I like to think I learn from past experiences and mistakes.
After three pregnancies and deliveries, I learned a few crucial lessons that I want to share while they are fresh in my mind.
Lesson 1: Natural childbirth may be overrated. This will not make my hippie friends happy to read, but having done it both ways, I can speak from experience and say: Go for the drugs.
I've tried to go for the drugs twice. And each time, when I finally threw in the towel and asked for the epidural, the dang epidural guy has been busy and made me wait for an hour!!!! That is not a pretty sight. I thought I would ask for the drugs, and they would magically appear in 5 minutes and euphoria would replace the terrible pain. Not so... With my second and third deliveries, I asked for the drugs, and then proceeded to labor without them until the final 15 minutes... 15 minutes was all I got!!! The worst was over by then. Well, maybe not, but I barely got to experience the joy of epidurals.
In order to do natural childbirth, you have to be mentally in the game. Prepared to zone out everything but your breathing. It takes a huge amount of concentration and will power to keep yourself from edging over into hysterical zone. And when you reach that point of panic and think, "Jesus, I can't do this anymore. This really, really sucks." you have to have the mental strength to snap out of it and remain in control.
I had that strength for my first pregnancy. I'd read a lot of books about natural child birth, I'd done yoga during pregnancy, practiced breathing, practiced visualizing. But I didn't do that for the second two... And if you're not mentally fit for natural child birth, forget it. Ask for the drugs, and ask for them earlier rather than later, because who knows if the drug guy is backed up or taking his sweet time with some whiny lady down the hall....
Lesson 2: Use the hospital's nursery at night. With my first two babies, I could not bear the thought of sending them to the nursery at night. I wanted them at arm's reach beside me -- so I could hear their every cry, every move and be there for anything they needed. As a result, I never slept while I was at the hospital because you just can't rest with a newborn that close to you.
Sleep is important to new mothers. The hospital nurses are giving you a gift when they say, "Would you like me to take the baby to the nursery for a few hours so you can sleep?" Your answer should be: "Yes, I would. Be sure to wake me if he/she is hungry or needs me." And they will. Nurses are wonderful people and they are there to help you and will take very good care of your newborn. Three hours of sleep will do you wonders. Take advantage of it. Plus, the nurses swaddle those babies like nobody's business, change their diapers and roll them down to you for feeding time. It's the best room service ever.
Lesson 3: Buy gifts for the baby to give to siblings at the hospital. Introducing children to new siblings can be a wonderful experience -- especially if you bribe them with gifts from the baby. Shawn bought two awesome toys for the boys and wrapped them in bright red paper with yellow bows. We showed the boys the presents and told them they would get them when they came to the hospital to meet the baby. We also promised them that they would be the first to meet the baby and hear if it was a boy or a girl. It was a great strategy and worked very well. The boys were excited to come to the hospital, the toys kept them entertained all afternoon in my hospital room and it turned the day into a celebration for them.
We didn't do that when Bo was born... Mazy didn't even want to come into the hospital room. He wanted nothing to do with me. He was mad at me. It broke my heart. And it certainly wasn't his fault -- he was only 3.5 years old and was used to be an only child and the center of my universe. It was a rude awakening to say the least.
Lesson 4: Most American men are not comfortable with public breast feeding. If at all possible, save yourself and them the awkward encounters and avoid doing it in front of them. I know, I know, it is a very natural and beautiful thing and the baby's needs take precedence over your personal comfort level, but I'm telling you -- try to avoid it if possible. Especially if you are a new mom.
Breast feeding, contrary to popular belief, does not come naturally to most of us. It takes practice. It takes a lot of time. You will be better at it if you are free to whip out a boob without fear of a brother or uncle or father-in-law seeing it. Trust me. Until you get the hang of it, don't feel bad saying no to guests or invitations for outings. You owe it to yourself and your baby to create an intimate and private setting to learn to nurse. And soon you will be a pro who doesn't care who sees you doing it. Plus, now they make these really nifty nursing covers that you can wear over the baby to maintain your privacy. Invest in one, it's worth it.
Lesson 5: Treat the hospital staff like they are your family. The nurses and staff working the maternity ward are a very special group of people who don't need to put up with high-maintenance divas. Don't be a diva. This is kind of a no-brainer, but I am always surprised at how many people seem to forget it: Be nice to the nurses and they will be nice to you. Ask them for advice. Be open with them. Ask about their families and work history. Get to know them. You will receive better care and have a more enjoyable experience if you do. I loved all my nurses -- and each new nurse who came in knew all about me and our story. I know they talk about patients and it is always my goal to be on the patient "A list" and not on the "Diva list."
And that's my advice for new moms. And now that I think about it, maybe that's my advice for life in general:
1. Use drugs when they are free and safe. :)
2. Take advantage of free help.
3. Bribery works.
4. Don't show your boobs in public.
5. Be nice to people.