I have heard many MANY women say things like, “It’s amazing how you forget the pain of childbirth within a few months, right?” Or, “I don’t remember being this tired after having my first.” LIES. All of them. As I gear up to welcome our second little bundle of joy into our lives, here are the things that I was hoping I’d forget, but are still crystal clear in my mind.
1. The Pain of Childbirth.
Yup, this one will always rank as #1. When I went into labor with Jonathan, my water broke at home. Not a pleasant feeling, by the way, and I’m almost envious of all the moms out there who had to have the doctor break their water while in the hospital because they had that nice absorbent pad underneath them to catch that gush. Paul and I were just finishing a lovely dinner of lasagna, and watching Wedding Crashers, I laughed, and felt a gush. By this point in my pregnancy (well past my due date), I was wearing Poise pads all the time because, really, who knew that urine would leak out of me all the time. So that caught most of it. But what most women don’t tell you is that you feel a gush, and then nothing for about five minutes, and then another gush. Repeat ad nauseum. It’s uncomfortable and gross, and I don’t know how women labor at home after their water breaks. I didn’t feel anything in the way of contractions at all, but, just to be safe, I took a shower and went to the hospital because I tested positive for Group B Strep. I had no idea how long I was going to be in labor, and I wanted to make sure there was plenty of time to run the course of antibiotics I needed. Which, by the way, felt like someone was inserting liquid fire into my veins. I count that as part of the pains of childbirth. The worst part is that the epidural didn’t stop me from feeling it. We went ahead and made the decision to induce because I was already a week past my due date, and only 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced, which I had been at for the past four weeks. So we started the pitocin, and HOLY CRAP. I was cool for about 20 minutes because they started it slow, but once they kicked in…let’s just say pitocin contractions are no joke. After about an hour and a half of contractions, I asked for some pain relief, and was given the option of either narcotic pain relief or place the epidural, and I went with the narcotics. And then those wore off, so I asked for the epidural. Needless to say, I don’t have any desire to feel that pain again, and since modern medicine has done so well with coming up with such an effective pain reliever during childbirth, I will be taking full advantage of it with this next baby when I go into labor, assuming I have enough time to get there since I hear stories all the time that the second baby comes way faster.
2. The Sleep Deprivation.
One of the most common things I heard from various people before I ever went into labor with Jonathan, especially if I was foolish enough to announce that I was about to take a nap was, “Get all the rest you can now because you won’t be getting any for the next 18 years!” Which is bullshit in and of itself, but does, unfortunately, hold true for at least the first six months. I got lucky with Jonathan, and he was a relatively good sleeper. He started sleeping for five- to six-hour stretches at around the six week mark, and slept really well at night until he was right around three and a half months old, at which time the four-month sleep regression hit with a vengeance, and he started waking up at night again, which prompted sleep training at six months (he has slept wonderfully with very few hiccups since then). So you DO eventually get sleep again, but those first few weeks are really REALLY rough. I ran into a friend of mine at the hospital when we took Jonathan in for his two-day appointment, and the first thing she said to me was, “Are we a little tired?” because it was THAT obvious. But I love her, and she had a little girl (her third kid) about a month and a half or two months before I had Jonathan, so she was well aware of what I was going through. That time is tough, though. You start to get delirious, wondering if you’re ever going to sleep again, especially if you have no help at home at night like I did. Once Paul left for Texas for school and couldn’t get up with Jonathan at night occasionally, sleep deprivation hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m just thankful that it appears that Paul will not be going anywhere for a while after we have this baby, so we’ll see if it’s easier. I remember repeatedly saying during that time, “This is why children are meant to have two parents.”
3. The Postpartum Bleeding.
I don’t know what’s normal here. I’ve heard some ladies say they only bled for two weeks, and some say that they bled for months. At the risk of revealing too much (oh, wait, no, I don’t care), I bled for about 6 weeks after Jonathan. It was the worst for the first two weeks, and then started to taper off, but didn’t really stop for a long time. And once menstruation starts getting on a normal schedule again, it’s heavier than it ever was before. One thing I did notice, though, was that I didn’t have cramps as badly, which was nice. I wasn’t a fan of the sanitary napkins given to me by the hospital, so I went and bought the Always Infinity Overnight Extra Long pads. Those things work so well, so I at least know to bring those with me in my hospital bag this time. The unfortunate thing is that they are also scented. Strongly scented. And every time I catch a whiff of that smell, it gives me a little PTSD. With being pregnant, my sense of smell right now is a little more acute than normal, so let’s just say that if I’m, say, grocery shopping and I walk by a woman, and that smell is emanating from her, I know what’s going on.
