Saturday, February 23, 2013

Labor and Delivery: What to expect, and what to pack in your hospital bag!

By my 4th son, I was an expert at labor and delivery. However, back in 2003, my experience was much different. I was a terrified 19 year old, and I had no idea what to expect. After I gave birth, I felt like I had been hit by a train. I wasn't prepared, and spent the better part of three days in a hospital gown in a daze. The whole experience was very surreal, and came with a lot of unexpected surprises. So, sit back, and relax while I explain the process of L&D, the good, bad, gross, and ugly truth.

First things first, what to pack:
  • Comfy socks
  • Big cotton underwear, buy a 6 pck, and plan on throwing them away
  • Nursing bra
  • Nursing tank top
  • Comfy pants (yoga, sweats, etc..)
  • Zip up hoodie
  • Breast pads & nipple cream (you can buy these at Target, or Babies R Us)
  • Toiletries, pony tail holders, hairbrush, and make up, tooth paste and brush
  • Chapstick
  • Cell phone charger 
  • Camera
  • Breast pump
For the baby:
  • Baby blanket
  • Hat 
  • Going home outfit
  • Diapers & wipes (the hospital will supply these during your stay)
  • Burp cloths
  • Boppy to help nurse
  • Several onesies, nightgowns, and socks. The baby will spit up, poop and pee through several outfits a day.
  • Carseat            
Am I in labor? As you near your due date, you will be obsessively asking yourself this. Trust me, when it's time, you'll know. Some women lose their "mucus plug". It looks exactly as it sounds. A yellowish, sometimes blood tinged clump of mucus, however, with all 4 pregnancies, I never saw mine. I DID feel increasing pressure down there. With every step, I felt as though the baby was going to fall out on the floor. I also had "bloody show." When I wiped after using the bathroom, there was a bloody/mucusy substance on the toilet paper. Don't be embarrassed if you rush to the hospital expecting to deliver only to be sent home. Better safe than sorry, and most of us seasoned moms have made many a trip to L&D only to be told it's not time yet. 

Prepare the husband.
Prepare your hubby ahead of time. Explain exactly what you want, and expect. Men aren't that great at anticipating and guessing needs. This is just a man thing. 

 My ex husband, bless his heart, was the worst birthing coach ever. He slept through both of my labors, and when my 2nd son starting crowning, I was literally throwing things at him to get up and run and get the nurse. It was horrible. I felt so alone and depressed. 

For this reason, I fully prepared my new Mr. Man for my L&D. I expressed wanting his undivided attention. He delivered 100%. My 3rd and 4th deliveries were amazing. Mr. Man encouraged me, fed me ice-chips, and cheered me on when I told him I was too tired to push. The whole birthing process will be an intimate time of bonding for you and your Mr. Man. After I had delivered, Mr. Man helped walk me to the bathroom, put on my lovely ace bandage underwear, the world's largest maxi pad, and helped tuck me into bed. I could not have asked for a better partner.

It's time
If this is your first delivery, expect it to take a while. You'll get changed into your hospital gown, and you'll have fetal monitors placed around your belly to monitor the baby. If you opt for an epidural, do NOT, I repeat, do NOT look at the NEEDLE! I never understood why my husband got so woozy during this process until I was watching one of those delivery shows, and saw the needle. Yes, it is very long, but trust me, it does not hurt anymore than a normal shot. By the time I got my epidural, I was in so much pain, I barely felt the needle going into my back. You'll need to sit very still while the epi is administered. I recommend sitting on the edge of the bed, with your partner in front of you. You almost hug your spouse, and slightly curl your back. Don't worry, the anesthesiologist with walk you through this. 
(side note: Check, and double check ALL pictures before posting to social media. The next picture which shows my husband cutting the cord, also debut's my lady parts. This was overlooked. I know the well meaning nursing thought she had captured an amazing moment, and she had, we just needed to crop first.)

Pushing is the easy part.
Truly. I hear so many new moms terrified about pushing the baby out. This, my friends, is the easy part. After 9 grueling months of waddling, uncomfortable sleep, pelvic pain, nausea, and the general feeling of discomfort, I couldn't wait to get the baby out. My favorite pushing position consists of having your hubby and your nurse hold your legs, placing your chin to your chest, and pushing like you are about to take the mother of all poops. And yes, some of you may actually poo on the table. It's completely normal, and to be expected. The nurse will wipe it away, and you'll continue pushing. My first son, I pushed for 16 minutes. By my 4th, I pushed 3 times, and out he came. 
 This ain't Hollywood ladies. Now, brace yourself. I'm about to tell you all of the things about after birth that no one told me. After you deliver your sweet bundle of joy, you will need to give another small push to deliver your placenta. Once this is done, the doctor will push and prod, and poke your belly to make sure everything got out, and you will hear gushes of blood falling into a container. If you tore, the doctor will take this time to stitch you up. Focus on the sweet baby.

