I have been wanting to write this post for a while now, but finding the time has been difficult. I’m currently typing this with one hand. During my pregnancy, I loved nothing more than to read about birthing stories and basically anything that had to do with pregnancy/postpartum. I’m sharing with you the Cliff Notes of Oliver’s birth, but what I really want to share are the items which I totally needed and/or use currently and make/made my life that much easier. This isn’t a “Top 25 Things to Register For” kinda list, but rather a simple, realistic solution to some of life’s challenges. Still typing with one hand…
Oliver Lucas was born on Tuesday, May 24th at 5:58 am at the Brooklyn Birthing Center at 7 pounds and 14 ounces and 20 1/2 inches long. But before I continue, I feel I must backpedal. The first five months of my pregnancy I was seeing a gynecologist and going to my monthly appointments. I didn’t do any research on doctors, I just continued seeing the doctor I’ve been seeing for years. Then one day at work, a coworker of mine asked me during lunch if I had researched the hospital. I thought, No, but I’ve visited people there in the past and the rooms are super cute! That question (and I suppose the fact that I was now 20 weeks pregnant and it started to feel more real), triggered me to start reading up on all things delivery. The more I researched, the more I knew I wanted a very hands off approach. I began to read others’ birthing stories. I began to research midwives. I’ve always been interested in home births, but Justin and I were in the process of buying our first home, and not knowing if we would be in our new house or not during the birth was too much of a gamble. After a lot of reading, I decided to go to an orientation at the birthing center and afterwards, I knew that was the right choice for me.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I started practicing breathing techniques and listening to relaxation music. From my research, and talking with the midwives, I knew that I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible. Oliver’s estimated due date was May 23rd, so true to form, I woke up at 2am on Monday, May 23rd with what felt like slight menstrual cramps. When the second one came about 10 minutes later, I started mentally keeping track to see if these contractions had a pattern. Sure enough, they came about every 10-12 minutes. Since they were not painful, and because I had read enough literature and spoken to enough people, I knew I needed to go back to bed in order to conserve my energy for later. At 6:30, I woke up and told Justin what was going on. Being a teacher with a not-so-great maternity leave policy, I was still going to work. And since I wasn’t absolutely sure that this was labor (I was expecting to deliver late since the average pregnancy for first time moms is 41 weeks and 3 days – 10 days past the estimated due date), I decided to go to work. I kept a log of my contractions/surges and Justin continued updating my midwife. The contractions were pretty consistent throughout the day, about every 8 minutes, give or take. Towards the end of the workday, I started getting a little nervous about driving home, so I went to speak to my principal about skipping the professional development meeting after school. I explained to her what was going on, and she said, “Why don’t you go home right now?”
Once I got home, I began listening to my relaxation music and sitting on my yoga ball. (I highly recommend sitting on a yoga ball during pregnancy and labor, although once my labor really started kicking in, I wanted nothing to do with it!) My contractions were a little more intense, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I made sure to keep my energy up by eating snacks. Around 5pm, Justin and I went for a walk around the block. It was then that my contractions became more severe and during the three contractions I had on the walk, I would need to stop talking and bend over to let them pass. When I got home, I took a shower and yelled to Justin each time I had a contraction so that he could log them. They were happening every 3 to 5 minutes and lasting about a minute each. I continued listening to my music and alternating between my yoga ball and my bed. At around 8:30 pm, Justin called my midwife. She wanted to speak with me in order to gauge from my voice how I was feeling. We determined that I would continue laboring at home and would continue to update her.
About an hour later, I told Justin I needed to go in. The one thing I was nervous about during my pregnancy was driving to the birthing center while having serious contractions. Well, we were driving to the birthing center and I was having serious contractions. It was only 15 minutes away from my home, but I had about 6 contractions on the way there. For some reason though, I was imagining the situation to be a lot worse. I was 7 centimeters dilated when we arrived. I remember reading about other people’s birthing stories during my pregnancy and paying extra attention to the birthing positions they mentioned during their labor, but the truth is, when you’re in labor, everything just comes naturally and your body goes how your body wants to go. Throughout the night, I would labor in and out of the tub, staying in there for an hour or so at a time. The midwife, her assistant, and the student midwife would occasionally come in and take the baby’s heartbeat, but other than that, they allowed Justin and I to be by ourselves and labor the way we wanted. The position that I found my body going into most was being on all fours and rocking my body forward and backward. Ultimately, this was the position I was in when I gave birth, but other positions I found myself in were sitting on the toilet bowl, leaning over a counter, squatting, and placing my hands on each side of the doorway and leaning in as if I was doing a wall push-up. Laying on my side was torturous although some people swear by it! I’m not sure what time it was when I felt the need to push, but I remember finally asking for advice on how to do it. I remember feeling so thankful to the student midwife for giving me advice on that because I finally started to feel progress. I was laboring on the toilet bowl when the midwife asked if I could make it to the bed. I knew then that this baby was coming soon. I waddled to the bed and sure enough with a few more pushes, Oliver Lucas dropped into our lives.
