Surprises after delivery

After reading After-birth: 10 surprises from those first days after delivery by Meredith Bland who, by the way, is quite witty. I thought about it for a bit and decided I had to comment somewhere. She’s so right in that there are so many of the things that happen afterward that they don’t tell you about before.

Now, here’s the thing, I’ve experienced all the varieties of birth that, to my knowledge a woman can possibly experience. Cesarean, medicated VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), natural hospital VBAC, water HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean), and HBAC.

I’d like to think that my experience is not to be discounted in the grand scheme of things.

Cesareans suck. At least, mine did. It also didn’t help that I wound up catching something nasty in the hospital – to be expected as, after all, hospitals are full of nasty germs and sickness – that took my voice away and made me miserable. Because that’s exactly how you want to feel when they’ve just handed you a baby to care for. In fact, the lovely OB chastised me the next day for not being up and moving. All I wanted to do was tell him to go to hell. But I couldn’t. I had no voice, remember?

I will tell you, however, you do not want to gaze upon your stitches those first several days. They’re not pretty.

Also, that tummy of yours? The one the baby just came out of? Yeah, you do not want to see it right away, either. They forget to tell you that it doesn’t just magically go away. No. You’re now the proud owner of a saggy, baggy belly. Nursing helps it lessen faster, I promise!

The super-augmented hospital VBAC wound up being awful in a multitude of ways. What many medical professionals don’t seem to understand is that a healthy baby is not the be all and end all of things. A healthy mama is incredibly important as well because, let’s face it, we’re the ones performing the majority of care for that healthy baby. Especially if we’re breastfeeding. If we’ve not healthy – physically and mentally – we’re not going to be doing a bang-up job of bonding with or caring for that healthy baby. But we may be doing a great job of having all sorts of negative thoughts or tons and tons of therapy bills and antipsychotics. Capiche?

After my (natural) VBACs, I was up moving around pretty quickly. As in, right after. Really. I’ve never felt so energized in my life.

Bleeding? Oh, yes, there will be blood. I didn’t really notice much difference in the amount between any of my cesarean or hospital births, but I did notice much less blood (lochia) after my home births. And, as the author pointed out, it is a very disconcerting feeling when something slides out of your vagina. *shudder*

Which brings me to pads. Yes, you can grab as many of those sexy mesh panties you can get your hands on before leaving the hospital. Heck, you’re paying for them all anyway, so grab what you can.

My CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) also gave me a bit of an education on things. Two words: Adult diapers. No kidding. They’re a fantastic thing to behold for a postpartum woman. I know, you probably don’t believe me, and I admit that I was very skeptical at first, but I found out quickly just how effective they are.

The “uterine massage” is truly a thing of the devil. And it seems to get worse the more children you have. Bonus, I know! And, remember that feeling of something sliding out of your vagina? Two-fer!! For bonus points, do you know what else helps your uterus contract? Yep, breastfeeding your baby.

As far as breastfeeding goes, I lucked out with my oldest. At least in the beginning. Things were going great. Until I started a full time job. And had not a clue about pumping. And had little success. It wasn’t long before I found myself staring at different types of formula.

With my second, I wound up on the NuvaRing which dried up my supply. Not all women have this result, I guess I was just lucky.

With my third, I had all of the issues with the crazy doctor and the hospital that resulted in my milk drying up.

With my fourth, I was fortunate enough to have a CNM who is also an LC (Lactation Consultant). She was able to diagnose an issue (oversupply) that I didn’t even know I had. Had I not had her, I’m convinced I would have had a similar result as the others. I breastfed him for almost a year and a half.

With my fifth, I had the same midwife as my fourth and she was able to “fix” a bad latch. When I say bad latch, I mean bad. No exaggeration here, I was so close to calling it quits because it hurt so bad, and I was bleeding to boot. Every time I would feed him, I would curl up in a ball and cry. She made a trip out to see us just a few days after he was born – rather than having me come in to see her – and solved the problem nearly immediately. She also gave me some awesome things to wear on my nipples to help them heal quickly. We hit the year mark earlier this month and we’re still going strong.

