What I’ve Learned About Pregnancy, Delivery, and Postpartum

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I’m going to preface this post with something you may hate me for… I had an easy pregnancy. No, that isn’t to brag (trust me, it’s gotten me a lot of evil looks over the last nine and a half months), it’s to warn that any advice or tips I give here are about keeping yourself as comfortable as possible. In the hierarchy of needs, these are the icing on the cake for that baby bump.

What I Learned About Pregnancy:

  • Download Expectful. I know you may not be a meditation person but it’s 10 or 20 minutes out of your day to be still and really take in the fact that you are growing a teeny tiny human. You’ll look forward to it every week.
  • Choose one pregnancy book and stick with that. If you keep reading from multiple sources, they will begin to contradict each other and you will be even more confused and potentially angry. I chose Emily Oster’s Expecting Better.
  • Not everyone gets morning sickness. Not getting morning sickness will make you want to get morning sickness because you will read that the sicker you are, the healthier your baby.
  • You will constantly fear for the safety of your child. Thought the mama bear instinct kicked in once the kid is earthside? False. Every time she moves, or doesn’t move, will trigger a protective instinct within your loins, making you concerned for her well-being.
  • You may not have to buy maternity clothes. Or at least clothes you’ll never wear while not pregnant. Staples I found incredibly useful: splurging on a pair of Lulu Lemons two sizes bigger than my usual size. These bad boys fit throughout my entire pregnancy. Pull out those college bodycon dresses you threw in the back of your closet never to be worn again. They are definitely still in play with a ginormous belly. Ruching is your friend. One piece bathing suits with cinching on the side allow for a roomy belly. I swore by this Target number until 38 weeks or so. A pair of slip-on sneakers. Kicks like these were pretty much the only shoes I wore third trimester- anything else was too tricky to get on or a liability. Lastly, I had a few “smocked skirts” (I think they’re called?) and they fit pretty deep into pregnancy as well. Gives you quite a bit of give in the mid-section.
  • As someone adverse to running and concerned about staying fit: snag whatever stationary bike you can afford and make yourself a Youtube playlist or two with your favorite work out videos. I bought this guy and used it about four times a week while watching New Girl and compiled a list of pilates videos I tried to do the days I didn’t ride. The endorphins were real in times of COVID.
  • Take the monthly photos. Start with month one even if you can’t see a difference. You’ll be astounded by the changes in your body.
  • Prep the nursery. Some women feel incredibly connected to their fetus and are ready for their baby the moment of conception. Others, like me, needed some more physical reminders of the impending life changes. I spent the third trimester perfecting our nursery, cleaning out our registry, and creating art for Wakely’s walls. All of these activities helped me mentally prepare for the huge life change that lay ahead.
  • Despite labor being one of your biggest fears, by the eighth month of pregnancy, you will be begging Mother Nature to break your bag of waters. And yes, they call it “bag of waters” in the biz.
  • Spend some energy hearing women’s positive birth stories. It’s okay to preface your question by saying you are reserving any traumatic experiences for after your delivery #positivevibesonly. The more good stories you hear, the more you’ll realize there are an infinite number of ways for your birth story to go as well.

What I Learned About Labor and Delivery:

  • The moment you feel your first real contractions (ie, not Braxton Hicks), drink at least 8 ounces of water an hour. If you don’t, you may find yourself running a fever and baby will be pissed.
  • Your hospital bag in times of COVID need not be full. We used a fraction of what was inside our massive duffels. On the necessary list? Baggy/ butt covering t-shirt for when you are in the maternity ward, iPad with a few saved movies or shows for when you’re too afraid to fall asleep lest no one be watching your fresh-from-the-womb baby, snack bars, a legit blanket for your partner, comfy/ fluffy socks or supportive slippers, shower stuff/ toiletries, and a change of clothes for both parents.
  • This is one I feel particularly attached to that I’ve never heard before but provide your partner with a list of loved ones you want them to be in contact with throughout labor. You will be too busy bringing a life into this world but it will still matter that your best friends are aware of what you’re going through and want their positive vibes. Your partner has an idea of who to text but they’re going through some major shit too and will need a reminder.
  • All those women that take stunning photos of themselves immediately following the birth of their babies practice witchcraft. You will not look like them. You won’t care.
  • In regards to the above, you will get very sweaty. You may also hate the feeling/ visual of the IV coming out of your arm, thereby rendering that hand completely useless until it came time to push (wherein you cared about nothing except evicting the resident of your womb). This means your hair will look like crap. This will leave you needing to ask your partner to put your hair in a pony tail… ask for a trial run before you get to the hospital. Your scalp will thank me.
  • Shaking/ teeth chattering and hot flashes are normal. Cold compresses to the forehead are your friend.
  • The amount of movement you possess during an epidural ranges and it may not be up to you to control it. Both my best girlfriend and I remained on the lowest dosage allowable. (Which was new information to me- after an epidural is administered you can increase the dosage with the click of a button. NUTS.) She lost all feeling in one leg whereas I was able to move, with the help of my upper-body, both legs. My pelvis however was completely numb. It made my butt feel weird.
  • Apparently you don’t need to push out your placenta. Once baby is out, they’ll “massage” you a bit and boop there it goes. They’ll ask if you want to see it and that, my friend, is entirely your call. (I asked them to move it out of my vision because it was terrifying… I don’t like blood.)
  • You’ll have 1,403 nurses. Most of them rock. If they don’t, you have the option of requesting someone else. Your birth experience, your prerogative.
  • Apparently you can have a short umbilical cord. As they went to thrust Wakely onto my chest, they stopped short and realized she wouldn’t make it. Thus, she ended up resting on my belly for the minute it took for her cord to stop pulsing.

