly on the 'pushing baby out' part. I think it's because most movies featuring a labour scene focus mostly on that part, because that's when all the action happens. With the woman in labour groaning, yelling and screaming as she pushes the baby out, it's easy to assume that the pain is centred all around that scene alone. 
The truth is, the pain of labour is actually really centred around the contractions. When a pregnant woman's body decides it's time for baby to come out, the muscles surrounding the uterus begin contracting to slowly push baby downward and out. 
The contraction process is a slow and painful journey, akin to running a marathon or climbing a mountain. They start out slow and gentle, like a soft squeezing in the muscles in your belly. As they progress further, the squeezing gets tighter and harder. At the peak of the journey, it feels like something reaching in and squishing your insides to smithereens. 
Toward the end, the contractions start coming so fast and hard, as if your body is hurrying to squeeze baby out ASAP. 
And then comes the final part, when baby's head finally starts to emerge. At this point, it feels like something trying to push it's way out down there... pretty much like when you feel a really strong urge to do a giant poo. 
The pushing part is actually somewhat less painful. Maybe because there is something else to focus on, or perhaps there is a rush of adrenaline to push baby out. And before you know it, you've reached the finished line, panting and victorious.
If you decide take the 'au naturel' route, I won't lie to you, it will definitely hurt. But even if you opt for the so called 'pain-free' path with epidural or c-section, you can't run away from pain because there is still the recovery process to go through. I've been told that the recovery process for c-section births is even more gruelling and painful than than a vaginal birth.
But the thing is, when you decide to have a child, you look beyond the pain of labour. Labour is just one small narrow entryway to the tremendous joy and adventure of parenting and  children that awaits on the other side.

To quote a friend...

This narrowness
is the narrowness
of a birth canal.
There is an entire universe waiting on the other side.


  1. I like how you likened labor to a marathon - that is a great way to describe it!

    1. Yeap! That's really the best analogy I could think of :)


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