Wednesday, February 25

Dear Pregnant Ladies: Ten Thoughts on Birth from a Second-Time Mom

Once upon a time, I had a little girl named Tenley (who I am holding in the picture above). Not very long after, I wrote this long post about some of the things you will likely feel or experience during and after giving birth.

That post has been so popular that it inspired me to write this (also extremely lengthy) post because once again I loved my birth experience and I want you moms out there to take courage and know that, while it's not easy, it might not be as bad as you've heard and ultimately, it's certainly manageable and worth it.

There will be new things in this post, but I also plan to reiterate a few of the important points that I shared in my first post because 1) some people have not and will not go back and read that post, 2) a lot of the information applied to my second birth experience as well, and 3) this post is intended to realistically inform new (or repeat) mothers on what can happen and hopefully provide a positive outlook on birth.

1. My pregnancies did not differ that much from one sex to another. Yours might, but you can't make assumptions about your child's sex on that alone. Your body might follow every wives' tale to a "T" but it might not. I was looking so hard for signs the second time around that might give me some indication of what the baby's sex was but I had no luck--in fact, I sort of thought I might be having a girl because the pregnancies had begun so similarly--they were almost the same for the first two trimesters. With both, I had only a few weeks of mild sickness (which meant nausea throughout the day--it was more like all day carsickness) before I hit the second trimester and felt completely better, and I even craved the same things (sausage and hot chocolate) with both pregnancies. The second trimester was my favorite in both pregnancies, mainly because I felt well by then and my belly was small and cute (but looked like more than just a paunch), and there were a few other reasons I loved the second trimester, but a lot of family members read this so I don't want to embarrass them or myself haha.

2. While you'll still probably have some of the same fears during your second pregnancy as you did with your first, you will most likely feel much better acquainted with the experience and might actually be able to enjoy being pregnant a little more! I did! We were so excited to be pregnant again but it was actually easier to keep it a secret longer--we chose to wait until the second trimester. That alone made the pregnancy seem so much shorter (until the third trimester hit anyway--nothing slows time down like waiting on a baby). We waited to tell people (family included) purely for that reason and it really worked out nicely for our second. I think I'd like to try to do the same with our third. We also felt like pros at the doctor's appointments with our second. Instead of bringing a list of questions, I would only ask things I randomly happened to think of on the spot because I felt like I'd covered all the major questions and concerns the first time around. I also only consulted my copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" one time during this pregnancy (the book not the movie, just to clarify;). I just felt like I knew what I was doing for once and it was nice!

3. You will most likely show faster, feel the baby move sooner, and feel significantly more tired. These were definitely true for me. I had a little bump around 13 weeks (I'm also only 5'0" and being petite, the baby has nowhere to go but out) and I believe around then was also when I first felt the "flutters" that those tiny kicks initially feel like. As for tiredness, it makes sense since your first child is probably a toddler or young child (or maybe still just a baby ha!) and chasing a little person is not compatible with growing another person inside you. This is especially the case if your first child requires attention in the middle of the night...Tenley started some bad sleep habits as she got older which made it really challenging to feel fully rested in the morning. Especially once you start having to get up for trips to the bathroom to pee, you feel like your newborn has already arrived. Speaking of having to pee, that happened much sooner and much more frequently during my second pregnancy. Possibly it was because I was only 9 months postpartum when I got pregnant again, but I swear giving birth did a number on my muscles down there. I also did kegels only like a dozen times, so maybe that was the issue.

4. You will love your second child as much as your first. Perhaps my biggest concern going into delivery the second time around (besides hoping and praying for a faster and shorter delivery) was that I would not be able to love my new son as much as I do our daughter. It sounds ridiculous to me now, but I assure you that it was a real concern. I knew I'd love him because he was ours, but it didn't make sense to me that I could love him as much as my daughter whom I'd known longer and spent the last year and a half raising and loving without competition. If you are pregnant with your second (or maybe just thinking about trying for another) and share this fear, let me just lay that aside for you because it's a waste of energy to worry about it. You may not bond as immediately as some women do with their child, but it will happen and it's okay if it takes time. This person might just be a little stranger to you, but it won't be long before you wonder where they've been all your life. And somehow, God made it so your heart will expand to make an equal place for all of your children.

When they handed Declan to me shortly after he was delivered, I was too much in shock that my delivery had been so much faster (that four hours of pushing Tenley out was really engraved in my brain) that I couldn't really process anything. I remember looking at his face and my first thought was "Tenley!" because he looked so much like her. After they brought him back to me once they had dealt with some small respiratory complications, things had calmed down and as soon as he was in my arms again I didn't want anyone taking him away. I couldn't believe that he was actually here and mine, but there was no question about my love for him. It was instant. When I remembered my fear of loving him later on I thought "that was stupid of me." So don't bother thinking about it because that is not worth wasting worry on!

