Just over six months ago I endured what has to be one of the most miraculous and intense experiences a person can ever go through – growing and birthing a human baby. For how immense the event was, it truly seems like forever ago. The sharp details are starting to fade as I’m now fully consumed in the world of babydom. Purees vs. baby-led weaning, cry-it-out vs. nurse/rock baby to sleep, nanny vs. daycare…you get the idea.
I rarely take the time to reflect on my son’s birth and delivery anymore, but several of my very best friends are now expecting and it has me thinking back to that time. When I take a moment to think back on my son’s entrance into this world, there are a few nuggets of information I’m glad I knew beforehand, and a few things that I wish I had known ahead of time:
What I’m glad I knew going in:
- Remember to use your BRAIN (this is the most important in my opinion!):
There are many factors that influence a decision-making process including time, fear, and available support. When you’re in labor everything feels urgent. While that is true in some cases (emergencies) you actually do have time to pause and make an informed decision. My husband and I learned the acronym above in an evidence based birthing class and called upon it when the doctor suggested we use Pitocin after my water broke but 15 hours later, still wasn’t having contractions. Ask about benefits and risks to any suggested interventions. What are the alternatives? What do your instincts say? What would happen if you waited and did nothing for a while?
2.) Hold firm on having a “Golden Hour” immediately after giving birth
Unless you or your baby need immediate medical attention, everything else can wait – including your visitors. We held off on having our son bathed, measured, and weighed so we could spend time skin to skin with the baby immediately after he was born. We were able to enjoy time as a family of three for about an hour before we saw any visitors. Life quickly gets crazy, try to hang on to that amazing bubble for as long as you can.
3.) Your lady bits will hurt, but there are things you can do to mediate the discomfort
I packed Lansinoh gel pads in my hospital bag and they were life savers right out of the gate. Your baby will likely cluster feed to get your milk supply going and your nipples will need some TLC – during our second night in the hospital my son wanted to nurse every 45 minutes. Use and take home what the hospital gives you – lovely, thick pads with which hazel and a little water spray bottle for down under because hate to tell you, you won’t want to wipe for a while.
What I wish I had known:
- The gender of the baby
This might sound weird, and probably isn’t applicable to many people these days, but we didn’t know the sex of our baby until he arrived. I really wanted to know, but my husband didn’t so I went along with not finding out. When he was born, I remember feeling totally overwhelmed and caught off guard. Not that I had a gender preference, more so I felt generally unprepared to welcome a child into this world and in retrospect I think knowing the sex would have helped me bond a bit more before the baby was actually here. If there is any takeaway that can be generalized from this point, I think it’s that as a mama-to-be you should feel empowered making decisions for yourself that you think will make your life easier. Period.
- Pick a name before going into the hospital
Even if you are en route fighting through contractions, try to decide on a name before crossing the threshold into the maternity ward. We had romantic notions of “getting to know” the baby before finalizing the name, but a combination of sheer exhaustion, crazy hormones, and too many visitors made for a less than ideal environment for deciding upon the name of our first born. We actually left the hospital without a name, but it turns out you don’t get much sleep once you are home either so unless you want to make that call in the foggiest mental state you will ever know, go ahead and commit to a name ahead of time.
- Go light on the visitors, heavy on the food
You will be starving and up all hours of the night nursing. If people are going to come visit in the hospital, have them bring delicious food and drop it off. When/if people linger, let them know you need to take your top off to breastfeed or take your gown off for an exam (all things you will actually be doing) so they should probably leave. Our nurse would clear the room by coming in and loudly exclaiming the “V” word. You know, time to check your vagina again. Brother, Dad, and Father-in-law got the point real fast.
So I am by no means an expert – before having my son I knew next to nothing about birth and delivery. As with all other things in life, all you can do is collect information from sources you trust and follow your gut. I can’t wait to see my good friends become mothers and I hope that they, along with all the other expectant mamas reading this, look back on their birth experience with pride, joy, and comfort in their choices.
Feature Image: Heather Gallagher Photography