I know some of you are expecting first babies (yay!), so I thought I’d clue you in on some of the things I wish I had known. Ever the researcher, I read extensively to prepare myself for childbirth. Still, there were extremely important things left out. Some of it I’m sure people didn’t go into because it is gross. For those who care, I’m planning to write up a few of the things I wish I’d known, bought, not bought, taken with me and so forth. Warning, I’m not barring any holds here.
Part One: Birth is the Easy Part.
I was so terrified of childbirth. It seemed to combine two of the four things I hate most in this life, needles and pain. The other two are heights and dogs. In my personal hell, I am giving birth on top of the empire state building and my dog-doctor is drawing my blood. Anyway, I read everything to prepare myself for the horrors of labor and delivery. I had a pretty good idea of each of the steps and stages I would have to endure. I did NOT have any romantic notions about childbirth. I just wanted to get through it. So I was surprised that with an amazing epidural, it was actually pretty, well, cool. The whole ordeal was well outside of any other human experience and for some reason, killer awesome. I was really proud of myself. When the doctors finally took Fluffy away, I was ready for a big pasta dinner (even though I’m not a big pasta fan), a hot shower, and a 14-hour nap. Ha!
The truth is, icky as you are, the closest thing you’re going to get to a shower for a couple of days is a procession of strangers hosing you down. Yes, half of the diaper changes performed in your hospital room will be on you, not the baby. The second time around when I knew I was in labor, I forced myself to take a really good bath, wash my hair and shave my legs. Much better.
About that pasta dinner, eat before you go to the hospital. Going into labor is really exciting and all, but once you’re admitted, you probably won’t be allowed to eat anything. You could be in the hospital in labor literally for days before you give birth and get to eat. Stop off and eat something good before you go. Maybe not a big pasta dinner though, because if you are an epidural-girl, and trust me, most of you are, the most painful things about childbirth are 1) going number 2 for the first time after the birth and 2) nursing.
First let’s talk about digestion. I firmly believe in better living through pharmaceuticals, but let me warn you that as much as you think you need narcotics after childbirth, they may cause you more pain than they relieve. You see, most of the pain meds they can give you bind you tighter than triple Spanx. Constipation is a destroyer of worlds to the post-natal. You might even find yourself in the horrific cycle of taking pain meds to cope with the pain of constipation! The second time around, I was extremely careful with my diet, but it was still 6 days of agony because of the pain meds. Raisin Bran and prune juice are no match for Percocet. Percocet laughs at Colace or Phillips and calls them girly-men. The only thing that stands a chance against Percocet is a stimulant laxative, and if you can avoid setting up that cage fight in your insides, you’re better off. Also, contrary to what your physical senses tell you, you will not pass out and die or be disemboweled alive by the unblessed event in question. Just get it over with. You’ll feel so much better.
(Kent is protesting that this is too gross. It takes a lot to gross Kent out. As the official prudish potty-humor police in this relationship, I feel strangely proud.)
|My Little Pumpkin|
Back to that first night Fluffy was born. She made her appearance around 8pm. After the sewing, cleaning, and plate of food, I had just settled my brains for a long winter’s nap when rap, rap, rap! The nurse comes in to my room at 11:30 to wake me up and ask if I’ve tried nursing. I was indignant. Couldn’t she see how tired I was? Dutifully I woke my baby up and tortured us both trying to nurse. This happened every three hours through the night. I knew in my heart I had never earned my sleep more, but hospital policy said I hadn’t.
A couple of years later, my friend Janelle told me what she and her mother (of 9) before her have always done. When that nurse wakes you up and asks if you’ve tried breastfeeding, you say, “Just finished!” and go back to sleep. Wow! But don’t you have to immediately start nursing as soon as the baby is born or they’ll never learn to nurse? No. Don’t you have to bond with the baby that first night or they will never truly be yours? No. Don’t you have to feed them colostrum immediately so they don’t get sick in the hospital? No. Don’t you have to plump them up all night long so they don’t waste away? No. Psychological attachment is a process that takes place over the first three years of a child’s life, not just the first few hours. Also, your baby has developed a layer of fat in utero because he/she is not planning to really start eating for a few days until your milk comes in. Your baby will lose weight, much of it water, but also some fat, for the first week or two whether you feed him/her colostrum every three hours or not that first night.
