Mother and Baby

Mums describe what giving birth *really* feels like

Section: Labour & Birth

For anyone who hasn't given birth, the very thought of labour can seem utterly terrifying. Er, you're telling us that a baby needs to come out of THERE?! In the movies, labour is seen as beautiful and poignant. In EastEnders, there's a lot of shrieking and sweating (notably, Stacey Slater begging for an epidural), but in real life, there's a hushed secrecy about what actually happens during labour.

Mum's labour stories are rarely shared in the media (13 babies and Ed Sheeran playing an acoustic cover in the background just about cuts it), despite it being one of the most life-changing and physically demanding ordeals you can go through as a woman. 

That's why we asked 20 mums to be brutally honest about what giving birth was like for them. What did it feel like? How would you describe it to someone who hasn't been there? How painful is it on the scale from 0 to OHMYGOODNESSWHYME? Here are their answers and they are bloody brilliant. 

What does labour feel like:

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1) 'The pain is unreal, I was pacing the room the whole time I was in labour. It really felt like I needed to poo, it got so bad once my midwife was shouting at me to get out of the toilet otherwise that’s where I would have given birth. I was told I would have to be induced because my waters broke but nothing else happened. Luckily, nine hours later she was born, it’s a pain that really does take your breathe away! - Amber
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2) 'My labour was three days long. I didn't dilate properly so had to have my waters broke. Had a bit of a problem pushing Bella out so had to be cut & have a ventouse labour (suction cup) then had a third-degree tear from the outcome of the birth. You really can't plan anything, you're exhausted, the pain is horrendous, but it's all worth it!'- Jade
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3) 'You cannot plan a single thing. It’s the most intense, excruciating pain you will ever experience and as soon as your baby is placed into your arms you get the biggest adrenaline rush and the pain is gone.' - Leanne
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4) 'I didn't find it painful as such, more of an unbelievable pressure. Hypnobirthing/yoga breathing works' - Kate
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5) 'I was in labour a long time and was completely worn out but You just want your baby in the world and safe and healthy. So you keep going and having moral support was key in my birth choosing the best person or people in some cases is important too. I was glad gas and air were on tap put it that way!' - Liz
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6) 'Labour took my breath away! It was like being winded and then being ask to go for a run. I wished I’d done a lot more physical excerise in pregnancy to prepare. The epidural was amazing, we watched tv and I then actually felt excited.

The birth itself was incredibly long, I was four hours from being “ready to push” which was shocking. The whole thing was like a dream, and surreal. I remember it more as if I watched he whole thing rather than Participated! I threw up after the birth due to shock. Due to problem from birth one, I had a c-section next time which was exciting and I was over the moon this time when I saw my son and he was handed over!' - Rachel
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7) 'Like someone lit a match and held it against my vagina' - Daisy 
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8) 'I wasn’t expecting my heart to stop beating and flatline! It's just something i never thought of happening to me. Especially being young and healthy' -Jamie
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9) 'Labour is one of the most painful things a women will ever experience, it can feel like your pelvis is going to break in half and you are trying to poo out a fridge when your baby’s head is coming out, but it is also one of the most amazing things you will ever go through. It makes you feel emotional, happy, scared, probably every emotion you could imagine at points, but nothing comes close to it. A women’s body is incredible to be able to deal with the pain and carry a little human for nine months.
I've recently given birth for the third time, I went into hospital at 12pm my baby was born at 2:56pm and I was home by 8pm as we ordered a kebab! Each labour has been rather similar, but the pain definitely doesn’t get any easier! It still amazes me, I don’t think it matters how many children you have, it’s something special, which I am lucky to of been able to experience!' - Charlotte
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10) 'Contractions were by far the worst bit!' - Clare
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11) I had been contracting for 4 hours the baby wasn't coming. So I had doctors coming round every hour to check they said my baby looked comfy and didn;t want to move. If it carried on i would have to have a c-section, but would need to be put out as I'd already had the spinal, but that meant my partner wouldnt see our baby being born.

I was gutted, exhausted and just wanted it to be over. Then all of a sudden we all fell asleep the next time they came to check they could see the head. Five pushes and he was out. It was a boy we didn't know the sex and before they told me all i asked in my drugged up state was. 'Did it have any hair?!' They went to put him on me and i was just throwing up!

