As you may know, new mothers get bombarded with SO MUCH advice. Some is welcomed, some is shrugged off and some is plain ridiculous. Most people are well meaning, others seem crazy, and some like to be a little passive aggressive or outright mean.
It's been 5 months since I went through it all. The pain, the struggle, the screaming, the love, the bleeding, the healing... everything. The most horrendously horrible experience of my life and also the most magical. In the moment I thought I was going to die, but my body pushed through and not only am I alive... and healthy and thriving... but so is my beautiful daughter. There is a part of me that wished women didn't have to feel pain during labour, but mostly I am grateful for the new empathy that I have for all the mothers out there. I am part of a very special group. I understand the magic, the pain and the sacrifice. I am a mother, I went through natural birth, and I felt it.
Leading up to my labour I received loads of advice. This article is about 3 pieces of advice I received. One thing that helped, one that I really shouldn't have listened to, and one that I wish I took more seriously.
THE BEST ADVICE
This one goes out to my mother. She told me that no matter what, I need to try my very hardest, at all times of the process, to maintain eye contact with Josh. She said to try to keep my eyes open and just look at him. I had 2 support people with me, and Josh never let go of my hand the whole time. He never left my side, not for a second. My sister was also there and she was the one that did everything else, like got me heat packs, and ice packs, and communicated with the midwives when I was struggling. But Josh and I were hand in hand, breathing every breath together, maintaining eye contact... every single moment.
Sometimes I closed my eyes for a second and he gently told me to look back at him. He was gentle with me but firm when he had to be. He was everything I needed and wanted at the time. He was selfless and put me first, but wasn't afraid to tell me that I couldn't stop and I HAD to push a few more times. He went through the whole experience with me... as much as a father can. He didn't feel the pain like I did but in a way he experienced some pain with me.
It was hard for me before hand to communicate to Josh exactly what I would need from him, because how could I know exactly. But I did tell him that I needed to have all of him, that I needed to be able to squeeze his hands, that I needed him to listen carefully to me and that I needed him to take me seriously.
Having him there got me through it and honestly I don't know how I could have done it without him.
Not everyone can have the baby's father with them, and not everyone wants to. Some people find it a very personal experience. So whatever works for you, go with that. But I would encourage you to go with the experience, get support and just allow yourself to be selfish. Whatever helps you to feel comfortable and get through it, do that.
My labour was no cup of tea, but for the most part I'd still say I have no regrets. Except for one regret, and that was taking this advice.
I was advised not to accept an episiotomy. That's when they surgically cut you during a difficult delivery in order to prevent further tearing and tissue damage. I was told that a natural tear will always heal better than a surgical one and therefore I should opt to tear naturally instead.
I wish I had done more research, because I would have learnt that an episiotomy cut is classed as a as a second degree tear and it prevents further tearing. While it's all well and good to be as natural as possible, I got a severe third degree tear. They classified it as 3B but later the gynaecologist told me it was a 3C tear.
(image taken from the Australian Journal of General Practice, V 47, No 1-2 ).
As you can see above, a 3C tear is pretty damn serious. And it took my body 143 days to recover from it. So friends, next time... I will accept the episiotomy.
ADVICE I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN
I should have taken more time and effort in preparing a hospital bag. I researched a little bit about what others packed. But then when I was packing it, I just kind of got tired and stopped half way figuring I had enough. Well to my dismay when I was in hospital, I found I had only packed one pair of spare underwear, and not my most comfortable pair either!
I wish I had packed more clothes, more underwear and something more lightweight to wear to bed. As well as remembering some shampoo and conditioner, and toothpaste. Instead I spent more time picking which magazine I should take, but I never touched that magazine... I was so naive to think I'd have time for that. Trust me, with a very fast labour, all the hormones, being very tired and having a brand new baby... ain't nobody got time for a magazine!
People told me my body wouldn't bounce back and that my tummy would still look like I was 6 months pregnant, so I packed some clothes that I fit when I was 6 months pregnant. Well they didn't fit. Because although I'd lost 4kg of baby weight, I still had all the other weight sitting in all the other places.
Friends, please... don't be as dumb as me. Pack comfortable, over pack, and don't forget to bring soap!
Thanks for reading,