I Wish I Knew THAT Before I Gave Birth!

person s tummy and hand

by Jamie Appell | Birth & Postpartum Doula, Lactation Consultant, VJJ delivery & C-section extraordinaire. I am a mom of one boy (14) and twin NICU graduate daughters (12), passionate about birth, postpartum, lactation & all the other sh*t that no one tells you!


Giving birth is an emotional and overwhelming experience for anyone involved. The idea that life can be given out of such chaos is both beautiful and thought provoking. There are definitely things that we should know before we dive right into the “giving birth” part of our pregnancies. And in this article, that’s exactly what I’m sharing.

a woman in a yellow shirt carrying her newborn after giving birth
Photo by Kampus Production on Pexels.com

DON’T FIND YOURSELF IN A PICKLE-SPEAK UP

I remember when I was in labor with my son and all of a sudden the doctors’ and nurses’ shifts changed – “Umm, changing shifts?” I had no idea that doctors and nurses could change shifts during my labor.  The 6’4” doctor came in, and planned on giving me an internal exam that I wasn’t mentally prepared for.  I took one look at his fingers, which looked like ginormous pickles, and all I thought was …”omg no… I don’t want to be pickled!”   Out of my mouth I impulsively asked, “DO I HAVE TO?”  And he said “no”.  I was shocked!!! No?!! I don’t have to!? I didn’t know if I was more shocked or relieved.

Sometimes the most important thing to do is just ask!  Did you know you can ask for the most experienced person to perform the epidural?  You can ask for the most experienced person to do the sutures for your VJJ or for your c-section.   Did you know you can inform the staff IN ADVANCE, you would like to work with the lactation consultant if you plan to breastfeed?

And you should, because hospitals are short-staffed and lactation consultants are in high-demand. You can even ask… “Do I need the pitocin right now or can I wait?… is it optional?”  Tell me about the pros and cons… Speak up for your care.  It is yours to protect. Be your own best advocate or better yet, embrace the expertise of a doula as your professional advocate.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

Birth isn’t scary – it’s the first postpartum poop that can be the most terrifying! I remember thinking “no thank you – I have decided I am just not going to make them anymore – I am not in the mood for anything else to come out.” 

As a Doula, I like to give my clients the heads up, so they know what lies ahead.  Knowing all the possibilities often eases the process and reduces anxiety.   Knowing your VJJ might be sore, likely stitched and swollen or your abdomen recently sutured, you might even have hemorrhoids.  Unfortunately, you DO have to poop and YOU WILL BE OK.  Listen up ladies…this too shall pass, and a stool softener just might become one of your postpartum besties.  Ask your practitioner in advance at an appointment the best time to take them.  Some health care professionals will suggest taking them prepartum (a.k.a. before birth).

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BE PREPARED…AND BE PREPARED TO SWITCH GEARS

A birth plan does not have to be complicated or set in stone.  As a doula, I aim to give my clients non-judgemental information and methods to support their personal goals.  I like to go through all possible scenarios to empower parents to be ready for any detour that may arise.  If you change your course, remember: it’s just a matter of switching gears — roads aren’t always straight. It’s okay and healthy to make turns and go in a direction you didn’t anticipate.  It’s a personal journey.

Are you planning a vaginal delivery?  How do you feel about an epidural?  What are the pros and cons and possible reasons for an induction?  Are you having a c-section?  What happens if a c-section becomes the medically necessary route?  Are you informed of your choices? Two of my favorite questions for parents to ask during labor and delivery are “Is this medically necessary?” and  “What are my options?”  Remember, being prepared with questions empowers you to be part of the process. 

DO YOU HAVE ONE?

Many have heard of the term “birth plan,” but equally as important is your “postpartum plan.”  Do you have one?  What kind of support do you have when you go home?  Taking your sweetpea home is often a combination of “thank goodness” and “OMG… now what?” thought process, but it doesn’t have to be.  How do you plan on feeding your babe(s)?  Breast/chest feeding?  Exclusively pumping?  Formula?  Combination?  What will your postpartum care look like?  Do you have the support of family/friends available? Do you like them? Are they actually helpful? Let’s make them feel valued and included, but also put them to work in a way that’s beneficial to you.

If you hire a birth or postpartum doula, they will engage in a structured intake with you and your partner before you give birth.  Different than a baby nurse, a doula is there for YOU, your family and your babe(s).  They are there to support you and teach you what YOU want to learn.  A doula is there when you choose to have them there, scheduled completely how you want them.  You have both alone time together as a growing family and the support of a professional when you want or need one.  How do you know if you found the right doula?  It is like speed dating — you will feel the “spark.”

Taking home baby is like being hired as CEO of a brand new company.  People often train, go to school, and seek out mentors to prepare for a job in a new industry.  It is unrealistic to walk in and expect yourself to be the most successful CEO of a new company on day one, without the support of a team.  The term, “it takes a village,” is a real thing.  You are not alone.  YOU get to decide who is in your village. 

RAPID FIRE 

Will my VJJ bleed even if I have a C-section? 

YUP!

Golden hour?  

YUP, it’s a real thing… plan for it, protect it.

Is breastfeeding easy?  

NOPE.

Is breastfeeding a learning process? 

YUP, utilize your facility’s free care after birth AND hire a consultant for home.

Are my breasts leaking?  

YUP! It can happen even before you deliver. 

“My milk IS NOT in! I can’t feed my baby!” 

YES it is-and YES you can- your milk is in the form of colostrum- it will transition to “milk.”

Are there bottle-feeding methods?  

YUP, learn about pace-feeding

Are my nipples getting darker!?  

YUP, but no worries, they typically fade back to pre-pregnancy color.

Will I be okay?  

YUP – make a plan, speak up, ask for help, create your village.


Jamie Appell, Author

Connect with Jamie:

Instagram: @_HelloSweetPea


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