One of our biggest take-aways from labor and delivery (other than our babies!) was utter shock at how much no one told us. No matter how many books we read, information received from prenatal appointments, or advice from experienced mothers, we can't help but ask, "Why didn't anyone tell me about this?"
The typical response to this seems to be, "Well, no one wants to scare you,” as if no one would have a baby if they knew? We hate to bust this theory, but if this was the case, no one would have a second, third, or any more children after the first!
Here are a couple of little tidbits (gruesome as they may be) that you aren’t expecting, but maybe should be.
Photo by Tim Bish on Unsplash.com
1. Prepare Yourself Mentally
Something I wasn’t prepared for with the birth and delivery of my first child was a quick labor. Now before you beat me up- you need to hear the whole story.
I was told over and over that since it was my first child, I would be late and it would be a long labor. So that’s what I prepared for physical and mentally. I imagined going into labor with a few painless contractions at first, and going out for coffee, nesting around the house, packing my bag, going for a walk, and then after 8 hours of laboring at home, going to the hospital.
When I was 37 weeks, my water broke (watching Seinfeld, of course!) and within 30 minutes I was in full active labor with contractions 2-3 minutes apart at 45 seconds long. My bag wasn’t packed. My husband was out playing ultimate frisbee and had pulled an all nighter the night prior. We got in the car and my body immediately began the urge to push. Three hours later our son was born!
It all worked out in the end, (no baby birthed in the car and boy was I glad I did early maternity photos) but I wish someone had told me to be mindful and prepared for all types of labor- to have a mental picture of what each scenario could look like and with the tools to match. I remember being so frightened that I couldn't focus, steady my breathing or think of what to do next. I was so caught off guard- like the rug had been ripped out from under my feet mentally.
For my next child, I want to keep an open mind to other possibilities besides what I prefer to happen or what is “typical” to happen and mentally picture each situation and gather a toolbox of tricks.
2. Consider a Doula
I had no idea the positive impact a doula can make during labor, especially with your first child. I remember thinking, “Ya, ya, ya, that’s just an extra add-on expense, that you don’t really need, just nice to have."
Thankfully, giving birth at the St. Joseph Midwifery Center comes with a doula! Let me tell you- doulas are AMAZING! Because let’s face it, labor is probably one of the most taxing things women do physically AND mentally.
They make sure you’re hydrated, comfortable, and speak encouragement to you. They help you keep your breathing steady. That may sound like “fluff” or silliness, but there is a common point in labor, ironically it's usually right before the last few pushes of the baby being born, that the exhausted mama wants to give up. She’s feeling mentally defeated.
This totally happened to me. I had been pushing for a few hours without much progress. I told the labor staff, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m so tired. I’m done.” The doula knows how to manage and care for your mental health during labor.
Doulas not only take care of you, but also your spouse or partner. Think about it- your spouse is experiencing birth and labor with you. They are scared and don’t know exactly what to do! The doula told my hubby right as my son was coming out during a water birth, “Now, when the baby first comes out into the water (water birth), he may be white or gray because he hasn’t breathed in oxygen yet. Don’t panic. Don’t let your wife see your panicked face, or that will cause her to panic. (I was facing him) “This is totally normal”. He later told me that he himself found the doula especially helpful.
In short, the doula cares for you and your partner/spouse in a way that makes your birth experience the best it can be.
Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash.com
3. Leave Your Undies Behind
You don’t need to pack your own underwear. That’s right. It’s the first time you are packing an overnight bag and don’t need your panties. Your underwear and even largest pad won’t do the trick. In fact, it wouldn’t come close.
Instead, the hospital/birth center will be providing you with some lovely mesh-like underwear (if you can call them that) that hold a diaper-like pad. Yep, your baby isn’t the only one leaving in diapers. Sound fun? Well how about this positive take on it- you will be thankful for it’s giving sides and shutter at the idea of the tight elastic in your regular panties- or even the worn-out elastic from your period panties.
4. Yup, Those Diapers are for You
Those momma diapers will come in handy, because there is a lot of blood. I believe I had read, “... expect heavy bleeding like a heavy period cycle.” Um yeah ok, if your heavy cycle is anything like after giving birth- then GOOD HEAVENS have mercy on you!
5. Keep in Mind that Your Birth Plan May Change
Everyone will nod that they have your birth plan, but make sure you have your own advocates to help implement that plan. Your partner and a doula can be very helpful in getting you and the baby the care you had hoped for. All that said, also be prepared to be at peace if your birth plan has to change for safety reasons. It can be quite devastating if you had envisioned a beautiful water birth and find yourself being wheeled into an O.R. for a cesarean surgical birth. Expecting this as a possibility, slim as it may be, will help you have peace about the birth regardless of the path.
6. Kegels Smegles
Work those upper bodies moms and dads! Upper body strength will not only come in handy during actual birth, but also for carting around your new bundle of joy in a bucket car seat, moving the stroller(s) and all of the baby gear. You'll suddenly find that it requires more strength than you thought- and being strong will help to prevent common back, elbow and wrist injuries.