Mommy’s Corner is a weekly series exploring our journey in becoming parents, our love for our ShuGar baby, and general topics related to mommyhood.
We mommies are fascinating human beings. In many ways, we are the givers of life, the (true) heads of a household, the major food supplies for our babies, and the root of love in our family. Despite all these accolades, we are also individuals plagued with an exorbitant amount of self-doubt and guilt, at least first-time mommies. And, no, first-time daddies don’t carry this same burden. Interestingly, I believe these feelings transcend to many women, mom and non-moms. I’ve just barely entered the mommy club, but I’d like to unveil some of our dark secrets about labor and post-labor many mommies choose not to tell (or conveniently get amnesia about).
Before I dive right into the unveiling, I’d like to preface to those non-mommies reading that I will be exposing frank details about the first experiences of giving birth. This is an uncensored post and I mention this in case you would like to be spared all the details. I know for some women Ignorance is Bliss, so I inform you beforehand in case you prefer to skip this one.
Labor and the days/weeks following are an unusual cocktail of pure torture, sleep deprivation and amazing life changes, all while bathing in the happiness of having a newborn. Let’s start off with labor.
Secret #1: Is there such a thing as labor amnesia and easy peasy labor?
I get so annoyed when I hear mommies say either you forget the intenseness of labor or the entire delivery process was short and sweet. Although I don’t discredit those moms who truly do forget or those who had a super duper quick labor, I am attempting to say these situations are the exceptions to the rule. More likely than not, labor will be the most painful and difficult experience of your life and I can’t seem to fathom how you can eventually forget that. How do us mommies have more than one child? I can’t even begin to imagine that at this point. We all hear of those labor stories where the mom had an easy, swift delivery and just barely made it to the hospital on time. I hate to burst your bubble, but most first-time mommies will have a long, arduous delivery experience. It’s more the norm and should be expected.
I’ll gladly share my labor story, but I preface with saying I speak my own truth and I don’t claim to state this is true of all women. Yet, this is what I have lived and I believe I am not alone in this experience.
I felt like I was dying when I was going through labor. No joke and no exaggeration. Literally, if felt like death was knocking on my door. It is by far the most horrible experience of my life. There, I said it. I’m unmasking a mommy secret that I somehow feel I shouldn’t share because I need to be 100% happy with my new baby. Ah, mommy guilt…I’ll discuss more about this in a later post. Don’t get me wrong; happiness is an understatement when it comes to talking about my adoration to sweet baby Camden. However, I can never forget the trauma of labor and its aftereffects.
The Unveiling: My Labor Story
I had a 22-hour labor and I remember every second of it. My water broke just before midnight so off to the hospital we went. After checking in and getting an excruciatingly painful and almost violent dilation/cervix exam (pap smears are a breeze), I was told I had only dilated one centimeter despite the mild contractions and my water breaking.
What proceeded next for 21 hours or so was me being hooked up to an IV, a baby heart monitor, a contraction monitor, being injected with petocin to induce labor, and antibiotics fluid with the worst aftertaste. All this was being administered to me while having an oxygen mask and being repositioned what felt like every five minutes. They even had me lie on my belly and it felt like the most unnatural and uncomfortable position to lie on while being nine months pregnant.
Keep in mind all of this is happening while my contractions are getting stronger without very little progress in the dilation department. On top of that, Mr. Camden decided to move up more and was not in the ideal effacement position for labor. The biggest issue with my labor was the fact that Camdie was floating in hardly any water any more and, therefore, his heart rate would drop with every contraction because the umbilical cord would wrap around him so tightly each time I contracted. Hence, oxygen was given to me in the hope of maintaining his heart rate.
Secret #2: Is labor pain just very strong menstrual cramps?
I had several mommies tell me contractions feel just like strong menstrual cramps. Um, false! Not even close. Maybe the initial first phase ones do, but they are not even in the same galaxy as menstrual cramps. I think some women may have a higher threshold for pain than I do. Understanding mentally what you will endure for hours/days is something every mommy needs to embrace. It is hard to determine what pain medication you will need if you have no real barometer of the pain you will undergo. I can say that the pain or surges or whatever you want to call them are absolutely nothing like menstrual cramps.
The Unveiling: My Pain
I couldn’t utter a word throughout most of my labor because of the level of hurting I was in. The pain is like nothing I have ever felt. The contractions are so strong I was reduced to a whimpering baby desperately trying to do the breathing exercises. However, at some point, the breathing just didn’t help at all. For me, there was no way I was going to withstand hours of this extreme pain without some relief. Therefore, I opted for the epidural. Having your birthing coach as someone you trust to speak on your behalf is one of the most important decisions you can ever make the minute you find out you are expecting. Mr. ShuGar was my voice, my eyes, and my ears because I physically and mentally checked out. Nevertheless, once I received the epidural, I actually felt serene and present for the rest of my labor. Best. Decision. Ever.
Secret #3: Once I have my baby, I can just relax and enjoy him in my arms, right?
The second your baby comes out, you are thrust into mommy world with full force. The movies don’t really portray the hours following your delivery and how you adjust once you are officially un-pregnant. I can recall tons of movies with the mommy holding her baby in peace and then the next scene is of her being at home calmly cradling her baby in her arms. Reality is far different from that. You will have absolutely no time to recover from your labor because you are expected to be a full-time mommy right away.
This will inevitably include breastfeeding if that is what your intention is. I have so much to say about breastfeeding that I will dedicate an entire post to this some time later. I can say that the nurse will give you your baby and you are expected to know how to feed him right away. There may be no lactation consultant available at the time of your first feed, so you are expected to naturally know how to nourish your baby.