5. My second delivery was completely different than my first--it was both quicker and easier. I got so blessed in this department. Since I was induced both times, that's all I know but my epidural experiences were quite different. With Tenley, the epidural was amazing at first--it only went to my knees so I could still wiggle my feet. After my water broke on its own, the real contractions began. I could not feel the contractions themselves, but I could feel immense pressure from my daughter's head being pressed against my pelvis in the birth canal when a contraction came. Needless to say, it made for a very discouraging and uncomfortable four hours of pushing. With Declan, they had to give me the epidural twice because they'd hit a blood vessel the first time (which did not hurt at all by the way--I had no idea what they'd done until they told me some blood squirted out of my back and Dalin almost passed out). Sadly, the second shot was more painful and seemed to take forever for the guy to finish, but I think it was mainly a challenge for me because Dalin was feeling too lightheaded from the blood spurting to stand by my side or hold my hand. But I understood once I caught a glimpse of his face, poor guy;).

Anyway, the epidural was amazing--I couldn't feel anything this time. I couldn't feel any of the nurse's or doctor's progress checks or when they broke my water. I also did not have the same pressure I'd experienced with Tenley (thank heavens) and in fact, could not feel when to push at all. The nurse had to tell me when to push during a contraction. Thankfully, because of my first birth experience when I had been able to feel when to push, I at least knew how hard I had to push this time around. I also knew that I had to channel the muscles you use for going to the bathroom and I focused completely on that when they instructed me to push. It worked because after fifteen minutes of pushing, my son's head suddenly crowned (much to everyone's surprise) and suddenly it was a mad rush to call my doctor and get him there before I pushed him out (which I easily could have done before that had I even sneezed).

I'm not going to lie to you, the fifteen minutes of waiting for the doctor to arrive while the baby's head was crowning were terrible. Even with the epidural, I could feel a huge amount of pressure at that point and thought I was going to explode if I didn't push him out. I was sobbing and asking why I couldn't just push him out but amidst the confusion I either didn't receive or couldn't discern a clear answer as to why we were waiting. If I had been able to push him out immediately after he crowned instead of waiting those fifteen minutes, my birth would have been basically perfect. I go back and forth on what felt worse--the intense but dulled pelvic pressure for four hours with my daughter, or that sharp pain that came from my son's head crowning and then letting it sit there...I think I'd take the second choice because even as intense as it was, it was fifteen minutes. I'd rather suffer more acute pain for a shorter period than draw it out.

Epidural aside, I also did not vomit or poop (phew!) during this labor or delivery (I did pee since I received a catheter which I just love--but seriously, I do love it because I don't love having to get unhooked from five machines just to use the dang bathroom) so there is hope if you were worried that might happen to you. I did feel nauseous for a short while but it never amounted to anything. I did get labor shakes again shortly after receiving the epidural and they even returned for a while after delivery. They caused my hands to shake and my teeth to chatter incessantly, but it just felt like an extreme adrenaline rush as my body prepared for labor. I was swollen after, but to be honest, I had been so abnormally swollen with my first delivery that by comparison, I didn't think I looked swollen at all.

All in all, my delivery was both quicker and easier the second time--even though my son was bigger than his sister (he weighed in at 8lbs 6oz at 39 weeks). I did bleed quite a bit more the second time which I think surprised everyone, but to be honest, I felt fine after the delivery--great even--and had no idea how concerned the doctor and my husband (who was watching the whole thing) were until they told me later how serious it had been. They gave me shots to help clot the blood faster and a special pill among other things to stop my bleeding. Dalin told me after how freaked out he was by that (since he could clearly tell something was wrong) but I was in euphoria from just giving birth and delivery the placenta and being stitched up did not phase me. What did phase me was how hard they pushed on my uterus afterward to get all the pieces of the placenta and extra blood, etc. out. That actually hurt a little bit, but it only lasted about thirty seconds each time they came to do that.

6. The cramps they say that come with breastfeeding to shrink your uterus (and worsen with subsequent children) may not be what you've heard. I was very worried about this (scratch my previous statement about my biggest worry--I definitely worried about this the last few weeks prior to delivery once I learned about it) and they did hurt, even more than labor for me because my epidural was so effective, but they were tolerable. They reminded me of the kind of period cramps I used to get in high school which would lead me to go home for the first day or so because I was curled up in a ball in the nurse's office. For me, these cramps started when I was about halfway into my breastfeeding and only lasted about five minutes. If they were really bad, I'd stop nursing and they'd fade within a few minutes. They weren't fun, but as I said, they were tolerable, and having had such terrible cramps in high school better prepared me for them. They also only lasted during my stay at the hospital which was a relief. I had been told they might last up to two weeks, but mine were about two and a half days. Anyway, they aren't worth worrying about. Especially because you can take plenty of Motrin and Percocet if you need to.

