WARNING: Skip this post if you are a guy, or squeamish or just not interested in the reality of birth, babies or super long posts.
I’ve recently learned a few things from giving birth to my first baby and surviving the first few weeks. I thought I would share, just in case there are any first time pregnant women out there who are wondering about such things.
1. You may not want a birth plan
I intentionally didn’t have a birth plan. I didn’t take any classes or read birth stories. I didn’t want to go into labor with any hopes and dreams or expectations. I’m so glad I made that choice and I would recommend it to others. Birth is an unpredictable business. It happens how it happens and there isn’t much you can do about it. It’s hard and scary and painful enough without having little voices in your head. All your focus should be on getting the baby out however your doctor sees best.
2. You will want to take a bag (I took a suitcase)
However, I did tons of research on recovery. Some info I found very helpful and true-to-me and some not so much. I was actually more nervous about this part than the actual birth (I probably read too many horror stories)!
I had a vaginal birth. My dr. cut me to avoid a tear but I tore anyways so I needed lots of stitches. Needless to say it hurt down there. The hospital gave me a squirt bottle and numbing spray, both were helpful. Also great were these perineal cold packs that I bought. They worked much better than the hospital ones. On the toughest day (5 days after birth) these saved me. They also were nice on my shoulder/back muscles. Those were aching just as much from the hard hospital bed and the almost constant nursing. I couldn’t have lived without Tylenol and warm baths either.
I bleed a lot afterwards but it wasn’t the most blood I’d ever shed. The mesh panties and giant pads provided worked well enough the first day; while the nurses were hovering/ helping out. The rest of the time, instead of the panties, I used always discreet. Just like with the mesh, I used two of the hospital pads placed side by side because I was terrified of leaking (I didn’t leak once!). Before I even got home the bleeding had subsided a ton and completely stopped by week three. The dreaded first poo? Honestly it wasn’t that bad. The hospital had given me stool softener and my dr. told me to take Mylanta once I got home to make sure it was soft. It was.
I took my purse and cell phone of course and Hubs had his own bag. In my hospital suitcase I also had snacks and ate some. I took two (1 + 2) custom labor/delivery gowns. They were not necessary at all but I loved them! They made me feel cute and clean and I didn’t dread the idea of visitors because of them. I forgot deodorant, but I survived. I took a shower, shaved, blow dried and straightened my hair while in labor before we left for the hospital, that really helped and I was so glad I didn’t have to worry about any of that stuff. I did take and use my toothbrush. And my pillow!! I grabbed that as we were heading out the door and it made that uncomfortable bed a little bit better. I don’t remember using anything else I packed but go ahead and pack whatever you think might be useful. Nobody said a thing about my massive amounts of stuff.
3. Your baby will be beautiful
Most all babies come out looking a little strange but they get better in no time at all. Seriously, I’m pretty certain you will think your baby is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. You will love him/her more than you thought possible. It may not come instantly but it will come. Day four I posted this on Facebook, “These first few days at home with our daughter have been amazingly wonderful. I’ve been blessed beyond comprehension and I’m loving it so much I could burst.”
I posted this the next day, “My husband was the first and only man I kissed. Since it was a long distance relationship we had to part shortly after that first occurrence. I could still feel his lips on mine for weeks afterwards. It was like that’s where they belonged; I had found a new part of myself, an expansion. I knew we would be together forever. I feel the same way when I haven’t held Madie in awhile. She is there, in my arms right next to my heart, even when she isn’t. She is her own self but also an expansion of our love; a perfect little mix of us in a brand new package. So glad she will be ours eternally.”
I was very emotional and mushy and happy. I’d never been so happy. Or cried so many happy tears.
4. You did not give birth to a tapworm, I promise
Have you heard of cluster feeding? I hadn’t and I was in for a rude awakening. Before we left the hospital our baby started cluster feeding at night. She wanted to eat every 1-2 hours and it took 45 minutes to an hour to feed her so it was pretty much constant. At 3 in the morning when you are completely exhausted from labor (and being pregnant for nine months) feeding a baby feels like the hardest thing in the entire world!
At one point I was so sleepy I was convinced I was going to drop her. We asked for a bottle of formula that night but they wouldn’t give us one (be prepared to encounter at least one nazi lactation lady). Hubs went and got a nurse who soothed and rocked around with her for a hour or so while I rested. I actually learned a lot from one of the lactation specialist but the other one I wanted to murder. Smile and nod and remember you can do what you want when you get home.
When I got home I continued to nurse because I wanted to. The cluster feeding stopped and it got easier. Lanolin breast cream did wonders for the pain. Disposable nursing pads are miles better than the worthless washable ones. Nursing makes you thirsty so keep a water bottle handy, I like my Brita cause I can fill it up in the bathroom saving me a trip up/down the stairs. I also use it to splash water in my face when I’m having a hard time staying awake.
5. Do it your way
I started pumping right away so Hubs could feed her a bottle of breast milk while I went shopping or to bed. It didn’t confuse her and she went back and forth flawlessly. It ended up being a good idea to introduce the bottle so early for another reason too – I’m not producing enough milk so we now need to supplement with formula. It’s great that we don’t have to struggle getting her to take a bottle cause she’s already been taking one.
Pacifiers are even more controversial. Our hospital despised them! But Hubs and I agreed before she was born that they were okay and preferred over the thumb so we gave her one right away. Again she was fine. No nipple confusion. She doesn’t even need one to sleep. It just helps calm her and is great after a bottle when she is full but still feels the need to suck.
People can be pushy, especially at the hospital. Do what you feel is best and don’t let anyone scare you into doing anything else!
6. Enjoy it, babies grow
Take lots of pictures and videos. Get as many snuggles in as you can. They really do grow up too fast so try your best to enjoy every minute of it. Do the dishes but fall behind in the rest of the housework and laundry. Heck, if you hate doing dishes just use paper and plastic. Unless it’s driving you crazy, it’s totally fine.
Everyone who has ever had a baby will understand. They will also want to help – let them. Free meals are great, don’t refuse them. People enjoy helping, it actually makes them feel good and you wouldn’t want to deny happiness. You’ll have way too much of it to not share the love!