#1: Experiencing loving as a parent brings you closer to your co-parent, yourself, and God all at the same time. In my case, it felt like such a deeply shared experience between all four of us (God, Jay, our baby, and I). Pregnancy and giving birth reminded me of how fearfully and wonderfully made we are, and what an honor it was to have participated in the miracle of creation in our own little way.
#2: Don’t underestimate your inner strength – you’d be surprised how big of a hand natural, biological instinct has in getting you geared up for parenthood.
#3: Some days, it will feel like each moment gets harder than the last. Other days, it will feel like a breeze. That’s the new life you’ve walked into, and it’s okay. Just remember: you can do all things, especially when you surrender anxiety and let God do the rest.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
#4: Unlike in the movies, few women ever suddenly wake in the middle of the night, jerk upright straight out of a deep slumber, and simply declare: “it’s time!” Labor is a process and can be quick for some, and slow for others. Ours was 27 hours long, and even required inducing with Petocin because my water bag was leaking and we were on a time limit. To top it all off, when it came time to pushing, we discovered our son was in occiput posterior position (aka sunny-side up). This meant he was head-first but had his back to me with his face pointed outwards (looking in the same direction I was). This is a much tougher position to deliver in than the ideal (occiput anterior). Despite good, strong pushes, due to his position, he couldn’t retain his descent and he would move back up. After several tries, my doctor had a resident and nurse come and start pushing with me: that is to say, they bore down on my belly every time I pushed and helped urge him out. Progress was worrisomely slow, and after the fifth round or so, our doctor declared we could only give it one more shot. If he wouldn’t markedly progress, we’d need to go for a CS. This was unacceptable to me. We had already been through all the craziness of labor, Petocin, and pushing. I felt for certain we had been brought this far by God, and that He would bring us through it. Speaking directly with Him in that moment, I prayed with all my might: God, bless me with Your strength, that I may deliver this baby normally in 8-10 more pushes. I have every faith that this is possible in You. Suddenly (I KID YOU NOT) the song You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music came next on the playlist and I felt as though God was literally answering my prayer. 11 pushes later, he was out and in our arms!
#5: The pain does NOT always end with the delivery. But don’t lose heart, it will end eventually; it too shall pass. For me, once the epidural had worn off, things got worse. I was experiencing consistent contractions still, and I figured they must be from the Petocin (which I was still on, as it’s important to keep your uterus contracting to help it shrink back down to size). I alerted my doctor to my situation, and they decided to try taking me off the drug to see if that would help. At first, I felt temporary relief, but by the next hour, I was once again in excruciating pain. What felt like a constant contraction with no end in sight took over me and I went from somebody who didn’t complain at all in the Birthing Room (not during the high intensity contractions, not while we pushed, not at all), I was quickly reduced to a crying wreck. They wheeled our little one in for our first official feeding and I was warned the contractions would worsen once he latched. Grinning, gritting my teeth, and bearing it, I went in to the first feed focusing on him. Immediately after the feed though, the pain became completely unbearable and I began to feel blood gushing from me. My doctor came and, as she was feeling my stomach, and checking my vitals, I felt myself passing even more blood. Suddenly, what felt like a second placenta slipped right out of me. I was exhausted and practically delirious, but after the fact I was told that this was not a second placenta (obviously), rather it was a massive blood clot and was likely the cause for my pain. My doctor realized my uterus must have relaxed, too fatigued to contract on its own, and the clot that had likely been in there from earlier in the day had built up in the absence of contractions to push it out and shrink my uterus. I was later told that it had been a scary moment, blood pooling around and beneath me, and it was a blessing we had my doctor there in the room as it happened to keep us calm and explain the situation. They hooked me back onto Petocin, and I actually began to feel better. In a daze, I recall them giving me a sponge bath, changing my linens, and injecting me with a drug to help me sleep. Some hours later, I awoke in time for them to bring our son in for another feeding, and I was already feeling much better and bleeding much less. Recovery after that was much quicker, and we were able to go home by Christmas Day (48 hours after delivery). The experience reminded me things don’t always happen the way you imagine them to, and you just need to be flexible and keep on keeping on. Plus, as with #4: if He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it!