While you are tending to your baby, your OB and nurse will continue to clean you up and complete any necessary procedures on you, which may include any stitching involved.
Additionally, you may be asked to change rooms soon afterwards, which will intrude on rest period you definitely crave.
The Unveiling: My Experience After Labor
I really enjoyed having the skin-to-skin time with my baby immediately after he was born. Our hospital calls it the “golden hour” where the parents are left alone with the baby for that long-awaited bonding time. For me, once that precious time was over, the nurse told me it was time to feed my baby and so began my first breastfeeding experience of my life. Although I had attended classes, read about it, and talked to other mothers, absolutely nothing prepares you for teaching your baby how to latch on to your breast. Unfortunately for me, baby Camdie had a tongue issue that didn’t allow him to latch on properly. What ensued was a series of very painful breastfeeding attempts that could have been avoided if a lactation consultant had been present.
After my 22-hour labor, we were told to change rooms to our recovery room. At this point, it was one in the wee hours of the morning and we were going on 48 hours of no sleep. After packing up all our belongings (there were tons), we tried to relax in our new room. Lo and behold, relaxation would be the last thing we would get for what still seems like forever.
Secret #4: Once I have gone through labor, is there any more pain and discomfort?
The short answer: Hell yes! I wish I would have known this so I share for expectant mommies who can mentally prepare for post-labor. Whether you had a vaginal birth or a c-section, your body will be in pain for weeks after. If you had a vaginal delivery, the worst of the pain will last 2-3 weeks after and with a c-section definitely much longer than that.
The pain at first is unbearable. Now, nothing compares to actual labor, but the post-delivery pain can also be horrible. What makes it probably worse is the fact that you are surviving on lack of sleep and trying to learn how to be a mom all at the same time.
The hospital staff offers you pain meds for a reason. However, you may be mentally and physically unprepared for what you will feel hours after delivery so you may think you can handle any pain after what you have just gone through. I know some women are super strong, but I share for those of you who are like me and had no clue I would suffer weeks after giving birth.
The Unveiling: My Post-Labor Pain
I was so naive; I really thought I would be pain-free after labor. I initially didn’t request any pain meds – big mistake. I ended up waking up in the middle of the night whimpering and shaking from the extreme pain. In fact, I had to be hand-fed food in order to receive medication and I just couldn’t stop crying. It hurt so badly I could hardly breathe.
Once home, the pain did not subside, but felt worse. I could hardly sit and the bleeding was more than I could have ever imagined. My hospital staff only offered pain meds to treat me. I later learned that I could have used other over-the-counter items to help with the pain. I was shocked at how much pain I felt days and weeks later.
Secret #5: Should I have family and friends visit me at the hospital or at home to meet our newborn?
Now, every one is different and only you can decide this. I can say that you are mentally and physically so drained and still in pain that having guests is probably the last thing on your mind. Everyone I spoke with advised us to keep the guest list short to only the VIPs. It is inevitable that your loved ones will want to meet the new baby. However, you may be suffering from so much pain and also feeling depressed, which can make it not an ideal situation to receive guests.
You and your partner will have to make a decision based on your new family’s comfort. Don’t be afraid to appear “unfriendly” if you are not feeling up to receiving guests. In my experience, those individuals who are parents completely understand what you are feeling. It was refreshing to not have to explain why you are so tired and cannot conceive welcoming people into your home at that time. It is the people who don’t have babies that actually require more of an explanation, as would be expected. You are grateful for their joy, but you have to think what is best for you and your family, regardless if you hurt their feelings or not.
The Unveiling: My Cocoon
I am not an extrovert, so I don’t necessarily need constant social interaction. After giving birth and finally being at home, the last thing I wanted to do was have people over. I was really suffering and I couldn’t stop crying. The physical pain became unbearable and my breastfeeding attempts were so awful. My eyelashes even hurt. Non-parents may not understand why new moms may feel this way as they may construe this as not being happy you have a new baby. It has absolutely nothing to do with that. Post-partum depression or baby blues is very real. Your hormones are completely out of whack so expect to feel completely emotional.
I had/have baby blues pretty badly. I didn’t want to see anyone. I still can’t get the energy to open our house for our family and friends to visit. I am on an emotional roller coaster and some days are better than others. All I want is to sleep and, in my waking hours, figure out how to take care of my baby. Our parent friends are very empathetic, even telling us to take all the time we need and they wouldn’t reach out, but instead wait for us to make the call to let them know we are ready. Those friends who don’t have kids have required more of an explanation as to why I want to remain isolated. I can barely manage to get up and take a shower and this is only possible because my mom is my guardian angel and is staying with us several days a week. I just can’t spend any energy talking to anyone.
My cocoon has continued to last. I am just barely beginning to feel a small glimpse into my old self and this is almost a month after giving birth. I’m still not 100% and don’t yet feel animated to be a hostess. I hope our family and friends understand, but ultimately I am doing what is best for me and our family and I can’t preoccupy myself with what others will think of us. I look forward to the day when I feel ready to welcome the world into our home.
Thank you for allowing me to share my labor and post-delivery experience. I share this in the hope that future mommies get a better understanding as to the entire birthing experience. Of course, every pregnancy and labor is different, but being fully informed can help ease some of the transition. I also know that some moms do not want to share all the scary details as they don’t want to frighten any mommies. I totally get that. However, I like the idea of mentally preparing yourself for what will surely be the most amazing and difficult minutes/hours/days/weeks/months/years of your life.
What was your birthing experience like? Did you ultimately forget the whole ordeal over time? If you are not a mommy, do you have any preconceived notions as to how labor could be like?
Photo credit: Secret