my drop in the pool

Wyatt - almost 1 day old

When I was expecting the first time - I was enveloped in a haze of advice, stories of experience, and well-meaning comments from veteran women who have been there, done that, and so were experts.

Even though I believed the saying "no two pregnancies are alike" to be true, I didn't mind the continuous regaling of wisdom and experiences meant to inform me of exactly how it is. These women had been there, and so they did know - they knew that no matter how many books you read, no matter how many stories you gather, no matter how many classes you take or how many questions you ask your doctor - YOU STILL HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE what it will really be like.

There is no way to prepare. No way to actually prepare for what it is like, my friends.

I think these women, in their way, were trying to help me to understand that. That becoming a mother is not unlike birth itself - mysterious, exhausting, messy, unexpected, wonderful, painful, and completely miraculous.

I think that all women who have gone through this try to tell those who are about to. They try, but they can't. It's just impossible. We are not meant to understand, I think, what it means to be a mother until we become one.

But they still try. They still try to express the absolute amazement that it is to those who are about to do it. It's their way of trying to warn us to experience in fullness every single delicious detail of it so that we never forget. And, I think, it is their way of not forgetting.

I've noticed myself do this - offering advice, stories, "when I was pregnant" moments. And a part of me steps back and laughs at myself. I'm doing it, I think. I'm acting like I know everything there is to know about having a child just because I've done it. Once. But mostly, I look at myself and think, Wow. Yeah. I did do it. And it was...

well, there it is. It was indescribable.

But that is not going to stop me from being ONE OF THOSE WOMEN, and adding my drop to the pool of information being forced upon you expecting first time moms to be.

Stepper's Advice for Moms to Be on D-Day
(that's Delivery Day)
or: inviting you all to learn from my mistakes

  1. When packing your hospital bag, make sure you pack snacks for your husband. Labor and Delivery is hard on him, too (really!) - and if he's anything like my husband, he's not going to want to sleep or take a break or eat anything. He's going to want to be there, holding your hand, breathing hee-hee-hooo with you. Think about it - that's his sweetheart on the table in pain and being poked, jabbed, prodded, and monitored by nurses, doctors and more nurses. It's traumatic! And exhausting. And you don't want daddy to pass out before the umilical is cut. Also: the hospital provides food for you (post delivery. Get used to being hungry before baby comes! You get to fill up on ice chips!) but not for daddy. So pack substantial stuff, or some cash for him to take to the hospital cafeteria. He won't want to leave you - but he might really need the break. He just became a daddy! (For the record: Bill never passed out. Also: we did have snacks in our bag, but they were fun snacks, not sustaining snacks - and he didn't want anything to do with them after all the intensity. He shared my hospital food with me, went to the cafeteria once, and actually made a JCW run for us the night after Wy was born - I really wanted a milkshake! I think we made the nurses jealous).
  2. Take the time to take a shower before you head to the hospital. I know it sounds silly - you're about to push out a baby, and all the movies make it look like a sweaty ordeal. Well, the movies don't show half of it - but you never know when your next chance will be to wash your hair. Your doctor might accidentally keep forgetting to come and look at your C-section scar to give you the go-ahead and you might be stuck without a shower for two whole days. With visitors. I'm just saying. Bonus - fresh shaved legs are a treat when you've got people working down there and you're completely at their disposal. It's like the last declaration of control over your own body.
  3. Don't go to the hospital at the first sign of steady contractions - wait as long as you feel comfortable waiting. When we went to the hospital, my contractions were steady and intense, but not unmanageable. When we checked in, they determined that I was, in fact, in labor - but I labored for 12 hours before the C-section - and I was only at a 4 when admitted. 12 hours is no big deal in terms of first-time-labor. Jamie was in labor for 22 hours before her c-section. But it was the middle of the night, and we were both already exhausted, and think of how nice it would have been had we arrived 6 hours later (giving Bill a chance for a few hours of real sleep) and did the whole first early labor bit in the comfort of our own home.
  4. Bring your nursing bra and bra pads to the hospital with you! You might leak in your hospital gown - and that's just embarrassing when visitors drop by to see the bundle (especially when you also haven't showered that day because your doctor kept forgetting...I mean, hypothetically).
  5. Take all the freebies they offer you at the hospital. You have no idea, yet, how fast those munchkins go through diapers - or what kind of pacifier he/she will take. Now is not the time to be politely self-denying. Pack that Silmilac Diaper Bag they give you full of the extras. You'll use 'em!
  6. Don't be embarrassed or feel bad about asking the nurses to take your brand new wee one to the nursery while you sleep. My mom gave me this advice before we went to the hospital with Wyatt, and I am eternally grateful. The nurses would whisk him away under their protective care for a few hours until it was time for him to eat again, and then they'd whisk him back. Desperate as I was for sleep, there's no way I would have allowed myself any true rest while Wy was in the room. he was just too fascinating - and every noise he made brought me to curious wakefulness. And I will never (repeat: never!) forget the moment when I awoke from deep healing slumber to hear my baby crying for me in the hall - on his way to my room from the nursery. I recognized his voice. Hours after he was born, and I knew my son was calling for me. In that moment, I knew that I was Mother. My heart roared with it. The nurse pushed his little plastic bed next to mine, and his crying stopped. We looked at each other: my exhausted, red-rimmed, swollen greens locked into his brand new, unblinking, deep as the universe blacks - and our souls tagged each other. You're mine, my soul whispered to his, and you're mine his whispered back. Then the nurse plopped him into my arms and my arms have never felt the same, since.
  7. Bring the list of people you need to call to announce your news with you to the hospital. WITH PHONE NUMBERS. And have them in order - parents first, then siblings, then close freinds, etc. - if order is important to you. Then hand the handy-dandy little list to your husband and have him make the calls - you'll be too tired and emotional. You'll think about sharing the news with grandma and you'll be crying before she even picks up her end of the line. Besides - everyone likes to hear from brand new dad. There's just something about it.
  8. Have your husband run interference with visitors. When he calls to give everyone the news, have him tell them when you'll be up to having visitors. It's very exciting news - and everyone is going to want to rush right over to see you and your new baby. And you're going to want them to! But not all day every day. You will be TIRED. You will be EMOTIONAL (hormones don't leave your body when the baby does!). You will be ENJOYING YOUR NEW LITTLE FAMILY. Don't feel bad about allowing yourself time to process, to refresh, and to indulge as your own immediate family unit. Trust me. Your mom will understand (as long as you called her first).
  9. There will be moments when it is not all blessings and bliss. This is normal. And it's okay.
  10. Accept help. I know it's a weird idea, but when people offer to help you with your baby, they genuinely want to help you. They're not just saying it to be polite. Let New Grandma watch baby for an hour while you go lie down. Let RS bring you a few nights worth of food. Let your best friend come and clean your kitchen. It's okay. They really do want to.
Have tips you'd like to add? Or any advice for second baby deliveries? the heck do you explain mom stuck in the hospital to your two year old son? Anything you wish you'd known or were so glad you did?

