In a few short weeks, Jack is going to have a little cousin to play with! My sister-in-law is expecting her first child, a little girl. They are going to be wonderful parents, and that little princess is going to be very well-loved by the whole family.
When I was buying presents for the baby shower a few months ago, I tried not to buy them frivolous things. Just the stuff that I didn't even think needing before Jack was born. That got me to thinking about the stuff I wish I would have known before I had a baby. Rather than just lecture her to death over this, I'd thought I'd make a post so she can read it as she needs. And any other mom can share in the advice to.
Advice For My Sister-In-Law:
Labor and Delivery
- Childbirth is a pain you cannot compare to anything else. I am not even going to try to explain or compare it. It's something unique and you need to experience to understand. But the phrase hurts like a mother f**ker doesn't even begin to explain it. And I had an epidural!
- But you will feel like a goddess for doing it. A gross, sweaty, fat, exhausted goddess. But a goddess nonetheless! You created a life! You are superhero!!
- Listen to your body. Trust that your body knows how to do this (because it actually does!). If something doesn't feel right, tell someone. I did not want to lay flat on my back during labor because it didn't feel right. So, despite the doctor insisting, I stayed on my side because Jack and I were just fine. Later on the pain was different and I wanted to be on my back, suddenly Jack started to crown. My body knew what to do and I am glad I trusted it. This also includes if something doesn't feel right. Tell your nurse immediately if you even have the slightest bad feeling. Be your own advocate.
- Don't be upset if your birth plan doesn't work out. All that matters is your baby is healthy. Vaginal unassisted, epidural, induction, planned c-section, emergency c-section---all just semantics. I suggest having a good birth plan so you know how to be your own advocate and can make informed decisions when issue arise. My birth plan went out the window as soon as I was admitted. I just stayed focused on my baby and everything worked out fine.
- Bring snacks for your husband. Whether your labor be quick or slow, it will be hours before he can walk away to get food. You are really going to need his support and he is gonna need his strength to do so.
- Bring something to pull your hair back. Hair ties, headbands, scarves or whatever. Not only will hair in your face piss you off, it might get in the way of medical procedures. I had to put my hair up for the epidural and when the they put the oxygen mask on my face.
- Push like you have to poop. Seriously. Push like you have to take the biggest poop of your life. I did not get pushing until a nurse said this to me two hours later. Save yourself the trouble, do it from the start. And if you actually poop in the process, that's okay. The doctors and nurses have seen it all before!
- If there is not a medical emergency, demand skin to skin contact right away. Pop that baby out and plop it on your chest right away! It is one of the most magical moment in your life. This tiny human that you made will know who are instantly and snuggle up. This time is also important as it helps regular baby's temperature, breathing, and heart. And encourage the needs to nurse. And if by some chance you can't do it, have your husband do it. Tell him to take his shirt off and snuggle that baby as soon as possible. Your baby needs that comfort!
- Try breastfeeding as soon as possible too. Not that you can't do it if you don't try right away, but you will have a higher success rate the soon you try.
- No visitors until baby and you are situated in the postpatrum room. Your needs that family bonding time. A visitor will interrupt your skin to skin contact and breastfeeding time. They will want to hold the baby and hog up this vital time. No offensive to them, I know they probably mean well, but this is not their place. The only thing that baby needs is mama and papa for the first hour or two. Everyone else can wait. And if they aren't respecting this, call security. And I am so not kidding, they need to respect your wishes bottom line. Everyone respected this for me so there was no issue. My mom while Jack (followed by Michael) went to the nursery for testing. She helped me get situated in my postpartum room, which was a really nice bonding experience for us. Once Jack came back to me and we had a few more nursing attempts, then I invited the rest of family to come see.
- You will probably get little rest at the hospital. Between the nurses come to check on both of you and the baby wanting to nurse all the time, it's exhausting. But try to rest as much as you can. I regret not sleeping more the first day so much. I was excited to show off my baby to everyone, despite being exhausted. Don't be afraid to visitors out when you are ready to sleep. Like I said, they need to respect your wishes bottom line. No one was rude and stayed later than I wanted, I just should have asked them to leave sooner.
