Great Expectations: My first year of motherhood

One Mama’s tale of pregnancy struggles, labor woes, and the unconditional love for her baby that makes it all worthwhile.

Many people say that motherhood starts when you become pregnant. This terrified me, because boy oh boy, did I ever hate being pregnant. 

The first trimester included severe nausea, and I vomited a few times per week for a few weeks. I was hopeful that this would end in the second trimester, but it didn’t. Instead, it continued, and a few new symptoms were tacked on. Heartburn, insomnia, leg cramps, horrific amounts of vaginal discharge, and weight gain. Finally, at twenty weeks, I stopped throwing up. However, at this point, I had already gained eighteen pounds, and I was a nervous wreck that I would explode shortly.

As a result, I did start watching what I ate more carefully, and my weight stabilized. Sex became very strange, as my belly just seemed to get in the way. Call me old-fashioned, but nothing beats sex in the missionary position for me, and that just wasn’t an option anymore. On top of that, I had an anterior placenta, so it was harder to feel movement of my baby, which is one of the more joyous experiences of pregnancy.

My third trimester brought on borderline diabetes. I was so frustrated. I had worked out throughout my entire pregnancy, and done prenatal yoga twice a week during the week on days that I did not work. I ate fairly healthy before my pregnancy, and had eaten really healthy for over half of my pregnancy thus far.

I was a little bitter. I kept telling myself that baby was healthy and head down, and all of this misery would be worth it. My feelings during all of this did create a fear that I would be resentful towards my child. If motherhood began when one became pregnant, I was doing a crappy job of loving this child so far.

Less than three weeks before my due date, my coworkers had an amazing shower for me. I started spotting during it, and hours later, lost my mucous plug. I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of excitement, because I knew this meant my body was making progress in getting ready for this baby. However, I had heard of people losing their mucous plug weeks before their baby actually came, so I didn’t panic.

Fast forward to six hours later, when I couldn’t sleep. I felt so strange, but this wasn’t unusual during my pregnancy. But that night, something just felt off. I stood up and turned my lamp on, which I typically avoided doing so that my husband wouldn’t wake.  He of course, immediately woke up to ask what was wrong. Seconds later, my water started breaking. We’re talking about right out of a movie scene—water gushing everywhere! And it wouldn’t stop. We were both completely freaking out in our own ways. I just stood there, staring at what my body was doing, and he got towels (many, many towels). It finally stopped enough for me to move myself to the bathroom, only for more to come out. I decided the best plan would be to stay in the bathtub while I continued to gush and hysterically laugh. It was quite the scene!

I gave my mother the call, so that she and my dad could start driving to New Orleans. I called my OB’s group on call, who advised that I come in soon since my water did break.  I called my doula and fabulous friend, Melanie, who agreed to come over whenever I was ready to go to the hospital. I wasn’t ready. This gives you a funny mental image, though, right? A very pregnant woman with her water breaking, just standing in the bathtub with no bottoms on, making phone calls. What made the moment even more humorous was that my cat was very interested in what was happening to me. It was a sight.

I started feeling contractions within half of an hour of my water breaking, but they weren’t severely painful, and their timing wasn’t consistent. I bounced on a yoga ball and watched Friends on Netflix while my husband got everything in order.

Once my contractions were five minutes apart and painful, I was ready to go. Melanie met us, and the three of us drove to the hospital together. I arrived around 7AM. When I was checked to see how dilated I was, there had been almost no progress. I wasn’t quite 2 centimeters. My mood immediately changed, and I became frustrated. My contractions continued to be approximately five minutes apart as my parents arrived from their drive. The contractions became more and more painful. Being checked every two hours for dilation progress became even more painful. The contractions didn’t make me cry, but dilation checks did. The next time I’m in labor, I will refuse those at the frequency of every two hours. They were traumatizing and ridiculously painful for me.

