Kylie Abrahams

    6 Things Moms Need to Know About Labor & Delivery

    6 Things Moms Need to Know About Labor & Delivery

    Pregnancy is a miracle, they said. You will love your journey, they said. Be grateful, they said.

    Well I say however magical it can be at times, pregnancy is gross, my friends. That’s right. I’m calling it. There are too many bodily changes to keep up with and too many hormones to help us cope with those changes. Creating human life is so not fun for a lot of us, and I for one am glad some are choosing to speak up about it. Recently, model Chrissy Teigen came out of pregnancy with a beautiful bundle of joy and a tweet that said her baby wasn’t the only one wearing diapers. She shouted, “No one told me about this!” and it got me and a whole lot of other women responding “right?!” It opened the floodgates of chatter.

    Back when I was pregnant over three years ago, I was inundated with so many pieces of advice because of my New Mom status, but no one really told me the gross aspects of bringing forth human life via vagina. Everything I was told was either positive or teasingly negative, but almost none of it was authentic. In the spirit of being honest, I think it’s time we let other moms—and partners—in on what really goes on.

    I don’t want to share just my experiences, so I took to a local mom group that I’m part of and asked the legion of experienced ladies: what do you wish people had told you when you were pregnant and giving birth as a new mom? Here’s what they had to say.

    Babies and poop go hand in hand.

    My particular experience is what made me think of this and had a lot of moms agreeing. I heard rumors that you would poop on the table when you’re delivering, but no one told me about the uncontrollable diarrhea that my intense contractions would cause. Embarrassing to admit (but kind of funny in hindsight), I leaked all over my hospital bed because contractions turned my insides to liquid. I thought my water broke. Then when my water did break, I thought I pooped again. Oh boy.

    Aside from that, many moms like Heather G. report that when you push, either poop or a baby or both will come out- and that it can make for a confusing delivery. She says, “Push like you have to poo! No one ever told me that. It would’ve been much quicker (of a delivery) if I had been visualizing/pushing right.” There is no telling which one you’re going to get until it greets you with cries or gets discreetly tucked away by a compassionate nurse.

    Game of Thrones isn’t the only place where blood is in abundance.

    Everyone tells moms, “You’re so lucky not to have a period for like, a year.” What they fail to be envious of is postpartum bleeding, where you basically have all the periods you were “so lucky to miss” catch up all at once. This is actually what Chrissy Teigen was referring to when she said her baby isn’t the only one wearing diapers. The pleasant horror show is known as “Lochia” and in addition to blood, this heavy discharge contains mucus and uterine tissue. It can last for up to six weeks postpartum.

    Moms like Jennifer D. and Bethany W. warn that it’s not as easy as just letting yourself bleed: Clots can pose a risk, and your doctor should advise you which types to look out for. It’s a stressful six weeks. Mom Ashley M said, “My postpartum periods were physically horrible, much worse than anything I had ever experienced.”

    Sex with your spouse is going to take a long time to resume or feel right.

    Most doctors recommend holding off on tumbling in the sheets until at least six weeks postpartum, longer if you had a C-section. Aside from the delay in fun times, other things can greatly impact your sex life. Breastfeeding can sometimes make you drier than normal; hormonal changes, perinatal mood disorders, and sleep deprivation can put you out of the mood; and tension can happen in your marriage because of the sheer stress of having a new baby. Amanda B. laments, “Postpartum sex… How excruciating! And that it’s normal (to be)!” It’s hard for your partner to understand sometimes, which can add to the frustration. Your body and mind went through all sorts of trauma, with lasting effects. Intimacy can be hard to achieve for awhile.

    You may not feel immediately attached to your new baby.

    In fact, you may not feel that strong bond of love and attachment for a while. Postpartum blues can turn into postpartum depression or anxiety, and these feelings sometimes block out any positivity trying to make its way in. Because so many people talk about the bliss of motherhood, and there is still a stigma attached to perinatal mood disorders. You’re expected to love your baby instantly and feel intense guilt when you don’t. This leads to not being honest about your feelings and seeking help because in an environment that shames mothers for these feelings; it’s hard for a mom to feel safe being open.

    When mom Jennifer D. brought this up, almost all the moms I spoke with wholeheartedly agreed. Tanya H. said, “I remember lying on the bed with (spouse) crying my eyes out and saying to him that I thought we had made the biggest mistake of our lives… if you’re not head over heels in love with your baby after you have it, that’s totally normal.” You just went through something very traumatizing, and it is okay if exhaustion and suffering are on the forefront of your mind. Just don’t be afraid to reach out if this feeling lasts.

    Your birth plan might go out the window and things can go wrong.

