“5 Things you need to know about having your first baby,” Part 2

“5 Things you need to know about having your first baby,” Part 2

In my last blog post “5 Things you need to know about having your first baby,” I covered some of the issues moms can expect after giving birth; however, there is just so much more to it that I felt like writing a part 2. I remember there was a lot that caught me by surprise after I had my first child. When I talked to other moms, a lot of them had the same experiences. But it seems that there are certain topics that people like to avoid talking about. Personally, I believe that it is very important for new moms to have a community where they can share their experiences about the good, the bad, and the ugly of motherhood. Especially, this year where moms are bringing kids to this world under the “new normal” and new challenges are arising. Therefore, I will talk about some of the more uncomfortable truths about motherhood hoping that it will help someone.

 1)     Female hygiene after childbirth

After a woman gives birth to a child, the body has to recover from the amazing job it has done of creating human life. Her body now has to rid itself of all the extra blood and tissue it needed for your baby during pregnancy. Thus, women experience bleeding for up to six weeks after giving birth. The hospital – or midwife if it was a homebirth – usually provides the new mom with all she needs for her postpartum care. This usually includes some sort of big pad, epifoam (or whatever recommended for any tearing), and mesh panty – often referred to as the adult diaper. In all honesty, it does look a bit weird and you really won’t be feeling the sexiest wearing this but the big silver lining is that this phase will pass and everything will go back to normal eventually. While you are still in this uncomfortable phase, it is important that you wear very comfortable clothing. Additionally, you want to make sure to only wear fabric that is soft to your skin. Due to the change in hormonal levels, you may be experiencing allergies on your body which is why it is important to be gentle to your skin while you are recovering.

2) Nursing and its side effects 

While many women are not very excited about having to wear adult diapers, the look of their postpartum breasts usually makes up for that. Once the milk comes in, a woman’s breast size grows by a few cups. While some may be delighted by the sight of their new boobs, it is very important to take all the necessary precautions. First, women should not wear any bras with a wire while breastfeeding or pumping. The milk needs to be flowing freely and a wired bra could lead to a clogged duct or painful mastitis. Postpartum bra and especially nursing bras are the way to go for new moms. For pumping moms, I would highly suggest to also get a bra that can hold the pump since it is very time-consuming. Also, you may be leaking milk so I can once again reiterate that it is important to wear comfortable clothing that is not too tight. In addition, nursing pads to catch any leaking milk are very helpful as well.

3) Take it easy on the movement

While you are still recovering, it is recommended to not work out for the first 6 to 8 weeks until cleared by your doctor. You want to make sure to drink a lot of water and make sure you’re resting. Try not to run around the house too much taking care of things. Most women experience postpartum swelling after giving birth which is why they are given compression socks for your legs in the hospital. Try to put your feet up and relax. However, if you want to get a head start on bouncing back before you can do any sort of physical activity, you can wear a postpartum belly binder. They come in three pieces and will help you bounce back into shape.

4) Social distancing during COVID-19 

Besides all the struggles moms normally go through during pregnancy and after childbirth, the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 has made things a little harder on new and expecting moms. Normally, a pregnant mom is celebrated throughout pregnancy and ends up getting most of the items she needs during the baby shower. I remember even outside of my baby shower, I had people come over bringing me clothes and other gifts for my bundle of joy while I was pregnant. However, 2020 put a big damper on this celebratory time. Most baby showers were canceled and due to social distancing most expecting couples couldn’t have any visitors. Subsequently, most expecting or new moms did not receive as many gifts for the baby as it used to be the case. 

Certainly, having a child can be tough on the body. Therefore, self-care and having help is crucial to postpartum recovery. Getting help this year might be a little more challenging than during previous years but rest assured – you are not alone, mama! Baby and Sunshine has an amazing subscription box service that delivers all the items you need for your little one right to your doorstep. Your box will include comfortable high-quality clothes you can wear during your postpartum recovery, functional nursing bras, as well as belly binders. If you are expecting or if you just had a baby, you can let them know what items you need and they will compile an awesome personalized box with the cutest and most efficient items so you won’t rely on anyone else. If you know a new or expecting mom, brighten up her day by ordering her a one-time box to her house. Not only will you help a mom who needs support now more than ever but you will also support mom-owned businesses. Baby and Sunshine has made it their mission to collaborate with mom and pop owned businesses. Most of the September boxes already included items from two small business owner moms Happy Momma Merch and Adry’s Boutique. This month they’ll be adding another SAHM-business Crochet Crafts by Sandy who will be providing handmade crotchet baby blankets and adorable baby hats. Check out Baby and Sunshine under this link and have an awesome month of October!

The roughest day of my life

The roughest day of my life

When I first found out I was pregnant with my first child in September 2017, I was overjoyed and at the same time I really didn’t know what to expect. But I wasn’t too worried. I figured the mom instinct would kick in naturally and I would learn everything by doing. Also,  I pretty much had the “perfect pregnancy.” By that I mean, I was completely healthy the entire time with barely any morning sickness. I gained the exact amount of weight you were supposed to gain, the baby developed and measured as it was supposed to be. It was almost like clockwork. Nonetheless, to make it all perfect, I decided to educate myself as much as could to ensure that everything would be a 100% and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything!

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The final countdown

I took TWO childbirth classes that consisted of several lessons just to make sure I would be fully prepared. I learned a ton of things about sitting bouncy balls when you’re in labor, bringing esoteric oils to the delivery room and to chill out once the contractions kick in and not run to the hospital right away. The latter was actually a helpful advice. When the day finally came at 38 weeks and a few days pregnant (a baby is considered full-term after 38 weeks of pregnancy), I was still working from home all day and did two conference calls all while having contractions until I decided to make my way to the hospital after rush hour traffic. The delivery went smoothly and quickly.

