A Bit of Birth Advice
My Bradley Method teacher has asked Thor and me to come into the current session of class to tell our birth story and share any advice we may have. It’s amazing how seldom I’ve thought about Owlet’s birth lately, especially considering how often I went over it in the first couple months. Too busy living her present, I guess. What would I tell my pregnant-for-the-first-time self? I guess I’d start with this:
You can do it. Which is not to say it won’t be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, the most intense, the greatest unknown you’ll ever walk willingly into. In fact, it was probably that way for Thor, too, and he didn’t have a ginormous baby to push out. But back to the point – under normal circumstances, you can begin a day as a very pregnant lady and end up a mother before too long, without needing or even wanting to drug away the very real pain.
Under normal circumstances… that’s another thing. You should trust yourself, and you should absolutely have chosen a midwife that you have complete confidence in. Trust that you and they will know the difference between normal, manageable hugely strong contractions and something that truly needs the dread word, “intervention.” The difference between seemingly glacial progressing and actually not progressing. For everything from the bag of waters being manually broken late into active labor (as mine was) to an emergency C-section (which I was lucky enough not to have), trust that you’ll know what’s right and your midwife will, too.
Remember to focus. Zero in on the exhaustive list of favorite mellow tunes you lovingly selected over days of propping your laptop precariously on your lively kicking baby-to-be. Lock in on your love’s eyes as he holds you close. Try to remember to tell him later how grateful you are, knowing you’ll fail to say it strongly enough, because it just isn’t possible. Find a position, a motion or a stillness that works, and take comfort from it. But don’t ignore a suggestion to change. Doulas, midwives, they don’t suggest change just to fill the time. They leave you to your own devices unless they have good reason. So listen, even though you’ll hate the slightest alteration to your routine.
Pack plenty of your favorite food and drink. You may not want any of it, but it’ll prevent your concerned husband from trying valiantly to push apple juice upon you, and prevent your unintelligible attempts to explain that you (and this is normal you, not just currently-in-labor-so-shut-your-face you) actually Don’t. Like. Apple. Juice. At all.
Same goes for all those lists you find online of things to bring. Pack it all. You won’t be the one lugging it out to the car, so don’t hold back. Again, you may not use any of it. But the process of packing gives you and your baby’s dad something to do, both in a leisurely fashion when you’re too rotund to keep rearranging the furniture in the weeks prior to your due date, and in a semi-frenzied state between contractions. Packing, and preparing to pack, gives your mind space to consider labor from a practical standpoint, which can be soothing.
You might want to have your husband pack, so he’ll know where things are when you ask him for them later. Or you might laugh, knowing your husband rarely knows where things are whether he’s put them there himself or not, and pack it yourself. Daydream about teaching your son or daughter to know how to find things, the way you do, then realize that’s just not how it works.
Think about your breathing. Learn what sort of breathing tends to help you relax in bed at night and what sort helps you recover from climbing a flight of stairs as a very pregnant woman. What kind of breath calms you down during an argument you don’t, even at the time, understand why you are having because sometimes preggo hormones work like that. Observe how you breathe after stubbing your toe (quite frankly, it’s been some time since you’ve seen that toe). None of these things and all of them together times a million are what labor is like. And air is important. So breathe it.
Keep your voice deep and strong as you push your baby towards life. Don’t let panic bubble into it. Don’t let the thought of those within earshot prevent you from roaring if that’s what you need.
Even though it’s the last thing in the world you want to do, change position between pushing contractions. You think having a foot fall asleep is bad… try having both legs fall asleep all the way from your toes to your hips. Moving around will prevent this, so do. If it happens anyway, remember how you were taught to swing freezing feet latched to skis back and forth, front to back, to bring the blood back. Attempt to do this between contractions while dangling from your love’s fortunately strong neck. Laugh helplessly.
Know that the exact moment you feel sure you can’t take any more is just your child being born. Try very hard not to drop this new little being. You may forget to check gender for a minute or more. Revel in the ability to finally find out, instantly, the moment your mind recovers enough from the shock of a baby suddenly appearing to wonder if it is a boy or a girl. Exchange looks of ecstasy with the new dad regardless of the news, because it is perfect. One radiant perfect moment. A good way to begin a life.
Brace yourself for the next hour, and in fact the rest of your life. The world is going to try very hard to distract you from the bliss that is your child. Your midwife is going to push unfairly hard upon your no-longer-pregnant jelly belly. If you tore, she will then spend awhile stitching places that don’t deserve more torment. If this makes it difficult to hold your baby, have the guy that got you into this hold his new child close against his bare chest, two hearts thumping wildly together. As long as all is right with the little one, no one but you parents need hold him or her for quite some time.
At some point, the placenta, an organ roughly the size of an expensive steak, will exit your body. You will not notice.
You won’t notice because you are busy worshiping your creation. But you don’t need to be told about that. That’s what you already know is coming. And it does make it all worth it, every bit.
When you’ve come back down to earth a bit, in the weeks after birth, try not to be disappointed that things didn’t go exactly as envisioned. Try not to be disappointed if things did go pretty much as envisioned, but as it turns out pain is far more… real… in real life. Take your time mulling it all over, and ask everyone who was there anything you need to ask them in order to feel right about what happened. Take notes for next time. And write down everything you remember, because most of it fades – so fast.
If all you want to do is lie in bed and gaze at your ever-changing babe, do what you can to make that happen. If it means sending away people you love, do it. If it means asking people you love to do stuff for you that you’d never in a million years ask them to do normally, do it. They love you, too, and will understand.
Don’t worry about the giant gelatinous gunk that is your midsection. You may or may not make it back down, pound for pound, to where you started, but it takes far less time to stop looking pregnant than it did to get that huge. In the meantime, it makes for a handy baby rest whether standing, sitting, or trying to nurse while reclining in the bath. Keep eating large amounts of food as often as necessary, for your sanity and to grow that baby.
Read “here’s what your baby is typically doing at x weeks/months old” guides if you want, but take a break from them if you find yourself anxiously awaiting a smile that crept in two weeks “late” instead of treasuring the other mounds of cuteness spewed forth by your progeny.
Moms groups are awesome.
Make use of the following: swaddles, slings & Ergos, white noise devices, pacifiers, and the muscles in your husband’s arms. When the endless newborn pooping ceases, try not changing diapers at night to preserve sleepiness during midnight feedings. During the day, you can try dangling the tiniest buttocks in the world over the toilet, whenever you think it’s time, to avoid washing quite so many diapers. Make up songs and sing them with relish.
When either you or the baby seem to be getting fussy, go outside.
By two weeks, you’ll be moving around in the world again feeling pretty much like a human. By two months, your body may actually feel totally normal again… or maybe it’s just created a new normal. By three months, you’ll finally have stopped saying “can you believe this child exists?” every two seconds, and a nap/sleep routine may even emerge or be imposed to organize your chaos a little bit. And by four months, you will simultaneously really feel like a mom – and also feel like being a mom isn’t the only facet of your being.
At least, that’s been my experience.
What would I insert or change now, two years and another birth later? Oh, I’d definitely add something about home birth being the best thing ever. A bit about cosleeping, which we hadn’t started doing until shortly after this was written. More about E.C. (infant pottying) because it was actually pretty amazing to start from day one with Platypup….
Shoot. I’ve gotta write another one, don’t I? Good thing I’ve got this handy blog.