what I wish I'd known about giving birth

Someone asked, "What did no one tell you about birth and postpartum that you learned the hard way?" I replied:

that both can be far simpler and easier than this culture tells us.

that it is not necessary to have an audience or to have anyone touch my body, and that those things can interfere with the normal production hormones that regulate the birth process.

that contractions don't mean birth is imminent, and that it is crucial to rest and sleep as much as possible in early labor.

that labor augmentation (even "natural" methods) can be counterproductive and even dangerous, and that I should have trusted my body to give birth in its own best time.

that directed pushing is also counterproductive, and that if we had been patient my body would have moved the baby out easily and efficiently on its own.

that putting a hat on the baby's head obscures the lovely baby smell that is a chemical part of bonding.

that having my baby taken away from me for even a few minutes after the birth would sever my instinctive connection to him.

that breastfeeding could hurt, that if it does there's something wrong but there so many things that can fix it, that lactation consultants don't always know what they're talking about, that not being able to pump doesn't mean that you're not producing enough milk, and that bras can hinder normal breastfeeding by harboring bacteria that cause infection.

that I didn't need all the "essential" baby products like crib and bassinet, changing table and pad, baby mobile, wipe warmer, diaper container, baby powder, baby nail clippers, butt thermometer, darling (and later to find impractical and uncomfortable) clothing, baby tub, hooded towel, baby shampoo and lotion, pacifiers, playpen...

that keeping the baby with me would help me sleep longer and better and that I should always sleep when the baby sleeps.

that my husband wouldn't just know what I needed from him after the birth.

that resisting holding the baby only makes the baby insecure so that s/he is more clingy and cries more easily.

that I had no duty to let anyone else hold the baby, not even for a minute.

that my hormone levels would drop off sharply after the birth, making me emotionally vulnerable, and that having visitors under these conditions would make me feel weird and emotionally out of control.

that I didn't have to have visitors.