So, 15 weeks ago, Hell officially froze over (in my book, anyway). Our family of 2 humans increased to 3. Ho. Ly. Crap.
For me, childbirth was the scariest thing ever (which probably isn’t saying much since I pretty much think the Friday the 13th and Halloween movies are comedies). For many years, I felt like was dodging a major bullet. Having a child was not on my radar.
So, I had to know all about delivering a watermelon through my nether-regions. I spent many hours online reading the horrors (“Oh, so much blood!”) and getting advice from friends. At some point I had to stop because it was worse than any horror movie (what I consider to be horror, that is). A lot of the advice I got from my friends was light; it didn’t scratch the surface of what childbirth actually feels like and didn’t answer the question “You bleed for how long?”
For moms-to-be, dads-to-be, and the plain curious, here are my 2 cents on childbirth and the immediate aftermath based on my experience.
- Contractions = Like menstrual cramps, but 1000 time worse: When my contractions started at 1:30 AM on April 14, 2016, they felt like what I had read – menstrual cramps. They’d occur maybe once an hour. and last a few seconds “Totally tolerable!” I (stupidly) thought to myself.
But as the morning wore on, they occurred more frequently and for longer periods. I remember writhing in pain, hunched over my bed and thinking, “What the hell did I get myself into?” It was the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. It. Was. Painful.
There came a point where it was useless to keep track of them because I couldn’t tell when one ended and a new one started.
How did I know it was time to go to the hospital? When I could barely move. In the moment I knew it was time to go, I felt like I took for granted just being able to take one step forward.
2. Birth Plan = A Figment of the Imagination: My doula provided me with some suggestions for a birth plan. A birth plan is basically your “perfect” (read: delusional) outline of how you want your childbirth to be. For instance, I requested that only my husband and doula be in the room with me (no medical students/interns looking at my lady bits, please) and that upbeat music from my iPod be played.
If you love wasting time, go for it. I had written my plan and sent it to my doula the weekend before I delivered. Basically, you can’t plan childbirth like you can a wedding. You’re on your baby’s watch, not your own. Do it if you must. But know that you must be open to change.
3. (Un)Truths = “That Only Happens in the Movies”: In our pre-birth classes and from the mouth of our doula, we were told that a lot of things we believe about childbirth “only happens in the movies.” Take labor, for example. Women don’t go into labor for 5 minutes, do a few pushes/grunts with 2 beads of sweat on their forehead, and then pop out a baby. Labor can last several hours, as there are different periods of labor. Mine lasted about 12, which is pretty minuscule compared to other women I’ve heard about.
Another “untruth” I heard was that you can’t give birth while reclined and knees up. I learned about the squat bar and was prepared to ask for it. However, either the movies are correct or I’m an anomaly. I actually did give birth slightly reclined with my knees up. Gravity works in mysterious ways.
4. Modesty = Let It All Hang Out and Then Some: As someone who has never ever been a patient in a hospital, I didn’t know what to expect. I am someone, however, who is very modest. I’m not a fan of my thunder thighs, bubble butt or incoming gray hairs. Perhaps if I wasn’t lazy, I’d ensure I wore make-up 24/7 so I’d feel “pretty.”
My modesty went out the window when I was admitted to labor and delivery. Since I was fully dilated, I basically stripped off all my clothes (didn’t even blink that I had a hole in my panties) and hopped onto the bed. There was no time to even think for a nanosecond “Oh. My. God. The nurse/doctor/my husband/doula must be thinking ‘Forget it! Put your clothes back on, stat!'”
My doula took some photos during the birth. In some, you could see the dark patches on my bare boobs (a side effect of pregnancy), even part of my nipple. When I was sharing the photos with my sister, I went ahead and sent them. However, after she reviewed them, she insisted that I forego sending any more with any of my boobs or vag showing, because my dad and brother-in-law would see them in the pictures. Normally I would agree, but for this, nah! I wasn’t posing for Playboy for goodness sake.
Since I was learning how to breastfeed, my boobs were out — a lot! It was also weird having other people touch my boobs. One of my nurses was teaching me how to self-express milk. It was odd, but mainly painful! You’d totally feel like one of those strength games in an arcade where you squeeze the handle as hard as you can, except replace the handle with your boobs!
5. Newborn Clothes = Waste of $$: Naturally when friends and family found out we were having a baby, we were showered with lots of gifts, mainly a LOT of clothing. We were fortunate to have received more new and hand-me-down onesies that could outfit an entire country of infants.
Problem is, out of the thousands of onesies we received, especially in the newborn and 0-3 months sizes, we could only use one of them to bring home baby. Within about a week, many were too small for baby to wear.
It was disappointing because there were so many cute outfits that I imagined putting on our baby and taking too many pictures of him in them. Good thing is I have friends with buns in their ovens, so all these clothes will not go to waste… or I could possibly hoard them for bambino #2 (yes, I just might be insane).
6. The Gaga! (No, not the singer) = A love like no other: Love. It’s a pretty common feeling – the butterflies in the stomach, the excitement of seeing the other person, the great sense of care. When you have a new baby, all that is completely trumped! Actually, I cannot even put into words what my love for my baby feels like!
I’ve got serious Mama Bear prowess. I feel like if anyone were to even look at him the wrong way, there’d be serious hell to pay. Whenever he makes what I call “Super Sad Face” and cries, my body aches and I want to weep.
Seriously. This baby has me wrapped around his tiny finger. I never knew I could love another person so much. It’s immeasurable. I honestly think if for some strange reason he was in his stroller and stopped on train tracks and a train was coming, I’d whisk in there and try to stop the train. My love perhaps could be measured in the strength that he gives me.
Some mothers do face post-partum depression, and it’s no joke. I will admit I get the blues once in a while. There are so many hormonal changes and complete changes to your life in general. Having a baby is a lifetime commitment.
Although my pregnancy was unexpected, the lessons I’ve learned so far are so valuable. Through it, I have such a great appreciation for my mom. Being a mom is THE most difficult job in the world. But you know what? It’s the best title I’ve ever had.