Things I Didn’t Know Until I Birthed a Babe. SPOILER ALERT: I Didn’t Know ANYTHING!

DISCLAIMER: Don’t shoot the messenger. This is one woman’s opinion and personal feelings. Do NOT read if you “don’t want to know!” Gruesomely truthful details listed below.

Giving birth to two beautiful babies is by far the most amazing, exhilarating thing I have ever done.  Ever.  You hear people say that it’s incredible and you always hear new parents say “Wow!  I had no idea I could love someone as much as I love my new baby!” or “I didn’t even know you could love as much as you do until your baby was born!”  These are super sweet sentiments but before you actually go through it yourself, you think “aww that’s sweet” and then you move on with your life.  When you go through it yourself, you think “Holy crap!  I totally get it now!  I have just done something absolutely incredible and all you people who have said those irritatingly, sickeningly sweet things are absolutely right!”  That being said… there are some things I naively didn’t know until I had given birth and become a mother.  (Prepare for the longest blog ever because there was (and is) a LOT that I didn’t (don’t) know!

In no particular order (because I don’t have enough time or sleep to be that organized):

1.  You still look pregnant after. About 8 months pregnant.

In all the reading and researching and preparing I did, for some reason I didn’t process the fact that my belly would not miraculously go back to normal in an instant.  It sounds stupid, right?  I know!  It’s not like I expected to somehow have a flat tummy right after. I don’t think I gave it much thought at all but the reality of the situation surprised me.  You still have a belly afterwards.  Like a 6 -8 month pregnant belly.  Except not as hard or full of baby (obviously!)  More jello-y and squishy.  Kudos to HRH Kate Middleton for appearing all over the media showcasing her completely normal postpartum belly body.  Had she given birth before me, maybe I wouldn’t have been so damn surprised!  Pack yoga pants.  Tight ones.  Do it.  They hold everything in and make you feel better.  Unpack your pajama pants and loose fitting track pants and pack yoga pants.  Also, look into the Belly Bandit.  This glorified tensor bandage is worthy of its own blog entry.  (Note to self!)

WARNING: #2, 3 and 4 are not for those with weak stomachs or those who don’t actually want to know the gruesome details!

2.  You bleed a lot afterwards.  A lot.

Another thing I didn’t entirely think about or process.  I packed pads and expected to need to use them but I was not prepared to be using them two at a time, changing every hour.  It’s a LOT of bleeding.  It doesn’t hurt.  It’s like your period but on a “CSI crime scene” level amount of blood.  It’s “hospital-grade huge, thick pad” lots and then “overnight pads with wings” during the day lots.  My awesome sister-in-law gave me the head’s up to bring Kotex Overnights with Wings with me and I am eternally grateful for that advice.  It’s not a big deal really but it’s good to be prepared because you have enough laundry stains to deal with from newborn poo!  There are also clots that you pass.  It makes sense since you are essentially ridding your body of all the uterine lining and fluids.  It’s like a period but 1000 times heavier.  The nurses told me to let them know if I passed any clots that were exceptionally large because it could be a sign of internal hemorrhaging.  I passed one that was a bit bigger than a quarter and let them know.  They told me that was no big deal.  It was more clots the size of golf balls to be concerned about.  Once I picked my chin up off the floor, I took comfort in the fact that I did not see any that big but again, this is something I didn’t know before going through it.

3.  Newborn poo (after they finish with the absolutely dreadful tarry gunk) is basically radioactive and stains anything it touches instantly.  The first time I saw it with our first baby, I thought something was seriously wrong… then thankfully recalled reading about this in one of my books and calmed down and “shouted it out!”  Oh yeah… the original newborn poo is no treat either.  It’s black, sticky like tar and stinks.  It’s a crash-course in strengthening your mama reflexes for cleaning up all kinds of messes later.  If you are planning to use cloth diapers…WAIT!  Wait until you pass the newborn phase.  “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

4.  Placentas are frickin’ amazing!  That may sound incredibly weird but if I can recommend anything, if you are able to check out your placenta, DO IT!  I had a bit of a complicated delivery with Baby Numero Uno.  My water broke but labour did not start.  I was hospitalized, on an IV and induced 4 days later.  I held our newborn baby girl in my arms and didn’t even want to blink to miss a millisecond of looking at her… but because of that and other things, I completely missed seeing the placenta!  I was so intrigued by the placenta when we went to our birthing classes.  We had an incredible instructor who was so inspiring and informative (Plug: www.hypnobirthinghamilton.com)  so I was determined to see the placenta after giving birth.  Hubby saw it and couldn’t stop talking about how awesome it was for weeks.  I kept asking him to describe it but his descriptions weren’t good enough for me.  He tried to look up a picture on Google to show me but the best one he could find was a picture of a placenta with a fork in it.  No joke!  It ruined it for me. (Side note:  I have nothing against placenta encapsulation for consumption.  I’m intrigued by it but haven’t tried it.)  Anyway, we decided to have another baby right away so that I could see a placenta in real life, real time for myself. (Just kidding, that’s obviously not why we had another baby.  We know absolutely NOTHING about planning to have a baby.)  I was determined to see the placenta after our second delivery.  I reminded Hubby 1000 times to make sure no matter what that I saw the placenta before they took it away after I delivered Baby #2.  I was almost at the stage of pushing during Baby #2’s delivery and was still reminding Hubby that I needed to see the placenta.  He came through.  After our baby boy was born, I had forgotten all about the placenta because I was falling in love all over again with our son.  Hubby told the OB that I wanted to see the placenta.  The OB was surprised but was also excited and not only showed it to me but explained all of its parts and functions.  Incredible.  Check out your placenta.  It’s pretty amazing.

