Sometimes in all the preparations for baby we forget to prepare for our postpartum selves. Your body and emotions have gone through a lot birthing and welcoming this new person into your world. It can be easy to get overwhelmed and put yourself on the back burner, but now is a very important time for you. Getting your postpartum off to a good start can help with breastfeeding and connect with your baby.
Have a baby moon. Set up a nest for you and baby to just relax skin to skin, breastfeed and get to know once another. Your body has been through a lot birthing your baby. Rest, nap, relax and snuggle. Let you partner or support person take care of you.
Ask for help. Your only job should be feeding baby and resting. Everything else can fall to your friends and family. Set up a meal train, keep a list of things visitors can help with when they come to see baby and arrange play dates for older children.
Make a postpartum self-care kit, things that make you feel good. This can include padsicles (recipe here), some essential oils, snacks you love, dry shampoo, a non parenting book and a water bottle.
Keep a list of local support resources. Find out who the local La Leche League leaders are and get numbers to the public health unit.
Hire a postpartum doula. A doula can help ensure you’re getting rest, that feeding is going well and help with any newborn basics.
Be kind to yourself. Trust that you know your baby and yourself better than anyone. It can be so easy in early days to doubt yourself, just take a deep breathe and remember in this moment you are doing your best.
A big question a lot of moms ask is what should I pack in my hospital bag?
I am a planner and an over packer so trying to narrow down what I needed proved to be very difficult. I can tell you though that while having a hospital bag is great, there’s not a lot you really need, that the hospital won’t have or that someone can’t grab for you after. What you want and what you use will also largely depend on how your birth goes. Being induced or having a c-section can mean you use things that you wouldn’t it you have a quick birth and recovery.
I’m also separating this into 3 bags. 1 for you, 1 for your support person and 1 for baby.
Clothes to Birth in. This can be anything from a nursing bra to a t-shirt. Did you know you don’t have to give birth in the hospital gown? As long as you have easy access to your back for a epidural should you want one you can wear your own clothes or your own gown. Just make sure it’s something you’re ok getting ruined.
Unscented lotion (you never know if a certain smell with bother you in birth)
Bathing suit top if you want to get in the shower or tub
Nursing tanks or bras
Clothes to come home in
Depends (the hospital will give you mesh undies, people love or hate them. I found depends to be the best)
If you’re being induced or having a c-section you may want some items to keep you busy. A book, your tablet or some music.
Change for vending machine
Bathing Suit in case mom wants your support in the shower
Blankets. The hospital provides these but you may want your own
K is my holiday baby. My guess date was in the beginning of January and I was very aware that she could come over Christmas or NYE. I knew what I wanted this time and I knew I was going to do everything I could to get it. I ate a lot better, saw my chiropractor and overall felt physically better than I had in my previous 2 pregnancies. Emotionally though I was having a hard time as I was met with a lot of challenges that I hadn’t expected. She was breech, which resulted in me having an ECV (external cephalic version), plus I suffered from severe pelvic pain, and my prosthetic leg no longer fit.
Over Christmas and Boxing day I was miserable. All I wanted to do was hibernate, and it’s pretty much all I did. On the 27th though, I had a boost of energy. I took a shower, did my hair and wanted to go out, even though I had been having cramps and back pain on and off all day. After dinner I decided to just relax and take a bath. While in the bath my waves were anywhere from 6-10 minutes apart, but were sporadic in length and intensity. I made a phone call to help another mother with breastfeeding, but had to end it early as things started to pick up. I went to bed, hoping to sleep a few hours in case this was it. I couldn’t find a good position though and sleep never came. Finally around midnight, after getting in and out of bed a couple of times, I decided to distract myself my blowing up the birth pool for my planned home birth.
At 2am, after one last attempt at sleep, I called my doula, midwife and photographer. Within an hour they were all there. I asked to be checked by my midwife and was at 4cm. I loved being at home and being able to move as I wanted to. I went from the couch, to the cold floor, to sleeping on the stairs in between waves. I was freezing cold and spent a lot of time being wrapped in a blanket a friend had made for me 18 years before. My doula was a god send, making sure I was sipping on water, getting the tens machine hooked up and making sure the bowl was ready when I got sick. Even with that though, all I wanted was to be in my birth pool, which felt like is was taking forever to fill. I spent this time visualizing waves crashing over me and moving out into the ocean, repeating my birth affirmations. Telling myself I could do it, that I was doing it.
