When my friends ask me what they should know before giving birth, these are the things I like to tell them. They are just simple things that might help maintain some sanity during that crazy time. They are things that I would have loved to have known before I gave birth to my own two little heroes and things about which I regularly reassure our postpartum moms, since they are things that can cause great stress.
I thought I’d share them with you! So, girlfriend, you’re having a baby…sit down and have a cup of tea with me…
(As always, if you have specific concerns regarding your pregnancy, delivery, or postpartum period, please speak to your Oakland Macomb provider. If you have specific concerns regarding your baby, please speak to your pediatrician. These are just general rules and recommendations and reassurances.)
1. After you deliver your precious baby, you will still look 6 months pregnant. You really will. We all do. It’s completely normal and healthy to still have a good bump after you officially empty your bump. Your awesome and powerful uterus that just held a whole human person needs some time to shrink back down to pre-pregnancy size. Also all the extra fluids need to find its way out (usually by way of your ankles first, it seems), and there’s some extra cushion that you acquired to protect and provide for your precious, and it is just going to take some time to get lost.
You might be thinking, “but I know a friend of a friend who swears she was back to her pre-pregnancy weight 5 minutes after delivery. Jessica Beyoncé McKardashian got right back into her normal skinny jeans before she left the hospital with her newborn.” Relax. That friend is a mutant. She probably also has a tail. It’s not normal. Give yourself time to recover. Wait the 6 weeks to start dieting and working out. Try not to make yourself nuts about your body’s (normal, healthy) changes. It just constructed a human person! Celebrate it and give it some grace for that.
Society can be a big jerk. Recall when Princess Kate Middleton came outside in a lovely frock the day after (THE DAY AFTER!!) she delivered baby George in that London hospital to be seen and show off the baby? The whole internet was all “why does she still have a baby bump if she’s already had the baby?!” In this case, like in many others, the whole internet is very dumb and should be quiet. After I had my babies, I looked like I’d eaten Kate Middleton for at least 6 weeks. And it was normal and healthy. Normal and healthy.
2. Regarding your delivery. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to stay flexible and be open-minded. I know you’re worried about it hurting and let’s be candid- there’s no super simple, pain free way to get a baby out of a person. (Get the best scientists working on that! Write a letter to your congresswoman!) But there are great ways to make it a reasonably comfortable experience and you can and WILL get through it. And the sweet cheeks on that tiny precious person you will get to meet after all the effort will be worth it. SO worth it.
So, what can you do to prepare for the “perfect” delivery?
The best things you can do are 1) have a healthy pregnancy with lots of great prenatal care courtesy of Oakland Macomb OBGYN and 2) attempt to control your expectations and stay flexible.
The people I have seen most happy with their birth experiences maintained a positive attitude and were open-minded to whatever happened during the process and focused on the goal of getting a healthy baby out. Be nice and patient with yourself and be flexible and open to whatever might happen. You might not go into labor on your due date. That’s OK, because you’re flexible. When you are in labor, things might not happen in the exact manner or order you had expected, but that’s OK! Because you’re flexible! Talk through each change and each option for labor and delivery with your provider and evolve your plan as you need to, so that you have a great birth you feel proud of and your baby arrives safely and as easily as possible. Be flexible. I’d hate for you to look back at your birth with regrets because you were disappointed things didn’t go exactly as you’d planned. Be flexible and you’ll be thrilled with how it goes!
3. Feeding a baby person is hard. It comes with pressure and anxiety. Second to delivery concerns, I think this is what I hear soon-to-be and new moms most stressing about. If you use formula, you feel guilt that somehow your kid could have ended up at Harvard instead of Yale and you blew it for them already. If you’re nursing, you have a whole pile of concerns, too. ‘Am I making enough milk? Is he latching right? Can I eat/drink that while nursing? How can this work logistically when his infant head is like a tiny moon orbiting the giant sun that is my breast?’
Pumping is tedious and exhausting, but is sometimes the best way to get the milk into the baby and is definitely the only way to get the milk into the bottle into the baby if you’re not going to be with your breast-fed child all the time. Breast feeding and pumping while working full time can DEFINITELY BE DONE, but it’s hard sometimes. There. I said it. You’re off the hook. If you do it, they should put a statue of you up at the park.
What else? Oh, sore, chapped nipples and leaking breasts? Not as fun as they sound. Add fears over that thing called “nipple confusion” which, previously in your life would have made you giggle (How can a nipple be confused? You’re picturing a tiny dunce cap and all) will now ruin your day.
Here is a helpful heads-up: When your baby latches on while you are breast feeding, expect uterine cramping like menstrual cramps, and a surge of vaginal bleeding at that time is common, too. This is your hormones functioning properly, purging your uterus of the extra blood and contracting it back down to its normal size. It’s normal and healthy (and uncomfortable and annoying). Your body gets more efficient with every baby you have, so the cramps will be pretty powerful after your second or third delivery. Don’t be alarmed, but do be prepared. We can help with the pain control and monitor the bleeding.
So, in conclusion…you’re not alone. Feeding babies is hard. Everyone worries and struggles. Some end up successfully breast feeding for a short time, some for a long time, some bottle feed instead. All is well if your baby is peeing, pooping and gaining weight. We all have these stresses about feeding our babies. Every ounce of weight lost can make you cry sad, worried tears and every ounce gained can make you cry relieved, exhausted tears. There will probably be a lot of crying. That is normal.
Best advice? Again, be gracious, patient and flexible with yourself and discerning when taking advice from people. Talk to the lactation consultants while you’re in the hospital if you have any questions at all about breast feeding. They’re like ninja wizards when it comes to making that tiny person and your breast work in sync. There are certainly advantages to breast feeding that you should explore if you can, but try not to make yourself nuts if your baby needs a bottle sometimes or all the time. And if you choose to bottle feed from the get-go, that is perfectly reasonable, too. Is the baby peeing, pooping, gaining weight?
Pee, poop, weight gain. These are the goals. Multiple ways to achieve them. These things will become your whole world for a while. Another piece of advice? Be discerning with whom you share every graphic detail of your pee, poop, weight gain obsession…..your 22 year old brother-in-law or the grocery clerk might not share your passion and it can get awkward. (Trust me. I can’t go back to Kroger).
4- Your moods are going to be all over the place. This is very normal. Your hormones are painting a Picasso all over your brain and you have new excitement and stress you’re trying to figure out all on not much sleep. Ride it out, and gently remind your partner and family that they need to ride it out with you. So you openly wept at the cereal commercial? So you felt momentary rage at the bathroom door that stood between you and a Kleenex and you kind of pulled it off its hinges. (Who did that? Not me! Totally me). All healthy and normal. Healthy and normal.
(Unless your mood dips and the low sticks around and you’re feeling helpless or worried that you might hurt yourself, the baby, or someone else. That is NOT normal and it feels scary and awful and you should make sure someone is there to be with you and the baby and call us right away. Postpartum depression is a very serious condition and we are here to help. If you suspect you might be experiencing depression or the blues after having a baby, contact your provider immediately.)
So, those are my little nuggets of advice to my pregnant friends, and now to all of you.
Once again, if you have specific questions regarding your pregnancy, labor, delivery, or postpartum recovery, please consult your Oakland Macomb provider. If you have questions regarding your baby, please consult your pediatrician (they love to talk about pee, poop, and weight gain).
sz, pa-c (some of this content was amended from a previously published personal blog of mine, with my permission)