Life has been super busy with Baby Lemonade. These days, I can’t believe time flies as fast as it does: I have to return a million phone calls and read a billion emails but taking care of Baby Lemonade has been a lot of fun. But before I forget my delivery adventure and what I have learned in the process (lots of skin in the game, people!) and before physiology and hormones make me forget the good the bad and the ugly, I’d better write this guide and post it for everyone to read. I know it’s just one experience but I have done a lot of due diligence on delivery and hospital stays after labor and no article, book, etc. prepared me for the real deal. I was pretty disappointed that all the packing lists I found on the internet, all the posts and comments omitted so many details that I think would have been useful. And so here it is, my experience with delivery and early motherhood including a list of the things that made a difference or would have if I knew it in advance.
First, a quick preamble: Baby Lemonade was born through a planned C-Section and the process was all in all very civilized. I was scared of the water breaking + contractions +panic that would ensue. Strangely enough I wasn’t concerned about the pain because I trust my doctors and I knew that an epidural was just a few minutes away. But I was scared of the frantic panicked experience that birth could be. In the end I got my wish because Baby Lemonade was born in style, that is without me screaming profanities and the Pirate passing out at the sight of blood. Since I am a very lucky girl I have a phenomenal doctor who skipped his wife’s birthday to make sure that he would be in the operating room with me (I am not going to name names but if you want his contact details please send me a message through the contact form above and I will happily share my experience and the phone number of his practice).
Got a Birth Plan? Be prepared to TOSS it!
Every blog, forum, message board and momy group online or offline recommends that you fill in a birthplan (I.e. The list of things that you would like or not like to happen during your delivery). I won’t deny that I prepared a birthplan and made 5 copies to bring with me to the hospital. But it’s not realistic to want to stick to the birthplan no matter what. You can plan all you want, the music, the candles, the experience, but be ready to throw it out of the window. Delivering a baby is not about planning, it’s about having a good team of people around you who know what’s best for you when you and for the baby. And I am not talking about your significant other: he/she is pretty useless when it comes to pushing a baby out. And so are the other people that you may want in the birthing room. Their only purpose is to take pretty pictures when the baby comes out and patting each other on the shoulder. You know who saves your bottom, literally? Your doctor? So you can put together all the birth plans you want but rest assured that your doctor has the final word on all the bs that you might have planned. Did you want candles and music but your baby’s head is positioned so that he/she can’t get out? Forget about the candles and music, focus on the important stuff, such as having a healthy baby and coming out of the process alive! Luckily your doctor will take over the process and you’ll do just fine and meet your bouncing baby sooner than you think!
Packing List MUST Haves that no one tells you about.
The online and off line resources will tell you that you need contact lens cases, battery chargers, a pair of thick socks etc. Let me tell you that the check list you will find on most websites and even in very well respected books is completely useless. Yes you do need to pack toiletries, but who wouldn’t? I don’t know if it’s just me but when I travel even for 1 night I prefer washing my face with my own cleanser, not the soap bar at the hotel… So here are a few things that you should have handy just in case. Comfortable ballet flats or sneakers because no one will tell you but when you give birth in a hospital you are given pitocin, a synthetic hormone, to limit blood loss by promoting stronger contractions of the uterus. And you know what the side effect is? Cankles! When I went to the hospital in boots I thought I would leave in them too…. but when I was dismissed I couldn’t zip them up. Lanolin Cream because hospitals don’t provide you with it even if you request it and cluster feeding WILL be tough on your breasts. Fortunately I had this wonderful lanolin cream by Mama Mio, called Keep Calm. I have been addicted to this brand all throughout my pregnancy and their breast cream, Pregnancy Boob Tube is a lifesaver. These two products made all the difference and allowed me to enjoy the first few days of breastfeeding instead of being in constant pain. Eye Drops because hospitals are naturally very dry and you probably won’t have the opportunity of carrying your own humidifier. I suffer from dry eyes in the winter and having eye drops handy was a big help. Vitamin C, B12 and Zinc are a real life saver but you should ask your doctor if you are allowed to take them, first, to avoid interactions with other medications that may be administered by the hospital staff. Since you will be drinking plenty of fluids after delivery, dropping an effervescent tablet in your water bottle won’t be a problem and it will keep your immune system in good shape while you start your recovery. A warm robe for you because hospitals are very cold even in the summer. After all, doctors, nurses and hospital staff run around a lot and the temperature is always kept a little chilly. Additionally if you are sharing the room with someone else, you may have a room mate that likes it cold. Finally, hormones kept you warm throughout the pregnancy but at this point you may slowly go back to your normal temperature. In my case, I am always cold and a warm robe was essential. For the same reason you should also bring clothes for your baby. I know that many packing lists encourage you NOT to bring clothes for the baby as he/she will be examined by doctors and nurses periodically, but I am hereby calling this BS. Erika, my baby Lemonade, was particularly cold and she would only fall asleep wrapped in several swaddling blankets. Do you really want your child to be freezing the first few days of her life? I don’t! So bring your own swaddling blankets, onesies and nightgowns for the baby and make sure that she is warm at all times. My friend Claudia also recommends that you bring your own pillow if that may make it easier for you to fall asleep. Just make sure that the sham you use is a distinctive color so you won’t accidentally leave the pillow at the hospital when you leave.
Rooming-In, in moderation!
As soon as your baby is born you want to spend as much time with her as you possibly can. Gone are the days that babies sleep in a nursery on the same floor at the hospital. The new trend is rooming-in and it has some very important benefits: bonding with your newborn, feeding on demand, being present when doctors visit your child. BUT rooming-in can lead to major mommy burn out, too. Motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint and leaving the baby in the same room with the mother can be overwhelming for both. The mom is trying to recover from a potentially stressful delivery and the baby may be very demanding at first especially after cluster feeding for a full day. I made this mistake: after delivery, I kept the baby in the same room with me all the time. Until the last night at the hospital I was completely spent. Thankfully a nurse came to check on me and realized Kurt and I were too tired and burned out to even take care of ourselves. So she suggested that the baby sleep in the nursery that night between feedings. Those few hours of sleep were precious: in the morning we were refreshed even if our sleep had been interrupted by the feedings. So Room-In if you want to (and I strongly recommend it) but understand that if you need to have the baby moved to the nursery, you are not a bad mother, just a tired one. After all, when you go home you’ll have plenty of sleepless nights anyway!
Get your girdle on, girl!
In 1968 our moms burned bras and girdles in the streets. But soon thereafter, when they has kids, they all wore a girdle to get back in shape. Yes, a girdle is your friend after you give birth. Some people miraculously go back to their pre partum shape in a few weeks and some don’t. But this is not the point here: for several months during your pregnancy your organs a moved around by the growing baby. The girdle tucks you in and speeds up the repositioning of your internal organs. Added bonus: the girdle supports your back and makes it more comfortable for you to move around whether you had a c-section or natural child birth….. and it makes you look great under your clothes. I have put on my girdle the day I came back from the hospital and have already moved to a smaller size in a few weeks. Having had a c-section and not enjoying the pain killers would have made my recovery painful, but with my trusted girdle, I recovered very quickly. Will I wear the girdle for the rest of my life? No, but for the time being it’s working for me until my abs come back.