During pregnancy there is so much information available. If you want. In fact, there is often too much information, from anecdotal stories, to Web sites and a legion of books all telling you what you should and should not do or expect or not expect while pregnant and shortly thereafter.
In conference with my friends, I’ve summed up the 5 things that, thankfully, they passed along to me and I learned along the way:
1. Breast feeding is not a given. After five lactation consultants, we hired the best in town and it still didn’t work for us. All of the nurses and lactation consultants in the hospital told us that breast feeding is a confidence game. Well, if you haven’t met me, I am one determined lady and wouldn’t say that “confidence” is something I lack. The best thing our lactation consultant told me was, “breast feeding is something babies do. Moms set it up, but babies need to actually do the work.” My little lady wasn’t down for the job, so we had to move on. If you experience any difficulties or know of someone who does, contact a Lactation Consultant in your town.
2. Hire a doula. Really. I can’t say enough about this. A doula is a birth coach that is solely there for you and your partner to have the best birth experience possible. Ideally, your doula will meet with you a few times prior to your birth to talk about your birth plan and get to know you and your family. Hannah was a life-saver during our 44-hour labor and delivery because she allowed us to focus on ourselves and the baby. Neither of us had ever had a baby, so we had no idea what to expect. We were tired, so she would help me while C took a nap or got something to eat. She helped me stay focused while I had to make decisions I didn’t want to, like when to agree to Pitocin and an epidural. She helped us stay strong, and after the delivery directed me to Adria and made sure we transitioned home well. There are doulas everywhere. Even if you’ve had a baby before, are working with a midwife or are having a scheduled c-section, I cannot speak highly enough of this service.
3. You have a voice in the delivery room. One of the benefits of working with Hannah was that her practice had classes that were really helpful. One of the best things one of her partners said was “you are a consumer. You have a voice.” I had never thought of that before, but from that position I crafted my birth plan tailored to what was right for our family. And this kept me strong in the delivery room when the fresh-from-medical-school resident kept insisting on checking me. Panting through insane Pitocin-induced contractions, I insisted I didn’t need to be checked and outlined for him the reasons why. When he pushed back for no reason, I asserted myself through gritted teeth. He walked away, never to be seen again and the two nurses in the room praised me for speaking up for what I wanted.
4. After the baby is born, the pain is not gone. I’m not talking about the fact that your privates might have exploded or the trecherous thought of going to the bathroom again, I’m talking about what they do to your stomach. Shortly after you deliver, the nurses will push on your stomach to make sure your uterus is returning to its normal size, which it does freakishly fast. You think, “oh, no biggie.” But ay, carumba, this hurts! Depending upon your care and stay in the hospital, or even at home for a birth, your stomach will be pushed on about three or four times. Each time, ask for a partner’s hand, squeeze it and use your breathing techniques. All I’m saying is that it really, really hurts.
5. Uh, we have a “new mom” mess. So, here’s the real kicker. The one thing that will let you know if you have good, honest friends is if they’ve told you this: After you have a baby, you bleed. Like, stucked pig bleeding. Like, they put you in mesh underwear and kayak-sized “maternity” care and even this needs to be attended to every hour. The nurses will check this, before or after they press on your stomach and you will see that after you become a mom, you lose all sense of privacy. And that’s OK. But back to the bleeding. It’s like A LOT. If it gets messy in the hospital, which it can, they call it a “new mom” mess. It can also last, to varying degrees, for up to 6 weeks. Take all of the items home with you, including the mesh underwear and make sure you have major backup at home, or your husband will run to Walgreen’s at some odd hour, but will thankfully return with some Recharge, Us Weekly and flowers.
There is, of course, so much more. Above all, make sure you have a few soft shoulders to land on. I called my mom and friends at all hours, cried in frustration on friends’ couches and also laughed with them at diaper blow-outs and other mishaps.
All of the planning, hoping and dreaming is in some ways a movie in our minds. The movie we create about what we think having a baby is like is just that, a movie. But what we get in return is better than fiction.