Girl, are you pregnant with your first baby?
Chances are, a lot of things are going through your mind right now:
Will birth really be as painful as they say? How soon after can I have a glass of wine? Will my fat, swollen feet ever fit into my cute shoes again?
As a nurse, doula and childbirth educator I’ve worked with hundreds of women on their journey to motherhood. Over the last 20 years, I’ve noticed that even in this digital age women aren’t always getting the information they need about labour, birth and postpartum. If you're tired of seeing the "bounce back" stories on social media instead of the "these parts REALLY sucked" stories, you're in the right place.
The Truth About Becoming a New Mom
These are the things that you can’t find on Pinterest. They aren’t sexy so they aren’t “Pin-worthy”. But I’m all about that real-talk when it comes to having babies because- let’s face it- becoming a mother is the biggest slap of reality a woman will ever get in her lifetime. I'm here to try and make the transition easier for you!
Having a baby is such an exciting, happy and loving time for women! But did you know that many, many women will experience anxiety, fear, and stress after they have their baby? And some will find that not having a clue what to do with a newborn will negatively affect their birth experience? This is even more true for first-time moms because they aren’t getting the information they really need.
First-time mamas experience more fear of childbirth than moms who’ve already given birth a couple of times.
Is this really that surprising? If you don’t know what to expect, the anticipation and uncertainty can be terrifying!
A recent study asked first-time moms what kind of informational support they wished they’d had before, during and after their birth and these are some of the things they said:
1) Nurses are a HUGE Resource.
Many women felt that they needed more information about procedures and daily routines in the hospital. A lot of times, nurses will have more than one patient in labour, and in postpartum it’s not unusual to care for 8 patients! (4 moms, 4 babies). There just isn’t enough nurses to go around and that’s the reality of healthcare in Ontario. Every hospital has it’s own protocols- when I worked in postpartum at a hospital in the GTA, it was routine to check a mom and baby’s vital signs every 4 hours in the first 24 hours, even if they were stable. How many women wanted to punch me when I had to wake them for a blood pressure check? SO MANY. Those mamas weren't focusing on asking me questions when I woke them up- they wanted sleep.
I think the best thing a mom can do is write down the questions as they come up for her and ask her nurse to spend 5 or 10 minutes answering them all at the same time.
( Have no clue what to ask? We've got you covered with this! )
2) Nobody Knows How to Push a Baby Out the First Time.
I know that when we watch birth unfold on television and in the movies it’s usually fast, exciting and the woman’s water breaks like a white water rafting expedition. The truth? It’s usually slow, can be boring at times and a woman’s water only breaks in about 8-10% of the time as a first sign of labour.
Not every woman knows how to hold her legs during pushing. And if a woman has an epidural? There’s a huge chance she won’t even know how or where to focus her push because she’s frozen.
If you’re having your first baby, don’t be afraid to ask how to do things during labour- nobody expects you to instinctively know how it works.
If you've been looking for a way to push out your baby without tearing, stitches or episiotomy, check out this online course How to Push Your Baby Out
3) Birth Rarely Happens the Way You Plan it.
Nobody wants to think about having a caesarean or needing to visit their baby in the NICU. You may not be thinking about those situations right now, but if it does happen you’ll be exhausted, stressed and unable to really focus on the information you’re receiving.
Try to have some idea of your hospital’s c-section rate and rules about the NICU. You can ask during your hospital tour. If you really want excellent information about what to expect before, during and after a c-section look into The Belly Birth Plan.
4) It's Okay to Ask Questions About Things Like Bottle Feeding, Bathing, Follow Up Appointments and Carseats.
First-time moms are already facing so many “firsts” that you need to know what’s coming up next! Many new moms wished they'd received more information about: their health status, medications and discharge instructions. Some women went home with their babies and had no idea how to give them a bath.
Remember, these moms were having their first baby just like you. Many of them didn’t feel that they received coherent or consistent information from hospital staff.
If you aren't sure about something, ask for information before you go home from the hospital. Heading Home Bingo is one of our most popular downloads for this!
5) Breastfeeding is HARD at First, But it Gets Better.
Girl, this one is HUGE. Many women felt that they didn’t receive enough instruction and information about breastfeeding in the hospital. Things like technique, how to use a breast pump or a lactation aid and how to hand express. Some women wanted a lactation consultant to visit them in the hospital but they weren’t available. Some women just wanted a nurse to physically help them during breastfeeding with positioning and they didn’t receive it.
Unfortunately, nurses have hefty patient loads. BUT- you can make an arrangement with your nurse to call before your next feeding to get some help with latching. Make sure you start calling her when the baby is just starting to show early feeding cues so she has time to get there before the baby is crying!
Check out this incredible resource for early breastfeeding, hand expressing and storing your breastmilk!
So what’s a first-time mama supposed to do about all of this? Ask questions before you have your baby. Make sure that you throw a pad of paper and a pen in your birth bag, make a list of questions/concerns on your smartphone and ask the questions before you are discharged.
It's your health and the health of your new baby, Mama. It's all worth it.