Hi all! It’s Gillian!
To follow up with April’s post about “Things I Wish I had Known” I wanted a mention a few things that I too wish I had known.
A little backstory: I was like April- and probably like most women out there- I did my research before giving birth. Actually, I did a LOT of research. Before having my son, I was in the IT field, and the job I had “allowed” me to spend seven hours a day reading- and that’s what I did. I read every single thing I could about being pregnant and giving birth. Every book, website and online forum that I could get my hands on, I absorbed. I absolutely loved reading about it, and so for eight months- no word of a lie- I read about being pregnant.
What I didn’t read much about was what to expect post-partum. I blame it on the fact that there isn’t a lot out there about it. It doesn’t makes sense! Our bodies go through the most major change it can in a very short period of time- the transition from going from pregnant to not pregnant and that’s enormous!
Forget the birth, you’re warned that it’s probably going to be the hardest thing you’ll ever go through, and it IS hard for most of us, it’s the next couple of weeks- or months sometimes- that can really effect you as a person.
I had a 35-hour labour with 2.5 hours of pushing and a successful vaginal birth with no episiotomy or forceps or other intervention. I did have an epidural after 22 hours, which wore off before my son was born, and I turned down all the other pain medication they offered me.
Here’s what I wish I would have known:
1) How brutal my recovery was going to be. Along with a long labour, my son was posterior, and although he flipped just before exiting my body, he sprained something in my tail bone area and I was unable to walk for about six weeks because of the extreme amount of pain that even just standing caused me.
The swelling that comes along with a vaginal birth was something I was unprepared for. I remember my doctor commenting on it when she was stitching up my small tears, and the nurses recoiling at the sight of me when they would come in to check on the size of my uterus and the condition of my vagina after I gave birth (which they will do to you, too). The swelling only lasted about a week, but everything was unrecognizable and uncomfortable. I remember taking a mirror out on day four and was horrified- and the swelling had decreased a lot at that point! I was terrified that things were not ever going to look the same again.
2) That you can bleed for six weeks straight. Oh, how I wish that I would have had cloth pads for my recovery time. No tampons, no Diva Cup, you’re committed to wearing a pad 24/7 for your entire post partum bleeding. The thread from my stitches would get stuck to the weave in the plastic pads, and would pull and darn near kill me. (I only use the cloth pads and diva cup for my period now, and I will never, ever go back to plastic and tampons! April and I joke that the cloth pads are like “sitting on a cloud!”)
3) How much babies need to sleep. For the first two months my husband and I KEPT our son AWAKE until at least 10pm, hoping that he’d sleep the entire night. HAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAA is what I have to say to that. He was MISERABLE from about 6:30 onward, constantly crying, nothing would soothe him, and what would we do? Keep him awake longer! Of course! Sometimes I’d even give him gripe water (I’m slapping my forehead right now)! I’d heard about the “witching hour” before and thought that it was normal. Until one day, when he was about seven weeks old, I thought, “what’s the worst that can happen? Yet another bad night’s sleep?” I put him to bed when he started getting cranky- around 7pm, and LO AND BEHOLD, he slept. And he still woke up at the same time the next morning- but he’d had an additional three or four hours of sleep! And no crying! And I had time to myself! (No, he was not “sleeping through the night” – he still isn’t and he’s 2.5 years old, but he was still sleeping for 2-4 hour stretches regardless of when he went to bed.) From then on, his bedtime remained at 7pm sharp, and it still is, over two years later.
Another thing that went along with this was that I had no idea how much babies needed to nap. I finally clued into my son’s cues around the same time and as soon as he started getting cranky- easily crying etc- I’d nurse him down to sleep. It worked like a charm. From then on, until he was seven months old- like clockwork- he’d sleep every 1.5 hours for 45 minutes. As he grew in age, the time between naps and the nap length grew, but I followed his cues and it worked like a charm. No more cranky baby!
Case in point: keeping baby awake at night does not equal sleeping through the night.
Also, one small point, co-sleeping made my nights far easier than having him in his own bed. It was great for our nursing relationship, for allowing my husband to sleep soundly and both myself and my son to only rouse, rather than fully wake up in the middle of the night. If he stirred, I’d move closer and quickly nurse him back to sleep rather than have to get out of bed and tend to him as he became more and more conscious. I understand that co-sleeping is not for everyone, but it was one of my greatest tools in getting the most amount of quality sleep in the segments that come along with a new baby.