Lesson learned here? It’s a very good idea to consult with an LC – and not a hospital LC, either as, I’m sorry to say, my experience with them was severely lacking – if you have any concerns. Or maybe even just to have them take a quick peek and see if everything looks good. If you cannot afford one, see if you can find a nursing support group that’s led by an LC. Obviously this would need to be an in-person group but you probably already sensed that’s where I was going. 😉

The author also hit the nail on the head regarding pooping afterward. At least after a cesarean or medicalized birth. There was no issue after any of my natural births. Although, after the first two, I thought sure there would be. I was nearly petrified with fear, only to realize that, hey, there was nothing to fear at all.

Yes, I’m partial to my natural births – especially the two at home. They were the only ones that I had some semblance of control, competency, and empowerment with/from. After all, if I can give birth, I can do anything! Well, maybe not, but it sure feels that way for awhile.

I must reiterate here. It’s far easier to care for your healthy baby when you yourself are mentally sound. A traumatic, unnecessarily-controlled birth does not do that. In essence, it robs people. It robs the baby of a healthy mother as well as the opportunity to bond more readily to her. It robs the mother of the opportunity to bond readily with the baby. It robs the father because he is left feeling uncertain of what she has gone through and what he “should” be feeling – he’s torn, and that should not be. If there are siblings, those siblings get robbed too, and might be more likely to have animosity toward their new baby.

With all that being said, yes, there are some super crazy things going on after a baby is born. Here’s hoping you didn’t find out the hard way.

Guest post: Gavin’s Birth

After my own delightful experiences, I’ve decided to collect and feature stories of others’ home birth experiences on my blog from time to time. This is the first of such.

Hailey, 22:

My first birth was when I was 19 in a hospital. The experience overall was fine, it just didn’t feel like the right way to do birth. What truly pushed us to do a home birth was to avoid the unneeded interventions that we received with my now 3 year old.

On Tuesday, November 19, 2013 (Leary’s and my 4th anniversary), I was 36 weeks and 2 days along.  At 7:26 AM, I woke up in a small puddle of water; I was so excited I rushed to the bathroom. When I wiped I found clear fluid with a bloody tinge!  I ran into the bedroom to wake Leary. I called Lynda (my midwife) and let her know about the bloody show. At 8, my contractions began.  I once again had the wonderful back labor.  Leary and I were so happy; I told him to call into work and use his very last vacation day. I called my mom, dad, and brother to let them know that this might be the day.

The rest of the morning went on normally.  We got Addy up, fed, and dressed. My cousin Ari was staying with us, so I alerted her of the news.  At 12 PM, Leary and I left Addy at home with Ari to go visit my midwife for her to check my PH (to figure out if my water had broken).  My water hadn’t broken. Lynda told us we might not be having a baby as we had thought… She said I was 4-5cm dilated and 90% effaced. I walked out of Lynda’s almost in tears.  I was so bummed my water hadn’t broken. I alerted my doula and photographer. After a fairly quick pity party for ourselves, Leary and I decided to celebrate our anniversary over McDonalds in the car. I know it wasn’t the best fuel for labor but crap is all this little man wanted me to eat. 🙂

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We arrived home and broke the news to Ari. Leary, Addy, and I decided to try and keep my contractions coming so we walked to our neighborhood park to play on the playground. Addy had an absolute blast and Leary took tons of pictures. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for us to do, but this particular park trip is the most special to us. When I realized how emotional I was about the experience, it gave me another boost and I was once again convinced that we would be welcoming our little guy very soon. We headed home from the park about 4 PM.

Once home I bounced on my birth ball and rested on the couch while Leary made dinner and Addy watched some “Elmo” (AKA Sesame Street). We did our normal evening routine except I texted my mom and asked her to come pick Addy up on her way home.  My dear friend and volunteer Doula told me she would be over around 7 PM. I packed up an absolutely thrilled daughter and sent her on her way with “Gigi”.

