Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pregnancy and babyhood: What the books don't talk about

Though I have very few female friends, there are two ladies around my age I meet with once a week.  Of the three of us, I have a 19-month-old, one has a 10-month-old, and the other is 21 weeks pregnant with her first.

And let me tell you what...It gives me such a self-esteem boost to have a pregnant friend ask me questions about pregnancy and childbirth.  It makes me feel great about myself as a mother.  This woman knows my son pretty well, has kept him in the nursery before, and I guess she thinks I'm doing a decent job if she's interested in my opinions.  As a (relatively) new mom, it really validates me.

Of course, I can't say the other woman with a child and I don't take a bit of perverse delight in informing our pregnant friend about some of the less pleasant things associated with having a little one (the stuff even the most "honest" baby books only glaze over).  Stuff I wish someone had told me.  Things like:

That period you haven't been getting for 9 months?  You're going to pay for that.  I'm referring of course to the "lochia", or what the baby books call "postpartum vaginal discharge and bleeding, which will typically lasts no longer than 2 or 3 weeks".  They also advise that the bleeding may at the beginning be "slightly heavier than a normal period".  It was advice like this that sent me running screaming to the doctor when I was still bleeding out my insides after more than a month.  Another friend of mine bled for over six weeks, and said she honestly "thought I was dying".  Also, far from just a "heavy period", the first time you get up to use the bathroom after childbirth, the trail of blood and chunks you leave will make your delivery room look like a crime scene.  One from "Dexter".

When your milk comes in, you'll look like a porn star and feel like a dairy cow.  Baby books like to coyly refer to how you'll "definitely know" when your milk comes in a few days after childbirth.  They also gently advise that "the sudden fullness and tightness" may feel uncomfortable those first few days.  What they don't tell you is that you'll wake up one morning looking like you stole every ounce of silicone out of Pam Anderson and that you can't see your feet...but not because it's your belly in the way.  And your breasts will be rock hard, like you could crack walnuts between them.  And you will be in total agony, since one of the most sensitive areas of your body has stretched twice in size literally overnight.  And you really can't pump or breastfeed fast enough to get them to calm down, so you will be leaking all over the place, breast pads and nursing bras or not.  This is also a rough time on the dads, since their wives look like adult film stars, but on hiatus.  I don't advise handling the situation the way I did, namely through alternately stealing your husband's shirts and screaming incoherently at him to do something to help you, I swear I'm going to chop them off, kill me now.  Yeah, don't do that to your husband.

When mastitis strikes, you'll try to look up Dr. Kevorkian in the yellow pages.  Mastitis is technically just a clogged and inflamed duct, sometimes with infection.  In my case, it was a 104 degree fever that seemed to be stemming from the fact that my right boob was on fire.  Compound this with seemingly neverending bleeding and the exhaustion of a newborn, and I was ready to throw in the towel.

Go ahead and spring for the video baby monitor.  If you don't, you'll wish you did.  When I was pregnant and registering for my baby shower, man did I laugh at the sort of paranoid parent who would buy a baby monitor that came with a video screen.  After all, the whole point of the monitor is so I can hear my kid cry and go take care of him.  If he's not crying he's fine, right?  Hahaha...I was a moron.  Little did I know that the worst thing I could hear in the baby monitor was nothing at all.  Paranoid and hopped up on hormones as I was, I took every 5 minute stretch of silence as evidence that my baby had stopped breathing.  I'd rush to check on him, only to wake him up in doing so, causing him (and often my poor exhausted self, too) to cry.  If I'd had that overpriced fancy video monitor, I could have just looked at him and known he was fine, without having to wake him up or stress both of us out.

Have two diaper bags, a full and a mini.  This is actually something cool my stepmom started when the oldest grandkid was born.  For long excursions, she'd pack the full diaper bag with change of clothes, lots of diapers, snacks, etc.  For short trips, like just to the store, it was just be a pack of wipes, a couple of diapers, a spit cloth, and maybe a small bottle.  Sooo much easier than lugging the big suitcase-sized diaper bag everywhere.

I like to think that if my husband and I ever have a second baby, things will be easier this time around, now that we know so much better.  What do you wish you'd known before you had your first baby?

1 comment:

michelle craps said...

Yeah 1st & 2nd would def have been good to know; didn't think my friend was serious when she said her boobs were rock hard; wow! That really sucked! Pumping did help a lil for me, but they already been so bad for 2 days that it prolly wasn't gettin worse either way! I like idea of 2 diaper bags, def will do that!

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