After you deliver, you'll have the option to try to nurse. I opted to bathe baby after our nursing attempts. We wiped him off, and I put him straight to the breast. He suckled a little, but he was so cold, that it didn't work out. The nurses took him away for a bath, and a little time under the heating light. If this is your first delivery, your labor and delivery nurse with help you attempt to breast feed. She will man handle your breast, and manuver the baby to suckle. Take her help. Nursing is nothing like what you see on the movies. The baby will thrust it's tongue, and move its' head, and you will become frustrated. Relax. It will take a few tries. 

Let the hemorrhaging begin. After you've delivered, and your epi has worn off, you'll be allowed to get up, use the bathroom, and change clothes. Your stomach will still resemble a 5-6 month pregnancy, so pack large clothes. Some hospitals offer you ace-bandage like underwear, take them. Have your husband help you in the bathroom. You'll need to pull on the elastic underwear, and place a huge maxi pad down there. The hospital will supply you with a little water bottle. You'll need to rinse "down there" and you may get soothing foam to place on your maxi pad. (It helps with swelling and pain, because trust me, nothing down there will look the same for a little while.) Thus, begins your bathroom regime  for the next 10 days. Each time you use the restroom, you'll need to rinse, change pads, spray foam etc. And you will bleed. A lot. It's like the mother of all periods. Nursing helps shrink your uterus, so I always bled more while I nursed. Again, pack large granny panties, and big comfy sweats or yoga pants.
 I'm so hungry. After I delivered my 4th son, I sent my husband out to get me Chick-Fil-A, and large chocolate shake. I was famished. The hospital will send up a meal after you deliver, but I wanted real food. I think Mr. Man was just happy to have a reason to get out of the hospital for a little while. After I ate, I got baby back from the nursery, and we all slept. During your hospital stay, you will not sleep well. Nurses will come in to check your blood pressure, temperature etc. and your bundle of joy will want to eat often. I could not wait to get home, and get some real rest. Beware of the crazy picture person who will come by and ask if you want newborn shots. Decline. I have never seen a single good infant shot. Newborns, even the prettiest, are not very photogenic that first day, and you will get better shots on your own. I took these when Liam was 3 days old by draping a blanket across the couch.

I have a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding.
Myth: Nursing doesn't hurt, it does, a lot, at least the first week. Why else do they make nipple cream? Not to mention those lovely uterus cramps you'll feel the first week or two. Yes, nursing helps shrink the uterus, and you'll feel like you're experiencing L&D all over again.

Myth: Your milk is in, you're just not nursing correctly, except that I am, and drinking your magical milk boosting tea, and pumping around the clock. Unless there's a way to tap into it other than the nipple, it's not there.
Myth: Breastfeeding is so amazing and rewarding! Yes, it can be, but it is also very time consuming, and hard being the only one to feed this precious life.
Notice the disgruntled woman in the background with the breast pump..

My milk never fully came in for my 3rd and 4th boys, and subsequently, I had to supplement with formula. Repeat this to yourself: I AM NOT A FAILURE IF I CAN'T BREASTFEED!!!!!!!! I tried everything to get my milk to come in. Pumped around the clock, drank fenugreek tea, took prescription pills. Nothing worked. I cried and I cried and felt like a failure. I consulted with lactation consultants who assured me my milk was in, I just wasn't nursing correctly. Finally, after my 3rd son was down 1lb a month after birth, my pediatrician told me to supplement. Commence more tears, and "I'm a failure" speeches.

Luckily, by #4, I realized that formula wasn't "poison" and my child would not be "dumb" if I used formula. I nursed for 1.5 mths before I ran dry, and switched over to the bottle. No mommy guilt. Breastfeeding is WONDERFUL if it works for you, if it doesn't, do not be consumed with guilt, and more importantly, do not let other mommies make you feel terrible or like you didn't try. No one gets to Kindergarten and says, "My, he is smart, he must have been breastfed!" 

Crying in the shower.
Beware of post partum depression. Some nights, it was all I could do to wait until my evening shower (yes, you won't shower until your hubby comes home!)  to have my big cry. I'm not sure what I was even crying about, but it sure felt good. Motherhood is hard. Sleep deprivation, bleeding nipples from nursing, and having to attend to one person's every need is exhausting. Take help. 

My mom came and stayed a week with me after I had my 4th. I was phenomenal. She cooked, cleaned, and told me my only job was to watch over baby. I wish I had done this with all of my births. I was able to focus all of my attention on my new bundle of joy without worrying about all of the other responsibilities. Enlist a girlfriend, or mother in law, or mama or whoever you can to come help! If you're still feeling the baby blues, talk to your doctor. It is 100% normal, and chances are, all of your mommy friends have gone through the same thing

There it is girlfriend! Did I miss anything? Each story is unique and special! What made your labor and delivery unique? What was your absolute must? Remember, while the first few days and weeks are hard, looking into those sweet little [sleeping, for the love of mercy, please sleep] faces makes it all worth it! <3 Suzzy


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