What I learned after my firstborn was born
My little guy was born naturally the first week of March with the guidance and support of my husband, an incredible doula, a wonderful hospital staff, our perfectly (I'm not being facetious) stern doctor, after more than four weeks of early labor.
That's right. Over four weeks before our little man decided to make his debut, he was prepping the sails, revving the engine, and rolling out the red carpet.
Now in case you don't know what that is and think I'm a whiny-baby who was misreading her body's signs because "it's her first time," you can sit down and listen. Yes, this was my first experience with birth. No, these weren't Braxton Hicks. Yes, I was dilating and contracting for four plus weeks. Yes, this is normal. AND, no, you're wrong-- I'm actually really glad it played out like this.
Those four weeks were a gift from God to me. Literally.
I was forced to slow down and skip the gym and any extra exertion and literally prescribed by my doctor to relax and soak it all in. Although the 'sit down and watch TV,' and 'no walks for you,' drove me crazy, it caused me to look at a big truth in the face.
Birth will happen to you no matter how much you walked, crunched, lifted, or stretched.
You see, I had it in my head that I would do my best to have a natural labor, but that I should also be in great shape to make that a possibility.
That's just not the case.
If given the opportunity-- and barring any medical concerns-- your body, no matter its 'in shapeness' will do its job as its medically able.*
Doula Care - Julie Papia
We worked with Julie Papia with A Graceful Beginning and couldn't have asked for a more calming, firm presence and guide at our birth.
Natural Birth Class - Hosted by Aubrey Shoham
Birthing From Within format. Consisted of two Saturday Classes (4 hour sessions)
Exploratory Reading - Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
Great read for working through perceptions, misconceptions, and the myriad of possibilities.
Exploratory Viewing - The Business of Being Born
This isn't for everyone. My take? Only watch it if you are flexible with your desires and can be pragmatic about the realities of birth-- and how quickly things can change.
Non-Medicinal Pain Management - TENS
TENS is a small, focused electrical stimulation used to stimulate nerve fibers. Our doula utilized the therapy on my back. Whether it was psychosomatic or just a good distraction, I was very glad I used it.
Google 'oxytocin and skin-to-skin' and take your pick of articles proving the benefits of holding that bundle of joy ASAP. Whether your birth allows you to hold your little one immediately or in some circumstances-- in measured capacities because of you or your child's fragility-- no time spent skin to skin is wasted.
You see, not only does it just melt your heart to hold your baby, but your body releases this magical hormone called oxytocin (Legally Blonde jokes, anyone?) that literally jumpstarts you and your baby with some serious postpartum super juice. Think increased healing, healthy breathing rates, good blood flow, milk supply, etc.
We took this pretty serious and did everything we could do maximize immediate bonding post birth and any chance we had later in the hospital and at home.
Birth Plan - Brief But Specific
Our doula formulated a one-page birth plan that included a request for immediate bonding and breastfeeding following the birth. Feel empowered to work with your provider to understand all of your options for all types of births.
Baby Wearing - Solly Baby Wraps
I wore my son for at least three hours a day in the first week of giving birth. The time having him close to me-- and the freedom to move around and make a cup of coffee-- was priceless.
Dad Time - Kangaroo Care
Dads need bonding time with their babies just as much as moms. And when Mom is exhausted from nighttime nursing or bottle feedings, there's no better way to sneak a nap in than to pass of your bundle of joy to your man.
We all knew Zeke would be a healthy sized baby when the doctor made her predictions on size, but I had no idea that was such a foreshadowing to his eating habits.
Our little guy latched on and started eating no less than a minute after being born. It was in our birth plan to bond and establish breastfeeding after birth-- and before routine checks/cleaning/etc.-- and he wasted no time.
I can't take a single ounce of credit for this and can only thank God for how this played out.
I read and expected breastfeeding to be painfully difficult and impossible because I understood that it was a two way street for both parties to learn. In some ways, this was true and in other ways, we had it very easy.
What I learned:
- Trust but verify. Each nurse during our two days at the hospital had a different point of view on how best to approach breastfeeding. I say, trust your gut on listening to each nurse. And ask questions, no matter what time of the day or night it is.