The birthing center allowed me to go home after 4 hours so I could recover in the comfort of my own bed. I think because I had such a smooth, easy pregnancy, I didn’t give much thought about postpartum and recovery. I truly thought I would be working out again just days after delivering, since after all, I was going to the gym up until the day before I went into labor. Knowing what I know now, the healing process takes time and you need to give your body the time it requires to heal itself. Of course everyone’s body is different and everyone heals differently. I started going for short walks about 4 days after labor. For my healing process, this was too soon and I wound up prolonging the healing stages and causing myself more pain. Around the tenth day postpartum, I finally told myself that I needed to take it easy, and by doing so, my body began to heal much better.
I know a bunch of people who are expecting their first child, so I had them in mind when I wrote this next bit. Having these items have helped make this life changing journey that much smoother.
Loose button down shirts if you’re breastfeeding. I did not have any, and so I was wearing heavy zip-up sweatshirts during 85-degree days in May when family and friends would come over to visit. Around day 3, I got smart and went online to order a button down short sleeved pajama set. I loved them so much I ordered two more pairs in different patterns. Having them on day 1 would’ve helped greatly. (I’m actually wearing them now, and still typing with one hand…)
Depends or other disposable underwear were essential during the first week (or two – I can’t remember!). My midwives put it on my list of what to pack. I didn’t think they were necessary. After all, having a super large pad would be enough, surely? No. Thank goodness for the conversation I had with my coworkers that Monday when I was in early labor. We were talking about disposable underwear and they highly recommended them. I went out on my lunch break and bought a pack. Best decision I ever made. At one point during recovery, I was holding Oliver and the only thing we were both wearing was our disposable underwear. Thankfully, Justin did not take a picture.
Super absorbency pads and witch hazel to go inside your fashionable disposable underwear. Once Oliver was born, the midwives escorted me to the bathroom and gave me a frozen pad soaked in witch hazel. The pad is needed and the witch hazel adds temporary relief.
Sitz bath and epsom salt for soaking. The warm water along with the salts helped soothe aches and pains from stitches and other ailments… I also liked adding lavender to the water. Oddly enough though, at around day 10, this same bath that gave me so much pleasure began causing me more pain than not, and I would get contractions from using it. However, it was very nice to have for the first week and a half.
Tube socked filled with rice as a DIY heating pad. This was also on the list of things to bring with me. Although I didn’t use it at the birthing center, it came in handy during earlier stages of labor but especially the weeks after delivery. The rice stayed warm for a long time and helped soothe the pain from those contractions that linger for a couple of weeks postpartum.
Nursing cover if you’re planning on breastfeeding. I bring this coverup everywhere and have used it at family functions, on the beach, and those impromptu spots (like the boardwalk) when you’re walking your baby in the stroller and he has a melt down. I have this one and I absolutely love it. http://www.buybuybaby.com/store/product/b-b-au-lait-reg-muslin-nursing-cover-in-isla/1042424345?Keyword=cover
Speaking of feeding, the Boppy is a favorite of a lot of people, including myself. It’s a great rest for your arms when you’re feeding the little one, but it is multifunctional depending on the age of your baby. It also allows me to multitask; I can feed the baby as well as feed myself, type and use the computer, etc. http://www.buybuybaby.com/store/product/boppy-reg-infant-feeding-support-pillow-with-peaceful-jungle-slipcover/1042734666?Keyword=boppy
Ergobaby carrier to help you to do the things you need to do while still keeping the little one happy. I made the mistake of taking Oliver food shopping at around 2 1/2 weeks old. We took him in his stroller and he screamed most of the time. After that, I smartened up, and have taken Oliver to multiple stores and he’s fallen asleep almost every time. It is also super helpful if you have a dog that needs to be walked and you need to take the baby as well.
Ok, so this canopy is not a complete necessity because you can use a regular blanket, but having these two little loops on top really keeps the blanket in position which helps to keep the baby in the shade. Since the carseat is his stroller seat, I use this every single day on our walks. http://www.buybuybaby.com/store/product/aden-reg-by-aden-anais-reg-car-seat-canopy-in-dove/1045143618?Keyword=aden+and+anais
I started pumping when Oliver was around 4 weeks old. The breast pump is the sole reason I am able to run to the gym or out to dinner with the husband. Without it, I would be a complete hermit.
And while these two products are not for the postpartum mama, I figured I’d mention the only two baby products I own: Earth Mama Angel Baby Shampoo/Body Wash and Maty’s Baby Ointment. Although I haven’t tried any other products (so I’m a bit partial and welcome other recommendations), I really like the shampoo/body wash combo from Angel Baby. It’s delicate, calming (I use the lavender scented one), and of course free of harmful chemicals. As for the Maty’s ointment, I used it in the beginning when Oliver had a slight irritation on his skin and it worked instantly. I haven’t used it much since, but it’s nice to have just in case.
Please comment below if there are other things you feel a first time expectant mom should know about! I’d love to hear them too since I’m a newbie on this crazy, awesome journey. <3