In honor of the rapidly-approaching due dates of some of my readers, I finally got off my ass to write this:
Guide to having a baby
No matter how much you prepare for having your baby, no matter how many books you read, there are a couple of things that remain true. First, a baby will somehow emerge from within you. Second, the amount of things you've read beforehand becomes completely irrelevant the moment something doesn't go according to plan.
Many people will tell you the second bit, and of that many I'm willing to bet that a lot of them will say that with a smug air about them. Good for them and their smugness. We're still allowed to prepare as best we can.
This is my testament to the confluence of what we'd read beforehand and how things actually go. Somewhere between those two things, a baby did finally emerge. (Note: if you are planning a homebirth, I wish you luck, easy labor vibes and all that but nothing I write below will help you, beyond the occasional mild chuckle.)
The first and most important thing to know about the hospital is actually two things at once. First, you have the power to ask anyone to leave your room. This power extends to nurses, random people you don't know who are wearing medical costumes and your own parents.
There's a huge caveat to this: even though you've spent some quality 1:1 time with your OB all these months, it's the nurses who are there for you while you're actually laboring. Some are better than others. If you're really lucky, you'll get the Best Nurse Ever and deliver during their shift. If you're not so lucky, do consider carefully if you want to get the annoying/evil nurse switched out. Because there aren't always that many nurses to go around so you might be stuck with that one anyway.
Okay, so back to my first point. I'll say it again because it's still true and it's still important.
You have the power to ask anyone to leave your room. Whether it's the nurse who wants your vitals That Instant or some sort of technician or your own parents, that doesn't matter. This is your Big Day and even though all those people have told you that it will not go the way you want it to, you're 1. still entitled to hope that it will and 2. entitled to have your laboring/birthing room be filled with the people and energy that you want.
You also have the power to refuse an IV, pain meds or anything else. To a point.
The second important thing to know about the hospital is that if a bunch of people you don't recognize come RUNNING into your room with any variety of medical equipment, you have lost both the power to kick anyone out of your room and the power to refuse whatever they need to do to you at that point.
Yes, this happened to us. Because of the running and because the staff had been so considerate of our wishes earlier in the day, what with the asking people to leave and having IVs removed at our request, there was enough trust established that we took them and their fancy medical equipment seriously.
The other thing that helped us out was the homework we'd done in advance. You know, the stuff we read that everyone poo-pooed. I'd also listened to every person who would tell me the story of their child's birth, good and bad. So when some of those things happened, I remembered that oh yeah, this happened to that family and look, their kid is just fine. Andrea had done a fair bit of this homework with me so we entered the hospital as a united front. She was my support and my advocate, she knew what we wanted and didn't want and she also knew when to let the staff take over. We were lucky enough to have our dear friend (DBFF) Susan there with us for most of the labor and delivery.
We did have other folks kindly offer to join us for the birth but we used rule #1 and said no thank you. Do not for one second feel obligated to say yes to ANYONE who wants to visit you during any part of your hospital stay. Even if that person is me.
Obviously you will want something different than your partner and a DBFF there with you but I can't stress enough how great it was to have a team there to support me. Even though I kept trying not to think about the fact that for the time being, everyone in the room was really interested in my crotch.
Speaking of crotches, the nurses have a great fondness for 'checking' your crotch while you're in labor. It is not the most pleasant thing in the world and like almost all things you can refuse the seemingly constant requests to get between your legs.
Disclaimer: yes, yes, I know the whole point of labor is to dilate. But really, those nurses do not have to check every goddamn time they come in the room.
Despite all of our homework, our greatest failing when it came to preparation was that we didn't have a plan for a c-section. Oops.
I was so confident that even though my baby hadn't dropped an inch, somehow she'd free herself from my pelvis and emerge after one push that we had no contingency plan.
So I urge you, right now, talk to your partner/support person or people about what you'd do if there was a c-section. Does your partner go with the baby to wherever the baby is taken? Can your support person stay with you while that happens?
In my case, Val was whisked away to the nursery by herself while Andrea stayed with me in the OR. At that point I was scared shitless and shaking like a leaf (FYI, you can totally shake during a c-section. Apparently this is not uncommon but it still freaked me out since I was not expecting either the section or the shaking. Despite the shaking, my OB managed to sew me up nicely and my scar is a rather petite straight line.) so I asked her to stay with me.
