Preparing for having a baby is a good thing. You can take classes to learn about how to breath or manage stress during labor. You can take a special exercise class designed for pregnant women. Of course, there are countless books and videos to help you prepare. But the truth of the matter is no amount of preparation can fully prepare you for what it's like to actually give birth. Over at Healthyway.com, they have an article about a few of the most common things new moms wish they had known about before giving birth.
1. What Contractions Really Feel Like
I had false contractions pretty regularly during my third trimester. These false contractions, called Braxton-Hicks contractions, are usually painless. Your abdomen tightens until it’s hard as a brick, and then the contraction is over in about a minute.
When real contractions began, it felt like the worst menstrual cramping of my life. Just when the pain started to take my breath away, the contraction would end, and I’d have a brief respite until the next one began.
“Women can use so many different words to describe the way contractions feel. Here are a few that are top of mind: pressure, hug, squeeze, radiating warmth, ‘like a migraine in my midsection.’ …Drawing the comparison to a menstrual cramp during a woman's monthly cycle is the most common way to describe what a contraction feels like.”
That is a fair description. There is a huge difference between false contractions and the real ones.
2. Nothing can prepare you for the pain of labor…
Nowlin explains, “As labor progresses, when the contractions will be doing their most powerful work the dull menstrual cramp sensation can build ten-fold and transform into an all-encompassing full body experience that calls the mother's complete attention.”
Boy, that is an understatement.
Calling for full attention. I've never quite heard it that way but won't disagree. Labor is an all-encompassing event.
But Armstrong does recommend some tips and techniques to help prepare for the intensity of labor pain.
“Doing yoga to learn both breathing and movement can be amazingly helpful. Even just understanding how to be in an uncomfortable position, looking forward to a spot on the wall, and breathing for 30 seconds can be really beneficial.
“Learning about mindfulness and how to allow your thoughts to come in and out of your head while you focus your attention on different parts of your body and breathing slowly and deeply is also great training.”
Good tip. Learning coping mechanisms can help in the heat of the moment in providing a way to try and get through the pain.
3. …or the post-delivery pain.
Again, I will spare you the details of my labor, but I will tell you that I had a pretty standard stage two tear. I was all amped up on adrenaline following the birth, so I thought I felt great. I was up and walking around about 40 minutes after my son was born.
The next morning? Not so much.
Things were very sore. I walked like a cowboy who’d ridden his horse for two weeks straight. Luckily, your nurses will take care of you. They’ll provide cold compresses, pain medication, and a shoulder to (literally) cry on as they help you to the bathroom.
I didn’t catch this woman’s name, but she is a genius and a saint. Those homemade compresses felt great. The witch hazel and aloe helped soothe incision pain and sped up the healing process.
With so much emphasis on labor and delivery, it's easy to forget about the fact the body has just experienced significant trauma and needs some time to recover.
4. How Much Anxiety I’d Have About Caring for an Infant
After delivery, mom and baby get totally pampered. Nurses lavish you with attention, and friends and family drop by with presents and well wishes. And then a mere 48 hours later, you’re shuttled out of the hospital and expected to drive an impossibly small baby home, where you are responsible for keeping him or her alive.
It’s pretty anxiety-inducing.
Armstrong tells me I’m not alone. “I think women are bombarded with so much information on what they should and shouldn’t be doing that it can get overwhelming—leading to anxiety. There are a number of things that they can do to help if they are feeling anxious (or finding it difficult to sleep, overwhelmingly tired or teary or their muscles are becoming really tight) …
“Anxiety often manifests in the inability to breathe deeply (and can lead to panic attacks) so finding even 5 minutes to stop and do some deep breathing can really help with your anxiety. Talking with friends, going for a walk in trees and even watching a funny movie can help with anxiety and [its] effects.”
Oh yeah. You're now responsible for this little bundle of joy. It can be overwhelming to consider, especially when your are exhausted, emotionally sapped and unsure if you are doing things correctly.
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