Things They Don’t Tell You About Having a Baby
by Mary Renee Reuter
1. Have a birth plan, but be prepared for it to be thrown out the window…
I did my research, I talked to other moms, I went to prepared birth classes and learned Lamaze breathing and pain management. I had five copies of my birth plan printed and ready to go, with one on the refrigerator too.
And then my due date came. And went. And then another week came and went. And even though I wanted to go natural they decided it would be best to induce me for the baby’s sake.
So instead of having regular contractions five minutes apart, mine were two minutes apart for 8 hours before I finally gave in and needed an epidural. And instead of a typical 18 hour labor, I was in labor for nearly 30 hours. When the baby’s heart rate dropped and couldn’t recover because my contractions were too close together, they almost demanded a c-section but luckily a second opinion came to the conclusion that they could pull her out faster, whether she was ready or not. After an hour of pushing (which I still wasn’t really sure if I was doing right, even when I was in the middle of doing it…) She was here!
Nothing went according to my birth plan. I didn’t want to be induced, I didn’t want pitocin, I wanted to try without pain medication, I wanted the baby to be immediately placed on my stomach. None of that happened.
Although you want what is best for your baby and although you trust the doctors to tell you that you MUST be your own advocate. One thing I indicated on my birth plan was that I didn’t want medical students observing the delivery. It’s my first baby and my you-know-what is up in the air with fetal monitoring tubes coming out of me and I don’t want some twenty-something-year-olds with clip boards staring at my vagina and taking notes during my most vulnerable moments.
I told the doctors this. I told the nurses this. I ended up telling the medical students who were STILL IN MY ROOM ANYWAY this. I kept saying I didn’t want them there, but they didn’t leave. The doctors explained that this is how they learn, ignoring my wishes. My boyfriend had to literally go over to them, put his finger in their faces (mind you, we had been in the hospital for 35 hours at this point) and say “You. You. And You. Get out of here. Out!” Which brings me to my next warning…
2. Doctors and nurses are great but women have been having babies since the beginning of time…
Yes, doctors and nurses have seen hundred of births and went to school for a long time. They’re experts at knowing a lot about childbirth. But YOU are the one having the baby and women have been having babies without doctors forever so don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself. And some doctors and nurses are better than others. Since I was in the hospital for 35 hours before Kali was born, I had two different night nurses and two different day nurses. The day nurses were far better than the night nurses.
The first night nurse that I saw did such a terrible job administering an IV that I lost so much blood there was a puddle of blood from my arm in the bed and on the floor next to me. I ended up passing out, coming to, and throwing up. She said “Maybe you’re just queasy at the sight of blood.” Uh, maybe there shouldn’t be a puddle of blood all over the room, woman!
Another nurse was ready to wheel me out of the room and cut me open and give me a cesarean until I was like “Who are you and where is my doctor?” You will want your significant other or your mother (or both – whichever is possible) to be there so they can be your advocate when you have tubes, contractions, and babies coming from every direction.
Secondly, if they hook you up to a fetal monitoring device, you have to stay in bed and not move for the whole time so avoid it! When the contractions hit, you’re going to want to move and change position so you can get comfortable but you can’t if you’re hooked up to a billion machines. They want to hook you up because it’s easier for them, but remember, this is YOUR labor and YOUR delivery, do what YOU think is best. You will find that alot of things that hospitals do (induction, fetal monitering, your position during delivery…) are for the convenience of the doctors, rather than the comfort of the patient.
3. Throw all modesty out the window…
If you get an epidural, you’ll need a catheter. If your baby appears in distress, they might put a fetal monitoring device up there too. By the time you have your baby and your legs spread you might have two or three different wires up there. And then after you have the baby, a lady will take you in the bathroom and “show you how to pee.” Yep. And you’re like, what’s to it? I pee all the time, I’m pregnant. But now you just pushed a baby out and you need to recover. They will give you big mesh underpants, in which you will have both an ice pack and a diaper. And you’ll be so grateful for the relief of the icepack that you won’t even care that you’re pretty much wearing a diaper with an icepack inside. They also give you stool softeners just in case. On top of that they might give you a squirt bottle to rinse yourself off, especially if you tear. Yes, that happens.
Then, if you decide to breast feed, you will have your breasts out all the time. They are not cute little things you show off in a low cut top for sex appeal anymore. They are big and they’re only going to get bigger and you’re going to have to get them out all the time to feed your baby. And when your baby is hungry and cries, you can sometimes FEEL it in your breast because your body WANTS to feed them so you just want to get your boob out as fast as possible and get the baby on there and you won’t care. And nobody else will care that your boob is out. And a lactation consultant will probably come in the room at some point and she might even squeeze your nipple and shove it in the baby’s mouth a few times to show you how. Sexy, right? And your boyfriend or parents might even be sitting there watching. Haha. It’s ok! Get used to it! Which brings me to my next point…
4. Your baby will literally be attached to your breast 24/7…<
Or at least it will feel like that. That was the biggest hurtle I had to overcome once baby was home from the hospital. Oh yeah, that’s another thing. They’re angels in the hospital. And they’re angels for the first few days. But once they’re two weeks old and they aren’t sleeping for the vast majority of the day, you might find that they want to eat constantly. From the time Kali was 2 weeks old until a little after 5 weeks, she wanted to eat every hour and a half for an hour each time. If you’ve already calculated that, it meant I had a half an hour in between feedings and that was it. Forget going to the store, forget seeing the sun, forget cooking or eating anything that takes longer than grabbing a granola bar, forget taking a shower or brushing my teeth. A half an hour was enough time to change her diaper, grab another water bottle, and take a quick pee before she was hungry again.