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Reality is kicking in

When my son David was finally born, things were surreal. I remember they had my husband go to the nursery with the baby which is a common practice. My husband had told me they informed him that the baby tested Coombs positive which meant they the baby and I have different blood types. I still didn’t think anything bad. After all, I hadn’t heard of it in any of my classes, so I can’t be a big deal, right? Granted, those first 48 hours after giving birth are just complete insanity but I still felt things were under control. I did notice though that the nurses were being very on top of me about feeding him every 2 hours. I didn’t understand the urgency since I never heard of that. I thought babies would wake up whenever they feel hungry. At one point, I fell asleep for 3 hours while the baby was asleep and the nurse was frantic when she realized. From then on, they checked on me every two hours almost like I was in the military so I started to realize that something was off. Before I delivered, I swore to myself I wouldn’t give him any formula and I would exclusively breastfeed him (everyone is a perfect parent before they actually have kids). But things were different now. I started to understand that he had very high bilirubin levels (which basically means he had jaundice) and the only way for him to get rid off of it was to pee and poop it out. After birth a woman’s body produces only produces colostrum – breast milk does not come in after a few days after. Colostrum is a very thick substance but it has a lot of nutrients; therefore, small quantities are enough to nourish a newborn at the beginning. However, I was worried if it was enough given the condition he was in. I made the call to supplement with formula so his body can get rid of the bilirubin.

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Nothing had prepared me for that!

The day I was released was the day when all came crashing. After two nights of staying at the hospital, the OB determined in the morning that I am good to go home and signed my release order. They would run the baby’s final bilirubin level tests in the afternoon and if they were fine, then we could go come together with the baby. IF! I had my last visitors stop by to bring me lunch that day. The nurse kept coming to my room but left when she saw there were people there. I immediately started getting a bad feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t wait to hear what they would tell me but got so worried at the same time. When the hospital’s pediatrician came, she gave us the news: his bilirubin levels were still too high and the baby would have to stay in the hospital for light therapy until he gets better. Alone. Without us! My world broke apart. Nothing had prepared me for that! I had never even heard about this in spite of taking all these classes. My eyes started filling with tears. My husband who held my hand teared up, too. I couldn’t help but wonder if I could have done anything different to avoid it. I felt so guilty and started blaming myself. By that time, the pediatrician had come over to me to console me. I asked her: “could I have done anything different? It’s my fault, right, because I didn’t feed him for three hours one time? I shouldn’t have given him formula…” I kept beating myself up! She assured me that it wasn’t my fault at all and that these things are very common. Again, why weren’t they talking about this in the birth preparedness classes instead of bouncy balls that I never even used? I couldn’t shake off the feeling that it was my fault. Every single person working that day who had helped me during my stay (nurses, lactation consultants, etc.) all came to my room to try to cheer me up and to confirm it wasn’t anything I did. They all were so compassionate and felt bad for me. We still did not want to face reality that we would have to leave our newborn baby at the hospital. Our world came crashing down. It felt so incredibly empty to leave the hospital with all the flowers, gift basket and arrangements that were sent to us but WITHOUT the baby. That was not what I imagined it to be. I imaged me leaving the hospital happily taking a pic with the baby in an outfit I had picked for him like I had seen so my families do before. That was the saddest car ride we had experienced in our life. Even though we had just “met” the baby two days earlier, it felt like a huge part of us was missing. It kept hitting us throughout the evening. At night when I walked by, my husband looked at me and said to me in the saddest voice “Oh, you’re not pregnant anymore.” Psychologically, it was unbearable for him to see me without my pregnant belly but with no baby at home either.

 

The longest day

We visited the baby that night and I was on a mission to pump every two hours to make sure my breast milk would come in ASAP so I can feed him. There were people that told me that I should see it positively since I would be able to rest that night. They were completely wrong. I did not sleep at all that night. I called them at 5 am to see how he was doing. We went there all day the next day and stayed with him during visitation hours. It felt so absurd to me to call to see how my baby is doing and to have hours where I can visit my baby. It was so hard seeing my baby in the incubator and only being able to touch him through the glass. I felt like Dumbo’s mom in that scene where they locked her up and she was only able to touch her baby with her trunk through the bars of the cage. But on the other hand, this experience was a bonding experience and the first real challenge for our little family. They left him in the nursery with the healthy newborn babies (and not on the NICU side) . All day we would witness new proud Dads walking in with their babies which was a beautiful experience.

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The verdict…

At night, they took another “fate determining” bilirubin test to see where his levels were at. We were so nervous because the results would determine if we could take him home or he would stay another night(s) which would have been devastating for us. They finally came with the results: his levels had dropped! We would take him home FINALLY!!!  We had to stay outside the nursery for their shift change between 6 pm and 7 pm so I used that time to freshen up! These 72 hours were absolutely nerve-wrecking. We got our happy ending! I ended up getting my “taking the baby home” picture and this car ride with him was a much happier one. He gained weight quickly in the first weeks and all his tests after were fine. He has developed perfectly without any issues. He is turning 18 months now and is such a happy and healthy baby! See for yourself!

 

Note: I am fully aware that there are parents who have to leave their preemie babies in the NICU for weeks and months. My experience probably does not seem like a big deal compared to what they have gone through. I am not writing this for pity and neither am I claiming this is the worst thing that can happen to someone. I am writing this hoping I can help parents with the same experience or even more importantly, that I can make parents-to-be aware that this could happen so they aren’t caught by surprise like I was. I wish I would have learned anything about this beforehand and hope this will be included in child birthing classes in the future.