Things I Wish I Knew Relating to Pregnancy and Birth Prior to Experiencing It
The average gestation or length of pregnancy for ANY mom (not just first time moms) is 40 weeks + 6 days. What?! Then why are we so crazily waiting for this sacred 40 week mark?
I had my first little one at 40 weeks + 2 days and second at 41 weeks + 2 days. That’s right….my second pregnancy was LONGER than my first. It went against everything I had ever heard (or choose to listen to anyway) and I was mad, sad, broken down, anxious, depressed, ashamed for feeling said depression..you name it I felt it during that extra week.
The worst part is that with each one I was dilated to a 1-2 at 35 weeks! It was even something that I was put on pelvic rest with my first because they thought I may not make it to full term based on how I was presenting. That was the most cruel joke ever. Haha.
So what did I learn from all of this? That EVERY woman and EVERY pregnancy is completely different and if you compare yourself or your pregnancy to others (including others of your own) you could be sorely disappointed when/if it doesn’t match up to what you thought you should be doing or experiencing.
Do I completely understand why some women choose to be induced? Yep.
Do I understand why some women prefer the predictability and control over delivery with a caesarean? Yep.
Do I understand why some women choose to have interventions even though they may have specifically said they did not want those interventions earlier in their pregnancy? Big fat yep.
If you’re pregnant I am sure you’ve heard of a birth plan. I can honestly say that my experience the people who have had the most specific birth plans were the ones to have things go completely different than what they anticipated. What do I think the reasoning for that is? I think that their expectations were set REALLY high by dictating how they wanted each thing to go and honestly it provided a lot of times for things to go differently or “wrong” which could be seen as a loss or failure of that part of the plan. If you plan started to crumble it could shake your confidence.
My personal opinion, for what it’s worth, is that the best plan is to be open to going with the flow and adapting as needed with you and your baby’s best interest in mind. So if you have to zig instead of zag that’s okay because you weren’t anti-zigging prior to going into this.
So what can you do to help ensure that you can achieve the pregnancy and birth that you long for? Have a supportive birth team. There will be days where you need help and these people will be who you rely on for guidance, support, advice you name it you’ll need it. These people may include your spouse/partner, midwife/OB, family, friend(s), chiropractor, massage therapist, doula, placenta encapsulator, and lactation consultant.
Who are these people and what would they do?
Hopefully your spouse/partner is your go-to. Your confidante. The one that you can complain to on the days where you feel like a large, immobile and sweaty mess of a person. This is the person who you should sit down and talk everything out with. Describe your ideal situation and what their role would look like to help ensure that this can come to fruition. They will hopefully be the one there through the thick and thin and know what can be done to help when you’re uncomfortable or upset or need a boost. A lot of times a partner is crucial because they can understand how you’re feeling or read the room just by looking at your face and know when changes need to be made to make you more comfortable etc.
This was definitely the case for our first child. A woman was continually offering me coca cola and I apparently gave a look like I was “going to murder her” per my husband to which he proceeded to tell her in a very nice way that she shouldn’t do that any more. Haha.
Your midwife/OB is your healthcare provider. Tell them all of your concerns. They probably have heard it before and most likely have an awesome wealth of knowledge to pull from to comfort you or give advice on what to do. They also appreciate being kept in the loop because some things that seem small may actually amount to big things when combined with other factors so make sure to keep them informed on how you feel, what you want, what you don’t want etc.
Family and friends are sometimes grouped together as they can easily have overlapping duties. One thing that is super important to provide to mom is a peaceful space for her to labor. This may be done in a variety of ways as family and friends may be a source of comfort to mom directly or they may provide peace of mind by caring for her other children so she can focus on what she has to do.
Your chiropractor and massage therapist have hopefully done a great job during your pregnancy providing supreme care so that in theory you would not need their assistance during labor. I do suggest to patients to stop by my office prior to reaching their final laboring/delivery destination so that I can do a final check for them to ensure they are in the optimal state for this life changing event!
Photo credit to KE Documentary
A doula is literally hired by you to provide support to you during labor. This doesn’t necessarily mean that she should be hands on with you the entire time but her purpose is to provide support where it is needed. This may include providing food and water to your birth team so everyone is able to make it through this with you and keep up with what you need. A photographer friend of mine captured this really great photo at a birth of a doula providing both mom and dad with a drink of water while they were in the birth tub. I thought this photo demonstrated one of the various ways that a doula can support mom and dad during birth.