On top of that the pediatrician said she wasn’t gaining weight fast enough, so I felt like I was feeding her constantly but she still wasn’t eating enough. Turns out after seeing a lactation consultant, sometimes breastfed babies gain weight slightly slower, but she was absolutely fine she was just small to begin with. Make sure your pediatrician is an advocate of breastfeeding and make sure she’s aware of the differences. Weight charts are available at the Center for Decease Control website if you want to track your baby’s weight gain yourself.
Seeing a lactation consultant is an excellent thing to do. And you might read that before you have the baby and think, oh, breast feeding is just going to come naturally to me and my baby will be the perfect eater and we’ll be bonding and I won’t need any help. But it was such a comfort for me to see one just to know we were on the right track! Trust me, when you have a newborn, you will love that reassurance that you’re on the right track. It’s as good as gold to know you’re doing a good job at something you’ve never done before and no one is ever fully prepared for (except for in movies- in which the newborn is usually played by a three-month-old and the parents are seen magically out in public moving the plot along and you’re like… who is watching the baby?)
Honestly, there were times when I was ready to give up on the breast feeding thing and I had to hand her over to her father even though she was crying and just say “I need ten minutes, my nipples are so sore I feel like they’re going to fall off, I feel like I’m completely empty, I’m lightheaded and I’m about to go insane.” And then I would go to another room and cry because I felt so inadequate at caring for her. This is normal. It wasn’t until one morning I woke up and just decided to accept it. Instead of thinking “Why aren’t you eating every 3 hours like the book says? Why are you hungry all the time? What am I doing wrong?” I just decided to accept it and kept reminding myself that they’re only newborns a few weeks and it will get easier, but for now just keep going. Eventually her feedings started to spread apart and she started getting nice and chubby. Granted, my nipples still hurt (if you plan on breast feeding, plan on buying Lanolin for your nipples. You don’t want find yourself with nipples so sore they feel like they’re burning without any comfort.) But it gets less stressful.
I bought a “Hooter Hider” apron thing for when I’m in public but honestly? Before I had one I would pull my breast out and feed my baby without thinking twice because it’s really ridiculous to feel like you have to deny your baby food for someone ELSE’S comfort. Forget everybody else. You’re pretty much doing the most amazing thing humans can do. Anyone else who is uncomfortable can get over it. If it doesn’t bother you, don’t worry if it bothers anyone else.
Additionally, around two or three weeks babies can have a “fussy” period every evening. Sometimes this can be colic but other times they grow out of it in a few weeks. “Fussy” is a nice way of saying a cranky, crying, generally annoyed, unconsolable baby. You can change their diaper, feed them, change their clothes, do everything you can until you know they are perfectly fine – just wailing like they got their finger slammed in the door for no reason. It’s incredibly stressful but normal and they’re ok.
Every baby is different but I would usually take her outside, walk around (for what would feel like hours and hours) and sing to her. The change of location would work wonders sometimes (other times it did nothing). Hang in there! Baby’s cry! My dad says it’s just their way letting off some steam and airing their lungs out.
5. You will not be back in your pre-pregnancy clothes anytime soon…
Well, I suppose this varies from person to person. But I was 115 lbs before I had this baby and wore a size two. I liked my shorts short and my shirts tight. I gained 40 pounds, which is only 5 or 10 pounds above the average recommended weight gain, but it’s a big difference from 115. The first 15 pounds came off easily. Half of that was the baby and the after birth, I guess. And then the other half of that first 15 came off breast feeding (because you’re not supposed to do too much exercising 6 weeks postpartum, and you won’t want to either).
Now that Kali is over 7 weeks old and I technically COULD exercise… but when would I fit it in between diaper changes and feedings and tummy time?
If you’re breast feeding, do not “diet”. Your baby will be less satisfied with your breast milk if you aren’t eating well and she will want to eat even more because the milk she’s getting isn’t as filling. But do take her on a walk outside of the house… if only to make yourself feel better. I’m coming to terms with the fact that my hips will never be the same again (and my ass won’t either) but I’m not ready to give up completely! I can’t give much advice on this one because I’m still struggling myself but I will say this: Go to Ross, buy yourself some jeans you feel comfortable in without worrying about the size, and a few tops you think you look good in, even if you’re hoping you won’t need them for long. I’m not going to be the same sexy 23 year old again, but I’m going to feel good about myself and that’s more realistic. And anyway I turned 24 in June.
