Friday, March 16, 2012

Things I've Learned So Far (Month 1): What Worked for Us

So admittedly, I've been micro-documenting the baby experience on Facebook. Sorry, FB friends. I've always had a compulsive need to document my life learning experiences and this is decidedly the biggest one I've ever had. And I've been thinking a lot lately about the things I've learned so far with this pregnancy and now the first month of little man's life. Overall, the main thing I've learned is that I can do this. Everybody's an expert and you get advice from every single angle on every single issue whether you want it or not. But I can figure it out and I can make this experience successful. I just have to breathe and surround myself with supportive people. Check and check. But let's get down to brass tacks here. Specifically what are the big things I've learned so far?


1) Plan, plan, plan. Even if you don't want to "try" for baby and want it to happen organically, you can still financially plan ahead for having a baby. If there's even a possibility you could get pregnant in the next couple of years, go ahead and start planning financially. Get some supplemental insurance. If you do it before you get pregnant, they'll pay you thousands for your hospital stay after delivery and you can use that money to pay bills while you're off work. Lots of times employers will provide supplemental insurance as an option with your benefits. If not, companies like AFLAC and Humana have good hospital indemnity policies you can purchase as long as you're not pregnant yet. Take a look at your health insurance. Think about how much it's going to cost you to have this kiddo. "Purchase up" if you've been paying only for the minimum plan when several are offered to you even though the premiums are a bit more expensive. Also, start saving. Make a budget, have a goal to put a certain amount of money in your savings account every month, even if it's only a little. Every penny counts. Caring for a newborn is stressful enough without worrying about how you'll pay the bills while you're off work. And if you happen to have a job that gives you paid maternity leave, then chances are you're living a charmed life, you have an awesome job with a fabulous boss, you're already rolling in the cash, and you should never, ever, ever quit that job with that fabulous employer.

The Pregnancy

2) Trying to get pregnant is stressful. It's crazy emotional. It'll wear you out. Pregnancy losses are absolutely devastating. As women we need to be more open about talking about our experiences. The statistic is huge- something like 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. A ridiculously high number of women have experienced at least one. Yet we continue to suffer in silence and don't want people to know when we go through it ourselves. We've got to talk. There's strength in numbers. This is key.

3) And as much as we planned and tried for this pregnancy, I've learned I pretty much never wanna be pregnant again. I can do labor. I can do delivery. I can do late night feedings with a newborn. But I do NOT want to go through nine months of pregnancy again. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED feeling those little kicks and punches. Loved, loved, LOVED. But that was about the only saving grace of my pregnancy as far as I'm concerned. Your body completely whacks out on you. You start having pains in places that have NEVER hurt before. You feel like you're 80 years old suddenly. And I'll chalk this up to being pregnant in my 30's. And as my sister said, "Ashly, it's not like you're 18 anymore." That's true and my body felt it. So if you're looking for advice on how to feel better during your pregnancy, I can't really help ya except to say, it'll be over soon. Promise. But here's something I can help you with...

4) Choose wisely when you pick an OB. Don't just go off a recommendation from a good friend. Know what kind of person you want to deal with for 10 or 11 months once you get pregnant and interview your doctor in his/her office whilst you're clothed without your legs up in the stirrups. Yes, you want to make sure you've got a knowledgeable and skilled OB, but you also want to make sure your personalities mesh well. For example, I spent the last three years going to a female OB/GYN who was young and very matter of fact- pull no punches, tell you like it is, worst case scenario just in case. I was miserable the entire time. And after one very bad, misguided experience with an IUD, I changed doctors. This time I researched a little better and went with an older man who was very soft spoken, encouraging, and reassuring. He's exactly what I needed when dealing with blood pressure issues during my pregnancy and a very unplanned C-section during delivery. He was the best healthcare decision I've made in my life. (The same goes for picking a pediatrician for kiddo. Do NOT settle for a doc that makes you feel bad, doesn't answer your questions, or talks down to you as a new parent- and they're out there. Shop around.)

A C Section Delivery

5) ...which brings us to the C-section. Most people don't want to have their insides cut open and have the baby taken out, but sometimes it can't be avoided. And we can debate birthing ideologies all day long, but the fact is C-sections happen. And here's how I dealt with mine. First off, I was TERRIFIED. And it turns out there was nothing to be scared of. My operating room experience was AWESOME thanks to a very skilled doctor and a husband who was devoted to keeping me distracted from what was really going on on the operating table. Nothing hurt. So if you've never had a C section before and end up having one in the future, don't be afraid. There's no pain involved in the procedure.

