The real phases of labour

Babies know they have to be cute after putting you through a day of torture to get them here

If we can blast human beings into space – where there is no oxygen or gravity – in a tin can and bring them back down again safely, why haven’t we made birth any easier?

Yes the trauma of pushing an 8lb watermelon out of something the size of a lemon varies from person to person, but ultimately it’s something we could do without.

You can read every book and practice breathing every day but nothing really prepares you for labour.

Chances are you will come across the three stages of labour – the first is divided into early, active and transitional phases – while researching how the hell you’re going to do this.

It all gets a bit confusing and technical, plus those phase names don’t really give pregnant ladies a flavour for what’s about to come.

I decided it’s time we rewrote these guidelines, complete with honest titles. Here are the real phases of labour:

Naive phase

Ooh labour at last, you’ve been getting so impatient! Hey, this isn’t so bad, you think. What have people been going on about?

It’s really just like period pain but a little more intense. Phew, you can handle this pain no problem.

You decide to call the hospital just to let them know it’s time for you to come in.

The midwife in charge speaks to you for five minutes then declares you’re nowhere near far along enough in the process to be admitted. You’re puzzled, how can that be?

Uh oh phase

The contractions get closer together and more intense.

You’re starting to cotton on to the fact that those ladies giving birth in movies are screaming for a reason, they’re not just total wusses.

Holy c**p phase

Contractions now tick the hospital’s admission requirement. Speech has become impossible during contractions but when you can speak it’s littered with expletives.

You try to get comfortable on the bed, no position makes the pain remotely bearable. You decide to walk, that’s not much help either.


There are no more words, just mindless grunts and cries.

You’re told this means the end is near by the midwife/cheerleader, this is of no comfort as you realise there’s still the pushing bit to go.

Was that poo? phase

It’s hard to tell once pushing begins whether the baby is coming out or a bit of poo.

By this point you couldn’t stop pushing if you wanted to, so it’s best to surrender to it. We’ve all been there.

Halfway out phase

There’s a baby’s head hanging out of your lady parts but the rest of it is still in there.

This is a pretty weird moment, but there’s no time to really digest this information. You would only vomit it back up again right now anyway.

Right now all you want is for it to end.

Thank f**k phase

Baby is out and you’re finally having a cuddle. This is a gorgeous moment.

It’s only slightly tainted by the realisation you just swore, screamed and pooped in front of everyone in the room. And you need to deliver the placenta too. It’s no baby, but it’s still more work for you.

What’s the damage phase

Now comes the clean up. You’re probably lying in a pool of your own blood. In fact the entire room looks like a crime scene.

The baby is pretty sticky and covered in gunk too. The midwife has a peer at what’s going on down below – because as if the above wasn’t enough you now might need stitches. Brilliant.

The poking and prodding reminds you of the beating your lady parts just took.

The final stage is the first shower. You will leave bloody footprints as you struggle to the bathroom, which becomes the second crime scene.

There will be a scary amount of red stuff going down the shower drain. When you’re clean it will feel amazing. But you’ll still feel like Bambi for a few more days.

The good news is the drama of my second birth and how bloody painful it was is already fading away.

There’s a reason we go back for seconds, thirds, fourths, etc. Because no matter the struggle we go through, having our baby at the end makes it all worth it.