I’m not a reference on maternity matters. Actually my Mum always reminds me that I really didn’t like kids that much until I had my own. The subject interested me so little that, until Inés was born, I hadn’t read anything about it (apart from the book The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips & Advice on First-Year Maintenance, written by Louis Borgenicht, which I really recommend as it explains everything related to babies as if they were cars ;). I had no experience at all on the matter, not even with nephews (I don’t have any) or friends’ babies.
In many situations in which I felt totally lost, I found social networks to be extremely helpful. There’s nothing better than advice coming from people who have gone through the same thing. At some point, I even wrote a list of tricks from comments on an Instagram picture where I had asked about something that was bothering me. I remember when we didn’t know how to get rid of Inés’ pacifier. Now I smile thinking about it, but at that time I thought it would be one of the most traumatic experiences in our life… She ended up throwing it into the waste bin by herself, amazing us once more.
That’s the reason why, despite not being in a position to give advice, I’ve decided to share some of my experiences as a mum. I do not pretend to revolutionize the world of parenting, nor to become a specialist on the subject, but I would be happy if my experience benefited others, even if it’s just one person.
The first thing I wanted to talk about is Cesarean section (C-section). In my case, we knew before getting pregnant that, for medical reasons, I would have a Cesarean. I’ve read that the number of C-sections has increased dramatically (sometimes without a valid reason) and that more and more women request a C-section in order to “preserve” their lower parts. On the other hand, there are also a lot of women who feel really bad not being able to have a natural childbirth and for whom a C-section is a traumatic experience.
In my case, I hadn’t really thought about the matter before. If I had been able to choose, I would have chosen a natural childbirth, but I didn’t feel bad to deliver with a C-section. Even so, I was very scared of the fact it was surgery and the recovery was tougher.
When I was going to give birth to Inés, I remember I was so scared that I even cried before heading to the operating room. This time with Théo, I was much more relaxed because it wasn’t the first time. But the experience was much more stressful than the first time. It is rather intimidating to see so many people around you (doctors, nurses, midwife, pediatrician…). Usually, the experience depends on the people who are with you at that moment and the empathy they show.
For my first C-section I felt supported, every single step of the process was explained to me, doctors played down the situation and the pain I may feel, asking all the time how I was doing and even making jokes. In the end, it wasn’t that bad at all.
For Théo’s birth, I was much less scared because I knew what I was in for, but I stressed much more: I had the impression the medical staff around me couldn’t see me; I felt like a piece of meat (pardon my crudeness) and the few times they talked to me it even made things worse (“Will the epidural hurt?” “Well, a little bit”./ “Will the recovery be tough?” “Well, it’s surgery…”). I know the answers are honest and not intended to hurt, but in such a stressful situation they can make you panic even more!
If one of you is about to have a C-section, I can tell you that the most overwhelming part of it is being in an operating room.
Be aware, though, that you won’t be able to hold your baby for a long time in the operating room. The place is so cold that once they show the baby to you, they take him or her to a warmer room. Besides, there’s still a little bit of work to be done on you (sorry for the details).
In a natural childbirth, once you deliver, you can usually watch the baby’s medical check. After a C-section, you spend a little time with your baby and the pediatrician takes him or her to another room for the check. I felt it was a great privilege for Philippe to be able to spend those first moments with our baby. I asked him to film everything. Those are such emotional videos for us…
About an hour later, you can see your baby again in the recovery room. You can then start the experience of breastfeeding and cuddling him or her as much as you like.
My personal experience is that during the first hours after the C-section you don’t have that much pain because of all the medication. In fact, the first night after both deliveries I slept with my babies on me, peacefully and painlessly.
The day after is, in my opinion, the most difficult one. The pain killers are a little bit less effective and you have to get up.
Despite that, the only advice I can give you is that the earlier you start to move, the faster you will recover. At that moment, it feels impossible to get up, but it’s amazing how the body recovers quickly, especially when a baby is waiting for you.
Those first days in the hospital are the perfect time to recover, let yourself be looked after and ask the nurses and midwives as much as you can about breastfeeding and baby care so that you don’t go home with tons of doubts. Do start to move more and more, little by little.
My biggest problem when I gave birth to Inés was the backache I had for months. I was afraid of the pain and I believed it wasn’t good for the scar for me to be active too quickly. I took too long to really move, so the muscles became weaker and didn’t hold the back sufficiently.
For Théo’s birth, I was so afraid of back pain that I read a lot about recovering from a C-section (I can recommend this article from Babycenter (http://www.babycenter.com/0_recovering-from-a-c-section_221.bc), and I very soon started to move my back; little by little, and without being afraid of pain or jeopardizing recovery.
The other thing nobody had told me about and which took me by surprise, especially after Théo’s birth, was the postpartum contractions. It seems they help the uterus to recover its initial size and that they are stronger when you breastfeed. I must say this was rather painful, specially after a C-section. But they don’t last very long and help you recover your before-pregnancy belly. No pain, no gain 😉
After having been well taken care of, helped with the baby and fed at the hospital, going back home can be rather tough. To the C-section recovery you have to add a little bit of postpartum depression and getting used to a new situation for which you can’t prepare yourself.
I have been lucky with baby blues. It has never been long or strong. When I came back home with Inés, I couldn’t stop crying because I thought I would “let her die”. Now I think it was totally ridiculous, but hormones are difficult to control.
Those are the days you will need more help: from your partner, your family and your friends. Here, in Switzerland, it’s quite common to ask your friends’ time, as a birth gift: time to cook for you or to look after the baby for a couple of hours so that you can have a nap. When you live next to your family, this is not such a necessity, but for those who live far away from their family, like me, this is the best present you can get.
There are even mothers’ associations who bring you meals after the birth of your child.
At home the challenge is allowing yourself to be looked after and not trying to manage everything as you usually do. The key for recovery is taking it easy during the first weeks.
But, if you have back problems as I do, you can start to stretch and practice low impact gym little by little so that the back is strong enough for recovery and breastfeeding. That is exactly what I didn’t do the first time and I regretted it afterwards. You can find the kind of exercises to do after childbirth on the Babycenter website. There is plenty of information on the web.
I’m going to close this longer-than-planned post by telling you that the joy of meeting your baby is so big that, in the end, the way you give birth is not that important. Besides, our mind and body are wise; we very quickly forget the uncomfortable moments and remember only the beautiful ones, even in the operating room.
I would really love you to share your birth experience with me. And, if you have a friend who may be interested by this post, feel free to share it with her!