I’m a planner. I have always been a planner, but as I get older the planning seems to be more important to me. As I prepare for the birth of my son, I have been researching and planning and thinking back on my own experience with my daughter. The goal this time around is a completely natural, intervention-free, medication-free birth. Last time, I had the epidural, the pitocin, the whole nine yards ending in a C-section. This is why I have been researching, because what I want doesn’t resemble anything I had before. There are a few things, though, that I remember from last time that I am keeping in mind this time. Strangely, it is all the things no one bothered to warn me about. I decided to share these things with you, but please be warned some of them are pretty personal and gross, and of course not everything is exactly the same for everyone.
1. Not being allowed to eat during labor was probably the hardest part. I was nauseated and I just wanted some crackers, but my nurse flipped her lid when she came in to find me nibbling on a cracker. She threatened to stop my inducement (already eight hours in) if I insisted on eating (I can’t believe she said it or I went along with it now looking back). That being said, this time around I will be eating what I want, when I want, if I want. My doctor has agreed with this, knowing that I have researched and know the risks. The risk is that if you have major complications during birth and lose consciousness, you could aspirate the contents of your stomach into your lungs. Or, if you have difficulty breathing and they insert a tube to assist your breathing, this process can stimulate the gag reflex which could again result in aspirating the contents of the stomach up into the lungs. There are some other scenarios, all of which end in aspirating the contents of the stomach into the lungs. Each of these possible outcomes are extremely rare. For me, the possible risk does not outweigh the benefit of eating while in labor.
2. I cried post-birth while in the hospital for no discernible reason. I cried frequently, and I didn’t want any visitors other than my mother. I needed a moment to adjust and just be, but I couldn’t find my voice to express any of this to anyone, including my spouse. My nurse asked if I had emotional issues. I still resent that nurse for implanting in my overly-emotional brain that I wasn’t normal and something was wrong with me.
3. The after-birth bleeding was scary. I have never bled so much in my life! I wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom for quite some time after my C-section (like, until the next day because the epidural stayed in for about 12 hours after surgery), but when I finally did use the bathroom I was instantly panicked. I had a nurse’s aid assisting me in the bathroom, thankfully, because she could see my instant panic. She reassured me this was normal. She also informed me to expect blood clots the size of golf balls, and she said to be sure to call the nurse if I had a blood clot larger than a baseball. I couldn’t believe my ears! I bled enormous amounts for a full six weeks after birth. It would stop for a few hours, or even a day sometimes, and then the bleeding would be back with a gush I never could have imagined possible. I wondered almost daily how the hell this kind of blood loss was survivable! I needed an absorbent pad on my bed for sleeping and a change of clothes every where I went because even though I was wearing industrial-grade pads, when that gush hit, it didn’t matter what I was wearing.
4. I was afraid to be left alone with my daughter for the first two weeks. I felt like I had not been sufficiently trained to care for a newborn, and besides that someone that had lost as much blood as I did shouldn’t be trusted to responsible for anything important! I didn’t know how to trust my instincts or myself. I did learn fairly quickly, though.
5. I couldn’t sleep with my newborn in the same room. Every little noise she made, like a sigh or squeak, would cause me to bolt upright instantly with a pounding heart because I thought something was wrong. We had to move her to her own room and use the monitor instead. Hyper-vigilance to the extreme!
6. Breast feeding wasn’t for me. I had to wear a sports bra 24 hours a day (I’m not exaggerating) for six weeks before my boobs quit hurting all the time. Ice packs were my friend, and I couldn’t stand the water hitting my boobs in the shower.
7. Colic hit about a week before I returned to work. My daughter would cry beginning at midnight and lasting until 4:00 am like clockwork every night for a month. Usually, I was crying right along with her. She learned to roll over during this time, though, because the only thing that seemed to lessen the crying was being laid on the floor on her tummy. I tried a heating pad, baths, Mylicon drops, new bottles, new formula, and changing feeding positions. Nothing helped. The fact that nothing I did made any difference was so upsetting. Even when my mother would take pity on me and take a night-time shift, I would just laying in my bed and cry instead of sleep.
8. Not being my daughter’s primary caregiver (which I wasn’t after I went back to work when she was only 5 weeks old) made bonding with her very difficult for me. It makes me wonder now if men have the same issue because most men aren’t ever the primary caregiver to a newborn. I plan to try to share care as much as possible with my husband for our son so that we both get to bond.
9. Asking for help or advice didn’t mean I had failed. Let me rephrase–asking for help or advice doesn’t mean you fail! Say it with me! Asking for help or advice doesn’t mean you fail!
10. Lack of sleep, emotional turmoil, and working overtime did not mix well for me. Why did I feel the need to do it all without much of a break? I was the sole source of income for my little family, and I freely admit now that working 40-80 hours weekly as a new mother was a terrible idea. I’m not sure that there was an alternative–bills had to be paid. But, I know now that I will never put myself in that position again. I am personally just not built for it.
11. This one is the best, by far, for me. I never expected to love my daughter with such an all-consuming devotion. I didn’t know it was possible! It isn’t something that anyone can fully articulate, and it hurts my heart to think of all the women I know in the infertility community that may never get to experience that type of love and devotion. I am such a better person because of my love for my daughter, and I am so extremely thankful for her and my son that isn’t quite here yet (17 more weeks until I’m due). I don’t feel that crazy love-devotion yet for him, but now I know without a doubt that I will once he is here (even when I’m awake in the middle of the night rocking him as he cries for no reason).
So, those are the things that surprised me the most in the first year of my daughter’s life. I had such a limited experience with the birthing process since everything was augmented and muted and pushed along according to the hospital’s schedule. I’m sure I will have a new set of surprises this time, and I can’t wait! I’m so hopeful for a natural birth this time around. I think it will help with everything from physical to emotional recovery.