Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Ten Things I Wish I'd Known before I Gave Birth

I read about a million "what you need to know before giving birth" posts before I gave birth, and yet I still ended up in the delivery room woefully unprepared for what awaited me. So this is my contribution to the collection—things I've never seen mentioned before, or in a few cases, things that I didn't believe or that just didn't sink in. So in no particular order, here are ten things I wish I'd known before I gave birth:

1. Labour is no joke. You'd think this would be obvious, yet it was even tougher than I expected. I thought I'd sail through a med-free birth, since I'm used to dealing with chronic pain. Not so—I was begging for pain relief just several hours in, and asked for an epidural somewhere around hour thirteen. But even more unexpected than my inability to deal with the pain was how utterly exhausting the whole ordeal was. Next time I hope to be in better physical shape so I can deal with the marathon!

2. I was worrying about the wrong things. My number one worry? Dealing with the poop (and to a lesser degree, the other bodily fluids). I've always had a weak stomach, and I feared that I would vomit my way through every diaper change. In fact, I did vomit during my first diaper change—but it turns out that was a result of some postpartum nausea issues and had very little to do with the diaper change itself (it was at most a trigger). Proof? We switched to cloth diapering at my request when babe was about a month old. I promise—those things you're worrying about? You'll get through them.

3. Speaking of nausea, postpartum vomiting is awful. Do whatever you can to avoid it. Although I never conclusively determined why I had several bouts of vomiting, I suspect that the cause was taking heavy-duty doses of naproxen with inadequate food. I thought I was eating enough, but the vomiting suggests otherwise. For those of you unaccustomed to naproxen, ibuprofen, and the like—be warned: they are hard on the stomach. I initially thought my vomiting was from pain, so I would take more of the painkillers (always keeping within the prescribed dose, mind you), and it would result in—you guessed it—more vomiting. So be careful, and take with plenty of food and water.

4. The bad stuff doesn't necessarily hit right away. I was expecting the worst—severe postpartum depression, body image issues, major hair loss (okay, so that's comparatively minor, but I do like my hair!), and even the possibility that I wouldn't feel any love for my newborn. For the first several weeks postpartum, though, I was happier than I'd been in months, I thought I looked pretty great for the mom of a newborn, and I was madly in love with babe (oh, and my hair remained firmly attached to my head). Things started falling apart about a month in, and I was no longer quite prepared—I thought I'd made it through safely. I don't intend to scare anyone, merely warn you that the sky doesn't always fall right away, but it's still worth keeping a watch for symptoms that need to be managed for a while after birth.

5. Being prepared doesn't make you immune. The one thing I was still on the watch for, even at the one-month mark (although I'd let my guard down somewhat) was postpartum depression. Yet the preparation did not make me immune to it, or even somehow better able to deal with it, as I'd somehow convinced myself it would. The depression hit, I went into denial, and I responded by becoming self-destructive and despondent. Knowing it might happen isn't magically prophylactic. It turned out to be crucial to my treatment and recovery that my husband knew what to look for, and persisted in trying to persuade me that I needed help.

6. You will probably do things you said you never would. It's okay if you do (provided, of course, that no one is being endangered). It's also okay if you don't. Some of these things may even be positive choices that you said you wouldn't do because you didn't think you'd be capable! After all, I swore I would not cloth diaper, yet here we are.

7. Breastfeeding is really hard at first. I'd read this about a million times, but I still didn't fully believe it. I wish I'd spent more time reading about the logistics than I spent reading about how hard it was, because then I might have realised that I should concentrate on growing about three extra hands. Of course, reading only helps so much; it's getting the muscle memory and coordination that really takes time and effort and ultimately makes or breaks you.

8. Not everyone who tries to help you is actually helpful. This is related to the previous point. I knew people would probably give me lousy parenting advice, and I was prepared to ignore that. What I didn't expect was lousy breastfeeding advice. Despite what I was told, it is not normal for a babe to feed for five hours straight with no break whatsoever—this is not cluster feeding. Cluster feeding is normal, but there are (short) breaks. I wish I'd done enough research to recognise the difference between non-nutritive sucking and nutritive suckling, because then I might have been able to take a few catnaps at least, and wouldn't have ended up sleep-deprived to the point of beginning to hallucinate.

9. Not every sleep-deprived decision you make is wise. For the first several days after we got home (as well as most of the time we were in the hospital), I took on the brunt of baby care, especially at night. I got very little sleep, and my husband got plenty—uninterrupted, even. I reasoned that if I protected his sleep, we wouldn't both crash at the same time. What it meant, however, was that I crashed hard, rather than both of us simply ending up tired but functional. When he caught on to what I was doing, he was more proactive in taking baby shifts—and I was easily convinced to let him. Check your reasoning with someone else!

10. Water is your friend. TMI time: it really hurt to pee for the first while postpartum (unsurprisingly). In fact, I scared my husband by crying the first several times I went to the bathroom, because it was just so painful. The more it hurt, the more I restricted my fluid intake so I wouldn't have to go so often. BIG MISTAKE. As I eventually figured out, being dehydrated increased my pain exponentially. In fact, pee pain quickly became a great gauge of whether I'd taken in enough fluids. It hurt a little if I was properly hydrated. I wanted to die if I was dehydrated. Stay hydrated, friends. Stay hydrated.

There are other things I wish I'd known, or done differently—my hospital bag packing, for one—but these are the biggies. Perhaps there'll be a part two in the future, though!

What did you wish you'd known before giving birth? Or, if you haven't given birth, what would you like to know?

No comments:

Post a Comment