    C-sections are reality. Things can go wrong, like your baby being breech, their heart rate rising, or even just being induced when you planned a natural birth. Sometimes, doctors and nurses don’t listen to you. Sometimes your doctors are amazing and they guide you through every step, but it can still go wrong.

    Mom Nicole H. mentions “the guilt and shame from within if things don’t go ‘naturally.’ Such as gestational diabetes, induction, C-section, inability to breastfeed…” It can be very difficult to navigate your feelings when you hear so many suggestions about what to do and what not to do. She continues with, “any helpful suggestion made me feel like a total failure as a woman. I felt like my body should just do this! Women have been doing this forever!”

    Breast-feeding can be painful, unsuccessful, and ultimately not what happens for you and your baby.

    This is something I and the other moms struggled with. I was unable to feed my daughter my breast milk. Not only was she allergic to it, but I barely produced and she couldn’t latch properly. We spent three weeks crying, struggling with consultants, eliminating food from my diet, and she still lost weight and ended up in the hospital. The first night I gave her formula was after I screamed at the consultant that I couldn’t do it anymore. And my baby and I both slept for five hours straight after that bottle I was so harshly judged for. It was the best decision I could have made.

    Mom Brittanie E. chimes in, “The breastfeeding books I read did not prepare me for struggling with low supply.” Another mom, Tiffani R. gave another insight: “Tetting thrush… my nipple pain… the whole peaceful bonding thing that never happened and then me hating myself for not being able to feed.” A LOT of the moms I spoke with voiced their hardships with breastfeeding and said it was the biggest thing they were not prepared to struggle with.

    There are so many other things that the moms and I were chatting about, but these instances where what we all agreed about in unison. Some moms brought up a good point about shame in having a good experience, too.

    Mom Meghan D said, “I want to add feeling guilty for having a relatively great breathing experience. Sometimes it’s difficult to share the positive things that happen when you were worried that you might make others feel worse about their experience.”

    It can be hard to share your beautiful experience when you know of so many women who had the opposite, but it’s important to celebrate your birth, as it is to be honest and raw about how it went down the drain for you.

    Mom Caitlyn A. puts it beautifully, “Labor often does not go exactly as we have imagined, but it does teach us that in life things don’t always go the way we had planned. It’s okay to not be okay. This one moment in time will not define your being so if you don’t have that beautiful, natural delivery you dreamed of, it is okay. Reach for help if you need to discuss what happened to you.”

    In the end, everybody has their own unique experience. We encourage you to speak up about yours. I had a great time talking with over thirty moms about our struggles, and it was a great relief for us to hear how so very not alone we are. We all agreed: We can be a little less scared as moms when we have each other to lean on and share with.

    What It Feels Like to Live with Postpartum Anxiety

    What It Feels Like to Live with Postpartum Anxiety

    Sometimes when you take the stairs and get distracted your foot slips and you miss a step. Or you feel the lip of the stop on the heel of your foot and catch yourself before you stumble downwards. The second you either slip or recover, there is a quick moment when your heart leaps to your throat, you realize you’re sweating, and your chest is pounding. Then you stabilize, go a little slower, and make it down fine. The feeling passes.

    Having anxiety is slipping down the stairs and having that feeling replay on an instant feedback loop. The feeling never passes. Instead of a world of calm, interrupted by brief moments of slipping down the stairs, it’s reversed. It is a world of near misses with the occasional moment of calm. With postpartum anxiety it’s heightened. Travelling down the stairs is stressful enough. Travelling down the stairs with the child is signing the death certificate of peace.

    My daughter is over three years old, and I have been living with postpartum anxiety since. With a second daughter due in just a month and a half, this has been something lingering in my mind and I want to share with you the things I have learned since being diagnosed. Not because I have the key to fixing or understanding it (wouldn’t that be nice?), but because I was entirely alone when I had it hardest and it almost swept me under, child in tow. I wish I had been told these things.

    Not everything, but many small things can be a huge, larger-than-life deal.

    I sometimes don’t just cry over spilled milk; on my darkest days I sob to Amy Winehouse because of it and let it undo my entire day. Postpartum anxiety is not necessarily a reaction to what just happened, but a reaction to what could have and probably will later because of it. The responsibility for my daughter can be crippling when I make stupid mistakes. Great, I knocked my coffee over while she was a foot away and now it will ruin the rug and I have to make more and my daughter could have been sitting right where I spilled it and she could have had her skin burn and scarred permanently and why wasn’t I more careful? It focuses more on what could have happened, and also takes everything as a sign for doom later on. You cannot relax at all. Everything leads back to how you messed with your kids and life, and these annoying thoughts are also great contributors to insomnia.

