There are so many things nobody tells you about childbirth and it’s mainly because everyone forgets otherwise nobody would have children. I was not prepared for any of it and if you know me, you’ve probably gasped, “Hannah! Not prepared?!” I’ll toot my own horn in saying I think about every possible scenario of everything that could possibly happen when there’s the possibility that something that’s possible might become possibly possible. It’s a gift and a curse. I’m usually prepared for things, but I also stay awake at night and perfect example was last night during my 1 A.M. breast pump I was looking up ways to survive a nuclear attack and then checking the library to see if there were movies or DVDs I could watch which took me down a rabbit hole of all different types of survival methods for any number of events from floods to terrorist attacks.
I digress, let us get back to the wonderful gift that is the birth of a child. I was not planning on having a baby until I was thirty, but my body said otherwise. My pregnancy was very easy up until the last two months where I ended up in the hospital with hydronephrosis and the possibility of early sepsis. I definitely did not prepare for that and on my 26th birth I had a tube placed into my back that drained all the urine from my left kidney into a bag that hung around my waist. On the one hand, I did not have to get up and pee as often, on the other hand I had to empty my bag of urine hanging off me. I know, I’ve never known anything sexier. It was also really confusing in the women’s room when women would see my feet facing the other way and hear a loud stream of urine but then a pregnant woman would waddle out of the stall. For those last two months, I was in and out of the hospital and being monitored weekly at the OBGYN and the urologist.
Now onto my advice, my first advice for women, even not pregnant, is TRUST YOUR BODY! You know in your heart when something is wrong. I’m not talking nagging irriational anxiety, I’m talking intuition that you know something is wrong. I went to the emergency room with back pain and they sent me home with some pain medicine and 24 hours later I was back in an ambulance projectile vomiting with sky high white blood cell count and on a pain medicine pump where I could press every thirty minutes for a dose. I knew something was wrong but I let them send me home while I was still in pain. DO NOT DO THAT. If you are nice and insist, generally people are nice back. The on-call OBGYN felt terrible when I came back in an ambulance profusely apologizing because she had told me to drink a lot of water and take a hot bath. I ended up being in the hospital for a week and they placed the tube while I was wide awake. I had some pain medicine, but nothing can prepare you for being awake with only a local while a needle and tube is driven through your body into your organ. In my delirium, I told everyone I felt like I had been shot. Why am I telling you this? Because not all pregnancies will go the way you plan but you will make it. Your body is pretty tough and so are you.
Another lesson I learned, your life will not go as you planned. In the first place I got pregnant and was not planning to, in the second place I had dreamed up this natural pregnancy I was going to have. I drank only water, I did exercises, I wore all the cute maternity clothes and hopped around on a cloud. Then, all of a sudden, I’m on high dosage of pain medicine and anti-nausea medicine never imagining I would be on a cocktail of drugs the last two months. In this, just know that your doctors will do everything they can and sometimes you don’t get that all natural pregnancy but thank the Lord for drugs and procedures that keep you and your baby alive. I felt really guilty like what was happening to me and my daughter was somehow my fault, like I could have prevented it. That’s nonsense but I still thought these thoughts. If you think you’re to blame, you’re not. You just have to do what is best for you and your baby by taking the medicine. There’s some OBVIOUS things your OBGYN tells you what is a huge no-no when pregnant but every article you read online isn’t true. Humans have been around for a long time and didn’t have half the advice, we just do the best we can and have to accept that this is enough.
IF YOU DO HAVE TO BE ON PAIN MEDICINE OR ANY MEDICINE, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you trust your doctor, do as they say. In the case of pain medicine, this is where the Miralax comes in. I only took a stool softener every day in the hospital and it did nothing. I ended up with an impaction which is basically like giving birth. On the bright side, I thought well I guess this is preparing me. Finally, someone told me I could take Miralax three times a day until I had a bowel movement and then just once a day after that until I felt regular. It has no taste but I recommend taking with lemonade if you like the taste of lemon it masks the thickness. If not, try apple juice. You also will need it after your baby is born. Do the same thing, every meal until you have a bowel movement. It’s SO MUCH BETTER than anything else, trust me I have tried. It does not give you cramps but be sure once you have that bowel movement you ease up. Otherwise you’ll be me, in the hot month of June, having just pooped your pants at Sam’s club buying a bulk pack of giant panties. It’s just not cool.
Now, flash forward to your birth! Time to meet your baby! I had to be induced, and I read so much about it. For some women, it is a breeze. It’s like the baby glides out of them, for me, not so much. I encourage you a couple months before baby to really read about how to stretch your vagina and make it ready for a human head to come through it. You might think that’s weird, but there are a lot of exercises I couldn’t do that prepare your pelvic floor. Overall, just prepare yourself that your body won’t ever be the same. That’s not a bad thing, you’re a Mom now and especially if you have a daughter, you don’t need to be negative about your body because that will be them one day. You just made a human being and pushed them out of you. You are awesome and who cares about the rest, you’ll adjust. It will take a LONG time to get back to “normal,” but again, this baby needs you and all that superficial stuff about your body and what it looks like and all these stretch marks in the long run do not matter. God willing, you have a healthy baby and your body NEEDED to do that in order for them to be here.
