And so, here comes another post where I tell you things that I've learned, and maybe it's new to you and you're thankful, or maybe you roll your eyes and feel superior; either way, you're better off than you were before!
Patent's Patented Guide to the weeks immediately before, during, and after having a baby
Adult Diapers -- buy them
I wrote a whole post about my adult diapers, but let me give you the short version:
I was really paranoid about my water breaking somewhere other than in the shower or on the toilet, so I bought a package of adult diapers and started wearing them over my underwear every night starting at around 36 weeks pregnant. They were hideous and ridiculous and I was an embarrassment to everyone in my life.
Fun fact: the adult diapers post is my most-viewed post out of everything I've ever written. Because apparently pregnant-women-wearing-diapers fetishes are a real thing, and people click over to that post hoping desperately for pictures. They won't find any. Sorry fellas.
But then, at week 39+1d, I started having contractions so mild I didn't even realize they were contractions. They just felt like period cramps, but period cramps that were becoming increasingly more rhythmic. And at around 9PM, as I lay in bed pretending to play Candy Crush but actually just timing these rhythmic cramps, I felt the trickle of my water breaking.
I was wearing a diaper. Because of this,
-- The bed/sheets were unharmed.
-- I walked to the bathroom without soaking the carpet. I did not feel the need to run there with my hands clasped between my legs.
-- As we spent the next half hour running around the house like crazy people loading everything into the car and making 50 phone calls, I was not in any way concerned about soaking through my pants and making a giant mess in the house.
-- By the time we were actually getting in the car to leave, I had leaked enough to require a new diaper, so I put on a fresh one and we headed to the hospital. My contractions intensified in the car, but I was able to focus on them and not on worrying that I might leak through the towel I was sitting on.
Those diapers were a f***ing godsend, is what I'm trying to say. Once your water breaks, it doesn't really stop leaking ever. It is too much liquid for just a pad to handle, and I can't imagine that leaking through my pants would have been very comfortable. Being in labor is uncomfortable enough without also having to deal with that.
Just buy the diapers, and if you never need them, you never need them. And if you DO need them, you will be so, so happy you have them.
Extra bonus: One very smart lady told me that she also wore diapers for the couple of days after giving birth, when the crotchal region is like Niagara Falls during a hurricane sent by God as a precursor to the apocalypse. You can bet your ass I will be following her lead this time around.
Gatorade -- buy as much of it as you can store
I did not buy enough Gatorade for after Audrey was born. Not even close. I should have bought cases of it, so that I could drink it constantly and not feel guilty about it.
Why? Because those first few postpartum weeks are PUNISHING on your body's water management system. On the one hand, your body is trying to get rid of all the extra blood and fluid it's been carrying around for the past 9 months, so you're going to sweat and pee like you've never sweated and peed before. But at the same time, your body is also trying to establish a supply of breast milk, which requires extra water. So your body is battling itself, totally unsure of what to do with fluid and where to send it.
And I ended up feeling about as dehydrated as I've ever been in my life.
The dehydration took a terrible toll. My hands were dry and cracked, as were my lips. My appetite completely tanked, as no food sounded appealing at all. There was literally nothing that I wanted to eat. The only thing I could make exceptions for? Fruit and soup. And guess what fruit and soup have in common? THEY ARE FULL OF WATER.
Now, it's easy to sit here and say "well then why the hell didn't you just drink more water?", but it isn't always that simple. When you're that far gone with dehydration and no appetite and total exhaustion from not sleeping, the thought of chugging down yet another liter of tap water is so, so unappealing. I drank all the water I could, but it didn't seem to do me any good. I just peed it out and my lips stayed cracked and I couldn't eat and my breastmilk supply never really happened and I cried dusty tears into my peeling hands while lamenting every decision I'd ever made in my life.
I really feel like this could all have been solved by gallons upon gallons of Gatorade. Delicious, cold, refreshing, hydrating, easy to drink, and full of whatever your body needs while it goes through all these insane changes. At least for a week or two, if I'd drank four liters of Gatorade a day, things would have been better for me. I know this because one day I drank four liters of Gatorade and I felt absolutely incredible.
This time around, I'm actually learning this lesson. Gallons of Gatorade. Gallons.
It's cool to just keep one of these in the living room, right?
