It all starts in middle school, you learn a little about your body and why the things that are happening are happening. Then high school happens and you sit through some form of “Health” class. Well for me, birthing class is a similar experience to health class. I walked away scared, more confused, and not much more prepared.
Photo Credit: Amanda Jean Photography
1. It’s not like the movies
They don’t tell you, that, even though you watched the movie with the woman rolling herself on a large yoga ball to relieve labor pains, or trying to relax in a nice warm bath, could only do so because she didn’t have 15 tubes inside of her (one connected to the baby’s head, a catheter, a monitor for herself, etc.). I happened to be on my back during my entire first baby’s birth process like a stuck turtle (in lots of pain). I writhed around in that pain for hours because the birth class had me scared to death of epidurals. I didn’t even have it down as an option, so when I really needed my epidural, I had to wait an hour for IV liquids to go through. Thank goodness I had that epidural because it turns out labor is pretty exhausting, and I was told not to eat too much of anything. What was ahead of me was three and a half hours of actual pushing. Pushing, a little puking, a little other stuff… my mom and mother in law pinning my legs to me and my husband propping me up over my big belly. Seventeen hours total with no food, performing the most physically draining thing I had ever done? I’m just saying, without an epidural I am about 98% sure I would have needed an emergency C-section. This was just MY experience, and they are all so different.
2. Not all nurses are created equal
They don’t tell you how SORE you might be after having a vaginal birth, especially your first one. I mean, you have a general idea, but I was SO SORE. Getting up took about five minutes, just to sit up, so having my baby in a crib next to my hospital bed seemed impossible. How am I going to get up and get her out every hour? (Answer: Very slowly). I wanted some sleep. So the nurses took her into the nursery. And came back about an hour later saying she was still hungry. “How could that be? I just fed her for like two hours! Can’t you give her a pacifier or something?” They did not. I wasn’t going to mess up this whole breastfeeding fast track I was on so I basically slept with her until people came in to do rounds and they would tell me to put her back in her crib.
3. Speak up for yourself
Hello? Is anyone coming to help ME? I honestly felt like I didn’t exist anymore. It had become all about my baby. I know how selfish and silly that may sound, but I felt like a ghost in the background that just did and is now doing all the work but no one was even looking my direction. I remember being flustered with breastfeeding and trying to get comfortable in the hospital bed (with a very sore bottom), three pillows (which kept slipping onto the floor), tears of frustration in my eyes and my baby’s, and keeping all my parts covered in between people coming in and out of my room. I had already had my share of visitors for the day when an ECFE lady walked in to talk about black and white pictures for my baby to focus on. She was a very nice woman just doing her job but I told her, ” I’m trying to get my daughter focused on EATING right now. Ya know, to live.” Let’s save the flash cards for later, Linda.
A good friend of mine who had had her first child just before me, told me to buy a package of big black Hanes underwear to bring to the hospital and throw away when I was done. This might have been my favorite tip. If you have a vaginal birth like I did, they will give you paper undies to wear. But with all the things you are supposed to fit inside – such as a large ice pack, a maxi pad the size of a pool noodle, and tucks – it helps to have a more comfortable fit to hug all those precious things a little closer to your bum. Also they’re black, so the post baby happenings are not such a vivid horror show.
5. Nipple stuff
If you’re going to breast feed, stock up on nipple stuff. The only thing I had was lanolin (and not enough of it). When all those doctors are coming your way, you might want to grab one for some All Purpose Nipple Ointment. You need a prescription for it, and trust me, you might not be feeling sore in the hospital, but when you get home the real fun starts and you’ll want your girls covered.
6. Holy hormones
They warn you about postpartum depression but I don’t think they cover it enough. I thought I knew what it entailed and thought it was always the same degree of intensity. I thought it was just being depressed. Whether it was just my hormones, or a touch of PPD, I was going through something. I only wanted to be around my husband. Literally for weeks everyone else made me anxious and I didn’t really like anyone holding my baby. Even when my own family members came to visit, I became so overwhelmed and wanted them to leave. I wasn’t hungry in the hospital or when we got home which made breastfeeding even more stressful. I cried so long and so hard when I visited the lactation consultant, that I decided to quit breastfeeding afterwards and felt so ashamed and so alone. It was so intense for me the first few weeks of being home with my baby that it seemed like months. It gradually lifted and things were much better, but I didn’t tell my doctor because I thought it was normal post baby stuff. When I had my second baby, my experience was so different than the first (and I would almost say “perfect”). Comparing the two, I should’ve talked to my doctor after my first baby.
7. Let your people help you
Of course it is expected that we lean on our partners during and after the baby, and that is wonderful. But for me, I was someone who could’t articulate what I needed so I couldn’t expect my partner to be a mind reader. I needed my friends. I didn’t know just how much until one day I got a visit from my girlfriend who had just had a baby a few weeks before me. She brought me everything I needed for a sitz bath, a hot meal, some chocolate, and reassured me that I wasn’t crazy and that she experienced a lot of what I was going through and it was getting better. She also told me to tell my husband to be the “bad guy” when visitors wanted to come too often for my liking.
8. Prunes prunes the magical fruit
I’m pretty positive after I had my first that I became dependent on prunes and Colace (stool softener). I wasn’t constipated (especially not with that dynamic duo), but I was petrified of going poo without it. It was like I had PTSD with anything going on down there. I’m pretty sure it was mostly in my head but whatever helps you ease your mind… do that.
9. Baby wearing class
One of my biggest fears was going to stores that didn’t have shopping carts for me to put the carseat in. I don’t know if I was doing it wrong but my first baby hated the baby carrier. She always liked to be independent and a bit more distant. P.S. baby wearing takes practice and you might have to try out more than one style and brand. I always thought everyone was looking at me as I “mom-failed” in different stores just trying to carry her carseat, and shop, and keep her socks on, while not knocking anything over (which I did once at Pier One). Babies are portable and practice makes perfect (almost).
10. Nothing can really prepare you for birth except the birth itself
When my second child came along, she came out punctually on her due date. From start to finish, it was easy compared to my first. Maybe it was luck. Maybe it was my body being more physically prepared having been through it before. All I know is, every birthing story is as unique as the baby. Of course birth classes are great, but I urge new mom’s to keep an open mind and be true to yourselves. We are miracle makers.