Contributing guest blogger: Amy, Co-Owner of One Step Doula.
Amy is a Doula, wife of a police officer and mother of four. She is passionate about informed and positive birthing experiences. Having assisted and been apart of over 30 births, Amy has been able to glean knowledge and experience that makes her a contender in the birthing field. She has one philosophy: you can plan all you want but babies come when they want, how they want. The best thing we can do is be informed, strategize and know our bodies were designed to do this. For more information about One Step Doula and the services they provide (Vancouver Lower Mainland), visit their website: http://www.onestepdoula.com/
As a doula and mother of four, you can imagine I have heard everything under the sun about birth. If I haven't heard it, I've seen it. I remember when I was pregnant with my first, I was overwhelmed; there was so much to learn and so little time.
Queue everyone telling me the horrors of labour and delivery! I was actually shocked how much of it was negative, and then at the very end they would say, oh but it was worth it, don’t worry you’ll be fine….. don’t worry I’ll be fine?? You just told me you ripped from your vagina to your bum, that doesn’t sound fine to me. That sounds like something I should run away from, and far! I'm here to tell you that this post won't be a gloom and doom post touching on all the horrors of labour and delivery.
This is a post of empowerment, because lady, you CAN do hard things.
The first hard thing you are going to have to do is get your mindset in a healthy space. Labour and delivery is 80% mindset and 20% pain. If all you have in your mind are the horrors you have heard, read about, or researched, the chances of you going into your labour with anxiety and fear are 100%. I like to ask my clients to tell me about a time that was really hard for them. Something they had to do that they never in a million years could see themselves doing, but they did it because they had to and they are now on the other side. What an honour it is to hear stories of women who have walked through fire in life and have come out the other side stronger. I have learned that you can only have a capacity for things you have a reference for. Anything above that is enlarging your capacity and walking into the unknown. Our imaginations run rampant and we begin to draw conclusions and assume what it will be like. It's almost ludicrous to think you can prepare yourself for the pain of labour when you've never experienced it by solely taking what others have felt and put it on what you are about to endure. Although there are definite similarities and commonalities, when all is said and done, not one labour or delivery is the same. It's as unique as the precious little human growing inside of you. The first step to having successful labour and delivery is to first accept the fact that yes, there will be pain. Getting a strong support system around you who will help you with your strategies and goals is key. Your experience is unique to you, and you are more than capable. Your body was designed to do this.
I could talk labour and delivery all day, but something I felt needed to be highlighted are the things we don't really expect and don’t always hear about - recovery in the first couple of days. What happens post birth? What kinds of things should I be aware of? How can I help myself recover the best way possible?
I am going to take you through some bullet points that I feel are worth mentioning. These were things I also experienced but didn't really expect.
- When you begin nursing, you may experience cramping. It may evem feel like mild contractions. When baby nurses it triggers your natural oxytocin in your body and that helps your uterus contract back to its original size.
- The first couple of days you nurse, your baby is only getting colostrum. This is such a great time to really get a good latch. Your milk comes in between 3-4 days and by that time you have been able to practice establishing a good latch. In my mind that meant I figured it all out, but in reality that takes a lot of time. Have patience with yourself and reach out to resources available to you will be a game changer.
- Get depends. Yes the padded underwear marketed for seniors who can't hold their bladders. This little trick saved me with my last baby, something I wish I’d known from the very beginning. Trying to fiddle with a pad while bleeding and recovering down there is difficult and just plain annoying.
- That leads me to my next point. You may bleed a lot and see weird clots, and sometimes it can feel alarming. Talk to your health care provider about what isn’t “normal” when you are bleeding. My doctor had me look at my placenta and then said “Do you see this entire back of your placenta? That's the size of the wound on the wall of your uterus. That’s what will be healing for the next six weeks”. That was really interesting to know. It allowed me to have grace for my body and to not be frustrated or bothered by how long I was bleeding for.
- You may still look pregnant after. The time frame varies from person to person but you still have a bit of a bump that takes time to go away.
- Having a peri bottle with witch hazel and warm water can help to make your pees much more enjoyable.
- Something I wasn't expecting was how stinky I would be. Between nursing and hot flashes and sweat, I felt ripe most of the time. Never underestimate the power of a good shower.
- The baby blues are a real thing. I consider myself to be a jovial person, positive and upbeat, but there are hormones surging through your body that have nothing to do with who you are as a person - and lack of sleep shows no mercy to anyone. Don’t feel ashamed or scared to open up about how things aren’t going so great.
- Stool softeners make everything better. Seriously.
- Be nice to yourself. The only thing you should expect from yourself is taking care of you and your precious bundle. Everything else will happen when it happens. Take in the moments as they come. Tell your brain to slow down and soak in the experience, even the hard ones, even the times that feel overwhelming. Seasons come and go, and the most important season to embrace and permanently commit to memory are these.
- Take lots of pictures! You can sort them out later or make a book, but that can wait.
Building a community of support that promotes honesty and understanding can be hard to come by. As women and fellow mommas, it's our job to support each other through this incredible adventure that is motherhood, whatever that may look like. I was talking with a client and she said something so beautiful to me. She said “I remember walking up and down the halls of the hospital. Everytime I would get a contraction you would give me that bear hug and I would hang my legs and rock back and forth. Something I had heard before having my baby was how strong and empowered I would feel after the baby was born. No one told me that I could feel that way during labor! As I would hang on you fully reliant on you and vulnerable I have never felt more strong and fully confident that I could do it! In the vulnerability I felt complete strength”. What a beautiful picture of motherhood, that in our vulnerability we can still feel a strength that runs so deep.
I hope today as you are reading this post you are feeling encouraged to walk through this incredible season of life that you are in and know you are not alone.
**Disclaimer: This information does not replace the advice of your doctor or other health care professional. If you should have postpartum/recovery health concerns, please reach out to your health care provider.