(Note: don't go making Gatorade your only fluid intake, and definitely don't keep up the Gatorade diet for longer than absolutely necessary. Let your body get its shit together, and then drink water like a normal person. Gatorade is full of sugar, yo. Don't give yourself a kidney stone or diabetes or anything and then blame me for it)
Your favorite protein bar -- buy a few boxes of them
It's pretty well established that eating properly in the first weeks after giving birth is a challenge. This is why women commonly fill their freezers with casseroles while pregnant, or have family members drop off lasagnas, or get "meal train" deliveries from friends and neighbors after baby is born. When cooking is at priority zero and eating isn't far behind it, it takes some pretty consistent reminding to get new moms to take proper care of themselves as their poor bodies try to heal and also try to get breast milk production going.
Protein bars are the easiest thing in the entire world to eat. You can eat them with one hand while you drive. You can eat them with one hand while your baby naps in the other. You can eat them with your non-dominant hand without spilling or putting an eye out. You can eat them on a boat, or with a goat.
Before baby comes, buy lots and lots and lots of protein bars -- enough that you won't feel like you need to ration them or find time to go shopping for more. I mean hell, it's not like they go bad in a week. If it takes you a year to get through them all, so what. Buy them.
(Also, my favorite protein bar is the Luna bar in either S'mores or Nutz over Chocolate flavor. They're pretty nutritionally balanced, with lots of vitamins along with the protein and carbs and fat your body needs, and more importantly, they taste good as f***. I will be buying at least 50 of them before new baby comes)
... 50 BOXES of them, ha ha am I right ladies?
80's-style sweat band -- buy one and put it in your hospital bag
They're great for gettin' physical.
If you start to lose your motivation, change something
This one seems so obvious when you think about it rationally ... but when you're 8 hours into labor, nothing is rational anymore and it can be very easy to forget.
So let's just all drill this into our heads: If what you're doing isn't working anymore, DO SOMETHING ELSE.
There will probably be many points in the labor process (especially if you've not had any pain medication) where you think "I cannot do this anymore." And every time you hit one of these walls, you need to change something about what you're doing. Are the lights dimmed? Maybe try turning them back on. Are you listening to Nine Inch Nails? Maybe change over to Disney's The Little Mermaid soundtrack and try to sing along to "Kiss The Girl." Are you sitting on a birth ball? Try squatting. Try walking around.
Try out the shower. Move to a different part of the room. Look out the window. Look at a picture. Turn on the TV. Change the channel.
Watch some Caillou. We all know how much I love that show.
Finding the next "right thing" to keep your labor progressing properly is like trying to find the right prescription at the eye doctor. There might be a lot of "worse! worse! WORSE!!" before you find your "better", but when you find it (and you will find it), you'll suddenly find yourself energized, motivated, and ready to keep plugging away at it. A few miles here, a few miles there, and eventually you'll get to the finish line.
Take care of EVERY minor comfort issue
Before a man runs a marathon, he must first put tape over his nipples. He must do this because if he doesn't, his shirt will rub just ever so slightly over his nipples with each stride ... and as he sweats, his shirt will become heavier, and it will rub a bit more ... and the salt in the sweat will turn his shirt into soggy sandpaper ... and by the time he finishes his 26.2 miles, his nipples will be raw to the point of bleeding through his shirt. The same man in the same shirt in the same weather running 5 miles may have no issues whatsoever.
It is amazing how even the most minor irritation can, over a long time, become absolutely unbearable. And this completely applies to being in labor.
I remember keenly the moment when everything turned around for me. I was sitting up on the bed and it must have been 3 o'clock in the morning, six hours after my water had broken. I was dilated to maybe 6 cm or so, so I still had a ways to go. And I just didn't think I could do it anymore. I told everyone that it was too much for me, that I would probably need the epidural after all, that I wasn't as strong as I thought.
And do you know what gave me the boost I needed to keep going? It wasn't the support and positive reinforcement I got from my mom and husband and doula (though that was nice too). It was that f***ing 80's-era sweatband.
I hadn't realized it, but my hair, which had started out tied back in a tight ponytail and held in place with multiple bobby pins, was falling down and strands of it were consistently in my face and eyes. And that minor irritation had, over the course of hours, dragged me down to the point where I thought I couldn't go on anymore. My nipples had bled through my proverbial shirt.
