When I was pregnant with my son, I spent countless hours researching pregnancy and childbirth. I knew how he was progressing inside of me and what foods I should avoid to keep my precious cargo safe. I went to prenatal yoga every week and did plenty of cat/cow to get baby in the best position. My husband and I not only attended a standard childbirth preparation class, but also a special partner class that covered numerous coping mechanisms and supports at a local yoga studio. A seasoned marathoner, I knew how to pace myself and help my body through challenges. I felt that I knew what to expect from labor and was ready to face it head-on, the way I faced all my other endurance performances. I was strong and excited to show the world my strength!
When it came time for me to give birth to my son, I was strong and did know many ways to handle the pain. I walked around the hospital, rocked on a birthing ball, slow-danced with my husband, and spent a lot of time in the tub. I am proud of my birth story and plan on sharing it some day. But my more important lesson was what came after the pain of labor ended and my eight-pound bundle of joy was placed on my chest. Amidst the rush of oxytocin that instantly made my little boy the center of my universe, I had a nagging voice saying, "Now what?"
See, I had spent so much time focusing on how to handle labor and birth that I'd forgotten to think about how I was going to become a mom. I had plenty of clothes, disposable and cloth diapers, ointments and lotions, blankets, and carriers. I knew where I wanted baby boy to sleep and how to introduce our pet greyhound to him. But I didn't know what to expect during those first hours, days, or weeks. I'd assumed that since I knew how to change a diaper I didn't need to take a newborn care class. "What's so hard about a baby?" I had thought.
The first night answered that question loud and clear. After I'd had my special dinner of a turkey sandwich and gin and tonic, lovingly smuggled into the hospital by my husband, I placed my baby against my chest for some skin to skin contact. We spent many hours nestled together as he tried to get his tiny mouth to fit around my nipple to eat. Once it turned dark, my husband went home and I was on my own.
I spent most of that first night walking around the tiny hospital room trying to comfort a very sad baby who couldn't figure out how to latch. Occasionally I had a nurse come in and arrange my body just so before shoving his head toward me. And he was able to latch that way, but he also cried a lot. I felt more than a little overwhelmed and wondered if there was a way that I could have prepared better.
When the sun rose for the start of a new day, I was happy to have survived my first night. Nursing got easier over time and I figured out how to swaddle him myself, so he felt cozy even when sleeping next to me. I was able to rest some too, which made a huge difference. But it was very clear to me that the endurance event does not end with the birth of a child - it has only just begun.
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.