When it comes to childbirth and the aftermath, parenting books don’t always portray the realities and unexpected experiences that come along with birth and the first few weeks of baby’s life.
There is no better source to hear the truth, from the giant diaper-like maxi pads to post-baby bellies, than from other moms who’ve gone through the trenches themselves. We turned to four moms for the truth based on their childbirth experiences.
What took you most by surprise during childbirth and afterwards?
The fact that you will walk around in giant cotton underwear and giant pads, feeling like you’re the one in a diaper for a long time. And you may not be a religious person, but at some point after bringing your child home from the hospital you will start praying. You will pray they don’t die. You will pray they poop and will spend lots of time talking about their poop. Oh, and how you will pray they sleep!
What do you wish a friend had told you in advance about childbirth?
With my first child, I was pretty much in a fog the entire time in the hospital. I was exhausted after laboring for 20 hours and then having a C-section. I was starting to feel a bit of depression and the painkillers weren’t helping. The entire five days I was in the hospital, I never changed out of my hospital gown. Why didn’t someone tell me to change into clothes? Seriously, the bag was right next to my bed. Mom? Husband? Anyone? After my second labor, I changed into my own cozy clothes as soon as possible. Man, it makes you feel so much better.
What advice would you give a new mom preparing for labor and childbirth?
You will vacillate between feeling like a total crazy person and feeling like you have it totally together, often at the same time. I had postpartum depression with my first son. I had no appetite, cried all the time and breastfeeding was giving me panic attacks. After a few pretty rough weeks, I started to get it together with the help of my doctor, friends and family. Don’t wait to get help if you need it; there is no shame in saying you’re not OK. I learned that what your baby needs more than anything is for you to be there and be OK. As hard as it might be, remember to take care of yourself.
I planned for a med-free birth and did a ton of research in preparation. When the time finally came, I was really surprised how all that research just kind of went out the window. I didn’t follow any specific birth method, but instead I just trusted my instincts and listened to my body with regards to what eased the discomfort and felt right at the time. In the end, I’m really happy I did not feel that I had to adhere to a specific birth model. I trusted my own body and was lucky enough to have the birth experience that I had always wanted.
I was surprised at how pregnant you still look after giving birth! I am not sure what I expected to happen, but I was surprised to be leaving the hospital with a baby on my arm, still looking three to four months pregnant.
I would tell expecting mothers that pushing is really hard work. In much of the reading I had done prior to giving birth, they talked about how pushing would feel good. I did not experience this at all. The urge to push was tremendous and very primal, but the actual act of pushing was really difficult and exhausting. It is completely worth it in the end, but calling it “labor” is definitely an appropriate term.
With my first child, I wasn’t prepared for the chills from the Pitocin and the fact that I was shaking so much my husband had to feed me. And my epidural didn’t work, so I definitely wasn’t expecting that. With my second child, it surprised me how normal I felt between contractions and after birth. It was strange going from intense pain to feeling completely fine.
I wish I’d known that labor could be more emotionally taxing then physically. With my first labor, I was induced a week early because I had preeclampsia, but the baby was not ready to come out. It took three days and multiple procedures to get labor going and after not being allowed to eat any solids for those three days, I was so physically weak when it finally was time to push. The entire process was frustrating and exhausting.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to share your desires. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns. Each childbirth experience is unique.
Not knowing exactly when I was going to go into labor. I am very much a planning, Type A personality, so when my water broke four-and-a-half weeks early with my first pregnancy and three weeks early with my second, it wasn’t part of my plan. To say I was surprised would be an understatement.
I wish someone had told me to be prepared well in advance. I went into labor before my baby shower was scheduled, so there were important baby things that I didn’t even have yet. Being only 35 weeks along, I figured I had plenty of time before I needed to get everything organized, so I wasn’t worried. I didn’t even have a bag packed and had to have a friend go out and buy us a car seat.
One word: epidural. I have labored both with an epidural and naturally, so I can speak from experience. Childbirth with an epidural is so much more relaxed and enjoyable. My plan would have been to have epidurals with both, but unfortunately, I had no choice the second time around. I consider myself a pretty tough individual, but I have never experienced pain like that and I honestly thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it. So if you’re open to it, there is nothing I would more strongly recommend than getting an epidural.
See more of Megan's stories here.
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