But I put on that sweatband, and my hair wasn't in my face anymore. And that was it. I continued my labor for many more hours, without pain medication, until Audrey was finally born at 7:27AM. That f***ing sweatband was the turning point in my entire night.
Another minor discomfort to be on the lookout for is leaky bottom. As I mentioned above, once your water breaks, it will continue to leak throughout the rest of your labor. Do you want to constantly feel that wetness pouring out between your legs? If not, get the hospital to give you some of those fabulous mesh panties with a big pad in them (or, bust out those diapers again!). Keep your legs dry.
(Note: this was also a godsend later in labor, when I could NOT stop peeing myself with every contraction. Seriously, it was like a dog that pees on every single tree and you're like "how do you even have any more pee left?!" but then you get to another tree and sure enough, he's got a few drops for that one too. If I had been peeing down my legs or into my bed, I would have been even more miserable than I already was).
Are you cold? Say something to someone. They will find you a robe, or another gown, or a blanket, or some big fuzzy slippers, or whatever it is that's going to make you comfortable again.
Do not let even the most MINOR of discomforts go unaddressed. Giving birth is f***ing uncomfortable enough on its own without your right arm also being a bit itchy.
Ask the hospital to give you a sitz bath to take home
Make your insurance buy that bitch for you.
Drink the f*** out of the Gatorade
Like seriously. Drink the f*** out of it. Are you thirsty? Does water not sound like something you want? Drink a Gatorade. Drink all of the Gatorade.
Eat 10 protein bars a day if the alternative is you don't eat properly at all
There were a lot of things that went wrong with my attempts to establish good breastfeeding, but I'm willing to bet that part of the problem was my absolute inability to eat and drink properly in the first week or so after Audrey was born.
Making breast milk is a lot of work for your body. Give that poor bastard the raw materials it needs to do its job.
If you're not in a situation where you can sit down and eat a slab of that lasagna that your Aunt Betsy brought over, eat a protein bar. If you need to leave for the doctors' office right f***ing now and there's just no time for any of that tater tot casserole you thawed out yesterday, eat a protein bar. Wake up, eat a protein bar. Middle of the night feeding, eat a protein bar.
When in doubt, eat a protein bar.
And wash it down with an unholy f***-ton of Gatorade.
Epsom salt butt baths motherf***er
Due to the severity of the, umm, injury I suffered when birthing Audrey, Epsom salt sitz baths were a required part of my postpartum recovery process.
And I genuinely believe that they should be a part of EVERYONE'S postpartum recovery process (unless you had a C-section, I guess, but even then, why not?? Does your bottom not deserve the royal treatment??). If your bottom has just passed a human through it, you deserve daily sitz baths. You should be pampered by more than just your adult diapers.
You set your sitz bath on the rim of your toilet and fill it with warm water and Epsom salt. Swish it around until the salt dissolves. Sit your little bare, swollen, maybe torn and stitched up tushy in there. Read. Eat. Drink. Update Facebook. Sit until the water is no longer warm enough for it to be comfortable, and then reluctantly get up and go on about your day.
Through the magic of science, the Epsom salts will help reduce any swelling in the area. The warm water plus salt together will really help keep everything clean down there, which is great when you're not allowed to wipe your arse yet. Plus, the mandatory 10 minutes or so spent alone in the bathroom playing Candy Crush (or eating a protein bar and drinking a Gatorade) a few times a day will be absolutely lovely.
I loved soaking my undercarriage in saltwater, and my undercarriage loved being soaked in saltwater. It was glorious and I highly, highly, highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who pushes a baby out of that body part. The saltwater will actually help keep you from rusting.
Everyone's got tips on surviving labor and delivery. These are mine. TAKE THEM OR LEAVE THEM YOU BASTARD; I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU DO!
And a happy childbearing to all :-)
And here are some linkies to other pregnancy-related, childbirth-related, and new baby-related posts I've written that you might also enjoy:
Guide to buying maternity clothes
How to craft the perfect pregnancy announcement
Why did I choose natural birth?
How to write a birth plan that won't make the nurses hate you
My birth story for Audrey
Advice to a first-time mom
Hippie parenting decisions I made for non-hippie reasons
Reviews of the cloth diapers I use