Friday, July 30, 2010

Stuff I Learned from Being a Mama #2

For the first in this series, go here.  Also, TMI ahead.

So here's part 2.  Stuff I learned during labor, delivery and postpartum.

Make sure you have a birth plan and make sure your caregiver has seen it before hand.  I didn't really need one since "home birth" sort of implies everything I would have put in a birth plan, but if you are going to a hospital, know what you want and make sure everyone there with you knows, too.  This includes informing the staff if you plan to breastfeed.

"We think the baby is too big" is not a good reason to induce.  Weight estimates taken by ultrasound are notoriously inaccurate.  A friend was told she had a baby too big for her pelvis - over 10 lbs in all probability - so she scheduled an induction.  Wound up with a c-section and a 6lb 6oz baby.  Nature knows best.  My midwife said "I have never seen a baby NOT come out".  Unless there is a medical PROBLEM, there does not need to be an induction.  It is harder on the mom (contractions just take off into the stratosphere instead of gradually build to a peak) and harder on baby, which can lead to more interventions and complications, etc. etc...

Your estimated due date is just that - an ESTIMATE.  Not an expiration date.

Less than 10 minutes before
Lucy's birth - still smiling!
You just don't know what you are going to want, what you are going to do, or how you are going to act during labor.  Be flexible.  That being said, you have the choice to allow it to be a horrible experience by being scared and tense.  Or you can choose to allow it to be peaceful and gentle.  Your mind is a powerful, POWERFUL thing.  Believing that something is going to be pleasant, easy and uncomplicated goes a long way to creating that experience.  I imagined the sensations of labor as pressure and opening, not pain.  I imagined my cervix opening, actually saying "open" and "peace" during pressure waves.  I grabbed onto the mantra "The wave always breaks" and said it over and over through deep breaths.  And it did always break.  It always passed.  It was intense.  It was challenging.  And it was fine!  Another mantra I remember repeating over and over was "You CAN do it, you ARE doing it..."  I did a Hypnobabies class and actually had no pain during labor.  Yes, that it correct.  No pain during labor.  Now it wasn't 100% comfortable, but I had no sensations that I would have called PAIN.  And how did I achieve this improbable feat?  I trained my mind to believe that labor was not going to be painful.  And my mind believed me, so my body believed me. 
The house was so quiet, calm and dark.
Ask for what you need.

Eat.  Drink.  You need your strength. 

A waterbirth is AMAZING.  I would have stayed in that tub for the full 50 hours if I didn't need to stretch my legs occasionally.

Sing.  It relaxes the jaw, which in turns helps to open the cervix.  Ina May taught me that.  Also, singing made me feel less like a moaning cow and more like the awesome, powerful birth goddess I was.

Pushing Lucy out
Everything - EVERYTHING - can wait till you have met your baby and held your baby and nursed your baby (if you so choose).  Fight for it if you have to.  It is the sweetest, most amazing moment you will ever have.  Don't let anyone take it away to poke and prod and weigh and measure.  It.Can.Wait.

Sewing up the tears hurt more than pushing the baby out.  I'm just sayin'.

One thing that surprised me was how...disconnected I felt after that first heady moment holding Lucy.  For a LOOONG time after Lucy was born I kept expecting her REAL parents to knock on the door and tell me they were there to pick up the baby that I had been watching for them. Not that I didn't love her and take care of her and feel the instinct to protect her...but it was just so WEIRD to have a baby.  There was this total disconnect between the baby BUMP and the actual BABY.  A friend of mine said after she pushed out her baby (no drugs, so she felt everything) they put it in her arms and she actually said "Whose baby is this?"
Your girlie parts will hurt.  Get some rubber gloves and fill them with ice, wrap 'em in a washcloth and stick 'em right up there.  Oh, you might also want to get a supply of cheap washcloths.
It might take a week (or more) for you to take a shit.  And it will be more painful than giving birth. And I hear you can't get an epidural for a bowel movement.  Not one person ever told me this beforehand, but EVERYONE I have mentioned it to afterwards has said they had the same experience. All I could think of was "WHY THE HELL DID NO ONE EVER MENTION THIS??".