A placenta encapsulation specialist and lactation consultant are people you would utilize postpartum. The idea of consuming your placenta may be too much for some people and I totally respect that. Personally I had my placenta encapsulated with both of my girls and felt that it provided me with incredible milk supply and helped with mood management with my crazy postpartum hormone fluctuations. Would I have still been a crazy milk producer without placenta pills? I have no idea. Am I willing to not do it this time for the sake of science? Nope. Sorry science. I believe that it’s helpful and whether it is placebo or not I am doing it again. I recall after our first child was born that I wasn’t faithful on taking them (due to exhaustion from a newborn) and my husband would lovingly ask if I had taken them or not on my irrationally emotional days.
A lactation consultant is someone who can help a new mom and her baby to establish, maintain or salvage a breastfeeding relationship. If you’re local to DFW I highly suggest For Babies Sake. They can evaluate both you and baby to make sure that you are set up for success or suggest intervention if necessary to provide a better means for you to provide nourishment to your baby.
I know I have just listed a lot of people here that I encourage you to assemble as part of your birth team but this is one of the most important events that you are going to compete or be a participant of! You want to have the dream team for this time in your life.
One thing that I find is beyond crucial for women is childbirth education. I’m not talking about the 2 hour course the hospital provides. I am talking about an extensive childbirth education that details what to expect and prepare for in labor. If you know what you’re getting into you can better prepare yourself for success. This is part of the training process and it’s so crucial to helping ensure you have the desired outcome that you want. We went to a childbirth class in person prior to having our first child (at a home that smelled heavily of cat urine with no cat ever in sight…) and felt like we did learn things but it was an hour commute each way! I ended up taking a childbirth education class online as part of my doula certification from BEST doulas and even after having two kids felt like this class offered through MamaNatural was informative in a way that wasn’t dry and provided me with at least one new thing I didn’t know with each class. This is pretty neat as there were 8 classes to go through.
Okay if you’re still with me reading this I want to share a few things that I think are important to think about prior to having your new baby so you aren’t making decisions after potentially going hours if not days without adequate rest and/or food in an environment you may be unfamiliar with after literally birthing a human being from your body! It’s kind of a HUGE deal so you want to do your research on these things prior to starting all that. 😉
Delayed cord clamping. This seems to be more readily accepted as far as moms I have met and it really is a pretty reasonable thing to ask for unless you have a true emergent situation where baby needs to be taken away from mom immediately. Allowing for the cord to stay intact and not be clamped and cut prior to cessation of pulsing allows for baby to have their entire blood volume go into their body. This seems like a no brainer right? It’s usually just a matter of letting your provider know that this is your desire. The benefits to baby are beyond worth waiting the few minutes post delivery prior to cord clamping.
Erythromycin eye ointment. This antibiotic eye ointment is what you see on babies with their first photos when their eyes have that shiny goop on them. It is given as a standard of care unless refused (which starting in September you will have the right to decline with no questions in Texas) as a means to protect baby in the event that the mother had gonorrhea. If mom has gonorrhea and baby is delivered vaginally the eye ointment is used a means to prevent blindness or other complications to baby. If mom does not have this STD the practice of giving this to every baby as a standard of care seems inappropriate.
Nursery stays. It does not seem to be as common for babies to be whisked off to the nursery to give mom and dad a “break” anymore which is in my opinion a great thing! The first hour post delivery is said to be the most crucial time period for baby to bond with the parents (especially mom). If baby is passed on to someone else then that “golden hour” as it is called is interrupted and can lead to mom not having her huge letdown of hormones which could have an effect on not only her milk production but on her connection with baby and regulation of hormones that could be related to “baby blues”. Now this is not the case for every new mom but if you can keep baby with you (especially skin to skin) it can not only be beneficial for mom but for baby as well as it will maintain not only body temperature but heartrate and blood pressure too.
Formula supplementation. Birth is exhausting. And now you’re expected to nurse this baby and provide all the nutrients for them to grow and develop?! It’s a lot of work. A lot of work. And it’s exhausting. But I have faith that you can do it. Do not be discouraged by the lack of how much you’re pumping especially early on in your little one’s life. Their stomachs are small which is why they nurse so frequently. They fill up then expel it all and then repeat the process over and over and over. Formula is an amazing thing that saves the lives of babies who need it. It’s seriously amazing to have this available for those in need. Your brand spanking new baby though may not need formula so don’t be afraid to say not to supplementation. Ask for a lactation consultant to help. If you still need help then ask again! Don’t be afraid to reach out especially as a first time mom. You’ve never done this before and while breastfeeding may be a natural thing it does not “come naturally” for a lot of new moms!
Be on the lookout for future blog posts relating to vitamins/supplements I loved during pregnancy and postpartum, why chiropractic care is crucial during pregnancy, and must haves for a new mom.
****The views expressed in this blog post are my personal opinion and/or experience. If you have any questions or concerns about your own care please seek guidance from your healthcare professional.****