Things Writers Need To Know About Birth & Babies

When perusing fiction on the Internet, I often see that many writers apparently have some rather... skewed ideas about childbirth and babies that are pretty cringeworthy to anyone remotely familiar with how the whole thing actually works. Sure, babies are cute and adorable, but it's not all sunshine and roses, either - and some of those cute behaviors don't happen as soon as people think. Anyway, based on the things I usually see people getting wrong, here's a list of things that these writers really need to know and be aware of.

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The labor process is actually pretty slow.

Contrary to what Hollywood would have you think, the first contraction doesn't mean that the pregnant person is going to pop all over the floor if not immediately rushed to the hospital. On the contrary, the first stage of labor lasts about eight to twelve hours with relatively mild contractions that become stronger as the body enters into active labor. The active labor phase lasts about three to five hours. And then that's followed up with the true labor stage, which can last twenty minutes to two hours. And then after that is the third stage - the delivery of the placenta, which takes about five to thirty minutes.

Also, while we're on this topic, contractions often start up to hours before your water actually breaks. And when one's water breaks it doesn't come out all at once in a big ol' puddle - it takes awhile for all the amniotic fluid get out.

It's also messy. Really messy. And really painful.

There is a lot of blood involved in childbirth, and usually the mother ends up defecating and urinating on the bed during the true labor stage. When the baby finally arrives it's going to be covered in all manner of bodily goos and fluids. Also, the baby is going to be attached by the umbilical cord to the placenta, a squashy red organ that is expelled from the body shortly after the baby.

While fiction does usually show that childbirth is painful, it doesn't necessarily give you a good picture of how it's painful. Some describe them as feeling like menstrual cramps ramped up to eleventy-two (among other painful things). Also, the baby is going to hit and squash pretty much everything on the way out - so, imagine getting punched in the stomach from the inside from every possible angle. And imagine how much that is going to hurt afterward. More information on what it's like can be found here.

Childbearing wrecks you up.

Giving birth leaves one with a battered and bruised body with a stretched-out midsection. Those who have just given birth will be dealing with bleeding, discharge, incontinence, hemorrhoids, and other unpleasantries. It takes weeks before the body's healed up again enough to lift heavy objects and have, and a whole year before the body is back to what it was before pregnancy. Also, hair loss after childbirth isn't unusual, either. And then there are the "baby blues" - a few days after birth where one's whacked-out hormones cause short-term depression. It also takes months before one's abdomen goes back to its pre-pregnancy shape... and even then, it may always be a little stretched out. All in all, it'll be several months before the body is more or less back to its pre-pregnancy state.

Newborn babies don't giggle or smile.

Babies don't start smiling at people until they're about six to eight weeks old (anything before that is most likely faces pulled at the sensation of gas), and they don't start laughing until they're about three to four months old. And while we're here, babies start making syllables at about four to six months, and at about seven to twelve months they begin with the proto-talk.

Babies aren't born with green eyes.

When it comes to birth eye color, you have two options: brown and steely blue. People with, for example, mostly Asian, Native American, and African heritage tend to be born with brown eyes, while babies with Northern European heritage tend to be born with steely blue eyes, which can sometimes appear very dark, even almost black. Depending on various factors, blue eyes can lighten or darken throughout life, though dark brown eyes can be expected to stay the same. Babies at a year old often have their final eye color, but sometimes it can take longer (rarely, even up to adulthood) for eye color to settle. But in any case, babies are not born with green eyes.

Babies are messy, loud, and generally nerve-wracking.

During the first three months of life, approximately half of all babies will spit up - when they burp, they eject a good portion of the contents of their stomach onto whoever is holding them.

And then there are the messy diapers. Every time a baby defecates means cleaning up the poop with your own hands - and then you have the diapers afterward. A cloth diaper has to be cleaned off immediately, and disposable diapers can potentially make a huge stink.

And then there's diaper rash. And diarrhea. And drool. And then there's the fact that it'll be several months before babies are sleeping through the night... and even then, it might be a relatively short sleep.

Add to that the fact that about the only way babies can let you know if they don't feel right is by crying. Parents can expect to be woken up in the wee hours of the night by babies in need of food or diaper changes, or experiencing upset stomachs, or for reasons that neither parents nor anyone else will ever figure out.

And there's a lot more about babies you probably should know, too.

So don't forget to check out the external links below or even just websearch for more information!

You might also be interested in:

Writing Children Right
Wonder-Baby Syndrome - Or, How To Make Your Audience Hate Your Character's Crotchfruit
Notes & Musings On Writing Cute Characters
Tips To Create & Write Better Parents & Parental Figures

External Resources & References

Stages of Labor
When can my baby sleep through the night?
Your recovery at home: Your changing body
Healing Hints: What Postpartum Recovery Is Really Like
Your post-baby belly: Why it's changed and how to tone it
Baby's Eye Color
Happy Baby! How Smiles Develop
Your Baby & Laughter
Developmental milestone: Talking

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