As long as I have a healthy baby....
First babies are a journey where both parents and babies are learning to navigate totally new ways of doing things.
In pregnancy, some parents might seem totally at ease and confident with the new changes to come. We've all been there, we think we have it all down, we know what we need, and how we're going to do things. We don't even care how labour unfolds, or think about how our emotions will matter...as long as we have a healthy baby, right? That's what we're always told - the only thing that matters is a healthy baby.
What if I told you, that's not the only thing that matters.
We can't predict how labour will unfold, and we can NOT guarantee a healthy baby, and because we can't control these things, that means that they are not the most important thing. What IS important, is how we are supported and treated by those around us, during this time.
You could have a totally smooth labour that ends with a healthy baby, but how you were treated matters. You could have a traumatic labour, with a healthy baby, but how you were treated matters. You could have a smooth labour, with a sick baby...or lost your baby...but how you were treated matters.
You're a new parent, and you're either terrified about the thought of labour, or you think you have it in the bag! Then labour starts and though you're still a bit naive about what's to come, life is good, and you're just excited to meet your baby.
Then things quickly come into perspective.
This was 20 year old me. Totally naive, and totally unprepared for what was to come, because no one told me what to expect, and birth really wasn't talked about much, in general. We didn't have social media to connect with, if we had questions, and I surely had never heard of a doula before...
Read this story, and put yourself if these shoes for a moment. You might feel a connection with it, because you've been here before, or it might give you some clarity on the fact that a birther's emotions are important. She's not a machine and her baby isn't the only one who deserves care and attention...
Labour was much harder than you had worked up in you mind, your nurse and doctor didn't support you physically or emotionally (because that's not their job). Your partner had no idea what was going on or how to help, because it all just snowballed so quickly. And then here you are, feeling completely undignified, looking like you were just hit by a train (quite literally), wondering if your quiet, still baby, laying on the table next to you is even alive.
There you lie, hearing no words of reassurance, with your legs spread open while the doctor stitches you up, and about 10 nurses, interns, and pediatricians scurry about the small room. You finally hear a squawk from your baby, they take him over to you, so you can see his sweet face
...and then they quickly whisk him away.
Its 9am, everyone has been notified that
the baby is here. He's the first, of your friends and the first grandbaby, so everyone is excited to meet him.
You don't blame them!
Rounds of visitors come and go from your small postpartum room, for the next 10 hours, hoping to see the new baby, but only immediate family is allowed into the NICU, which means that here you are (sick with bronchitis, having
just pulled an all nighter, looking like like a completely different person), entertaining
a plethora of guests, who all arrived at different times throughout the day.
Evening comes and they've decided to fly your baby by STARS to a higher level hospital, two hours away, and through all the commotion..you've been forgotten about. After a traumatic birth, your body and emotions have been through a lot, but you go home, a mere 12 hours after birth, with no instructions on what to do with your life.
You get a short night's sleep, wake up early, pack your bags, and jump in the vehicle for a 2 hour drive in the middle of winter. You get to the big city and head straight for the downtown hospital, park across the busy street and walk over to the large hospital. You're now just over 24 hours postpartum.
The day goes by in a blur. You're still sick, and get to watch everyone else hold your baby, except for you. Afternoon comes and you now have to find a hotel (that you can afford) that's close to the hospital. Your mom (who's been with you the whole journey) and husband go out for dinner, leaving you at the motel to try to recover and get some sleep...but that bronchial cough keeps you up and puts pressure on your already balloon sized bottom.
Finally, you get to sleep, but are woken by neighbors yelling and crying baby. It's going to be a long night..
Morning comes, you are now 48 hours postpartum, and your milk could come in at any time, so off you go to a department store, to look for a pump that you can afford, walking out with a little handheld pump kit. Later that day, you get word that your baby is being released from this hospital and sent back to the original one in your hometown. You still haven't held your baby and wont get to, for the next two days.
Thank goodness, you're at home and in your own bed! The next morning your milk comes in, and you have to figure out how to use the handheld pump you picked up the day before. You've never been shown how to use one, or even how to breastfeed your baby, because you're a floater between hospitals - no one knows you or your situation, they only know about your baby, and the focus is the baby.
I'm sure you know the rest. It goes on for another few days, a week, a month, 5 months or longer.
Every conversation that happened in these first three days is a blur. What did the pediatricians and nurses tell you about your baby, or what to expect down the road? Did anyone ask you if you were feeling okay, physically or emotionally? Did you even cry?
In any of this, did you feel supported? Did you feel educated? Did you have anyone check in on you? Did this event change you? Did it harden you?
How can you help others feel supported, comforted, and taken care of, while they welcome a new baby into their lives?
• Your can encourage them.
• Listen to their concerns.
• Give them some space in the first 24 hours, but offer them help, in case they need it.
• Bring them meals.
• Grab them anything they need from the store.
• Offer to watch their other kids.
• Offer to come and wash their dishes or do their laundry.
• Give them more space, because they're trying to get to know who they are, as a family.
And remember that a birthers journey isn't just about a healthy baby. It's also about them!