Addy left and we all relaxed; the early evening was calm and peaceful.  It hadn’t been what we planned for our anniversary, but what plan in life ever is? Once Carmen, my doula, arrived she pushed my lazy butt into active mode we walked around my neighborhood a few times to get things progressing. By this time my contractions still had no pattern and weren’t very painful. We got back from walking and I hopped in my birth tub.  Boy, did I LOVE this thing!!! I wish it was still in my living room! About 7:30 PM my photographer told me she was headed over, I let her know that we still had a ways to go and that she should head home until I was transitioning. At this point I once again started to doubt my instincts and body… this baby wasn’t coming. We sat in the tub and watched Under Cover Boss until 12am. Finally we all called it a night; it wasn’t going to happen.

I went to bed disappointed and lied down. Between 12-2 AM, I woke up a few times from a contraction here or there, but at 2:30 I woke up in full transition! I couldn’t even make it to the birth pool so I got in the bath tub instead. After a half hour of soaking I went back to bed exhausted and hoping to sleep a bit, (silly me), and I woke up a half hour later and my voice must have revealed the pain I was feeling because Leary, who is impossible to wake up, jumped right up with me and actually beat me to the birth tub. It was 3:30 AM and Carmen was on her way. We tried our midwife and it went to voice mail which I didn’t think anything of, after all it was 3am! Right after that a contraction came and I fell silent.

After the contraction, I decided to check on my progress… and there was his head!!! This guys, is where I began to FREAK out… I looked at Leary with tears forming in my eyes and said “CALL LYNDA!!!” We tried again— no answer (we lost the number she had just given us earlier that afternoon since her cell was not available). I remembered that we happened to have her husband’s cell and said “CALL HIM!!!” We got ahold of him (who was surprisingly calm about all of this) and he got ahold of Lynda. She called Leary back and he put her on speaker; she let us know she just left another birth was on her way and that if I felt the urge to push I should have Leary call back and she would walk him through the process… Panic continued until the next contraction.  Carmen walked in a contraction later.  I explained the situation to Carmen, appearing stronger than I felt.

Another contraction came and my body took over and I began to hum.  This was simply AMAZING, my body really did know what to do!  About fifteen or twenty minutes, but exactly 6 contractions later, Lynda arrived and Leary and I filled with relief.  She and her assistant efficiently carried in their luggage and prepared the room.  This took 4 contractions.  On the next contraction, I guess my body felt the urge to push, because that is exactly what it started to do.  Without the pressure of the hospital and midwifes telling me what to do this was both confusing yet refreshing at the same time. There was no instruction, no bare down and count to 10; my midwife simply told me your body knows, follow its lead. The humming continued, getting louder and louder.  At some point, I requested someone to get Ari.  Leary later told me that she sleepily stumbled on the scene during a particularly loud bout of humming and her eyes quickly became like saucers.  A contraction later the cursing began. Once again there was no thought about this, it just flowed out. My wonderful birth team just continued to support me and I just heard whisperers of encouraging words and true love all around me. When a contraction would end and I could consciously make eye contact I would get the most sincere and loving smiles. I could not have asked to be surrounded by more supportive people, I am glad I chose these people so carefully.

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As I began crowning the pressure and burning began; this is the push I forced a bit too much and my water then broke. I remember shouting out “My water just broke!”  At this point I only had a few seconds before contractions began; it was rough.  I just tried to remember I was almost there! This is the point Lynda came to me and began touching and checking with Leary’s help.  Leary prepared to “catch” Gavin.  Lynda was having him help position the baby correctly to help me not tear (This was uncomfortable to say the least). I just remember saying “STOP, OW, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?” Next thing I knew his head came out and I heard, “I feel his lips!” Lynda again reminded me to let my body make the decisions. In two more pushes my not so little guy arrived. At 5:17AM on November 20th 2013 Gavin Eugene Williamson was born, weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces and 19 in tall. He was PERFECT.

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A HUGE thank you to my FABULOUS birth team! You will never know what you all mean to me!

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