Pregnancy is amazing. Hands down, it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced, and second time round is no exception. Growing human life is an honour and a great privilege and seeing how a little human grows over time is undoubtedly fascinating and awe inspiring. That said, pregnancy is also lots of other things like tiring, a bit gross at times, frustrating and let’s face it, scary. In all honesty, first time round I came to learn the less glamorous side of pregnancy and birth and so I feel way more prepared for this time. They say ignorance is bliss, and boy were they right. That said, I really wish I’d gotten the heads up on some of the “glamour” associated with the end stages of pregnancy and what was really going to go down once I got to the hospital. As I sit here, over-analysing every twitch and stitch wondering if it’s showtime, I find myself thinking back to St.Patrick’s day 2015, when Luke made his entrance to the world. 19 months have passed, and I can report that I’m definitely older, and I think a little wiser on what to expect. So I’ve compiled a list of eight things I wish I’d known when heading to the hospital.
1. The Dignity
The prep work, I remember it well. From painting my toenails, to shaving my legs and moisturising said legs, the grooming and preparation that I underwent before my trip to the hospital knew no bounds. Sure things weren’t necessarily going to be pleasant, but my nails and hair would be in check. As the day progressed, and the contractions set in, my make up slowly slid away, my hair looked more fuzzy than curled and in fairness if I hadn’t shaved my legs in a year, I’m pretty sure the midwife or the consultant wouldn’t have noticed. Just to note here, I would be discreet in my dressing habits, by no means an exhibitionist by nature. This is probably why my lasting memory of my time in the hospital was just after Luke entered the world, lying with essentially no clothes on in the middle of the delivery suite, being washed down by a really lovely care assistant with the equivalent of a j-cloth. I remembering turning to my midwife and laughing saying ‘Jesus I’m glad I painted my toenails for this’. The first time they examined me I was nervous and a little embarrassed, definitely self conscious. Skip forward 4 hours, half a tank of gas and air and an epidural later and I would have invited the Queen herself along to have a look, you just stop caring and relax. Remind yourself, they have seen it all. That said there’s nothing wrong with a bit of make-up or nail painting along the way if it makes you feel less gross on the day. Just don’t be putting yourself under ridiculous pressure and be getting in any way worried about it.
2. The Time
People love to retell their labour stories like war stories. In fairness, who doesn’t love a little embellishment and drama to spruce up a good story. I remember before labour hearing how quickly or horrendously slowly labour went for different people. I remember wondering how on earth could you survive it going on that long?! I was induced early in the day and went into proper labour at 3pm. Luke was born 12 hours later. When I say that 12 hours flew, I mean it absolutely flew, I haven’t a clue what even happened in that time. So although it sounds like an awful long time, time ticks away and you get to know your midwife very well because you spend a lot of time chatting. I had an epidural, so once that kicked in for a good part of that time I was quite comfortable and capable of full on conversation.
I arrived at the hospital at 8am the morning Luke was being induced. I didn’t give birth until 3 am the next morning and it was after 4am when I got back to the ward. Factor in an hour of pushing, the aftermath of an epidural and being awake for 21 hours, to say I was tired is a slight understatement. I remember just getting into bed in the ward, Luke being wheeled alongside me, my husband being sent home and the midwife telling me to set an alarm on my phone as I would have to feed the baby again in two hours. I felt broken. I had never felt such tiredness and all I wanted to do was cry. But I did what she said, and I woke and he fed and although those memories are vague and hazy, sleep deprivation is a feature of parenthood and I came to realise the amazing things my body could do with little or no sleep.
4. Babies are Terrifying
I remember when my husband left after I got back to the ward and it was just Luke and I for the first time, feeling an overwhelming sense of terror. This tiny person was my responsibility, and frankly I hadn’t a clue what I was at. Throughout my pregnancy I worried I wouldn’t take to the whole ‘motherhood’ gig. I was never the type to throw myself at people with babies and goo and gah at how lovely they were. In all honesty I kind of thought all babies looked the same, and my inherent fear of dropping someone else’s baby led me to become the one who admired babies from afar. Now here I was, alone in a hospital, responsible for ‘my’ baby. I won’t lie, I shed a fear tears and had a mini internal melt down but then swiftly got my shit together. Once the hormones settled down, the sleep deprivation eased and it dawned on me just how amazing this little thing was, the terror was promptly replaced with pride and excitement.
5. The Day After
During labour and birth you are most definitely on a high (not just from gas and air), fight or flight kicks in and you instinctively know that you will get through it all. Afterwards its a hazy blur of a day with the ultimate ending being the arrival of a mini person. As my due date approached I remember anxiously playing out all the scenarios of what might happen during D day. What I never really thought about was the next day. For me the next day was tough, really tough. I was in a lot of pain, I was sleep deprived and had a little person who was reliant on my failing body for food. I was cranky, hormonal and overly sensitive. I remember my Mom coming to see me and whispering to her ‘I am broken….I will never be right’. She smiled and reassured me that I would, and sooner than I thought. Needless to say she was right and once I got through that day and the beacon of hope that was discharge home the next day began to shine all was right in the world again and I was a little less broken and a little more together every day that week.
6. The Shower
After giving birth and once I was back on my feet I remember craving a shower just so I could feel like a human again. That said I had never really given much thought as to how difficult having a shower was going to be. Given that I could barely walk, couldn’t bend and had stitches in unimaginable places I was unsure as to how things were going to go down. You’re warned and encouraged to shower often to avoid infection and the likes, but it’s not like home, the shower head isn’t exactly detachable (for obvious reasons) and now really
wasn’t an opportune time for me to bust out the yoga moves, mostly because I was physically unable to walk straight, don’t mind bend. I was terrified of what had gone on down there just hours previously and touching said area was a no go because of the pain. I wish someone had warned me of this, given me the heads up or mentioned how underwhelming and unsatisfying my first post baby shower would be. I also wish someone had thought to tell me to bring a squirty water bottle into said shower with me so I could have avoided the stress.
7. The Adult Nappy
Could I ever be truly prepared for the love I would feel for a ginormous green maternity pad? Probably not. I remember shopping in Boots with my Mom before the arrival of Luke and being horrified at the sheer size of a maternity pad and in all honesty not really comprehending what I would need it for. I was edging towards the discreet ‘slim’ maternity pads and was a little irked at my mothers amusement when she practically forced me to buy the industrial looking ones. Let’s just say I thanked her after. They may not be pretty, but they sure are cushioned, and although I assure you it won’t last I definitely felt ‘delicate’ for a few days and these bad boys were very much appreciated. A midwife mentioned to me in the hospital to try and avoid plastic coated backing on said pads they can prevent ‘breath-ability’ and encourage infection. The Medicare brand are used in the hospital and can be picked up in pharmacies and are definitely your best bet.
8. The Love
And so I sit here, patiently awaiting the arrival of number two. A mixture of excitement and apprehension. And as Luke runs around the room singing me a questionably recognisable rendition of Twinkle Twinkle, I am reminded how I hadn’t a clue just how much I was going to fall in love with this person. The love is overwhelming. The love is intense. The love is your reward for all the bloody hard work you put in to bringing this amazing person into the world.