When the boys were born, I put this to the test. They entered the world around 11am. That first night, I slept as much as I could. It helped that due to over-crowding, I was housed in pediatric oncology where no obstetric nurses were hounding me about nursing. I definitely put in my time nursing and pumping, that’s for sure, but I took two or three nights of sleeping 6-7 hours without pumping. Trust me, my milk came in grrrreat from the work done in the day. Peppers didn’t even nurse at all for the first four days, as I recall. Yet, here he is at 10 months, a nursing machine. So, my message to you all is get some rest, ladies. There will be many, many nights for nursing when your milk comes in.
Many a lactation cheerleader will tell you that with the proper latch, nursing shouldn’t hurt at all. These people are liars. In my experience, even with an excellent latcher and even after the milk tap is turned on full, it just hurts like nobody’s business until their mouths get bigger. You might be blessed with the kind of anatomy that works for newborn baby’s mouths, or you may be in a world of hurt. I wish I could say that it never hurts again after the first baby, but since my #2 and #3 were premature with teeny mouths, it actually hurt more. It will get much, much, much easier though if you stick it out. As my daughter tells me, “Use your temerity, Mom!”
1. Don’t take diapers to the hospital. They give you tons. Do take diaper cream though. My hospital wouldn’t give us any without a prescription.
2. For several days after birth, your baby will pass thick black liquid meconium. Your baby can blow bubbles with it, and not the cool kind. When Fluffy was born, Kent and I were anxious to practice diapering the baby in the hospital. When the boys were born we declined every invitation to change diapers. We let the nurses do it the entire hospital stay. Consequently, we missed every bit of meconium. Rock on!
3. I brought a bunch of reading material and even thank you notes to occupy me during the hospital stay with Fluffy. I didn’t feel like doing any of it. Watching a movie on the iPad pushed the bounds of my energy/concentration level.
4. As soon as I dared, I changed Fluffy into a pink snowman onesie, put a bunny hat on her and wrapped her in a lavender blanket. For some reason this made me very, very happy. It was like marking my territory. It also made it really easy to spot her among all the other standard hospital issue blankets in the baby zoo.
5. Those checklists for the hospital bag included a bunch of stuff I never used. The one thing I really wish I had brought from home was my favorite heating pad.
1. Tylenol 3.
2. Peri-bottle with warm water.
3. We paid for a month’s worth of mobile internet on the iPad so we could check email and blog and such in the hospital. Totally worth it.
4. After the C-section, I found this Belly Bandit did a much better job at making things like standing up, walking and the dreaded sneezing much more bearable than the recommended “hold a pillow over your tummy”. I overestimated my size after the twins though. Maybe go a size smaller than you think.
5. Over 9 in 10 women who give birth will have a separation between their abdominal muscles afterward. This is called a diastasis. You can close the gap, but NOT by doing crunches which actually worsen the problem. Read or skim Lose Your Mummy Tummy before you go so you can start your exercises in the hospital. They help tremendously.
6. Taking your baby home from the hospital you will be a) swarmed by adoring fans and b) freaked out about germs. I loved having car seat covers to keep the germs, bugs and people out as well as to create a nice dark, quiet place for the babies to sleep. Lala Sorensen sewed these for me. I would have loved to have had one to take The Fluffy One home from the hospital.
7. If you are having a cold-weather baby, this carseat sleeping bag is infinitely easier to get the baby into than a coat or snowsuit to take them home from the hospital. Wish we’d had one with Fluffy, though this suit was awfully fun.
Stay tuned for future installments of Things I Wish I Had Known.