Finally I was able to get into the birth pool. I felt so relaxed. My waves spread out and became more manageable. Because things had slowed down a bit my midwife mentioned getting out to pick things up. Instinctively though, I knew that I was where I needed to be. Around 5:30am a wave came over me and all of a sudden felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I looked at my doula and asked why I was doing this. Everyone there said that I let out a moan and they all knew that I was in transition. Waves started taking over and coming back to back. It was at this time I went from sitting to wanting to be on my knees leaning against the pool. Once I was in this position I felt her head drop into the birth canal. It was so intense. All I could do was swear , scream and go with my body as it took over pushing my baby out. I remember thinking that women were crazy to like pushing because this felt horrible. Once K started crowning my midwife asked if she could rupture my membranes but I didn’t hear her. My doula had to get in my face to make sure I knew what my midwife was asking. My response was that “I don’t care, I just want her the fuck out!”. I felt the ring of fire and then got a small break. My body took control and started pushing the rest of K out. I was so overwhelmed. My baby was here. She was so beautiful and covered in vernix. K let out a small squawk and promptly fell asleep on top of me.
She was born 17 minutes after I hit transition and 3 minutes after I started pushing. Her birth has forever changed me.
My pregnancy and birth with E was far and away a different experience than I had had with L. Overall I felt a lot better, my prosthetic leg fit the whole time, and after a lot of thought I decided to go for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).
Choosing to go for a VBAC meant finding a provider that would support and encourage me. I found a great midwife who reassured me that my body was capable of birthing my baby. The best thing she did for me was to remind me that it was my body and that I had choices. A couple of weeks before Es guess date I hit the the same point that I had with L, I was done. I was uncomfortable, had lots of Braxton hicks, didn’t want to be around anyone and was scared. The biggest difference this time though, was support. I had people telling me that I could do it, encouraging me and bringing me up.
On a Monday afternoon when I was 39 weeks along I picked up L from daycare. As I was putting him in the car seat I had an intense sensation that made me stop. I didn’t give it much thought as it came and went so quickly. That night L and I hung out with some neighbours and had a relaxing night. It wasn’t until I put him to bed that I realized I had been having waves every 45 minutes. I decided to go to bed early and rest while I could just in case things picked up. Sleep didn’t last long and at 1 in the morning I woke up to more waves. I spent a few hours pacing the apartment, taking a bath and trying hard to go back to sleep. At 5am L woke up for the day. By this point the waves were still sporadic but I needed to breathe to get through them. L was an amazing little doula, kissing my head making sure I was ok and even taking an early morning bath with me. It was after the bath that I decided to call someone to help look after L so I could try to nap. My best friend came over and I got some much-needed sleep. It wasn’t until I woke up a few hours later that I realized it had been awhile since I had had any more waves. I had an acupuncture appointment that afternoon and asked my brother to drive me just in case things started to pick up again. It’s a good thing I did. The moment I got into my appointment my birth really started. Waves were regular and timeable and yet somehow I made it through the entire hour-long appointment. Once I got home I told my brother to go and pack an overnight bag in anticipation of having him stay with L.
I called my midwife soon after and after she listened to me have a wave she asked how quickly I could get to the hospital. Once there and checked in I found out I was 4cm dilated. I really wasn’t handling things well, swearing, screaming and didn’t want any one to touch me. I asked for some gas to take the edge off, but I hated it. It made me feel loopy. Plus my instincts were telling me to make noise instead of breathing in which made the gas ineffective. I asked to be checked about an hour later and was at 8cm. At this point I asked for an epidural. The anesthesiologist must have been right out side my door because no sooner had I asked then she came in. As soon as the epi was placed my midwife checked me again. I was at 10cm and my membranes broke in her hand. Unfortunately, because the epidural had just been placed I had to wait to push.