6. Your In-Laws will drive you nuts.
This goes for both sides. Your boyfriend’s mother will make you an expert on wanting to scream but smiling and saying “Mm hmm” instead. Your mother will have your boyfriend try to pick up every extra shift he can just to get out of the house. And all your sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, friends will want to hold the baby, but not change the diaper. And you won’t always get a shower or a fresh change of clothes on before they show up and want to take a million photos and immediately post them on facebook.
My only advice? Take advantage of all the help you can get. Don’t worry about “proving” that you’re good parents and can handle it on your own. You handle it all night long and you have the rest of this infancy (and the next 18 years) to handle it. If they offer to baby-sit, take advantage. If they want to hold the baby say “Fine by me!” And then jump in the shower at break-neck speed before anyone can stop you. And while you’re there go ahead and take a nice hot bath.
And say “Ok” or “That’s interesting” to people’s suggestions. You know your baby best and some of these people haven’t taken care of a baby in 30 years. Maybe then it was ok to give baby rice cereal when they’re only a month old or put honey on their pacifiers or put them to sleep on their stomachs but we know better now! (by the way, do NOT do any of those things)
Be polite enough that both you and your significant other can stand to look at each other after your family leaves, but don’t be so polite that you take their advice even if you don’t agree with it.
7. Buy a bouncer
Ok, maybe you have heard this. And maybe in the first few weeks it won’t be as necessary. But when they’re 5 or 6 weeks old, they’ll start to be more interested in toys. Not playing with them at first, they’re still too little, but looking at them. The only way I get a shower in the morning is by putting Kali in the bouncer and taking it to the bathroom with me. She can be entertained by her blue plastic swinging friends for the fifteen minutes I need to get the spit up off me! And you’ll both feel much better afterward!
The play mat with the toys that hang down from the top is another excellent invention that can buy you a few minutes while baby entertains herself (under supervision) and even eventually gets some tummy time.
8. It is not about you. And it won’t be, maybe ever again.
Sorry. Does that sound kind of harsh? Well, it’s something that you’re going to find out and it’s hard and nobody ever told me about it. When you’re pregnant everyone asks about you, they want to give you the seat on the bus and pull out the chair for you and they don’t care if you’re late for class they’re just showering you with praise for showing up in your condition (if you’re like me, and keep going to school until it’s already past your due date and you’re graduating a week after the baby is born). People throw you baby showers. Your boyfriend cooks for you.
Once the baby is born your job is to take care of the baby and nobody cares about you anymore and you don’t get showered with praise for waking up at midnight, and again at 3 AM and again at 5:30 AM to change poopy diapers and breastfeed for an hour even though you can hardly open your eyes. You won’t be going out and having that beer you’ve wanted for the last 9 months. You won’t be getting sleep. You won’t be taking showers or fitting back into cute clothes. Just forget about clothes for now because everything you own will be covered in spit-up and poop by two months.
And when people send gifts, it’s for the baby. When people see you on the street, they want to ask about the baby. Even the baby’s father will be so enamored with his new little angel that you might feel totally forgotten. You might want to say “Hey, remember me? I’m the one that pushed her out and carried her for nine months, she wouldn’t be here without me,” but he’ll be too busy picking out his features in her face and laughing over that adorable smile she gets when she’s about to poop that he actually has momentarily forgotten about you (although he’ll remember you as soon as she starts to cry and hand her right over!)
And you might even have flashbacks of your carefree youth, having an after-work cocktail with co-workers, that crazy concert you went to with your friends where you didn’t get back till sunrise, or that spur of the moment weekend beach trip. And you’ll realize that the freedom to do those things is gone now. And it’s kind of depressing.
But then you’ll wake up. Your baby will need his or her diaper changed and then she’ll want to eat and after she’s full and well-rested she’ll look up at you and smile because you’re her mommy and she knows it. Or she’ll look up and lock eyes with you while she’s feeding, or she’ll wake up from a nap so happy to see you. And smile. You will love that smile. And you’ll be willing to do anything in the world for that smile. When someone else holds her, she’ll act different than when you hold her. If you leave her with your mother-in-law she will look at you when you come back in the room or she hears your voice. You baby knows you. You are their whole life. And you and daddy will be your baby’s two favorite people in the whole world. Being a good mom will be way more rewarding. I mean, you just brought a whole brand new person in the world full of infinite potential.
And anyway, they’ll be 18 someday, so like everyone says, cherish it because they grow so fast!
So, I realize this is a lot to take in, but believe it or not, after a few weeks it all starts to come naturally. Hang in there, and if you have any questions, talk about it! I also depend on “Circle of Moms” or other message boards or mom groups constantly whenever I have questions. It can mean the world just to get reassurance that you’re normal. Don’t worry, you probably are! Now – enjoy those babies!