Monday 18 July 2011

Mommy Rotten's Prenatal Advice You Can Really Use

Earlier, I wrote a post about how prenatal classes are bullshit.  That got me to thinking about all the stuff I wish I had known about childbirth.  I just wish some woman had taken me aside and whispered these truths to me much in the same manner that Mummy Dearest warned that I would probably shit on the delivery table.  I have done this for some personal friends and I like to think that the information was so useful that I ought to share with my readers as well.  Because it makes perfect sense that most women reading a frustrated mommy blog have not yet had their babies.

1)  Welcome to Mommy Rotten's Prenatal Class.  It is totally bullshit.  I wasn't kidding when I said there really isn't a hell of a lot you can do to "plan" for your birthing experience.  Even trying is an act of hubris and we all know what the universe just loves to do with hubris, right?  I have come to the conclusion that modern prenatal classes serve to both inform expectant mothers of what to expect in the hospital and to give them a false sense of security in a situation over which they have little actual control.

Frick's labour was so long and boring we had failed to prepare ourselves with changes of clothing and games to keep us occupied.  We got all of this together for Frack's birth which happened too fast for them to set up the nitrous.  I have known friends who spent months learning complicated breathing techniques only to end up having an emergency c-section and others who didn't have time to prepare anything at all because the baby was born premature.  I felt like I got very little true information about the hospital experience and I don't appreciate being lied to and coddled.  In Mommy's class you will get the truth.

2) The breast is the best because it is free, but freedom has a price.  There is a conspiracy of silence being perpetrated by the breastfeeding community.  You see, breastfeeding is so important to them that they will downplay the negative truths because they are afraid that no one will want to do it if they know.  The majority of women I have talked to who have tried breastfeeding agree that when you start out it hurts.  A whole fucking lot!  It is a toe-curling, agonizing and acute kind of pain and you get to look forward to it every two hours until your nipples have developed callouses hard enough to cut glass.

My baby's soft little gums began to look to me like the mouth of a pirhanna fish, ready to hungrily flay my nipples into cracked, bleeding shreds.  About a week after we came home from the hospital I got to learn about a fun little thing called "mastitis".  I had never even heard that word before until I was alternately sweating feverishly and shivering convulsively on the couch with a serious breast-infection that required antibiotic treatment.  (Thanks for nothing, Joanna.)  I still would have breastfed had I known the truth and I would have felt less like a total failure when it turned out to be really, really hard.

3)  Metamucil is your friend.  In Joanna's class she warned that after delivering a baby, particularly if we were breastfeeding, we might experience some mild constipation.  Right.  Just like during childbirth we might experience some mild discomfort.  In the hospital they give you stool softeners but they don't give you any to take home and they tell you as long as you are sure to drink plenty of water you shouldn't need them anymore.  Lies!  There isn't enough water in the world!

I had never been constipated before (at least I have no memory of it, I'm sure Mummy Dearest would say otherwise) and this must have been the worst kind of constipation known to man.  This, in and of itself, would have been extremely uncomfortable.  Now imagine dealing with this after having squeezed a 7lb 8oz football through your cooch.  I was lucky because I didn't need stitches.  You may not be so lucky.  Believe me you never want to experience this.  My advice is to start taking Metamucil every day for a couple of weeks before your due date and keep taking it until the baby is at least a month old.

(*Please consult a physician before taking Metamucil during pregnancy*)

4)  Don't let your husband watch.   In the moment, when you are in agony and working so hard to bring new life into the world, you are suffering so much that you may be unable to notice the suffering of others.  In my opinion, child birth is a uniquely traumatic event for a man to witness.  I had no idea just how traumatic it had been for Daddy until the recommended 6 to 8 week period of abstinence was up.  I was more than ready to get back in the saddle again but Daddy was hesitant.  He kept saying "You didn't see what I saw."  After Frick was born it took years for him to get back to the same relationship with my lady parts that we had before we had kids.  I felt kind of guilty about it.  After all, I spared myself that horror by refusing to have that mirror in the room that lets you see yourself give birth.