On some level I will feel guilty about not sending her with Andrea for the rest of my life. No need to tell me that it was okay, I will still carry this guilt no matter what.
Susan did go with her and watched from the window while she was bathed and whatever the hell else they did. My parents also showed up at that moment even though I'd asked them to wait for us to call. So the three of them were watching Val the whole time.
It took forever to sew me up but finally we left the OR and went to the recovery room. Where I met Val for the first time and told her it was okay for her to be a figure skater if she wanted to.
Yes, you can hold me to that. I meant it. But I'm thrilled that today she reads her hockey book and says HOCKEY PLAYER! over and over.
Anyhoo, back to the recovery room. The overeager Lactation Consultant came bursting in, trying to insist that I try to get Val to latch on that instant. She wasn't crying, I was exhausted (and seriously reluctant about breastfeeding) so we kicked her well-meaning assvicing ass out of the room. Only to have my parents barge in 2 seconds later, when we were trying to meet our baby for the first time.
I had the nurse kick them out, too. Twice.
The LC didn't bother us again that day, and when we were in slightly better shape the next day, Andrea went out to find her and fine-tune Val's latch. Waiting until I was really ready to talk about it made all the difference in the world. Another thing that would have helped was if we'd brought the breastfeeding pillow to the hospital.
I'll say it again, BRING YOUR BREASTFEEDING PILLOW TO THE HOSPITAL WITH YOU.
If your LC just does not click with you, call a friend who's breastfed her own kids instead. Seriously. It seems that LCs all have this agenda that consists of only one way to breastfeed and anything else is bad.
That's bullshit. You and your kid will figure out the best way to establish a breastfeeding relationship. Don't let anyone tell you different. And don't be afraid to kick the LC out of your room when she starts assvicing too much. Because they all seem to launch into this 'assvice about every goddamn thing' mode after about 10 minutes. They all also contradict each other all the time. NO MATTER WHAT YOU'VE READ ON THE TOPIC, YOUR LC WILL CLAIM TO KNOW BETTER. Do not try to argue with them, just smile and nod.
Then kick them out of your room and figure it out from there. Hopefully she's given you some advice that helped get things going better.
When You Go Home
The hospital is required to see that you have a carseat. You have to show it to them, but they don't actually show you how to use the damn thing. So we ended up taking Val home with straps that were way too loose.
Don't fuck this up. Your kid should be strapped in snugly, like this:
Every time. "Harness tight at shoulders and hips, chest clip at armpit level, correct seat for weight and height."
This is how not to do it:
Note the looseness of the straps around her hips. If we'd had a wreck, that looseness could have been enough to throw her from the seat altogether.
Thank God we have Susan to tell us how to put her in properly and to help us install our seats properly. But if you don't have a Susan, take a second to read this information on how to install and use your carseat properly.
Because if you fuck this up, your kid could die in a crash that they should have survived. Take the time to get it right.
Once You Get Home
Have some help lined up for that first day. You may need some medications picked up and if you don't have support there, you may be left home alone with your brand new baby for a couple of hours when you're in possibly the worst shape possible to care for them.
If your c-section is scheduled, get your meds BEFORE you go into the hospital. Get some diapers while you're getting your meds.
I won't lie. I was not very excited about breastfeeding. I knew it was the best food for my kid, but really, just thinking about how it all has to work was quite daunting. Not to mention the amount of time you end up spending with your boobs out. Add in the blatant agenda that every LC I met had and the smugness of the breastfeeding community and I felt doomed before I started.
But I was lucky. Val latched on right away and it only took a wee bit of fine-tuning to get her squared away. And I was more lucky to have an experience breastfeeding mom as my DBFF.
So find some support, someone who doesn't use the word lactivist or belong to the la lec.he league to help you through those first days.
Commit to breastfeeding for the first 3 weeks. I know it's easy to give up during that time, that's when it's the hardest, but at the end of those 3 weeks, you and your kid will have mostly figured it out. It's all gravy from there in a way.
I was totally reluctant, I was convinced we'd formula-feed and use cloth diapers. But once Val arrived, I became committed to giving her the best I could, and that was my milk. Don't think about the societal implications or anyone's agenda, just think about what's best for your kid.
So that's my overview on having them kiddies.