Maxi pads sprayed with witch hazel and put in the freezer feel SO GOOD on tender areas that have recently squeezed out a something the size of a large butternut squash.
40 week "belly"

Postpartum bleeding is nature's way of getting back at you for not having a period for nine months.  It lasts a long time and sucks.

Pregnancy hormones are nothing compared to the postpartum hormone crash.  I forgot things and cried a lot, was utterly elated and completely defeated, transported and feeling stuck - all within an hour of each other.  It passes, so just take a deep breath.  Talk to someone if you are feeling more than just a little blue.

It took a while to get over the "My God WHAT HAVE I DONE" feeling that settled over me when my midwives and parents all left.  I don't think this happens to everyone, but it don't be surprised if it does.  The enormity of my new job just swallowed me whole.  It still does sometimes, but now it is more joyful and anticipatory as opposed to a feeling of being lost at sea.

My deflated baby belly was not nearly as depressing as everyone said it would be.  Every time I looked in the mirror I just made a point of saying "You look pretty darn good, considering" and it really helped.  However, that doesn't work anymore almost a year later:-).

Breastfeeding will seriously melt away the pregnancy pounds. Melted away like butter. Awesome.

First attempt at breastfeeding...
neither of us took to it right away
Breastfeeding might be hard. Don't give up!! Ask for help! See a lactation consultant! Go to LLL meetings! Talk to a friend! There are so many resources out there for breastfeeding mamas - USE THEM! It is so worth it. is a wonderful resource for all things breastfeeding. Lucy and I had just about every newborn breastfeeding issue imaginable (thrush, cracked nipples, mastitis, tight bite reflex, oversupply, etc). Every single day I would say "I will just do it for one more day. If it still hurts tomorrow, I'll quit." I am so glad I stuck it out. It is such a joy. Of course now my daughter is a boobaholic who will be impossible to wean, but that's another story.

It took me MONTHS to realize that most of the shocking pain I had for when Lucy latched on the first several weeks was not, in fact, an incorrect latch (well, mostly, we had some latch issues at first). It was the milk letting down. OUCH OUCH OUCH! I would feel it when she latched (new mama boobs are really sensitive to a baby suckling, as they should be), but also randomly throughout the day as my supply tried to regulate. I only realized this in retrospect when the sensation mellowed out to the gentle pins and needles feeling it is now. Milk letting down can really freaking hurt at first.

Lansinoh is okay, but chilled gel nursing pads feel really really nice.

Don't get a Belly Bandit.  Worthless piece of uncomfortable (expensive) crap.  A belly wrap is not a bad idea in theory, but this one was so uncomfortable.  Plus if recently giving birth isn't an excuse to let it all hang out, I don't know what is.

Don't get an ItzBeen.  All it will do is make you obsess over how little sleep you've gotten and how demanding your baby is.  I remember looking at that thing and crying "But it's only been 45 minutes since she went to sleep!"  It made a challenging situation into what felt like a crisis.  If you must use something like this, don't use it for timing sleep.  Seriously, trust me on this one.  Newborns are not ones for keeping to a schedule, especially when it comes to sleep.  Now, if you happen to have a miracle baby who is a great sleeper from day one, knock yourself out.  It might be helpful when baby is older and you are trying to get them on a schedule.

I don't like parenting books.  They have done very little besides make me feel like a bad mom who does everything wrong.  That being said, The Happiest Baby on the Block would have been a lifesaver if we had discovered it when Lucy was a newborn. GREAT ideas and tips for calming a new baby (0-3 or 4 months).

Get a swaddler. The Miracle Blanket literally calmed Lucy down the minute she saw it.  Well, most of the time.

Everyone says "sleep when the baby sleeps".  This is good advice, in theory.  In practice it doesn't hold up as well.  not that you should take every opportunity available to sleep - God knows you'll need it - but when the baby is sleeping, you get to be JUST YOU for however long the little angel is sleeping.  And this becomes increasingly important as the gravity and enormity of your newly-acquired job starts to sink in.  So my advice is do something - anything - that makes you feel normal.  Wash the dishes.  Sit on the porch alone.  Go get a pedicure.  Have a friend meet you for coffee without the baby.  Anything that makes you feel like a normal person will do.  I remember putting clean sheets on the bed (while crying, incidentally)just to do something mundane and normal.