Let’s talk about an epidural. Do not be afraid to get one. I got one before they broke my water. Again, I read about bouncing on a yoga ball, stretching and naturally letting her come into my pelvis before pain medicine. I had been in pain for a long time, so I got the epidural before things really heated up. Be aware you cannot walk after you have an epidural. It’s not pain medicine, it’s the fact you cannot feel your legs and you will fall. You also cannot go to the bathroom so they cath you. I did not know that and was thinking you’re shoving THAT up me? You don’t feel it though, so no worries. Now, sadly, I never reached the part where I was able to give birth vaginally. I shouldn’t say sadly, because if you have to get one, you go girl. Vaginal or c-section, they’re both hard and you have to recover, both are difficult. I had planned to have a vaginal, but I found out my cervix does not ever completely thin and she had started to turn sideways. They gave me the option to have a c-section and in my heart I knew it would be worse later if I waited hoping my cervix would thin. Come to find out, it will not, so trust your instincts!
Probably the hardest part, you must prepare yourself, IS THE FACT YOU CANNOT EAT. I would give birth to an elephant, but I wasn’t allowed to eat for over 36 hours when it was all said and done. What’s worse, is you just get ICE CHIPS. Since it was July, I let the ice melt and pretended I was just having a hard time getting the ice out when I was really sipping...I also begged, through the pain and tears in my eyes, for Lucas to give me a couple animal crackers. People will come in your room eating and drinking, making you a murderous psycho. Make them get out, be dramatic and throw them out. All I wanted was Chick-fil-A and I did not get it. This was the THIRD TIME in two months I had to fast for over 12 hours, it’s awful. The first time I was so angry and rage ate an entire Chick-fil-A meal on the toilet. The second time I ate a whole bag of goldfish in five minutes when I was allowed after my tube was changed and then finally after my c-section when I was allowed to eat, I had no appetite for weeks.
This is apparently very common for women who have had a c-section. You’re ravenous before but after you have no will or desire to eat. I drank LOTS of sprite and ate vending machine animal crackers. Physically it gets so much better from this point. My c-section recovery was very simple because I did not over do it. If you have a c-section, as soon as you feel better, still take it easy. I never had a lot of pain because I took it seriously for six weeks. I did not drive or pickup heavy items. I had Lucas or my Mom carry Charlie since she was a big baby and it paid off. Another physical part I had no clue is you also make up for lost period time. I bled heavily for two weeks and then spotted for much longer. Don’t freak out if you bleed longer or shorter, as long as you feel okay and it’s not BRIGHT red like an active bleed, you are fine.
For me, the physical was much easier than the emotional. It’s hard to explain to someone what it is like emotionally to have your first baby but when you experience it, it’s like you understand what every mother has been talking about. You love this child more than anything you’ve ever loved in the entire world and now you have to protect and care for them. It’s the scariest best gift in the world. Yo also are VERY hormonal. I would hold Charlie and cry because it physically made me sick thinking how anyone can hurt a baby. You will have problems sleeping from here on out because you hear everything, even when there is nothing to hear. This is not an exaggeration, I did not sleep the first week, I just physically could not relax enough to sleep because my entire existence was now outside my body and needed me.
It is very important to monitor your emotional state, especially with post-partum depression or anxiety. I think everyone has it to a certain extent and I know mine was more intense for a long time. I could not relax and I could not think of anything else. When other people would hold her other than my Mom or Lucas, it would make me so incredibly nervous and once I would have her back I would cry and cry because it just was so overwhelming. I’m not saying this is “normal” if it lasts longer than the first couple months. Your life is just different and it takes time to adjust to change. I’m now six months post partum and as time goes by everything becomes simpler. I know our lives won’t be easy always but your life will keep moving forward.
The last piece of advice goes to your relationship with your spouse or partner. There are now THREE OF YOU, and it feels crowded but YOU NEED THAT PERSON. In my opinion, they need to be doing just as much as you. My husband changes the same amount of diapers as me, rocks her to sleep, takes care of her while I shower and just is an equal participant as a parent. So many people have said, “oh you are so lucky.” You know how many people have said Lucas is lucky? ZERO. It should be expected that a partner do the SAME AMOUNT. Obviously you’re on maternity leave and they go back to work, but when they come home, it’s their JOB to help you, not just “luck.” It’s not my place as a woman to slave over my child, a child is given to TWO people for a reason. Taking care of a baby alone is hard, it’s also a GIFT, and they need to see that as well. This child NEEDS them and your relationship grows out of the fact you both love your child and you are a team.
In summation, that’s the big stuff nobody told me and I wish I would have known. There’s actually a lot more so if you want any advice from my Mom brain, feel free to ask.