This post could have been called "The birth of Wyatt: Part 4". But then I'd be dragging out his birth story for a bit too long.
A few times each day, I catch my mind wandering back to the day I went into labor. I am so, so thankful that I went to the doctor a second time that day for the bleeding. If I didn't go, I wasn't scheduled for another appointment for SIX days. In that time, Wyatt could have run out of amniotic fluid and/or gotten an infection.
The point of my rambling is that I am so glad I got checked out instead of ignoring my symptoms. I had a few false alarms throughout pregnancy and had a few more doctor appointments than "normal", but I don't regret playing it safe for a minute. My midwife already told me she's going to keep a much closer eye on me at the end of my next pregnancy (if there is a next one) since my labor signs were far from typical and my actual labor progressed so quickly.
No one knows your body better than you do. I beg you, if you ever have a doubt about something, please get it checked out. Sorry to be preachy, but it breaks my heart whenever I think about what could have happened to my little munchkin.
Recovery from childbirth
…has been much different than I expected! I'd heard recovery is painful, but I didn't expect all the challenges that came with it.
I'm probably going to go into too much detail again, so please stop reading if gory stuff makes you queasy.
Immediately after Wyatt was born, I felt nothing but euphoria. Maybe it was the epidural or the pure bliss of becoming a mommy, but I felt incredible for hours.
Until my nurse made me get up to go to the bathroom. My legs were still a bit shaky from the epidural, but that was the least of my concerns. Wyatt's exit area throbbed and killed. I had a third degree diagonal tear since my little guy came out sucking his thumb. I tore inside and out.
Trying to pee was incredibly challenging for a few days. It was like my bladder muscles were somehow damaged, too. And the bleeding. Oh the bleeding. I'll just call it "heavy". Two+ weeks later, I'm still bleeding, walking funny, only sitting on soft surfaces, and cannot begin to predict when I'll feel up to exercising again.
I've also had a few other side effects that no one warned me about, including:
- Contractions. Contractions don't end once the baby comes out. For the next 48 hours after childbirth, I had painful menstrual-like cramps and back pain (which were my contractions). I also experienced contractions every time Wyatt nursed for about a week. Apparently this is normal and just my uterus returning to its pre-pregnancy size.
- Epidural site pain. If there is one reason I'd hesitate to get an epidural again, it's because of the pain afterwards. It felt like a really bad bruise and made sitting back or laying down incredibly painful for days.
- Chills and shakiness. Once I was started on pitocin, I started shaking and it didn't let up for almost a week. This could have been due to a normal shift in hormones or the pitocin. I hated this symptom. Because of my unsteadiness, I wasn't allowed to hold Wyatt standing up or change his diaper until he was 3 days old. Sniff.
- Night sweats. Every time I've slept since Wyatt was born (which isn't often!), I wake up soaking wet covered in sweat. I'm sure Jeff loves sleeping next to me.
- Loss of appetite. I never did get that Chick-fil-a spicy chicken biscuit I was craving during labor. In fact, I've had to choke down food since having the little guy. I force myself to eat constantly for energy, but nothing except Wheat Thins sounds or tastes that good.
Obviously, each one of these symptoms is 100% worth it. They were just very unexpected. Keep in mind most normal people can take drugs for the pain. But painkillers make me vomit, and I've already cleaned up enough puke this week, sadly. Though that's a different story for another day…
Back in the beginning of the second trimester, I shared how similar I found pregnancy and marathon training. Now that I'm in the home stretch of my pregnancy (when did that happen?), I'm noticing how much more these two experiences have in common.
Pregnancy vs. marathon training: the taper
1. Phantom pains will strike. Many tapering marathoners experience new foot, knee, or IT band pains that come out of no where. Usually these phantom pains cause full on panic but no lasting harm. In pregnancy, Braxton Hicks (practice) contractions may pop up now and again. You'll fret you're going into preterm labor, but that's most likely not the case.
2. Moments of confidence will regularly shift to moments of doubt. Some days you'll feel completely prepared to meet your goal time or have a successful natural childbirth. Other days you'll think, "Umm Jen, you're delusional. There's no way in hell you'll be able to do this!" Expect these feelings to alternate every few minutes.
3. You'll cram in extra, last minute sessions because of those doubts. Taking a new yoga class or two during your taper is sure to loosen you up and help you meet your goal. And frantically re-skimming Bradley Method websites will guarantee a successful childbirth experience…
4. You start thinking about what you'll do differently next time. The big event is still weeks away, but you've already noted mistakes you've made in your training. Maybe you should have practiced yoga regularly during your training cycle or actually taken Bradley Method classes.