 

What I Learned About Postpartum:

  • Controversial statement comin’ in… Apparently the only childbirth “secret” women feel comfortable sharing is how you should take as much mesh underwear as they’re willing to give you. Well, I got some news… I hated that ish. It feels like you’re a mermaid that was just caught in a blind fisherman’s net. They fit snug around your waist and then hang low like a poop-filled diaper thereby making you feel like your entire uterus is going to come plummeting out of your body. In the hospital I much preferred the Always postpartum diap [cough] underwear. Once home, I wore Nyssa Fourthwear underwear exclusively for the first two weeks. I highly recommend you snag yourself a set of three along with the ice/ heat pack.
  •  You may not bleed as much as they warn you you will. For me, the postpartum bleeding was like a regular period through week two and then spotting for the next week and half. No “GOLFBALL” size blood clots like I read about.
  • Insist on taking double stool softener. Luckily, I didn’t tear all the way through my perineum but even only having a second degree tear made pooping TERRIFYING. Do yourself a favor and double the dosage on the stool softener… that first one is scarier than labor.
  • This might just be a Kaiser thing but they won’t let you walk to your car when it’s time to go. They force you to be rolled out in a wheelchair which feels a bit demoralizing but #safety.
  • If you plan to deliver vaginally, buy the Frida Peri bottle. Fill ‘er up with warm water and give yourself a lil spritz after each bathroom trip.
  • Your friends will want to know how they can help during your postpartum time – let them. In times of COVID the easiest way is to have them feed you. We are incredibly blessed with phenomenal friends and family who showered us with food (three weeks later and we still haven’t gone to the grocery store). One thing I recommend is to be specific and for those who offer, delegate a specific day/week you’d love their support. That way you spread out the love and your freezer will be able to handle the influx of cuisine. If you’re in the Bay Area, I highly recommend Kitchen Doula. My sister bought us a week or so worth of dinners/ snacks from them and it was exactly what my body needed postpartum.
  • Your partner needs a baby break too. Even though you were the one who went through labor and, if breastfeeding, are supplying your little one with nutrients, they just became a parent whereas you have been physically prepping for nine months. Find time for each of you to get out, grab coffee, or see a friend. If you can, make sure you both have another parent friend to turn to when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Your pets will miss you. Reserve some time every day to brush your kitties, rub their bellies, and get them purring (this is of course the same for dogs but since they require walks, extra time is built-in). They will adjust but don’t be surprised if they act a bit different the first few weeks.

 

What I Learned About Postnatal:

  • The first week is not a good indicator of your baby’s temperament. Baby’s fresh out the womb sleep longer and feed less. It takes a second for them to get into their rhythm.
  • SIDS will terrify you. Even if you thought all your fears would evaporate once baby got here… it will haunt you in your dreams.
  • Speaking of dreams, most of your dreams those first few weeks will involve infants… and they may not even by your infant.
  • Getting a baby to go to sleep or take a nap is difficult. WHO KNEW.
  • You will be entertaining or feeding your baby essentially round the clock except for when they are sleeping. This is the first reason new parents are so exhausted.
  • Your baby may want to feed every hour in the beginning. This is the other reason you will be so exhausted.
  • If you’re into documenting, I suggest downloading 1 Second Everyday. It prompts you to record a quick clip each day and is a wonderful way of tracking both your pregnancy and baby growth.

 

Baby products I’ve found particularly helpful:

  • Get the noise machine. Oh, I’m sorry, don’t want your baby to rely on a machine to fall asleep? GOOD LUCK SLEEPING THROUGH THE EAR SPLITTING SOUNDS OF CRYING BABY. Not only will you take the noise machine to lull your infant to sleep but you will also suddenly hate the garbage truck, your clumsiness that causes random household objects to come clattering to the floor, and the ambient light from your cellphone. There will be a time when you would trade one of your mildly important toes for your child’s shut eyelids.
  • You may not want your daughter to ever be called a princess but it would behoove you to get the wipe warmer… It’s just one less thing that will jar her awake in the middle of the night.
  • Have at least six long sleeve/ long legged newborn onesies with zippers. Better yet, borrow from a friend.
  • If you can, try out a few swaddles. We still haven’t mastered the blanket swaddle and have used Happiest Baby Sleepea swaddle exclusively but realized Wakely may prefer something else. If you have friends with babies, see if they can lend you theirs as most babes are out of their swaddle phase after a few months.
  • It’s okay to have hideous baby accessories. If the kid likes it, it’s fair game. We recently got this portable swing and it allows us time to work on other things while baby is being stimulated within arms reach. It sucks to fill your house with baby stuff but it’s all about maintaining sanity.
  • We avoided one of these car seat/ stroller coversbut quickly realized how necessary they are. These are also the rare baby accessory that does not need to be ugly- do your research and find one you like.
  • Buy all of the potential baby toiletries you may possibly want in advance. By the time you actually want to use it, it’ll feel too late not to have it. This includes baby shampoo, diaper rash cream, nasal spray, Frida products, cotton swabs, brush for scrubbing baby’s head, and more.
  • This is great for plopping baby down next to you when you’re eating or just want some eye contact while giving your arms a break. Having a supportive pillow to use while breastfeeding is also incredibly helpful.

 

The crazy thing is I’m sure I forgot a few dozen teachings but this was all my postpartum brain could remember. Hopefully it goes without saying but all products mentioned here are not sponsored and are strictly from my experience using them. Hope it’s helpful!

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