The biggest issue was that I wasn’t dilating. My OB was wonderful and kept checking on me throughout the day when he could get away from clinic. I continued to avoid the idea of an epidural. I didn’t want that thing if I could help it, and in my mind, I would feel like more of a woman if I could deliver naturally. I decided to take a bath—maybe that would help? I felt so incredibly disgusting. Every single time that I had a contraction, more of my fluids and blood would come out. I had changed my bed sheets and gowns multiple times, and the floor had been cleaned. I had walked, danced, bounced on a ball, and pulled on a scarf tied to my bed as hard as I could. I was soooooo done with labor.

My husband helped me into the bath. I stripped down, and continued to contract in there. I didn’t feel any relief like I had hoped with the water being around me.

“I’m really not going to be able to do this!” I screamed to myself.

At this point, I was still only three centimeters dilated. It was 1:30pm, ten hours after my water had broken. I was starting to cave. Exhaustion of the waves of contractions was starting to get to me. I’d find myself almost passing out after a really rough one.

Then, my OB expressed concern that we were coming up on twelve hours of ruptured membranes with very little progress in my labor. If labor continued to move this slowly, he would be worried about the possibility of an infection. He suggested we start Pitocin.  This was another idea I hadn’t been into—but I was going nowhere fast. The idea of Pitocin seemed awful, but then I began dreaming of an epidural and being able to rest after hours of this experience. My doula friend assured me that he was probably worrying unnecessarily, and if I wanted to keep going without induction, I was free to do so, and she would support me. The idea seemed horrific, though.

I gave in, and I refused another dilation check until I got an epidural. I refused Pitocin until I got an epidural. Twelve hours after my water had broken, I got the epidural. I was still only four centimeters dilated.

After that, I could still feel the contractions on the right side of my body. They were definitely getting more severe, especially after they had started the Pitocin. The anesthesiologist came back to increase the dosage on my epidural. His cell phone went off as he came into the room, and his ringtone was “I Wanna Be Sedated.”  It was one of the funniest moments throughout my delivery, and I still share it with everyone when I tell the story.

Finally, FINALLY, I felt relief. I felt incredibly guilty about that, because childbirth isn’t about relaxing, right? Well, I’m here to tell you, you have to do what’s best for you.  Things aren’t going to go the way that you planned them most of the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong. People may make you feel inferior for not delivering naturally, or make it seem like they did something differently to successfully delivery naturally, but that’s not always true. There are so many factors that have nothing to do with what we did right or wrong. I have the same sentiments about a c-section. People can’t control their babies being born breech, or their pelvises being too small to push a baby through it. Those are the women who would have died during childbirth many years ago, and we can be grateful for modern medicine for them.

After I made these difficult decisions, I was a champ throughout the rest of my delivery.  At 6PM, with the assistance of Pitocin, I hit 10 centimeters. My OB felt like the baby still needed to come down, so he wanted me to keep contracting for a couple of hours, especially since I had an epidural and wasn’t feeling pain. He didn’t want me to exhaust myself pushing when the baby would be able to come down more on its own. So, I impatiently waited. Around 8:15 or 8:30, he checked and said I could start pushing. I was actually really good at pushing, even with the epidural. My doctor was impressed! I could still feel a ton of pressure, so I knew exactly when a contraction was coming and when to push. My OB had also convinced me to put the mirrors in front of my vagina, which was terrifying but incredibly helpful to visualize what I was doing.  It felt good to see the progress of my pushing. Before I knew it, the head of my child was coming out of me.

The baby’s head was so challenging to push out, so it was a complete shock when I had a baby on my chest milliseconds later. My OB quickly pulled my gown off for immediate skin to skin contact, and there was my baby.