Please share! (after all, we're all experts!)


Jeff and Ari said...

As the inexperienced non-expert this was very helpful to read. I actually almost started crying it all sounded so wonderful and overwhelming all at the same time ... wow ... that hormone thing is real! Thanks for your words of wisdom ... but keep in mind I might have you on speed dial come March!

Jake & Megan said...

I'm so glad Ari told me to read this. This is so helpful! I agree with Ari - it's sounds wonderful and overwhelming. Thanks for the advice!

That Girl said...

This is a most amazing list. I'm glad you recommended food for hubby. We didn't do that with the first one, and the cafeteria CLOSED at SIX, and hubby had to go across town to eat. And I missed him. And it stunk.

I have nothing to add. Oh wait, I do! Take something with you to motivate you during labor. With my second and third, it was a picture of my older sons. Concentrating on their sweet faces reminded me what I was working toward.

Tamsin said...

Yup, I saved this in my google reader so when the time comes, I can turn to your sage advice. Or I could just waddle across the parking lot and say "Stepper, help!"

Word verification: vattyhop. I think that just about made my day complete :)

Carolyn said...

Great, great advice! I would also add, to call the nurses for ANYTHING! I learned this with my 2nd. If you need them to change your baby, call them! You need more apple juice? Why, thank you nurse! :) Plus, with a little one at home while delivering your second, your hubby might not get to spend quite as much time at the hospital as he did with your first, and only.

And, just know that the nurses and doctors have seen it allllll before. It's easy to be embarrassed, but they don't remember anything about you, they see it all day long! :)

MikkSolo said...

Ditto on the good snacks - or even an all out picnic for the hubby! Shawn (yes, all 215 lbs of him) did faint from lack of food and the smell of iodine on our #2. And right on top of me while they were putting in the epidural (you're supposed to be perfectly still at that point)! We laugh about it now, but it was a very emotional experience at the time!

Philip and Mandy said...

Thanks so much for this post Stepper! It will definitely help me prepare for the whole experience! :-)

Tammy said...

Be aware that you will miss Wyatt like crazy! He has been the center of your universe for the past two years and even tho' your heart easily expands to love a new baby, dividing your attention is a little trickier. With the new hospital rules, he may not be able to come visit at the hospital, but I'm sure he will be well cared for and spoiled while you are in the hospital, so take advantage of the opportunity to bond with your new daughter. Take advantage of having nurses there at your beck and call to help your with whatever you need. Take time to heal and rest as much as possible before you go home and deal with hormones, no sleep and a new baby and adorable two-year old bouncing around.
Although you have a wonderful husband, he has big responsibilities at school and work,so he may not be able to be there as much as he was with the first baby. It is harder to nap when the baby naps, etc. because you have another little one on the scene Sooo, get as much rest as possible while you are in the hospital.