I have never felt so overwhelmed and that feeling is something you cannot describe until it happens, but i also felt really unwell the next thing was the doctor coming in telling me I needed a blood transfusion immediately. I looked rather confused and said I'm not having one of them, what do i need that for? He said you have lost nearly 2 litres of blood. if you don't have it you could die. I said. 'well we better get cracking with that one then!' because i haven't just gone through all that to die! So i had two units of blood put back in. It was so worth it, I would do it all over again tomorrow would just hope for a more straight forward birth next time! - Chloe
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12) "I found it like riding a rollercoaster, with the ups being the most intense muscle contraction (think Slendertone on max if you've ever tried it!) and the down slopes being relieved, but anticipating the next up - all whilst needing the biggest poo of your life with the driest mouth possible!' - Rachel
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13) I had no epidural due to medical problems I had. The pain I felt when my baby was on my spine is something that was so excruciating and was both nerve pain and physical pain. I remember gripping my sister's hand crying and trying to take in air and gas. It lasted for around 15 minutes my legs were tingling. I was really worried that I'll face that pain again. But after that, my baby was out and nothing else hurt. I suffered from tailbone pain for about 6-8 weeks and had physio... turns out my baby was too big for my body! - Nasmin
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14) It’s hard to describe. Although you are so aware of what’s going on, especially the pain you aren’t concentrating on, the pain is awful. You honestly think, 'how can I be in this much pain and not die', but you’re main concern is, 'is the baby ok?' The adrenaline rush you get once they are out and you realise you’ve grown a person really helps with the pain. Also, every birth is different every time. I’ve done it twice and it was completely different. Preparing for birth is hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. You might give birth in a pool naturally, you might have an emergency c-section. It may take 3 hours. it may take 50. What ever happens that baby is coming out one way or another! - Kate
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15) With my first son, I didn't experience any Braxton hicks or contractions. He was breech and tucked up near my ribs. My second son, however, umming and ahhing over whether or not the twinges I felt were contractions. But oh boy! You sure know the real thing when it hits ya. Actual birth, excruciating pain, like having the biggest poo imaginable! -Ruth
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16) Three things no one prepares you (or me) for: 1) When your waters break there is. So. Much. Water. Just coming out. Over hours. At some point I was like, there is no way all this water was in me. How? 2) When you’re pushing, it’s laughable. You think, OK seriously nothing is happening. There is no way that thing is gonna come out of that hole. Let’s just call it a day and go home. 3) They say C-section has more recovery time than a vaginal birth. OK, tell that to my battered and bruised vag. Needed a doughnut ring to sit on for the better part of 6 weeks! - Kat
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17) What it really feels like? Like your insides are about to explode and fly right out of you. The pain is out of this world! All the gas and air, gripping on the bed sheets and bed handles, friction burns on your feet from rubbing your feet up and down the bed from the pain, all the f**k off’s/I can't do it/f**k you's. Oh my god, it doesn’t take the pain away, but it gets you through for a split second and when your through it.. the 360 degree change of feelings is immense... it’s incredible! The pain is gone (well. for that time your holding your baby anyway) you are crying with joy and reliefl! And there it is your baby, a baby human just lying there on your chest like, 'hey what’s up! How you doing!'  - Amy
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18) I had a really difficult birth and it was 36 hours in total before emergency c-section. The pain was as bad as I imagined even with an epidural and spinal block but staying mobile helped with the pain management pre-drugs! I managed my fears right up until surgery when everything tends to go out the window! Best advice to any new mum is to always remember you're doing your best even when things don't go as expected - sometimes there's no explanation why! -Naomi
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19) Mine was an hour and a half long, no warning signs, woke up in excruciating pain... I can't remember much as it was so quick. You know the pain was awful, but you don't remember how painful. Once they're in your arms, your whole world changes for the better. I can't imagine life without him now, my partner was amazing throughout, Yes stressful, but amazing. - Roxy
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20) My waters broke first thing in the morning at home and I could not believe how much there was. I then started being violently sick with every contraction. At the hospital, even the anti sickness drugs didn’t work and I was in absolute agony. I demanded an epidural, which took ages to set up. The pain was unbearable. It turned out that my baby was back to back, which apparently is the most painful position to give birth to. Once the epidural kicked in, I was able to relax in bed. However, after about six hours, nothing was progressing and the baby was becoming stressed. In the end, I was rushed to theatre, where they had to deliver my baby using forceps and ventuse suction thingy. I lost a lot of blood and it was very traumatic for me and my partner. Physically it took quite a while to recover (a few weeks) but emotionally, a lot longer. - Helen

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