My husband and I decided not to find out the gender during pregnancy, and we wanted to keep the cord on for a bit longer for baby to receive as many nutrients as possible. It felt so surreal to see the cord outside of me but still connected inside. I was in so much awe, I completely forgot to even look and see what IT was. My husband hadn’t thought of it, either!! I think that’s the perfect example of our first response of “unconditional love.”  That baby was completely healthy and was here with all limbs intact. I legitimately couldn’t have cared less whether it was a boy or a girl, and my husband obviously felt the same way. Grandma, not so much.

“Well…WHAT IS IT?!” she exclaimed. I came back to reality and looked between my child’s legs to see a little penis. I was shocked, and looked back up at my husband.

“It’s a…BOY! Oh my God, it’s a boy! I was so wrong!” I started laughing. I had thought my little Levi was a girl throughout my entire pregnancy, and I was very, very wrong. Now, I can’t even imagine this little dude being anything else but all boy.

Everyone’s story is obviously extremely different.  After pregnancy and birth, the hard part was over for me. I consider myself very lucky in that sense, because while it seems so long when you’re pregnant, it’s such a short portion of the experience. I bonded with Levi incredibly well, and instantaneously. I feel as if the cliché of immediately loving your child that everyone tells you about actually fit my experience well.

I was incredibly emotional when I got home, and very intimidated by my baby being “out in the world,” which scared me. I cried every day for a week. However, my OB, my midwife, and my doula had warned me that this was very common. Hormones need some time to adjust. Our bodies have been through so much, and it’s a lot to deal with in regards to changes. Well, they were right. I needed a week or so, and I slowly felt myself returning to normal—but with a new kiddo in my life.

After that, it was downhill—but I mean that in a good way, as if we were just easily sliding down a huge hill after climbing for months.

Breastfeeding came much more naturally than I ever thought. Levi latched within the first hour of birth, and he never had any ongoing problems. I rocked breastfeeding, and we breastfed until he was 13 months old. Weaning him was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, because it was such a positive and endearing experience for me that I didn’t want to let go of—but it was time. I am now an even bigger breastfeeding advocate than I ever thought I would be. I did not have a strong support system with breastfeeding, so I am especially proud of myself for sticking with it and continuing to do what I felt was best for him!

Levi hasn’t been the best sleeper, and my husband and I have strongly disagreed on sleeping methods. Cry-it-out versus co-sleeping versus sleep training, VOMIT. I hated arguing with my husband, but I felt so strongly in my beliefs that I remained pretty stubborn about how I wanted to do it. I admit that I was a force to be reckoned with about it, but I don’t necessarily feel like that was wrong of me. I still feel like I made the best decision for Levi’s emotional health. However, now that he’s older, things are better with sleeping, and it all worked out just fine.

Leaving for my first day back to work was devastating. I started off with part-time when he was eight weeks old, and I left him with my husband before leaving him with a stranger. I returned to full-time when he was four months old, and I felt grateful that I had been able to avoid daycare for at least that long. Daycare was a bit of a transition for him at first, but now that he’s older, his eyes light up when we arrive, and he goes to his teachers without any question of whether or not I’ll come back. He trusts them wholeheartedly, and so do I.

I am still incredibly fascinated with how we all have such different experiences in the process of pregnancy/delivery/motherhood. No feelings during any of this time should ever be discredited, and I think it’s important to hear other stories so that we are aware that it’s okay to feel a certain way, even if it’s not what you think you’re “supposed” to feel. This is especially true if someone awful or annoying is telling you that you’re doing something wrong, or your thoughts/feelings are wrong. All of us seem to have at least one person in our circle who thinks their opinion is wanted, when it is usually not. More than likely, you’re not doing anything wrong.  You are being an amazing mother in the best way that you can be. We are all normal, and just trying our best.

So, now you know about me. In a nutshell, I detested pregnancy. I LOATHED labor and delivery, and I felt like my body disappointed me in a sense. But all of that was worth the feelings of joy that I immediately felt as soon as my little dude came into the world. So much so, that I even want to get on that crazy ride one more time just to have another little one in my life.  But that will be another chapter. 🙂

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