    You sometimes feel like you are failing as a parent.

    This is something I struggle with every day, even worse while pregnant. My pregnancy has been a roller coaster and every hiccup sends me into guilt wondering what I could have done to prevent the hiccup. I see other moms post photos with their kids at the park, while mine is watching reruns of Tom and Jerry and eating leftover macaroni and cheese from the night before, and the shame doubles down. Rather than just looking at her and realizing she’s happy and content, and that not every day can be a packed day with tons of crafts and fun projects, it’s an automatic reflection of who I am as a parent. I don’t just feel guilty; I feel that the photograph is valid proof that I’m not giving my daughter the tools she needs for a happy, healthy childhood and that I am ruining her future development. Then the panic attack hits and I need to buy more crafts right now and start making a calendar of fun, educational day, or go on a huge cleaning frenzy in order to calm down. I have to do something or else this intense feeling of unease will not pass.

    It affects your marriage, too.

    There are days when I completely misread my husband’s tone, or verbal and body language. I sometimes take very surface things as a direct insult to my capabilities as a wife and mother, and one misunderstanding can lead to major sulking, an argument, or an hour of him trying to reassure me that I’m doing a great job. If the day has been particular garbage, all it takes is “I think the milk went bad” to be translated as “you didn’t use the milk in time and now it’s ruined because it’s all your fault.” Or when he’s just really tired, I’ll think it’s because I did something. It couldn’t possibly be because he worked nine hours of manual labor in 95 degree weather.

    But, anxiety can have some advantages.

    It isn’t an all doom and gloom though. Having anxiety helps me become a more compassionate person. Because I don’t want my daughter to ever feel the burden of anxiety, or PPA with her own children, I’m more analytical of my actions and try seeking alternative methods for conflict resolution. “No” is definitely a word we use in this house, but how we use it makes all the difference between my experience and hopefully hers. It also helps me approach friendships and my marriage with eyes and ears open more, and I am a better communicator because I approach almost everyone as if they have anxiety. I make my feelings and thoughts as clear as possible, and the worst phrase in the history of the English language to everyone anxiety, “we need to talk,” is one I do not use.

    There isn’t really “life after postpartum anxiety,” but instead, “life with postpartum anxiety in remission.”

    I am in a much healthier, much better place than I was during my daughter’s first year of life that was when my PPA was at an all-time high. I was still undiagnosed, had not sought treatment, and was navigating life as a single mom. There were some dark times, and I am extremely fortunate that the darkest of those are behind me. I have a loving, compassionate husband and support system. My therapist rocks. I don’t always jump to panic and overreaction when my daughter gets hurt or when we have conflict. I don’t view this progress is being cured, however grateful for it I am. Especially since those hard days still exist. I still have to constantly clean, manage the bills, and be in control of almost every tiny thing in the schedule, lest I want my threads to unravel. Instead, I view my PPA as in remission. The darker times could come back at any time, set off by something beyond my control. I am about to have a second child, and the newborn stage in particular was the hardest for me and I have no idea what will happen next, especially with a toddler in tow. The best thing my husband and I can do is set up conditions that may help lower our chances of it returning. There is no lifelong cure for anxiety itself that I’m aware of, and there are days when the knowledge of that settles in the pit of my stomach.

    Postpartum anxiety does not discriminate, and can and does happen to anyone.

    I may know the how and why of my condition, but that does not mean that there has to be one. You can have a terrible upbringing, and be entirely alone like I was, or you can have amazing memories growing up, with the loving support group by your side and it can still happen to you. The mind is a terrible, wonderful, and complex thing and everyone experiences things differently. Pain is relative, and there is absolutely no shame in being an otherwise happy individual struck by a painful disorder. Anxiety does not care that your husband is loving. It does not care that you are a single parent. It does not care that you have no financial worries or too many bills to count. It starts at any time, with anyone. While happy, healthy surroundings can and do help with healing, they do not always help; a good place in life is not a reason to ignore your feelings. One of the most dangerous things someone suffering from any perinatal mood disorder can do is treat it as though it isn’t there, or belittle its weight due to surface circumstance. Lung cancer happens to healthy non-smokers at 25 years of age. Postpartum anxiety can happen to happy, active moms surrounded by a great environment.

    Every day I wake up, I don’t ask myself if this will be the date comes back in full force. I don’t give myself a mental pep talk that says I can beat it, because I don’t know that I ever will. I don’t want to be in constant fear of that, hiding and trying to find ways around it. Instead, I say that I love myself. Accept myself. I am not my anxiety, but I am tourist with it, not despite it. I repeat these things to myself until I can get out of bed, and I take a deep breath before stepping down the stairs. It feels good when my feet find steady ground.