- Going to the bathroom for the first time after birth is scary. Everything hurts down there (and if you had a c-section, the incision hurts when you walk too) and you will probably be exhausted. I'm pretty sure I looked like Bambi walking for the first time, I was so glad the nurse goes with you. The nurse will show you how to wash and clean yourself (especially if you have stitches). Take your time, listen to the instructions, and let them help you. I was still a little numb and needed my nurse to help me do everything.
- Don't be scared by the giant pads and mesh panties. They will probably put them on you right after birth. I was so fixated on Jack that I didn't even notice. But I was horrified when I saw I was wearing a GIGANTIC pad. I had heard about them but they were way bigger than I Imagined. They are really more like open diapers. But once I saw how much blood had come out of me, it made sense and I got over it. And the mesh panties---they totally do not look like the ones stripper's wear. They are more like mesh shorts. But they are soooo comfy and easy to put on. I took a few pairs with me when I left and wore them for the next few days until I was less sore and less bloated. Embrace them, they are amazing.
- Eat everything you can. Once you relax and your appetite comes back, you are probably going to be starving. Eat all you can! Eat the food the hospital gives you. Demand your family bring you something from your favorite restaurant. Pack plenty of snacks. You just burned as many calories as a climbing a mountain. Stuff your face, you earned it! Plus proper nutrition will help you milk come in.
The Fourth Trimester (The first three months postpartum)
- Limit visitors for the first two weeks after birth. This is my biggest regret after Jack was born. Too many came over the first few days and I got very very overwhelmed. I was beyond exhausted and ended up crying after people left one day. And Jack wasn't happy either. He just wanted to be held by me and nurse, most visits ended with him screaming. It also interfered with us getting nursing down quickly. My advice is after immediate family has their initial meeting, close off visitation for two weeks to give everyone time to settle in.
- Do not accept uninvited visitors. It doesn't matter than Aunt So-and-so happens to be in town and wants to see the baby. It's not about her! She is a grown up who will get over it and can come see the baby later. If you let her come over, I guarantee other people will think that mean it's an open invitation for everyone to come whenever. Or they will get mad they didn't get special treatment and cause drama. Spare yourself, you have enough to worry about. So when Auntie knocks on the door, ignore it.
- Require people to either bring food or do a chore for you if they want to see the baby. I read this piece of advice before I gave birth and thought it was rude. How could I ask my guests to do that? After Jack was born I got it. They aren't guest, you just had a baby and have no reason to play host to them. You are doing them a favor to see the baby, so they should be paying you back for your generosity. When they contact you about coming to visit and you approve a set time, ask them to help you by bringing food. Even if it's just a loaf of bread or a cake. You will be so happy to eat a big piece of cake when you are nursing the next night at 2 AM. Or, ask them when they show up if they can please throw the load of laundry in the dryer while you nurse the baby first? That way the baby will be content and you will be free to chat instead of running around. Please you shouldn't be running around, you need to recover. Your visitors should understand that. And if they chose not to come when you ask them this, that person isn't nice and shouldn't be around your baby.
- Don't be afraid to kick visitors out. If you are tired, baby needs to nurse, or you are simply just annoyed, tell your visitors good-bye. Thank them for coming and let them wave bye to baby, then kick them out. And if they won't leave, take the baby into another room and don't come out until they are gone. It's not rude, you are doing what is best for your family. It's rude that they didn't respect your wishes!
- You don't have to listen to every piece of advice. You are going to get a ton of advice. Some good, some bad. Some wanted, and some very unwanted. Listen to it, and say thanks for sharing. If you like it, give it a try. If not, forget it and never give it a second thought. This includes my advice.