Now, afterward is a little different story. Luckily, my doc's practice is to put 24 hours worth of time released pain meds in the IV to keep you comfy for the most painful time after the surgery, the next day. It did the trick. I know lots of people get morphine after surgery that helps the pain but keeps them drugged up most of the time. If you can ask for different pain meds than morphine, do it. The next thing to remember is that the quicker you get out of that bed, the better you're going to feel. I know it feels like your insides are going to fall out at any minute, but they won't. Trust me. If they don't give you a binder to wear around your tummy, ask for one. It makes walking around a thousand times more comfortable, especially in the hospital those first few days after delivery. I gave birth at 1:26 p.m. The next morning after breakfast I was up and in the shower. And from there on out it only got easier and easier. Probably the hardest thing is getting up and down out of bed because you're used to using your tummy muscles to get it done. Now you can't because they've just been sliced apart. Remember to use your arms to pull and push yourself up to a sitting position. Pretend you're paralyzed from the waist down and use your arms to lift EVERYTHING. But overall, the main idea is MOVE. The more you do, the better you'll feel and the quicker you'll heal.

Going Home

6) Hormones: Good. Grief. Charlie. Brown. They can tell you all day long that your hormones will be crazy, but until you find yourself in tears every day for a few weeks, you won't understand what they mean. It'll happen, so just be prepared. You'll be so in love you'll cry. You'll be so confused you'll cry. You'll be so tired you'll cry. You'll burn your frozen pizza and you'll cry. This is just what happens. It WILL get better. Hang in there.

7) Feeding. Feeding was what triggered almost all of my hormonal meltdowns. Suffice it to say, this is what I learned: do what works for you. You are not mother nature. You are not Mary Poppins. You are not practically perfect in every way, nor should you be. Everybody has a different opinion on feeding. Society shuns moms who breastfeed in public- just watch the news. And in the same breath they'll poo poo you for formula feeding. Do what works both emotionally and physically for both baby AND YOU. An unhappy, stressed out breastfeeding mom is not good for baby. What worked for us after two weeks of tears and a screaming child was bottle feeding breast milk while supplementing with formula. If exclusively breastfeeding doesn't seem to be working for whatever reason, first get help. Talk to a lactation consultant, then try a few different things. You are not a bad mom if you don't/can't breast feed exclusively.

8) Sleeping. People always say, "Sleep when the baby sleeps." That's not always practical. However, pick ONE time during the day, one time out of the four or five naps your newborn will take, and lay down with him/her (not in the same bed though just to be safe) and take a nap. It'll make your day much better. Ours was always right after lunch. Baby was tired, mom was tired after eating, so kiddo would fall asleep in his bouncy chair next to the couch and I'd fall asleep with him for an hour and a half or so. And let dad help with feedings in the middle of the night. You take the first, let him take the second, and so on. That way everybody is getting roughly the same amount of sleep and nobody ends up resenting anybody else for getting to sleep through the night. Although, if you're staying home and dad is getting up early for work, it would be nice of you to accommodate his schedule and work it so he can take the early morning feeding before work instead of the one an hour before he's supposed to get up, etc. if that's possible.

9) Crying. If feeding is the most stressful thing about having a new baby, crying gives it a great run for its money. By sheer luck, we have a pretty content baby. But he does have his fussy time, usually at night for a few hours before bed. We though it was gas. And it may be. But using the Best Baby on the Block methods really seem to be helping, namely swaddling. My best advice to you if you have a screaming infant is SWADDLE, SWADDLE, SWADDLE. As in SUPER TIGHT. You'll feel like you're restraining your baby. And you are. You'll feel like it's uncomfortable for him, but it's NOT. They just spent nine full months in a space that started out the size of your fist. They need to be squeezed. Get a Swaddle Me or get a BIG swaddling blanket and wrap them up til they can't move. Yep, it's a straight jacket for babies. And it'll keep YOU sane. Harvey Karp says, "Calm babies become serene babies. And serene babies sleep better." We've noticed when kiddo is wrapped up tight in his Swaddle Me, on average he sleeps 1-2 hours longer than usual. He even sleeps through feedings. So try it. See if it works for you. Do anything you can to replicate your womb in the outside world. Swaddling, white noise, warm snuggles, tummy and side time for fussiness, anything that engages the sucking reflex. Something will work. Experiment.

10) And the main thing I've learned in this first month of kiddo's life is this is all one big experiment. There's no user's manual. You just try a million things and see what seems to work for you and baby. You don't HAVE to do anything (except common sense things to avoid health and safety issues). Do what works for you. Try to relax. Babies are like dogs. They can smell fear. And stress. :) Put out relaxing vibes and they'll respond in kind- sometimes with a little help from you. This journey is amazing. And I can't wait to see what I learn in month two. Rest assured, I'll share. :)


angeyprice said...

Love how you document your life, Ash!!! Reading this brought back so many memories of my first month w/ little man. Cash is precious!!!!!