- Use/Take/Ask for all the cream you can. I wish I had grabbed more of the hospital's Medela cream. Freaking miracle stuff.
- Follow the two week rule. If latching hurts after two weeks of breastfeeding, reach out and find a lactaction consultant if you haven't already.
- Understand that things might change and be open to alternatives. Most medical professionals agree that any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial for your baby but all medical professionals would agree (and so do I) that it's OK if it doesn't work out. Be flexible.
- #FedisBest. Formula is in existence to feed your baby if you need it. Period. It's good stuff!
- Stress is the #1 reason for decreased production. There might be other things going on (I'm not an expert) like diet, limited supply to begin with, etc., but stress should be the first issue you rule out.
- Don't listen to a thing I have written if you don't want to. It's you and your baby's journey and that's it. No one can tell you what's perfect for you.
If breastfeeding works for you, do it. If breastfeeding is challenging you beyond its value, don't do it. If you don't want to breastfeed, don't. If you want to go back to work and still breastfeed, pump. If you go back to work, try to pump and lose supply, lower your stress. And if that doesn't work, supplement. And if you fall down again, get back up and try again.
Every person's walk with feeding their baby is different.
When things were challenging for me, I asked myself, "Do I remember how my mom fed me?" NO. AND I'M JUST FINE! #fedisbest
You guessed it. Our little man has food allergies.
When he was just two months old, Nick called me into his room and showed me his diaper. Our poor, smiling and kicking little guy had blood in his poop.
Turns out his body wasn't able to properly digest the lactose in his system so it gathered in his gut, causing melena. These symptoms were probably there since he was born (and especially on those days I was getting after those Venti Lattes) but the amounts of blood were so small and microscopic, we didn't know until Zeke was two months old.
The good news about all of this? We are blessed to live in modern day America where alternatives are available, coupons can be found, and doctors can guide us.
The bad news was the decision making of it all.
When we first found out about this, I decided cutting out dairy was too much for my own stress level on top of work and getting used to juggling this new normal so I stopped nursing cold turkey. I spent the 48 hours after we learned about Zeke's allergy, pumping instead of nursing and cried the entire time.
What a cruel joke. It became pretty obvious that weaning cold turkey wasn't the best choice for me, so I went back to the drawing board and decided to go diary free and nurse Zeke a little while longer.
So why is quitting cold turkey a bad idea and not advised unless for emergencies? Because you'll go batty and it hurts like hell.
I'm not kidding. It's not just because you could get mastitis or clogged ducts... Your body's hormonal response is just as sensitive to these changes. Read this La Leche League International article to learn more about the benefits of nursing and you'll understand the complexity that demands slow weaning.
So where do we stand now with Zeke's allergies? He's allergic to milk and soy and is on a formula diet (I weaned him at 5 months).
Guide to Ingredients - Go Dairy Free Guide
When I nursed Zeke and had to be dairy free, I had to clean out our entire kitchen and evaluate labels upon labels upon labels. This book was a great guide to help me understand what is really considered dairy and common items I need to be careful with, i.e. there's dairy in your store-bought bread.
Eating Out - Chef Card Template
The hardest thing about managing food allergies is managing them outside of your own kitchen. My best advice? Make it as easy as possible for your hostess, cook, chef, or whomever to keep you safe. At the end of the day, it's hard for folks to remember what you're allergic to and then translate that allergen into ingredients.
I don't know how many times I had to remind people that butter has dairy and sour cream has dairy. #areyoukiddingme This card turned it around for me. I wrote the allergens and listed the most common foods.
When you are adjusting your diet or your child's diet in a family without any experience with food allergies, it can take some adjusting. In our case, Nick was the real hero. The second I committed to going dairy (and eventually soy free) for Zeke, he joined. Walking this walk with someone else avoiding the same gooey, gorgeous pizza with you makes it that much easier.
If you can offer that solidarity-- or come to a consensus where there's no short-order cooking-- you'll be better off.
Tell me what you think
What have you experienced with these things?
Have any questions?
Want any more details on how-tos?
*I believe that a natural birth is the best option for moms who want a natural birth and are medically able to have one. It doesn't mean that other births aren't great because ANY BIRTH IS PERFECT.