- Hold your baby, hold your baby, hold your baby!!! I know I said please to ignore advice you don't like, but please listen to this one. You cannot spoil a baby this young. Please hold your baby all you want. Your baby only has a few needs the first few months, and your comfort is one of them. Don't listen to people who say you should let your baby cry it out and learn to not be held. It's horrible advice, your baby will become very stressed out and not develop properly. I also suggest babywearing, they make some very simple carriers that are easy for anyone to use. Or give woven wraps a try, I love mine.
- You are going to get very little sleep. Between all the feedings, diaper changes, and taking care of yourself---sleep will become a luxury. And of course try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but you will probably spend it worrying the baby is breathing.
- Breastfeeding is hard. While it is the most natural thing your body can do, it doesn't come naturally to most women. You will need a lot of time, patience, knowledge, and support to be successful. It might hurt, your baby might gave tongue or lips ties that need to be surgically addressed, or you might have a medical reason interfering. All that being said, breastfeeding will become natural overtime. Now I can nurse Jack anywhere, anytime. I love Jack and I breastfeeding relationship, it's such a powerful bond.
- But don't give up when it gets hard. But with the proper help, you CAN overcome most issues. It might not be easy and it might not be a quick fix, but keep going. I almost gave up 3 weeks in, but I turned to La Leche League's website and gained the knowledge to overcome our struggles. Do everything possible. If one thing doesn't work, try something else. Keep trying, you CAN do it!
- Join La Leche League. Or some other breastfeeding support group. You don't have to struggle alone. Do you know why the official book or La Leche is called "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding"? Because breastfeeding is an art! You need to be taught by someone with experience on how to do it and talk to your peers on how to advance your knowledge. Obstacles will come up that will blindside you, your fellow lactating mothers will talk you through it.
- If breastfeeding doesn't work out, that's okay too. After you have given it your all and you realize breastfeeding just won't work for you, it's okay to switch to formula. Your baby will still thrive. You didn't' fail, you just tried something that didn't work. All that matters is your baby is fed and happy.
- Don't look at the clock or follow a schedule for nursing. "Your baby should nurse 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours." THIS IS THE BIGGEST LOAD OF CRAP EVER! Most babies do not nurse like this. Nurse your baby whenever they show you hunger cues (rooting, hand sucking, fussiness) and nurse them as long as they want (and you are comfortable). The best advice I ever got was "Never unlatch a suckling baby". Who cares if it's been 45 minutes, your baby needs it. Even if they are not eating that whole time, they are comfort nursing---which is just as important as eating. It stimulates your milk production and comforts your baby. However, if your baby keeps popping off after a minute or two, make sure you at least keep trying to latch your baby for 15 minutes. Likewise, if it's been more than 4 hours without your baby nursing (like they are sleeping), latch them on and get them fed. There isn't really a thing as too much nursing, but they can nurse too little. That's the only time you should watch the clock.
- Give yourself time to heal. The first few weeks the only things you should be doing sitting on the couch nursing your baby or laying in bed nursing your baby. Nothing else. Cooking, cleaning, work, etc.---that all can wait. You are gonna be sore ALL over. You are going to be exhausted. You are going to be worried about your baby constantly. Just sit down, hold your baby, and rest.
- Don't worry about losing the baby weight quickly. Odds are you will not be that one out of a million woman who looks exactly like she did before she got pregnant right after birth. But that's okay. Just focus on caring for year newborn and healing yourself. Once you are cleared by your doctor, start taking some small steps back like walking with your baby and eating a healthy diet. It took 9 months to gain it, give yourself at least 9 months to get it off before you go crazy. I have lost all my baby weight plus 7 pounds by doing nothing but eat whatever I want within reason that is healthy, walk and nurse. And I'm only 8 months postpartum.
Other Stuff that I can't explain, but you will understand soon enough:
- You are going to love your husband even more now.
- You are going to love your mom even more now too.
- You are going to be a different person from now on.
- Your body will never be the same, but you will respect it's power.