4) Are you in your first trimester and eating everything? Or do you remember the constant hunger that your pea-sized baby caused you to have? It’s NOTHING compared to breastfeeding hunger. I was never full, I was constantly stuffing my face, only to be finished a full meal and be starving all over again. Feeding that little baby gives you a good guilt-free reason to eat whatever you want to. Cherish it!
5) Do you know why you’re going to be constantly hungry? Because that baby WILL ALSO BE CONSTANTLY HUNGRY. I hear it time and time again at Nurtured- moms coming in, thinking that they’re doing something wrong, that their milk isn’t working, that there has to be something more they can do to make that baby eat less often. Honey, I feel for you, because just like yours- and everyone else’s- babies eat ALL THE TIME. Nursing every half hour for an hour and a half? Normal! Especially during growth spurts (the most desperate moms I see are the ones around the 10-14 day mark, which was also my lowest point. Day 10 was the worst day I’ve ever had as a parent, because I literally nursed from 9pm-6am non-stop).
6) I was lucky and didn’t suffer from an ounce of post-partum depression. Instead, I saw everything through rose coloured glasses. I was high for days, weeks, heck, I KNOW I don’t see the world like I used to. My child, my beautiful child. Everything he did and does is magnificant. And you will probably feel the same way too. However, there are devastating lows. That day 10 I was talking about? I was throwing pillows at the wall, yelling, swearing, because I just.wanted.to.go.to.sleep. When it’s good, it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s bad. Hormones rushing, sleep deprivation like you’ve never experienced in your life, and someone else- who is a mere eight pounds- is suddenly your boss… I’m telling you now, you’re going to be up and down, down and down. Love like you never though possible, and stress like you’ve never experienced in your life. If you feel out of control, go and seek help, immediately. Please.
The biggest thing that helped me was just “surrendering.” It’s something I’ve always practiced once I realized that it was the easiest thing to do. If my son wanted to be awake in the middle of the night and he was just NOT falling asleep and I was getting more and mo
re irratated, I would surrender and just get up with him. Giving in to what he wanted- even if I didn’t want to or see the sense in it- that was my answer. If he didn’t want to stop nursing for three hours, and I spent the first two hours gritting my teeth and muttering under my breath to just be DONE ALREADY, I’d surrender and spend my last hour giving in. It took lots of reminding myself- but they are never trying to inconvenience you, they are never trying to manipulate you- their wants are their needs. Period. Let them tell you when they need to eat or sleep, don’t try to control them, because it’s just going to be more of a headache.
7) You’re going to be invisible. Pregnant women are complimented and stared at and spoken to and asked questions and worshiped. YOU WILL NOT EXIST when that baby is born. If you’re lucky like I was and had a mother who made it a point to greet me before the child, who nurtured me before anyone else, then it will be a little more bearable. Find those people and spend as much time with them, because everyone else will see the baby and you will be forgotten. Strangers will ask you the same questions over and over, “boy or girl, how old are they, what’s their name” instead of your usual “when are you due, do you know the sex” etc etc.
I got so used to being invisible in fact, that when I went back to work after 18 months I felt totally NAKED when I walked down the street without my kid. It took me weeks to get over it, because I was so used to being ignored and having everyone past me, and at my child. They finally saw ME as a person, not just as someone’s mom.
8) I would get so annoyed at strangers who would tell me, “Cherish this time” because I really felt like I was, but I really didn’t know how fast it would all go. They tell you that, too, but it’s true. One of the best things I ever did was write my son a very detailed monthly newsletter with pictures and stories and details about that month’s achievements. I love to look back and have a record of his development, otherwise I would have forgotten so many of the small details.
9) Happiest Baby on the Block is my very favorite book to recommend to pregnant women and new parents. It saved my butt. (There’s even a DVD!) It’s got methods to decrease the crying (and therefore stress) in the first three months in plain and simple language. It lets you know key tricks (swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing sounds, swinging, sucking) that seem like common sense, but in that sleep deprevation haze may not be clear. It was one of the very best parenting books I’ve ever read.
10) Don’t get too comfortable. If you have a great night of sleep, it doesn’t mean the next night is going to be the same. My son is 28 months old and has slept through the night six times. SIX. I found myself thinking after each night that he’d sleep through that things were going to stay that way. Lo and behold, the next night wouldn’t be the same as the night before, so I stopped setting myself up for dissapointment and I just rolled with it. I took every night, good or bad, for what it was, and never tried to predict what the next night was going to be.
I guess to sum things up, I’ll say: It’s hard. It’s wonderful, but hard. Follow their lead, TRUST YOUR BODY (especially your breasts!) and get as much support as you can. “This too shall pass.”
You’re going to be great!! You’re already great! Way to go!