Becoming a Mother, Part 1: The Hospital
As many of you know, I come from a BIG family. So does my husband. I’ve been around babies for most of my life, and I have always been told I’ll be a natural. I had a fairly easy pregnancy. I read the books. I did my research. And at the end of the day, absolutely none of it mattered. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could have prepared me for the early days of being a new mom.
I want to share my experience not to scare anyone, or to complain, but simply to shed some light on the aftermath of birth and becoming a mother in hopes that for some of you, it might be a smoother transition, or at least less jarring than it was for me. As always, this is only my personal opinion and experience, so take what you will, and leave what doesn’t suit you.
After I gave birth to Reva, everything moved pretty quickly. She laid on my body (best feeling ever), she tried to latch, they weighed her and dressed her, and soon enough, I was wheeled into recovery, still fueled by adrenaline and the epidural. Speaking of epidural, I didn’t intend on getting one. In fact, almost nothing about my birth was how I envisioned it. I honestly thought that I would labor at home with candles and Florence and the Machine playing in the background. I figured after a few hours, we would head to the hospital with perfect timing, push out the baby, and voila! Boy was I wrong. Instead, I went to the doctor 5 days after my due date, was told I had low fluid, and had to be induced. The induction created contractions that were very close together (no breaks for a breath) and that came on SO STRONG with no warning or time to acclimate. I was insanely grateful for the epidural by the time I got it, and my plan went to sh!t. The first of many changes to my vision, which I would need to learn to embrace.
Back to the recovery room, our family started to trickle in. I was sharing a room which going back, I wish we would have splurged for a private one. If you can spring it, it will make all of the difference. We were all in awe of the newest member of our family. I wasn’t hungry, sleepy, tired, or really feeling much of anything besides pure love and adoration. My nurse Esty handed me a giant bag of supplies handed to me for bathroom use including: ice packs, numbing gel, numbing spray, mesh underwear, and witch hazel pads. That isn’t an exaggeration…. those were all layers of things recommended to help the pain. I assumed I wouldn’t need this pharmacy for long. Wrong again.
By 9PM that night, everyone had left. It was just me, Brandon, and baby Reva. And our extremely loud and annoying roommates who were planning their sons bris at midnight. No big deal.
With the help of the kind and helpful nurses, we worked on getting the baby to latch and breastfeed. Newborn babies eat every 2-3 hours, which doesn’t really click until you wake up at 2AM to the sound of your daughter screaming. In addition, most babies don’t come out of the womb being experts at breastfeeding. They are very sleepy, which only makes matters worse. So imagine this: It’s the middle of the night in your shared hospital room, and you are holding your baby (or attempting to), while she screams, smacking her face into your nipple. Your husband is next to you, holding her hand out of her mouth, trying to be helpful although he too is clueless, and you’re just praying for it to stick. Your milk hasn’t actually come in yet, so the baby gets frustrated from all the hard work with little reward. By the way, once it finally does stick, it hurts like hell because your nipples are completely not used to being chewed on for 40 minutes at a time. Like I said… “I’m a natural..”
Before we came to the hospital, I said there was no way I would let the nurses take my baby to the nursery. No, I needed her by my side so we could establish a good breastfeeding relationship, like the books said! And then, you know, reality hits. I’m running on two days of zero sleep and my body is exhausted and my eyes are drooping shut. Brandon convinced me that we had to make use of the hospital nursery since we wouldn’t have a night nurse at home, and we were both running on empty. I felt so guilty, and only now, looking back I realize that guilt was unnecessary. It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to want a few hours of separation from your newborn. And it’s okay for your “perfect” plans to change in the moment.
We survived the night, and morning seemed like a new day. I was energized by sunlight, fresh flowers, and the hope that day two was going to be easier. Until, I decided to walk to the bathroom. The painkillers had subsided, and so had the rush of giving birth. All I was left with was my bag of supplies, and what felt like a certainly broken vagina. I won’t go into details, but again, what was I thinking? I did not imagine that after giving birth I wouldn’t be able to walk normally. I was hobbling, managing both the pain and the giant pad/ice pack/witch hazel pads/numbing gel in between my legs. This pain persisted with me for almost 8 days, and I ended up visiting my OB after four to get checked out and get some stronger medication. I almost never take medicine, like, I barely use Advil, and here I was, begging for anything to make it bearable to sit or stand or walk.
On Saturday afternoon, we were discharged from the hospital. Both Brandon and I were so excited to get home with our baby. The amount of stuff that we had was comical. It took Brandon 3 trips to the car to pack it all in. As we left the 6th floor of Lenox Hill, the feeling was absolutely surreal. I kept looking around, waiting for someone to stop us. Were they sure we could take her? Was she really ours? Was no one going to be home helping me get her to latch, or to swaddle her, or to calm her when she cried? I was feeling such a roller coaster of emotions mentally. And physically, I felt like I had gotten hit by a car. Except instead of tending to my wounds, the doctors handed me a baby and said here! She is so cute! You’ll feel better in no time. I was bleeding, leaking colostrum, and exhausted. I had bought a cute outfit to wear when we left the hospital, but of course it was too small in all the wrong places, and I now regretted taking off my pajamas. I walked the block and a half to the car, breathing in the hot summer air, and the memory of the outside world. I looked at the stores around me, the people going about their everyday. The woman walking her dog, the man talking on the phone. I couldn’t believe life went on. I fearfully left my warm hospital bubble and prepared for my reality at home.
My experience with Reva during weeks one and two shall be continued in Part 2…..