Also, there is this thing about childbirth that I have already mentioned, but that no one wants to talk about, where you have a bowel movement while squeezing out the baby.  I once read a quote from a nurse who said, "I never believe that baby is coming until I smell feces."  I still am not sure what happened in my situation and I do not want to know but I can say that not all women experience that perinatal bowel emptying that supposedly happens naturally.  I think there may be a reason why that nurse said what she did so again I will stress, Metamucil is your friend.

(*You can send me some money now Metamucil, kthx*)

Our second time around I requested that Daddy not look and he readily agreed.  Things went so fast that he was quickly shoved aside by the professionals and couldn't have looked if he wanted to.  In a calmer environment I would recommend keeping the father by your side where he can look at your face instead which, no matter how much your makeup runs or how tired you look, will still be guaranteed to look better than that whole mess down there.  He will thank you for it.

5)  Get a midwife.  If you have no reason to suspect your pregnancy is anything other than a completely normal one then look into getting a midwife.  Here in Canada, midwives are covered under public health care (seriously America, it's totally awesome) and I had heard good things about them.  I wasn't very happy with how my experience had gone the first time with doctor care, so with Frack I found a midwife.

My midwife was terrific.  She was straight up about everything so there were no real surprises or disappointments.  During my labour she rarely left my side and was the calm voice of reason so that Daddy and Mummy Dearest could relax a little and not feel so responsible for me.  She kept me calm and remembered to do things like change my puke bowl frequently so that I wouldn't have to smell it while I was breathing heavily (I puked every 10-15 minutes through the entire labour).  She secured us the "good" delivery room which she said was very difficult.  "I practically had to urinate on the door," she had said, "but it was worth it."  A mere three hours after Frack was born I was sitting on my living room couch waiting for Frick to come home from school to meet his new brother.  I cannot recommend midwifery highly enough.

(*Apparently I can't ask the midwives for money because they work for the government.  Damn public healthcare.*)

6)  Epidurals are not all they are cracked up to be.   We are told that epidurals are a safe form of pain management during labour.  What they don't tell you is that if you are committed to breastfeeding you could be making things even more difficult than they already are.  Having an epidural was probably very necessary for my first birth experience.  I was in labour for 36 hours and that is a lot to have to take.  But when Frick was born he was sleepy at the breast and failed to latch on properly.  This contributed significantly to the misery that was my life for 6 weeks.  Those 6 weeks of trying to get the breastfeeding going were, in my opinion, far worse than the worst of my labour pains.  I would have traded pain relief during labour for an easier breastfeeding experience in a heartbeat.

So when it came to delivering Frack I really wanted to avoid that epidural.  And because I had a very quick 5-6 hour labour I was able to do it.  Natural childbirth was not as bad as I thought it was going to be and I felt this awesome rush of exhiliration right after like I could just pick up my new baby and run away from a large predator.  Of course I know that very few people have a labour that short.  If my labour had been even 15 minutes longer I was going to take that nitrous gas, and in a couple more hours I would have probably been willing to huff glue if it were offered to me.  It may all depend on the luck of the draw but having given birth both with and without the epidural I would choose without over and over again. 

7)  Take care of yourself and enjoy your baby.  It seems so obvious but I didn't realize I could do this until someone else pointed it out to me.  When on the verge of hysteria over my worries, my failures at breastfeeding and lack of sleep it was this advice that gave me the strength to keep trying.  Yes, I have a new baby and yes, it is a huge responsibility but part of being a good mother to a newborn is enjoying it.  When you are suffering through self-flagellation over a form of nutrition that will only be administered for about a year, when you are crazy from lack of sleep, when you are crying uncontrollably you are not in a good place to love your baby.  Doing the right thing for your baby does not mean showing them how batshit crazy you are making yourself.

Love your baby enough to love yourself and preserve your sanity.  Why waste losing it over what kind of diapers to use or how to feed them when they are going to drive you nuts with their assholery in just a few short years?  They are babies for such a short period of time.  Enjoy it.

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