24 Things I Wish I Knew About Childbirth & Postpartum Recovery
Ask any mother about the birth of her child, and most will happily recount the story of how it went. I’m no different. If you didn’t catch it, here’s Lauren’s and Georgia’s birth stories. In this post, I go a little further and share some of the things I’ve learned about labour, giving birth and most importantly, post natal recovery from my own experience, as well as my clients’ through my baby planning service.
Labour and giving birth
1. A little fear of giving birth is totally normal, especially for first time mums. I found attending childbirth classes and reading birth stories help. I have a list of advice on how to conquer the fear from experienced mums here.
2. Pack light to the hospital. Remember, you will check out with a baby in hand, so the lesser things you have to carry, the better. Here is a list of what to pack to the hospital, but after having given birth twice, I found the only things I used that aren’t provided by the hospital, are mobile phone charger and skin care products. Your call.
3. Talk to your baby. I swear both Lauren and Georgia came one day after I told them, “Mummy and daddy is prepared for you now. If you are ready to come out, just come anytime you want. Mummy and daddy will be waiting to hold you and love you.” It may feel funny to be speaking to yourself but trust me, your baby is listening.
4. Induction. Unless your baby is in distressed, an induction is not necessary. It really is for the convenience of not having to wait any further. For Lauren, I didn’t know any better and agreed to an induction when the labour didn’t progress. I remained at 2cm dilated for 5 hours. My contractions became much stronger and the pain level quickly escalated to a 10 after the pill was inserted. It was still a day before EDD and it was my first pregnancy, I could have waited…
5….. And use a breast pump. I heard it could really speed up labour once contractions have begun.
6. You can walk around 4cm dilated for days. During my second pregnancy, I was 4cm dilated 1 week before EDD without feeling any contractions. This time, I declined induction and chose to go home and waited for it to progress naturally. Sure enough, 2 days later I felt real contractions and upon reaching the hospital, I was already 6cm dilated. Georgia was born an hour later!
7. With every contraction, imagine your baby moving down the birth canal. It helps to bear in mind there’s a reason to every discomfort you are experiencing and there is light at the end of the tunnel – a baby in your arms ☺
8. Go for epidural as soon as it is offered to you. I thought I could take the pain during Lauren’s birth. When it became too painful and I finally succumbed, I had to wait and be in pain for another 2 hours because the anaesthesia doctor had gone to another hospital. When it was Georgia’s turn, I was 6cm dilated when I reached the hospital; I asked for epidural right away. No pain until it was over. Best birth ever. Remember, no award is given for being a super mummy who goes through all that pain. Someone once told me – God invented epidural for us,and so use it.
9. Take more photos with your newborn. Yes, we may not look the most glamourous post birth, but it is one of the happiest moments (and greatest achievements) in our life, so ignore the puffy face and snap away.
10. Labour is hard, but we are totally made for it! You can do it, girl!
11. Post natal recovery is a bitch. I found the constant pain harder than the birth itself. Read up on post natal recovery to prepare yourself.
12. Have some prunes on standby. It helps loosen up stools, so going to the toilet won’t be a dread.
13. Don’t worry, everything (down there) will recover and soon you will be able to go to the toilet comfortably.
14. You will sweat like a pig. And it’s a good thing. That’s how the body expel the dampness and lose the extra baby fluid weight.
15. Most Asian babies will develop jaundice and may have to undergo overnight photo-therapy at the hospital. Leaving your baby at the hospital and be apart from him/her for the first time will have you bawl like a baby. Don’t worry, let the tears flow. The nurses are used to seeing overly emotional mothers.
16. Postpartum blues happen to everyone. Do remember that it’s just your hormones creating havoc when you start thinking you’re going crazy. Even the most optimistic mothers are not spared. I felt super sensitive about everything and though the births of my girls went really well, I was still hit by a feeling of extended melancholiness. It helps to cry it out, don’t hold back. Talk to someone. You will feel better, one day at a time.
17. Having a baby could strengthen your bond with your partner but it could also put your relationship to test. Spend some couple time together after the baby has gone to sleep. Keep communication open; tell him what’s bothering you, and listen to him while he talks about other things besides the baby. Little cuddles and kisses every day make all the difference.
18. I had a difficult time doing nothing and letting people take care of me right after giving birth to Lauren. But healing from giving birth is hard on us, physically and emotionally. Hence there’s ‘confinement’ in almost all Asian cultures. Do follow the rules if you can, and allow others (confinement nanny, mum, in-laws, etc) to step in for you. They won’t be helping forever. Soon, you’ll be on your own. So enjoy having help while it lasts!
19. Breastfeed for as long as you can and don’t miss any session if you can help it. I learned the hard way. Recurring blocked ducts and mastitis.
20. You will feel like a cow with the constant breastfeeding. Hang in there, it changes before you know it and you will miss the excuse to sit down for forty-five minutes at a time like you did during the newborn phase.
19. Don’t worry about getting your baby on a schedule yet. Baby sleeps when they need to and they feed when they’re hungry. I put Lauren on a routine (with much tears from her and myself) and Georgia was an ‘anything goes’ baby. Guess who is a better sleeper now? Georgia.
20. Take a billion photos of your newborn now. He/she will never be so tiny again. No mother has EVER regretted taking too many photos of her kids. Remember to include yourself in some of the photos too. Your kids will want to know you were there with them. Uploading on Facebook is optional though.
21. Bringing baby into bed with you is totally ok. Don’t let rigid parenting book convince you otherwise. Breastfeed lying down is the best way to feed your baby, and catching up on your sleep. Just do it safely: firm pillow on the other side of baby to prevent her from rolling off, move away your blanket and kick your husband out of the bed. Kidding! Just remember that no baby in bed if you or your partner had been smoking or drinking.
22. Don’t worry about the pouch of a tummy you still have. Wait until you get the all clear from your doctor before you embark on a new exercise routine. Make sure your workout isn’t doing more harm than good. And the stretch marks? It takes time to fade away but for now, wear it like your badge of honour.
23. It is possible to pack light when you go out. Only when you and your newborn are out of the house for an entire day, which by all means go ahead and bring along the entire nursery. Otherwise, all you need is 1 diaper, a small packet of wet wipes, 1 burp cloth and 1 onesie. All these fit into a medium sized handbag. No need for a diaper bag. You have enough to carry already.
24. Whether you are in complete bed rest or have started cooking dinner for the entire family, remember that you’re doing a great job. Your baby is alive and you are still learning to adjust to your new life. No mother started out knowing what to do. You’ll figure it out along the way. Chances are you’re already a much better mum than you think!