7. Your breastfeeding experience might be different. Mine actually was pretty similar to nursing Tenley other than that I knew what to expect and how to do it. The hard part was adjusting to a new baby who didn't necessarily nurse the same way Tenley did and learning to be compatible with him. The nipple soreness came back for a few days but thankfully I had been putting on Newman's cream and lanolin for weeks beforehand which I truly believe helps prepare you. And despite my determination to not need to use a nipple shield (which saved my nursing experience with Tenley--I used one for about 4 months which is much longer than recommended), I finally gave in at the urging of my mom and husband since the only reason I was being stubborn about it was that I'd finally adjusted to being without it with Tenley and felt like I should be able to manage without this time, too. The trouble is that I get so much milk in the beginning that I become very engorged and this makes it very hard for a little mouth to get a good grip. So I mostly use the shield. Now that my milk has calmed down some, I go without it when I can, but using the shield is just so much easier and faster--especially because I have so much milk that I'd be soaked every time if Declan couldn't latch right away. I'll probably be done with the shield by two months but I'm not really pushing one way or another. My daughter got plenty of milk (I've been informed that apparently the shield can prevent your baby from getting enough) and I'm confident my son does also. If you have any questions for me about the nipple shield and what it is or how I used it, I'd be happy to answer them.

8. Your recovery may be quicker! That's right! I had the same tear depth (a 2nd degree out of 4), though it was longer this time around, but the stitches seemed to go away much more quickly, for which I was very thankful. Also, despite almost hemorrhaging after delivery, it did not affect my recovery and I stopped bleeding after a week and a half. I still went through the motions, using the squirt bottle, giant pad, numbing spray, and witch hazel for the first week, but after my bleeding stopped I only wore a liner for discharge (and just in case my body was tricking me).

I also felt as though I shrunk back to basically my pre-birth size much faster. I exclusively breastfed both babies and I believe that was a huge help in letting my body recover. I am not one for the exercise...(unless I'm playing tennis or have a regular workout buddy) so this was a big deal for me. I am by no means toned right now, but I fit in basically everything I own (though my hips are basically permanently wider so some of my smaller/tighter workout spandex stuff doesn't feel or look too great). At three and a half weeks postpartum, I feel incredible. I mean, I don't want to run or anything (not that I typically do feel that way...) but I could definitely keep up with my family at the theme parks if I were in Florida with them right now. Just saying. Everyone seems to be surprised when they see me up and about but I feel almost completely back to normal. I can hardly believe I just had a baby less than a month ago. I keep forgetting I'm not pregnant. Overall, I am so pleased with how my recovery has gone and am feeling hopeful that it will be just as quick the next time around. Also, if you're interested, I'll be posting photos of my recovery progress (basically my shrinking belly) in a few days.

Taken at a week postpartum
9. I got stretch marks in entirely new places. Sigh. My belly got it this time. I was a little sad, but it's easy to feel better about them when you realize that you carried a little human in you for nine months--no wonder there's a little physical damage. It's so worth it.

10. Your life will be forever changed--again! But you will adjust. I'm still in that adjusting period so I can't claim to be an expert on how to manage it just yet, but I can see that things are getting easier. Routines are falling into place, Tenley has pretty much adjusted to being a big sister (and isn't emotionally distraught about it like she seemed to be the first week or so), I've gotten back into the pattern of chaotic nighttime feedings (chaotic because I'm like 90% asleep, it's dark, the baby is crying next to me, and milk is leaking everywhere) and figuring out how to keep our apartment at an acceptable level of cleanliness with two young children. (P.S. I know a lot of people can accept when their house goes to heck upon the arrival of a new baby and that's totally fine, but I seriously cannot live in a mess or I'm miserable and unproductive). I am not a supermom--I try to be--I want to be--but I am far too impatient most of the time. I let my temper get the best of me and yell too often, I watch too much TV (and let Tenley use too much technology, which I regret immensely), I eat way too many snacks during the day, and do not take care of myself enough. Most days, I feel like a tired, sticky mess (even when I've showered) who has been sitting in various spots in the living room all day watching way too many episodes of "19 Kids and Counting," nursing a baby for 50% of the day, and bossing a toddler around the other 50%. But I love being a mother. It's my full-time job right now and I want to be the best I can be at it. And I really believe in my heart that things will get easier over time--it just might not be until all of our kids are out of diapers. ;)

Right now, I can hardly believe that we're only five days away from hitting the one month mark of Declan's birth already and that it will be March by then (weird February with it's 28 days is messing up my brain since Declan was born January 30th). I knew time flew with Tenley, but it's hard to accept that it's already happening again. So as hard as it is sometimes, I'm going to try to cherish every moment and remember that one day I won't have little children brightening my home anymore.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post! If you have comments or questions, leave them below! I look forward to them happily :)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this! We are thinking about baby #2 soon and this is so helpful! My biggest worry is breastfeeding with a toddler around once the baby gets to the "distractable eater" phase, so you'll have to write about how that goes :)


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