4. Your Postpartum Body.
For about the first six weeks after having the baby, your body is just a weird shape. The most frightening thing for me was the dreaded belly flap. By the time you hit 40 weeks, you look like you’re carrying an extra large watermelon in your belly, and then you suddenly empty all the contents of your uterus. Your inner organs start to fall back into place, and your skin doesn’t have time to tighten up as fast as you want it to, so you’re left with this disgusting belly flap. The powder bath in our house in Washington has the toilet facing the sink and mirror, so there was no avoiding it. I’d stand up after going to the bathroom to pull my pants up, and there it was, just staring at me. I showed my mom, and she was naturally horrified by it, but I’m guessing she didn’t have a belly flap after birthing me or my brother since she also got away with having two babies with no stretch marks to be found, but I wasn’t so lucky. And THEN you still look like you’re six months pregnant for a little while after, too. I think I started to look “normal” again (aside from the aforementioned belly flap) about a week after giving birth, and by a week and a half, I was already below my prepregnancy weight. Which actually doesn’t say much for me; just that my metabolism was better while I was pregnant, and I actually lost body fat while I was pregnant. During that time, your normal clothes don’t fit, but you’re not filling out your maternity clothes like you did while you were pregnant, so you start wishing you could just walk around naked all the time. I’m going to recommend buying sweats and/or gym shorts since they have elastic waistbands. Things do get back to normal eventually, but it’s tough right at the beginning.
5. Hormones. Oh, God, the Hormones.
Hands down, the worst part of giving birth for me came about three days after the actual birth when all my hormones were out of whack, and I started crying at everything for absolutely no reason at all. My parents brought over dinner for us, and I just started bawling in the middle of dinner. My dad looked scared because he doesn’t know how to deal with crying women, and my mom looked worried. Paul was amazingly understanding, which makes me wonder if he actually read up on this before I came home, but he knew it was because my hormones were out of control. I’d hand Jonathan off to him whenever I had a crying spell because I was so worried Jonathan would pick up on my mood and think I hated him or something even though that wasn’t the case at all. I loved him deeply already, but I was overwhelmed by my new role as a mother. I didn’t have that strong bond that you always hear about with him right away. It took about three months before we really bonded, but I did love him and felt very protective of him, and I was worried about traumatizing him all the time. But there were days – no, MONTHS – that I felt like I was just babysitting for a really long period of time (wasn’t this kid’s parents EVER going to come get him?), and thoughts of leaving him on someone’s doorstep crossed my mind more than once. Thankfully, I’m a pretty rational person, and I did not, in fact, leave him on anyone’s doorstep because as soon as I thought of being away from him, I freaked out. Which cued more crying. But the point is that we stuck it out together and the terrorist still wreaks havoc with me every day.
6. That First Moment.
The very first thing I said to Jonathan (if my memory can be trusted) was, “Hi, baby boy, I’m your mommy!” I saw his sweet little face, and I loved him from the moment I saw him. I spent nine months wondering what he was going to look like, and here was this little boy with super chubby, very kissable cheeks placed on my chest just moments after birth, and I was just in love. I still remember how sweet he smelled, and I was actually a little leery of them putting him on me right away because I was worried he was going to be covered in goo! The midwife had to talk me into it, but I gave in quickly. Because he was so late, he was pretty “clean,” so to speak. No vernix caseosa that I could see, and they wiped him off while he was on my chest. There is a reason why babies are so intoxicating. His breath was the sweetest thing I’ve ever smelled in my life. I would sit there and hold him, and just smell his breath while he breathed in and out, and I thought to myself, “So that’s why they call those flowers baby’s breath,” even though they smell nothing like a real baby’s breath. The day we brought him home from the hospital, I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. I just wanted to stare at him sleeping all day, marveling over his tiny toes and fingers.
Did that first moment (and all the sweet moments after) erase all the discomfort, pain, and sleep deprivation? No. But it certainly made all of it worth it. So even though I definitely didn’t forget all these things, I know that the reward is far greater than the less desirable stuff, and I can’t wait to meet this little girl of ours!