5. You'll soak up as much info from others as you can. Surely, women who have been there know more than you. And obviously, their race recaps and birth stories hold some magic secret that will help you be successful on your big day. Warning: expect to scour the internet for these stories frequently.
6. No one will care about the date of your event but you. Friends and family may be counting down the days until Christmas, but you'll be focused on some arbitrary date weeks before. People will ask you when race day or your due date is, and you'll wonder how they didn't already know something so important. Then you'll come back to reality and remember this random day on the calendar is only a big deal to you.
7. You won't recognize your own feet. Blisters and black or missing toenails are par for the course for runners. In late pregnancy, your feet may swell to double their normal size. (I'll spare you the picture.)
8. Nights will be restless. Getting enough sleep is priority number one during a marathon taper and the final weeks of pregnancy. But how can one sleep!? You'll be too busy obsessing over your race strategy or your baby to-do list to get ample shut-eye. You'll wish you could turn off your brain because you know how precious sleep is now, but it will be a losing battle.
9. Your stomach will shrink. You should be carbo-loading or consuming extra calories for baby, but your stomach may have other plans. Maybe it's a lack of physical activity or perhaps it's just nerves, but you'll swear your stomach shrunk overnight.
There's no room in my stomach for you, but I'll still eat you.
10. You'll fret about losing control of your bodily functions during the big event. I don't think I need to elaborate on this one.
Below are my opinions on childbirth and what I think will be best for me. I am not judging anyone else's birth plans. All moms are so hardcore, no matter how your baby came into the world. However, I've always been a big believer in goals, hence why I'm sharing this.
I've never had a baby before, so I have no idea what labor and birth will feel like.
In our society, we're taught to fear birth. We're told it will be the worst thing we'll ever go through. Pain like nothing else. And we certainly won't be able to do it without the use of medication.
This has never made any sense to me. I expect childbirth to be painful, but perhaps not completely unbearable. After all, women have been doing it for centuries and our bodies were literally made for it.
My goal is to have a natural childbirth. Of course, I know these things often don't go as planned. I could very well need a C-section or beg for an epidural. As long as I get a healthy baby at the end, I'll be over-the-moon happy.
Why go natural? I've heard a lot about a natural childbirth being better for the baby. While that's a huge perk, I'm semi-embarrassed to admit that's not my main motivation. I want a natural birth because:
1. I hope it won't be that bad. I've always thought of giving birth is like running a marathon for the first time. You prep for many weeks, try to picture what it will be like, and hear all kinds of advice. (Marathon training and pregnancy are quite similar after all.) But no matter how well you train- and how many tips you hear along the way- nothing can quite prepare you until you experience it yourself.
The most striking similarity: you're aware that it will be painful, but you also know that it will eventually end. Knowing there is an end point (albeit unknown) really helps me mentally. Just like a race, giving birth seems like just as much a mental battle as a physical one. I hope mental tactics and a positive attitude go a long way in the delivery room.
2. I kind of like pain. Like many endurance athletes, I like pain. Ok, I really like it. Speed work and tempo runs- arguably some of the most painful workouts- are my favorite. I love the feeling I get after overcoming something so painful.
I want to know what childbirth feels like. I want to know if the pain is truly unbearable or something I'm capable of overcoming. Believe it or not, I'm actually excited about this new challenge.
3. I've felt horrible pain before. Maybe my endometriosis pain compares to childbirth, maybe it doesn't. I've been physically crippled with pain on the bathroom floor before. It killed like nothing else, but the worst part was not knowing what was causing it. I'm guessing I'll have a pretty good idea what's causing my pain during labor and birth
4. I hate pain meds. I loathe them for two reasons:
- I never understood the point of pain medication. Why take something to mask pain when pain is your body's way of telling you something's wrong? I used to take pain pills in college for a herniated disk in my back. The pills made the pain go away, so I worked out hard, and then my back hurt more after the pills wore off.
- Pain meds make me vomit... a lot. Sorry, but it's true. I know there's a good chance I'll toss my cookies during labor anyway, and I really don't want to do that more times than necessary.
Not an epidural. Still made me puke.
5. My mom did it, so why can't I? My mom gave birth to me- at 9 lbs, 10 oz- and my 10 lb, 1 oz brother naturally. And she was a few years older than I'll be when I deliver this baby. It seems silly, but knowing my mom was able to do it reassures me that I'll be able to handle it, too.
So there you have it. As for how I'm preparing, we are taking a childbirth class at our hospital, I plan on studying the Bradley Method, and I'm reading lots of birth stories and taking notes. Hopefully it's enough.
I can't wait to see what really happens on my baby's birth day. I promise to fully divulge every little detail- and eat my words if need be- after the big event