Get someone to come help you for a few hours every day for the first 2 weeks or so.  This would be a good time to take a nap.  I thought we would want to be alone, just me, Kevin and Lucy, for a while.  I was wrong.  I wanted to be with my new family, but I also wanted someone to make me dinner and get me ice and fill my water bottle and take the baby away for a while so I could sleep.  Kevin was too tired to do all this himself, so I was only too glad to have my mom and dad there to help.  Believe me, you will have plenty of time with the baby and your spouse.

It goes so fast.  I know it is hard to enjoy something when you have not slept, but enjoy your tiny little miracle.  They get so big so fast!

It is okay to cry for no reason.  I spent a number of days wandering around the house crying.  It was cathartic.  A little pathestic, yes, but cathartic.

Don't try too hard to enforce a schedule.  It will make you crazy.  You can try to follow a loose routine - wake, eat, activity (like staring at a mirror and changing a diaper - newborns are PARTY ANIMALS!) and sleep, but don't expect things to be the same every day for a while.  Go with that proverbial flow.

Sleeping when the baby sleeps...for once...
That being said, I had every intention of being a feed-on-demand mama.  Of course, having never done this before, I totally misread hunger cues.  Just because baby is crying, doesn't mean they are hungry.  I am going to venture out on a limb here and say Lucy was not hungry every 45 minutes.  But I fed her nearly every time she cried.  Oh, my aching (cracked, bleeding) nipples.  If I had been a little more savvy about hunger cues (rooting, turning face towards me, opening mouth when you tickle their cheek), I may have saved myself some pain and frustration.  So while it is important, especially when breastfeeding, to feed a baby frequently, every 2 hours is probably a perfectly reasonable place to start.  If they are fussy before then, it is probably not hunger.

A good thing to remember as your baby get a little older (from about 3 to 6 months) is that infants only have 90 minutes to 2 hours of happy-awake time.  They need their sleep!  That might mean 3 or 4 four naps in a day, depending on when they wake up in the morning.  90 minutes of awake time, down for a nap.  Don't push it - if he yawns or rubs his eyes, get him down for a nap - by hook or by crook, in my opinion!  I would accidentally let Lucy get really overtired and it started a vicious cycle of overtired baby not being able to sleep because she was so overtired.  It is a really hard pattern to break.  They say "sleep begets sleep" which is totally counterintuitive, but I have found it to be true.  If Lucy takes good naps, she will sleep better at night.  If her naps are crap, I know I am in for a long night.
Ask for help. Accept help. Seriously. You do not have to do it all.

The first six weeks are hard.  They just are.  They are magical, exciting, awe-inspiring and beautiful.  But they are really hard.  It will get better.

And then all of a sudden you'll wonder where a whole year went.  I hear that someday I'll turn around and wonder when she could have possibly graduated college, since she was just a baby yesterday...


  1. Agree with so much of this but this is my favorite:

    "It might take a week (or more) for you to take a shit. And it will be more painful than giving birth. And I hear you can't get an epidural for a bowel movement."

    It IS more painful! I thought my stitches were all going to rip out! But rest assured, with baby number two I was up and moving around within an hour of giving birth, one stitch only and no problem in the area mentioned above. Maybe one day and no pain at all, totally different experience.

  2. I loved reading this. Thank you for taking the time to write these. You should write a book!! More people should talk about what really goes on during pregnancy, labor, and motherhood.

  3. You're welcome, Rene - I SO wish that my friend's had given me an honest assesement of the whole least I would have had my eyes wide opne!

    Allison - heh...that was THE ABSOLUTE WORST! Good to know it was better with your second...I dread that more than anything else:-)

  4. You are so real and so nurturing to my 34 week preggers brain! How much I appreciate your support and reminder that I can do this!