I thought being pregnant was a challenge but it appeared that the last nine months were simply a minor preparation of what would come next – the real deal, motherhood.
In this month’s article I will share with you some insights I got prior and short after the delivery. I have encountered that there are topics people don’t really talk about, even though most new mothers and their partners cope with pretty much the same challenges. I hope that by sharing my experience you will be better prepared when you end up in similar situations.
Expect the unexpected
Even though you might hope that everything will go smoothly and naturally, every single delivery is unique and you need to be flexible with whatever happens in your case.
For me personally the week before the actual delivery was far more painful and draining than the delivery itself. I was experiencing fake contractions non-stop for about 3 days and nights. This whole drama drained me physically and mentally and there was no sign that these pains would stop any time soon.
In order to break this vicious circle I was invited to spend a night in the hospital where they could give me heavy sleep and pain medications so I could get some rest. I cannot say this intervention helped much, the pain was still there but a bit less disturbing. At the same time, I was high from the medication but not really in deep and peaceful sleep.
The next day the fake contractions continued without any indication of a starting labour. We had no other choice but to induce labour. Otherwise, I would have gotten even more drained and I wouldn’t have had the energy for the actual delivery.
And there I was, high as a rock star in the morning after a week tour, feeling like there is no way I could handle what was about to happen next. Yet, everything went well both for me and the baby.
Fortunately, women’s bodies seem to be built in a way that can handle much more than we could possibly imagine. No matter what kind of challenges come your way, just be flexible and trust that everything will come into place.
The first week at home with a baby (de kraamweek)
To be honest, the 10 days after giving birth were quite a challenge.
I was feeling very weak and each following day was a rollercoaster ride for my poor body – my belly was getting smaller with the hour, I felt like my organs were floating freely in the ocean of my stomach, my posture and center of gravity were changing so quickly that I was struggling to find the proper way to sit, stand up or walk. The internal stitches were hurting and causing quite some inconveniences and on the top of that there was a baby to be fed and diapers to be changed.
Luckily, The Netherlands has it well settled – there is a maternity nurse (de kraamverzorgster) who comes to your home for a period of a week to teach you and help take care of you and your baby. Fortunately, there was a match between my husband and I and our maternity nurse since day one. I will be forever grateful for all the tea cups, fruit dishes and yogurt with muesli meals. Not to mention the pleasure of leaving the baby with her at 8:30 a.m. after an exhausting night shift.
Even though I am sure you can handle it yourself, my advice would be to get some extra help during the first weeks at home, if possible, of course. It will simply make the transition period a bit easier.
The adrenaline rush
Apparently it is normal to experience some insomnia after the delivery.
It took me about a week after the delivery before I could finally sleep more than 1.5 hours in one go. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t close my eyes from the adrenaline and everything that I have been through.
My husband and I were worried as I hadn’t been sleeping much for weeks. We felt relieved when we found out that this was a normal phenomenon and it just took some time before I could relax and get some sleep.
I still sleep in intervals of about 2-3 hours but this helps me get some energy for the next couple of hours.
Now you know, so don’t panic in case it happens to you, too. 😉
The pressure of breastfeeding
It is well known that breastfeeding is the best start you can give to your newborn. During the pregnancy I visited an evening lecture on the subject as well as a private session with a breastfeeding specialist.
During these sessions, it was made clear that it could be difficult and painful at the beginning and that you need to give both yourself and your baby time to get used to it.
I am totally for breastfeeding and I was determined to not give up no matter what. However, in my case it didn’t really work out as planned.
As I couldn’t satisfy our daughter’s nutrition needs during day 2 and 3 she was quickly offered infant formula in addition to my insufficient milk production. I believe that since then she was either not able to suck properly or she got lazy because she quickly found out there was an easier and quicker way to get her portions. Either way she made it clear she had a strong preference for the bottle.
Each time I decided to adapt myself to her needs, there was someone convincing me that I had to keep on trying. This advice was putting extra pressure on me as I had to choose between what I want and people advise me to do or listen to my own baby.
Every day during the first month we had our “fights” as I didn’t stop offering her the opportunity to change her preference but each of our fights ended up with her winning.
Even though I would have loved to bond longer with my daughter and have it my way, I had to give up my personal preferences and expectations in order to adapt myself to her needs. Our daughter is much happier when she gets her food quickly and quietly, without any unnecessary drama. It’s still my breast milk that goes into her mouth but she likes to have it her way.
This was just another lesson that people might offer their opinion and advice but it is up to you to decide if it suits your own situation.
Time flies when you have fun
In three days it will be a month since our daughter was born and the time has passed so quickly that there hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t wished and hoped that time would stop for a while or at least hold on.
As we couldn’t settle down to a routine the days and nights were melting together and, even though, in the evening I was setting my intentions for the next day, the next morning was as unpredictable as the previous one was.
I was lucky to have my mother helping us after the maternity nurse had left. With a proud grandmother at home, both my husband and I could have some “me” and “us” time during the first month.
I have just two more months of maternity leave and I hope they won’t pass by as quickly as this first month. As with all other things in life, we better enjoy the moment while it lasts.
What’s in it for you?
As you can understand and maybe even relate to, giving birth and getting used to parenthood is just another example of how unpredictable life can be.
There are very few things we can control. The rest is not really up to us and sooner or later we end up in situations where our nerves and coping mechanisms are put to a test. The one thing we can prepare for is to trust our instinct and be as flexible and easygoing as we can.