From the minute you find out that you are going to be a mother, you are overwhelmed with a mountain of information covering every aspect of what lies in store, from how to cope with morning sickness and tiredness in the first trimester, to staying active and preparing for the new arrival in your second trimester, to how labour begins and what to expect in the third and final trimester. Then, you have the baby …. and then… you go home. Now what?
That is exactly how I felt.. Now what? You are so well read and prepared for pregnancy and labour, that no one really invests much time in telling you how YOU will feel afterwards. Your body goes through, what is equivalent to major surgery and you then need to suddenly be ready for the constant needs of a newborn, in that very instant.
With my first, I had an extremely quick labour. I had a natural birth and was fortunate enough to not need any stitches. After my little girl Letoya was delivered, she was laid on my chest and breastfed and cuddled for a good length of time. We had a further 12 hours in hospital, where the sheer magnitude of what had happened and how amazing this perfect little blessing was, really hit me. There was no room for sleep.
Finally after getting the ‘OK’ from the doctor & midwife we were released, to go it alone. Driving home, the car was silent. Now what do we do? Is she okay? Is she hungry? Am I doing this right? All of these questions run through your mind. But, mother nature kicks in and your instincts lead the way.
Shortly after arriving home, family and close friends came over for a cuddle. The whole experience almost seems like a blur. The baby is here, loved ones are around and enjoying these first shared moments, and I am sat down wondering how my body will carry me and support my baby.
I felt extremely bruised. Every time I got up out of the chair it seemed like the lower half of my body would drop to the floor. Walking was very difficult and I needed support to get any further than three feet. Standing up for longer than a minute for the first two weeks was near impossible. Bleeding was very heavy, with the first week being the worst (maternity pads are recommended, but not comfortable at all). No one told me that I should expect this. But I wish I had known to prepare my body.
When your full milk arrives, you are never really prepared for the emotions you feel. The hormones produced at this time escalate the already heightened hormones your body is re-arranging post-baby. You need to ensure that you have a lot of loving and supportive people around you as your moods will be changeable.
Labour in itself is an exhausting process. Like running two marathons back to back, with a few stacks of bricks on your back. Picking up at the same pace you went into hospital is not realistic. Your baby will demand all of your attention and likely need feeding every hour, when all you will want to do is sleep. Whenever your baby sleeps, take every opportunity to nap. Your body needs rest to heal and repair itself.
With most of us, labour sneaks up unexpectedly. Of course, everyone has their bags packed around week 32-33 (maybe slightly earlier if you are as excited as I was!) I wish I had done one last clean of my house. I wish that I had prepared a few meals in advance to save cooking. Do not be shy, ask people around you to help. You will want to rest at every spare moment, don’t feel guilty for doing so.
This is the most special time that you will share with your baby. The first days and weeks spent bonding and learning about each other are irreplaceable moments that you will never forget. Make sure that you rest as much as you can before it all begins, to be able to enjoy your baby. Take time to pamper yourself and prepare everything possible, to ensure that you can return to an organised and peaceful space. Most importantly, when people offer to help, take the help. Your body will have gone through so much and will continue to demand so much of you. But you will get through it. And it does get easier.
Women are incredible and enduring. Don’t forget how amazing you are.
The gift of life is a miracle. There is nothing greater.