#6: Breast feeding is as much a physical feat as it is mental and emotional. For some moms and babies, latching and production both come easy. For others, it takes weeks. Keep a positive attitude, relax, and allow yourself and your baby time to adjust. If it helps, and your doctor knows someone good, you can also hire in a lactation counselor and do a few sessions of counseling and lactation massage. For us, our experience has been mixed. our boy is a naturally good latcher, and I had some milk from the start. However, on our 2nd day home, we noticed there was a pink stain in his diapers when we changed him. It turned out this was from uric acid crystals – a symptom of dehydration (the pink was not blood, it was a color generated by a chemical reaction between the diaper and the crystals). This revealed I wasn’t producing enough to meet his needs at the time. With the help of our pedia, we came up with a supplement-and-pump schedule to stimulate my milk production and get him properly rehydrated. It wasn’t what we had initially planned, and was the last thing I wanted, but we were forced to introduce the bottle and formula just to get us on track. Initially, this caused me plenty grief. I was already emotional from all of the hormonal adjustments that come postpartum, so this made me feel like a failure so early in. It took prayer, and love and support from my husband, to pull me out of that rut. After a couple of days, our son’s hydration was back on track, and my milk production was increasing. We went from Day 1 giving him the bottle every other feed (6-8x a day), to Day 4 (and all succeeding days since) giving him 2 bottles max per day (mainly at night). After that, there was no need to supplement, but we realized that supplementing with a bottle actually has advantages. For example, I could give my breast, and Jay could give the bottle – allowing me one nice rest window while Jay took over one feeding shift, and allowing Jay an additional bonding moment. In the end, the experience benefited us. It humbled me, it let Jay and our son bond, and it served as a reality check that good parenting is more about compromising and doing your best in the moment, than about sticking to your preconceived plans.
#7: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Between recovery and responsibility, your hands are full. It’s okay to give yourself a break. For example, I needed to condition myself not to feel guilty over bottle-feeding (see #6), and needing rest. But the reality is, sometimes that’s what you need. You can’t increase your milk production, and you can’t take care of an infant, without rest. Once I admitted to myself I would be better equipped as a mother if even slightly better-rested, giving one or two bottles a day out of 12-15 feeds, seemed like a silly thing to kill myself over. It’s easy to get overwhelmed but you shouldn’t entertain self-imposed guilt out of a desire to do things exactly how you imagined them. So much of parenthood is a mixture of trial and error, so don’t hold yourself to impossible standards.
#8: Being a good parent isn’t just about spending time with your baby, it’s also about continuing to build your marriage and family life. Your children will benefit from a strong foundation, and for that to be possible you must continue to reinforce it with quality time and care spent with your family – especially your spouse. Jay and I continue to have dates despite being brand new parents. We feed our little one and put him to bed, leave him at home with the help, and run off for exactly two hours to grab a burger or a coffee or hit up a bookstore. It works, and we make it back just in time for him to wake up for the next feed. We also turn nursing hours into opportunities to spend time together, binge watching Modern Family while I feed and Jay burps.
#9: Learn the arts of NAPPING and HYDRATION! Especially if you are breastfeeding. You need the rest, and you need the fluids. On hydration: Note that in the first 4 weeks, your milk is more concentrated and your baby’s gastrointestinal tract is still immature. In some cases, you may need to watch aspects of your diet. Experts will suggest you stay off dairy for the first few weeks, for example, as some newborns are sensitive to lactose. Fear not, this usually disappears after the 4th week, which means you can go back to your cheese coma thereafter.
#10: Maintain balance between asking for and receiving help. Never fear asking for assistance, but don’t be afraid to turn down advice along the way. People always offer input on your parenting choices. Remember you and your spouse are the primary caregivers here. Don’t feel pressured to do certain things one way just because your parents did them that way, or your best friend swears by this one hack. Do what is best for yourselves and your baby (within the confines of what is proven to be right, medically sound, and healthy of course).
#11: Have fun! Soak it all in and make the best of it because you’d be surprised how fast time flies. Everyday, our son changes a little, always growing, and we are enjoying drinking in every second.
#12: Arm yourself and your family with prayer. Find moments of silence and use them to connect with yourself and God and maintain balance. Also, pray as a family. It’s good practice, and sets a good foundation and example for your little one too.