Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Things I learnt from having a baby

When I was younger, I thought that starting a family would be easy. You get married (or not), decide the time was right, get pregnant, read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, pop out a cute bundle of joy, breastfeed exclusively and live happily ever after. As is so often the case in real life, the plan went awry.

Getting pregnant can be really difficult.

We tried IVF several times before we were successful. It was a harrowing experience and at times, downright heartbreaking. I know quite a few people that also underwent IVF to have their children. I just wish it was more affordable so that more people could access the services. Not everyone with a deserving heart has the money to become a parent this way.

Morning sickness sucks (and so does fish sauce)

No matter what the name has you believe, morning sickness is not confined to the morning. Nor is it confined to the first few months. I spent nine months with a never-ending greasy, nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Bouts of vomiting were set off by various smells, seafood being the main one. Not good when you live in a country like Vietnam, where seafood is a staple and fish sauce is served with every meal.

Childbirth hurt so, so, so much worse than I ever imagined.

And that was with lots of drugs. I used a TENS machine during the early contractions. When that was no longer enough, I begged for pethidine. Later on, I opted for a walking epidural, which was great. I was able to relax and recharge for a little while. Once the contractions got more full-on, the epidural helped take the edge off but still allowed me to walk around and be in control when it came time to push. But near the end, I reached the point where I pleaded for it to be over. I truly reached the limit of my ability to endure pain but it didn’t stop there. Little Bean’s shoulder was stuck and he was in trouble. Eventually, all ended well but I vowed that there would be no more babies. I was so not doing that again. In hindsight, I feel bad for any other first-time soon-to-be-Mums that might have heard me screaming and cursing from neighbouring rooms. It would’ve freaked me out hearing that if our situations had been reversed. However, childbirth proved to me that I am a lot stronger than I thought possible.

 Sisters are awesome.

My husband was in Vietnam with our older boy when I had Little Bean in Australia. I asked two of my sisters to be my birthing partners. Best idea ever. No-one can make you laugh like sisters can, even in the midst of pain. During the first stage of labour, my younger, childless sister was sent on a drinks run to the hospital canteen. She returned holding a pamphlet on contraception. I’ve never laughed so hard in all my life. Between her and my older sister, who has two kids, they kept me grounded and strong. The time went much quicker with them to keep me company. I couldn’t have done it without them.

A good midwife & obstetrician are worth their weight in gold.

I had a student midwife attend my doctor’s appointments and join me in the birthing suite. She was amazing. She helped me so much and didn’t take anything personally. I vaguely remember her trying to help me focus on breathing, only to be told to back the f*** up before I punched her in the face. We laughed about it afterwards but I still felt bad. Childbirth pain really does make you temporarily insane. I also had several other midwives and they did such a great job when the shit hit the fan. They were so fast and professional at doing what needed to be done. My obstetrician did a great job too and managed to keep me calm while I was waiting to find out if Little Bean had made it or not. No easy feat. They were the longest few minutes of my life.

The aftermath is not all cute babies and overwhelming joy.

I have a picture of my son and I that was taken when they handed him to me for the first time. I was so tired, so happy and so very, very relieved. I had just spent the past few minutes not knowing if he was dead or alive. It’s only now, 19 months later, that I can look at that first photo of us together and feel happy. Before, looking at how frail and blue he was in that picture, I would feel that panic all over again and would end up shaking and crying hysterically. I had read about how difficult childbirth could give you a form of PTSD and about debriefing sessions for new mothers. I never understood how traumatic childbirth could be. Now I do. Luckily, I was able to cope with the feelings I was having. Many are not so lucky. Many new mothers suffer from PTSD, post-partum depression and anxiety attacks. I think that it is really important for new Mums to remember that they are not alone and that others feel the same way. It’s okay if you need help. Please don’t be afraid to ask for it.

 Pelvic floor exercises are really, really important.

I did the recommended amount of daily pelvic floor exercise throughout my pregnancy. We had a difficult labour and because Little Bean became stuck in the birth canal, my hoo-ha was not itself for a very long time. Neither were my pelvic floor muscles. Thank the Goddess, I never actually had any accidents, but I did come close more than once. My bladder felt fuller quicker and I certainly couldn’t hold on for long. I did so many pelvic floor exercises after he was born to get back into shape. Knowing what I know now, I recommend doing them EVERY spare minute you have while you’re pregnant. Or even better, do them constantly. I wish I had.

Breastfeeding is hard (and has many OTT bully advocates).

For something that is so natural, it seems that it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Little Bean wasn’t able to latch on properly so I had to express my milk so it didn’t dry up. In the vain hope that I may eventually be able to breastfeed, I gave him practice nursing, plus tried to express milk that never really came in. I had very little time to sleep and became exhausted. Then I got mastitis and had to take medication to try to up my supply. We had to supplement my milk with formula so he had enough to drink. Nothing really worked and I ended up switching to bottle formula full-time. I am a staunch advocate for women being able to breastfeed in public without judgment, so I was completely surprised by the criticism I got for bottle feeding. I had people I knew, as well as complete strangers, quiz me about my choice and basically tell me I should’ve tried harder. I found that the most opinionated people were the ones screaming loudest for their right to publically breastfeed. So much for equal rights and non-judgement for bottle-feeding Mums.

Sleep deprivation was way more fun in my 20’s.

I fondly remember the days when going without sleep was not only fun, but relatively easy. It doesn’t seem very fun at 4am when you’re doing yet another feed and nappy change. I must admit that I got very lucky and had Little Bean sleeping for 7 hours overnight by the time he was a few months old. I highly recommend the book “The Baby Sleeps Tonight” by Shari Mezrah. It saved my sanity.

You don’t need half the baby stuff you think you do.

To be honest, I went a bit nuts and bought all sorts of baby stuff that I thought was cute, cool or possibly useful. I didn’t end up using half of it. Cute outfits are great, but they inevitably get covered in one of the three Ps; pee, poo or puke. I recommend one or two outfits for special occasions or photos. Stick to singlets and onesies the rest of the time.

1 comment:

  1. Yep! I am right there with you girl on many of the points you wrote out! Having a child is NO joke. :) I love my little squirt, but the thought of ever loosing him somehow makes my mommy brain go wild. We give a lot and love a lot. It's what we do as moms. :)