I really wanted to push on my own as I felt the urge to and about 45 minutes later when the epidural wore off that feeling came. I was in control of my body. I was doing it. And I was starving. I hadn’t eaten in a day, in between pushes I kept telling anyone that would listen that I wanted a pizza. All I wanted was hot pizza. Soon her head was past my pubic bone. I got into a squatting position and forgot all about pizza I felt E crowning, the intense ring of fire and then got a small break. Her little body came out soon after. I looked down at my beautiful baby girl and all I could say was “I did it, I did it”. In that moment I knew I wasn’t a lemon. I knew I could give birth.
The only time she left my arms was to get cleaned up and have her newborn checks. Soon she was right back in my arms where she belonged. I got the birth that I had planned and hoped for for so long.
Finding out I was pregnant with L was one of the best days of my life. You see I had cancer when I was 14. I went through numerous operations, scans, and 18 rounds of chemotherapy . No one could tell me what affects all that may have on my fertility. All I was told was that it would be best to have my babies in my 20’s and that instead of 1 year of trying I would get 6 months before starting fertility work ups. Luckily I got pregnant easily and my first few months of pregnancy where uncomplicated. At 32 weeks however I was so swollen that my prosthetic leg no long fit. By 38 weeks I was in severe pain.
This lead to me telling my Dr that I was done. I expected him to tell me to hang in there, or that I didn’t have much longer to go, to give me SOME kind of support considering that I was healthy and baby was healthy. What I got instead was a referral to the on-call OB to see if I was a good candidate for induction. Even though I had written in my birth plan that I wanted a med free birth it was pushed aside with my lack of sleep, pain and the end of pregnancy impatience most women go through. The OB went over the risks of induction with me and promptly discounted them. I was told I was an ideal candidate, that a cesarean wasn’t anything I should be concerned about. He then proceed to do a unconsented stretch and sweep.
3 days later I got the call from the hospital to come in for my induction at 38w5d pregnant. I was so excited to meet my baby and had no reservations about the induction. After all, I had been reassured by my care provider. When I got to the hospital I was hooked up to artificial oxytocin to get contractions started. I had monitors all over, an IV and was on my back in bed……..nothing happened. The nurses kept increasing the medication, nothing happened. They called my Dr who told them to increase it more, nothing happened. My Dr came in and tried to artificially rupture my membranes and was unsuccessful. A few hours later he came back and tried again, he lead me to believe it had worked this time. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second child that I would learn he had never broken my water.
We waited and we waited and we waited. Nothing happened, my body wasn’t ready, my baby wasn’t ready and after over 24 hours later I still wasn’t in labour. At this point my Dr came in and told me I could wait a couple more hours or I could consent to a cesarean (as I was lead to believe I had ruptured membranes for over 24 hours.) I felt defeated. I felt like I failed. I consented to the caesarean thinking it was the only option. I was prepped and rolled into the cold OR, got my spinal and was told that I was having a boy (I didn’t know the sex of the baby) The most magical part of my babies birth was taken from me by someone who didn’t read my file and hadn’t realized I didn’t want to know.
Soon I was ready. I felt a lot of pressure and tugging and then heard the best sound I had ever heard, L crying. It felt like it took hours for them to clean him up and put him in my arms. All I wanted to do was hold and kiss him, which I got for only a few moments. Too soon he was sent downstairs to the maternity ward. I spent the next 2 hours feeling empty, knowing I had just given birth, knowing I had a baby boy and knowing he was on a different floor, so far away from me. The lack of compassion I got from the medical staff was appalling . I was mocked and talked down to several times. It was far from the entry into motherhood that I had envisioned.
It took me years to come to terms with his birth. That I consented to so much that I shouldn’t have. Feelings of guilt at myself and anger at my care providers for not providing me with all of the information. These feelings impacted breastfeeding, my mental health and it took me a lot time to connect with my baby . I ended up suffering with PPD. When I tried reaching out everyone around me told me just to be grateful that my baby and I were healthy. But I wasn’t healthy.
What I have learned is that mental health needs to be a part of the conversation when it comes to childbirth.