Preparing for Childbirth: What I Know Now

Facing childbirth the second time around is a very different experience. While every pregnancy and every birth is unique I do have an idea of what to expect this time. Perhaps in contradiction, I not only know that I am capable of getting through this, I also am more open to medical intervention. I am more trusting in my midwife practice to guide me either way and I trust more in my own ability to make decisions in the moment, something I was very unsure of before.

I became pretty overwhelmed emotionally as we got closer to our due date with Haines. Like 100% totally terrified. Although I was constantly reassured that my body was built for this, I still maintain that being totally terrified is a legit way to feel. That shit’s no joke and you have no idea which way it could go. There’s only so much you can control as well. Once you become pregnant, you’re no longer in control. There’s this tiny little being announcing its needs, subtly or loudly, and they can sometimes conflict with your own.

It’s great to have a plan. It’s great to have an idea of what you’re hoping for or what your limits are but the best you can do is build your toolbox.

Prenatal yoga// I’ve talked about this in detail before. I’m a big fan of prenatal yoga. I feel like it taught me patience, calm in the face of chaos and the ability to breath through discomfort. It also gave me physical strength and flexibility in preparation for the physical act of labor.

Hydration// All medical professionals tell you to drink up when you’re pregnant. It gets old, but it can prevent preterm labor. Put your big girl/mama undies on and drink more. Infuse it, flavor it, do what it takes.

Get physical// My exercise regularity has really dropped off but I’m still trying to get moving as much as possible. My work offers fitness classes Monday through Friday and I try to make it to at least two. I spend most of class making modifications, which pisses me off, but I’m going to try to keep going. I constantly have to remind myself to prioritize exercise over work or just life as I know it made me more physically ready for labor and helped in my recovery previously. Can’t stop, won’t stop, right? (Until I can’t take it and then I’ll be taking a lot of tiny walks.)

Read up, but don’t go crazy// I’ve known moms on both ends of the “I google everything” spectrum. One of my coworkers purposely read nothing around labor. She felt like more knowledge was going to be too terrifying. Most other women I know read obsessively about it. I purposely have kept away from the Internet (I mean, as much as I can- I’m only human!) as too much information feels dangerous but I did read The Birth Partner which I found helpful for pain management tips. I also forced Tyler to read it.

Go with the flow// Mentally prepare yourself for a drastic change in plans. As in all things with a baby, there are only things you can impact. There is nothing you can control. You can’t control another person right? It feels like you should be able to as they’re living inside you but no way, no how. During labor with Haines I tried eating (nope), taking a bath (nope), using a warm sock filled with rice on my back (nope), walking (not really) to help me manage the pain but none of my prepared activities worked with how I felt. I sat in the recliner with my eyes closed and Tyler held my hand. I couldn’t tolerate anything else.

Get support// I think one of the most important things you can control (for the most part) is who your support/medical team is. You can choose a doctor or midwife who you feel comfortable with and who agrees with your general philosophy on medicine. You can also add in a doula to advocate for you and coach you through the process. It’s expensive but for many it’s a great additional member to your team.

We opted not to do a doula as Tyler wanted our experience to be more intimate. I was on the fence about it as Tyler’s been known to be super queasy/light-headed with blood, etc. In the end, we were fine. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The most important thing I told Tyler was that I was never to be left alone once I started laboring. Mission accomplished.

Remember the end goal// There are only two things that really matter in the end. It’s that you and baby are healthy. Sometimes that means going against what we had hoped for our birth plans. It can mean incredibly difficult situations, but as long as you and baby come out okay everything else will work itself out. Try not to get too wrapped up in the rest.

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Christmas Came Early

We had done our best to think the baby would be late. Unbearably late. This, we heard, was the best way to not be get through the days before baby arrived. The day before our due date we went to the midwife for our weekly appointment. We knew there was really nothing she could tell us to help predict when the baby would come but we hoped for something anyways.

Everything looked great and I was dilated 3 cm. This really means nothing though. You can stay at 3 cm for days without progress. We scheduled our next appointment and an induction for the day after Christmas. On the way home I asked Tyler to stop and buy a Gatorade. I felt nauseas and gross, glad to be working from the couch. I planned to stop work a bit early and get in the bath but come 4 pm there was still too much to do.

At this point Tyler had come home from the grocery and I admitted that I had been having contractions since 2pm almost every twenty minutes. I showed him where I was writing them down in my work notebook. He was not impressed that I hadn’t told him immediately.

Everything seemed very manageable then. I got in the bath and rested. The contractions were felt doable. I could handle this. When I called my mother to let her know what was happening I was calm on the phone. No rushing, drive safe. Don’t come if you’re tired. Tyler arranged for our dog to be picked up by friends.

Although my contractions didn’t become consistently closer together, things quickly deteriorated. My attempts to walk around the house were unbearable. I threw up my dinner- soup and a milkshake generously dropped off by a coworker. Soon I refused to get out of the recliner, dozing between each contraction and squeezing Tyler’s hand when they came. It was hard to open my eyes to see my mom when she arrived. When Tyler called the midwife around 1am I was asking for an epidural. I wanted to go to the hospital. My contractions still weren’t consistently 3 minutes apart and she encouraged me to stay at home and walk around- speed things up. Um, no.

I barely made it to the car.

Mom and Tyler carefully walked me out, holding me up. Our hospital is only 4 minutes away which made all the difference. The midwife changed her tune when we arrived- I was already 10 cm dilated and wanting to push! It was straight to the delivery room where the midwife sat at the end of the bed ready to break my water. I started to fall apart asking for an epidural again (if you’re ready to push this isn’t going to work). With the midwife between my knees a contraction hit and BAM! My water exploded all over her and the surrounding area. She got up to change her clothes with a “Well, that settles that.”

The baby was ready to make an entrance and I was able to start pushing immediately. Fortunately for me it was all over in a matter of 5 or so contractions (20 minutes, perhaps) and also fortunately for the baby whose heart rate dropped significantly for about 10 of those minutes. I ended up getting an episiotomy which certainly wasn’t in my birth plan but was totally for the best. It all came to an end with the announcement of “It’s a boy!”  and the total shock of a baby being placed on my chest.

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Childbirth Surprises:

  • I didn’t curse, which I was proud of as that seems like an unpleasant thing to put up with at your place of work. On the other hand I screamed so hard my throat hurt for days. Sorry, nurses.
  • Apparently Tyler and I both truly thought the baby would be a girl as we both thought/said, “Are you sure?” when we found out it was a boy.
  • It turns out there is no keeping your support team away from the business end of childbirth. With your head to your chest and your knees open and up to your ears, there is no way to distinguish any part of you. The whole of you is in childbirth.
  • The post-delivery shakes completely caught me by surprise. I didn’t know to anticipate them and they felt totally debilitating.
  • The nurses and staff at the hospital completely lived up to their reputation and took care of us 100%. It was incredible.

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Baby Haines has been kind enough to sleep on my chest while I’ve typed but I think he’s reached his maximum. We’ll just have to share more soon.

Happy holidays everyone.

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This is a very photogenic family.