5.  The Labour/Delivery nurses are incredible.

Stop stressing about whether or not your OB is going to be the one who is on call the day that you give birth.  It is the nurses that matter.  Obviously OBGYNs are incredible gifts to this world and I am of course speaking from being fortunate enough to delivery two healthy babies with minimal complications but I worried both times about my OBGYN not being the one to deliver our babies.  The first time he was on vacation.  The second time, I was told he was working when I registered but when I got to the Labour/Delivery ward was told that he had switched shifts and had just left for the day.  Both times we had great OBs deliver our babies.  Both times I only saw the OB as I was pushing.  The nurses however, are incredible.  They are a shoulder to cry on, a warrior to fight for your best interests, amazing caregivers and everything in between.  I give so much credit to the people who work in this job.  They are unbelievable.  I felt like I was their only patient for both deliveries even though I know for a fact they were unbelievably busy.  (12 babies were delivered the night I had baby #2 in a brand new hospital where they didn’t know where everything was yet!  Crazy!)  After being induced for baby #1, my nurse gave me the head’s up that if I wanted to eat, now was the time because the OB would be in shortly and would cut me off of food and drink.  I greatly appreciated this warning.  My nurse also saw my Hubby growing tired while waiting for labour to start and without even asking, came in with a blanket and pillow for him.  With Baby #2, the on call OB came in to break my water before my epidural had set in and my nurse fought it out with the OB on my behalf to get him to hold off until I was more comfortable.  These are little things above and beyond the fact that they literally hold your legs back for you, hold your hand, monitor your vitals, encourage you to keep going when you feel like you have nothing left and immediately take care of your baby as soon as he/she is born.  And they treat your baby like one of their own.  Unreal.  I had no idea just how incredible the labour/delivery nurses were until I had a baby.  That being said, be kind to your nurses.  They are working hard for you but I’m sure they just might be “too busy” to go above and beyond the call of duty for you if you are nasty to them.

6.  Birth Plans are meant to be broken.

Hubby and I put so much thought and careful consideration into writing our birth plan.  We got lots of insight from our birthing instructor as well as friends and read tons of material on all kinds of birthing subjects.  We designed the most perfect birth and managed to put it on paper.  We printed it on coloured paper too so that it wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle of the millions of forms and charts that end up in your hospital folder.  We naively hadn’t anticipated our baby’s birth not going as planned.  I wanted to deliver her naturally.  No drugs.  I wanted her to do a breast crawl and breastfeed her immediately.  We wanted a hypnobirth, delayed cord clamping, etc., etc., etc.  After 4 days of waiting to go into labour and trying to induce labour naturally (spicy foods, long walks, bouncing on a birthing ball, raspberry leaf tea, pineapple, etc.) I had to be induced.  I was devastated.  This was not what I had planned and it wasn’t what I wanted.  Also because of ridiculously high blood pressure and another medical issue, I was convinced by the anaesthetist that it was in my best interest to have an epidural.  I was high-risk for an emergency C-section and having an allergy to general anaesthetic, it was much safer for Baby and me if I already had an epidural in place.  I bawled my eyes out.  It wasn’t what we had planned and we had based our plan on educated choices which we felt were best for us.  Our daughter’s delivery was basically the opposite of what we had planned but in the moment, during her delivery and in meeting her for the first time, I didn’t care.  It didn’t matter.  She mattered.  Both of us were healthy in spite of us not following much of what we had written on our pretty, coloured paper.  Right before being induced, I had texted a friend who shared similar views on childbirth.  She gave me the most heartfelt, sincere response that brought it all to light.  As long as we were doing what was best for me and baby, the rest didn’t matter.  I suppose this was the first lesson in realizing that it wasn’t about ME.  I think it was beneficial to learn this lesson this early into motherhood.  Don’t stress over your birth plan.  It’s great to map out what you want ideally but prepare for things to change and know that it will be okay.

