whew! that was a RIDE. now that it's all over, i'm just going to lay out on the table some of my big take-aways for end of pregnancy, labor, and "fourth trimester" madness. i know from first hand experience how when you're pregnant, people like to smother you with well-intended advice and it can often come across as condescending and just plain annoying. i figured if i wrote mine here, then i can get it off my chest and not be one of those people. if you're here and you're pregnant having your first baby and looking for advice, well then, that's your choice! i'm not going to force anything on anyone -- but maybe some of these can help some of you out there with the many a'questions that pregnancy tends to bring up.
out of all the advice i received, here are my top things i either did do and am really glad i did, or didn't do and really wish i had've done!
i'm really glad i...
- hired a doula. someone who is pregnant wrote me a message a few weeks ago asking if i would recommend getting a doula and i practically wrote a novel in response with my resounding YES. i remember when i was about mid-pregnancy, someone in my bible study trying to convince me that hiring a doula would be worth the money and me just sitting there so incredibly unconvinced. looking back, i don't know what i was thinking in my scepticism. our doula was a little bit of heaven when i was in labor and i would never want to do it again without one. if you're going to get one, make sure you feel you connect with her and that your values align. this is going to be one of the best, but also one of the most difficult, days of your life and your doula will play such an incredible role in it!
- read and listened to lots and lots of stories. don't be afraid to talk birth -- it's all weird and gross and awkward, and some of it is scary too, but you're going to have to go through it eventually so just cut to the chase and make the most of it. ina may's guide to childbirth is filled with real birth stories of real women. each detailed story is so unique and so awesome. i also watched dozens of youtube videos of women giving birth -- lots of weird ones ha! it's ok if you watch one or listen to someone tell a story and it scares you - that's normal! you're going to do something you've never done and you have no idea what day it's going to happen or how it's going to happen and you know there are chances it could not go how you plan and that's crazy but it's all okay and the reason it's okay is because trillions of women have blazed this trail before us and we have them to inspire us that we can do it too! in my opinion, the worst thing you can do is just put it in a box in the back of your mind or shut yourself out from the possibilities. at the end of it, you get to be a part of the secret club of knowing what it's like to give birth and that's a pretty spectacular thing to look forward to.
- had a "plan" but not a P.L.A.N.. obviously you should go over with your doctor/midwife your options for different things (i.e. interventions) during the stages of labor and consider B.R.A.I.N. (benefits, risks, alternatives, instinct, nothing). it's good to know, and talk about, your options before you're pushing a baby out. maybe try to envision what your ideal birth might look like and have a "if this, then that" action plan. but i think many women who have been through it would tell you, try not to cling too tightly to your vision of your ideal birth. i know that's hard because when people told me that i was so annoyed. but your body has a way of doing what it wants to do, and no two birth experiences are the same so try to have a sense of flexibility and embrace that your story is going to be uniquely yours!
- sex! had lots of it! especially near the end of your pregnancy it's good to have sex - everyone will tell you this. yes - it's great for getting things moving and softening your cervix. but more importantly - you don't know the next time you'll get to. so enjoy it while you can. 'nuff said.
- didn't buy tons of baby clothes. people will give you tons of baby clothes (no they won't use your registry! ha, silly!). but also, your baby could come out a 5lb ragamuffin or it could come out a 10lb beast. my baby fit his heavier fall clothes in the heat of summer because he was just a little bit bigger than average and so he never got to wear many of those things. so try not to get too carried away with your baby's wardrobe before you know how big he/she is!
- hired a lactation consultant. i think i was about a week into breastfeeding when i really accepted that things weren't quite working. the baby was gaining weight ok, but i was once told by a very wise woman that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. probably 90% of women i talked to said "it will hurt the first 6 weeks." however, i trusted the wisdom, and my instinct, that it shouldn't hurt. makes sense right? we've been doing it for eons and it's the most natural thing in the world! so when it began to become habitually painful for me and my sad nipples, i called shahrzad. she came over to our apartment for one hour and helped me learn how to get the baby in the right position so he could get a good deep latch on his own and the difference was night and day! if you find it painful, message me and i'll give you her number. it was probably the best $100 i ever spent!
- introduce a bottle and keep it going. so glad someone told me to do this! although i adore breastfeeding, i, for one, couldn't imagine going the whole year being the only way he could get his milkshakes. i knew i wanted to do little weekends away from him here and there and was determined to make sure he could take milk from a bottle. at 4 weeks, breastfeeding was going well - there were no major red flags or issue with c's latch, so we gave the bottle a go! i would say, if things are not going super smooth with breastfeeding, to maybe wait it out a bit longer. but 4 weeks is apparently a sweet spot for many people and babies. try different bottles if the first one is a fail. and then, once you've found the right bottle and nipple, try to do one bottle a day every day after that. the baby may accept it the first time but then refuse it if you wait even a week or two before doing it again. we got into a good routine where lucas would feed casper his last bottle before bed, and i would pump for the next night's feeding before i went to bed. this way, the baby is use to someone other than mom doing the bedtime routine, and you can have that time to yourself to tidy or read or whatever you want! it's nice for dad to have a way to bond with the baby - because that can be tricky to do otherwise. also something about pumping a baby full of milk before bed seems to make them snooze just a little bit longer before the next feed - but i might be just making that up!
i really wish i...
- did those damn perineum massages. (yes, that is a wikihow link. you're welcome). i probably had 5 people tell me to do this before labor. yes, they sound raunchy. and apparently they can also be a bit painful. but i think they could have saved me a lot of post-birth pain. think of it this way, you wouldn't go into a sprint without warming up your body first right? same thing.... basically...
- organized a meal train for post-birth. everyone wants to visit you and see your baby and many people actually do want to help but don't know how to help or what to do. introducing technology and this website to help organize all of those things! it's so nice to have home-cooked meals (especially ones you can eat with one hand!) delivered to your door with a few awesome friends who want to hold and cuddle your baby. i didn't want to set this up because i didn't want to put anyone out of their way or make them feel obligated to do something, but really people will only do the things because they want to! and they're really all looking for an excuse to come over and squeeze your baby a bit. just do yourself a favour and start one - no one is going to think it's selfish or weird.
- had not focused so much on my due date. our prenatal instructor warned us of this, urging us to use the term "due-month" instead of due date and i did not listen. i think next time, i'm just going to tack on 2 weeks to my due date and if it comes earlier, then it'll just be a pleasant surprise. my doula told me to get really vague and say "it's a spring baby" so do that when you're asked what your due date is and leave people super confused. one of the many benefits is that no one will be hounding you with text messages such as "sooooo... how are you feeling?" when your due date starts to approach.
- trusted my body, trusted the process, and trusted my instinct. i know me saying this isn't going to magically make you trust in yourself. there is nothing that makes doing this easy or natural. but man, i wish i did. throughout my pregnancy, leading up to labor, and in labor itself. and even now as a mama. if i could just trust a little more, i could make this a lot easier on myself.
- started a stockpile early. i'm going to end on this very practical note. start your stock pile of milk early. it takes weeks to get enough for days worth of milk so if you ever plan on leaving your ball and chain, start early. also pumping once a day every day from the beginning will be easier then starting three months in like i did because your body will respond to the demand with higher supply. if you place the order early when the baby comes, supply will stay high as long as you keep the demand there. just chose a rhythm and get grooving girl. or else you'll be like me, dealing with stinky formula farts after a weekend away with your husband.
so i could write a conclusion here but i'd rather just leave on the notes of stinky formula farts. happy birthing!