7.  Breastfeeding is hard…oh and your boobs are now public property.

Wow.  If you are like me and are normally a little bit modest about your boobs, prepare to feel violated over and over again.  The nurses mean well.  They really do.  But when you are used to your boobs being your own and concealing them, it gets a little weird when they are grabbed, squeezed, inspected and pushed into a newborn baby’s mouth.  It’s weird.  For nurses, it is their job.  But for a first time mom, it was a little awkward to have a nurse I barely knew, go and ask another nurse for help who came in and without an introduction started groping me and inspecting my nipples.  Breastfeeding is hard.  Breastfeeding is exhausting.  Breastfeeding does not come as naturally as you think.  Take advantage of the advice offered at the hospital.  The nurses and lactation consultant are a wealth of information.   Try not to get overwhelmed or too caught up in the evaluations and the charts.  The nurses have a responsibility to ensure that their newborn patients are eating, pooping and thriving.  However, mama knows best.  I broke down in tears after my first baby and felt like I was failing as nurse after nurse came in to watch me breastfeed.  I almost felt like I had stage fright.  I felt like I could do it better when it was just baby and me.  No audience.  No critics.  No evaluations.  Just baby and I getting to know each other.  With baby number 2, I was much more confident but was dealing with nurses stressing because he wouldn’t eat.  My son was 9 lbs, 13 oz at birth. (Ouch!)  He was not starving.  He was healthy and I believed he just wasn’t hungry.  After he missed a couple of scheduled feedings, refusing my breast, my nurse told me he had to have formula.  I was pissed.  Obviously, wanting what was best for my child, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and blamed my boobs for him not eating and let them try to give him formula.  When he spit it out with disgust, I did an internal happy dance knowing he really wasn’t hungry.  We finally were discharged and he came home and breastfed exclusively until he was 10 months old. Bam!

8.  Your hormones make your emotions absolutely uncontrollable.  Like a backwards, standing rollercoaster with no safety harness.

You think that you already know what that’s like but you don’t.  Be prepared to be angry at your partner at the same time as knowing you have nothing to be angry about to the point that you are telling him “I know this is crazy but I can’t help it and you just have to take it right now!”  Be prepared to cry because you are happy.  Cry because you are sad.  Cry because you are tired.  Cry because it’s Tuesday.  Your emotions are out of control but it’s okay.  Also, don’t be embarrassed because your caregivers know you are on a hormonal rollercoaster of emotional instability.  I was determined to go home the day after having baby #2 because I desperately missed my 11 month old baby #1.  It was the first time we had ever been apart over night.  However, with both births I suffered dangerously high blood pressure.  My blood pressure was sky high the night I was hoping to go home.  The absolutely incredible, compassionate on-call OBGYN came in and delicately explained to me that my blood pressure was not in a good place and that he wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing I had been sent home.  I knew he was right.  I didn’t want to risk seizuring or having to come in to the ER later with a newborn.  But I couldn’t stop crying.  And not just tears.  Hysterical, hyperventilating, snot everywhere crying.  In between wailing, I apologized and told him I understood and that I just couldn’t control myself.  Your emotions are totally out of control.  It’s scary but it gets better.

9.  You are starving after you give birth.

Maybe it’s just me but I could have eaten a Thanksgiving feast after both of my late night births.  The truth is, you get nauseous and don’t really feel like eating during labour and then delivery takes an incredible amount of energy.  Once it is all said and done, you have some missed calories to make up for.  With Baby #1, I ate my delicious gnocchi that Hubby had picked up for me to eat as a last meal before baby.  By the time he came back with it, I was too far along to even think about food.  I scarfed it down later, in the middle of the night after Baby #1 was fast asleep.  With Baby #2, I was starving again but nothing close to the hospital was open.  I ended up eating a McDonalds meal due to lack of choice, again in the middle of the night because I was starving.  Again, it could just be me but giving birth burns a LOT of calories.  Be prepared to eat up afterwards.

At the risk of making this any longer than it already is, I am going to cut it short.  I will end with a list of hospital must-haves that I found useful to have in my hospital bag:

1.  Yoga Pants.  They help hold everything in.

You will appreciate these more than any yoga pant.

2. Kotex Overnight Pads with Wings.

When you get to the stage of not needing the hospital-grade pads, these will be more comfortable (to wear during the day and then wear hospital pads at night)

3. Flip Flops that you can throw away after

Hospital floors are gross.  You will use these more than slippers.

4. Breath Mints/ Gum

To share with your birth partner.  The last thing you need is someone offering you face-to-face encouragement with bad breath

5. Nursing Pillow

Bring it with you and tell your nurse you did.  They can help you learn how to use it properly

6. Lanolin Nipple Cream

I need to write an entirely separate blog on breastfeeding but at the beginning it hurts.  A lot.  Like hell.  Lanolin helps.

7.  Chapstick

Hospitals are very dry.

8. White Noise

9. Camera with empty SD card

10. Charger for Camera and Phones

11.  Cloud B Sound Machine Animal or there are various smartphone apps.  There are even some that replicate the sounds from inside the womb.  These help to settle baby more than you will ever know.

There are lots more things on my must-have hospital list but I think this post is long enough! 🙂

andbabymakes3imean4 is one mom’s adventures while tap dancing on the brink of insanity with 2 babies, 11 months apart.  If you liked this post, click subscribe or like my page on facebook to be the first to know of future posts.  Thanks for reading! xo

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