What to Expect when Expecting – The Real Truth

It took me exactly…7 weeks to get the time/energy to write this blog entry after my son was born.

I felt it necessary to share the RAW, (no sugar coating here) experience.

In today’s day & age with social media being what it is, it is so easy to start comparing your journey with those of other mom’s, (or let’s say the journey they portray on social media)

Please remember that nobody will put up or share the “ugly truth” and what you see might only be the 2min’s of a finally sleeping baby or that the photo of a smiling mom is the result of her forcing herself to get out of bed, wash her hair and put on a little bit of make-up for that photo even though it took all the energy she had left.

So if you are looking for an article about how everything about giving birth and those first few weeks is just easy & amazing, you are reading the wrong one.

Lets start with my pregnancy, which at age 35 had a few more challenges that my first pregnancy at age 22 did not have.

Just to clarify, the 12 year age gap between my first pregnancy and this one, caused me to forget pretty much everything that was hard about being pregnant and having a newborn and it ended up feeling like baby number one.

Emotional Start:

At week 6 I had a scare after I started bleeding. I immediately rushed to the doctor and had a scan, just to be told that sometimes it is normal to have some bleeding and that it is (at that point) a 50-50 chance of turning into a miscarriage or having a full term pregnancy (basically had to wait and see)  (That being said, the heartbeat was strong and I just knew I did not have to worry)

(I am mentioning this as I did not have this with my first pregnancy and it scared me  – as I thought…this is it, I am losing the baby) (If this happens to you, make an appointment immediately so they can check you out.)

Apart from feeling like death warmed up from week 5 onwards till weeks 16/ 18 , I honestly thought there is nothing worse than waking up every morning with no energy and just an overall feeling of being unwell.

My mental state at this time worried me as I got extremely frustrated with myself since even if I wanted to, there was no way I could focus, perform or even think like I always used to. I had to teach myself to make a conscious decision to be calm, take things easy, take naps, be vulnerable, ask for help etc as it will all be ok…eventually.

Thank goodness the tired feeling got better, a great tip from my doctor which actually helped me was to drink my Pre-Natal vitamin at night time (just before going to sleep) since drinking it in the morning made me feel worse.

I also chose not to drink the Omega since the taste and smell just immediately made me nauseous. (So if your pre-natal’s is making you feel queazy start eliminating the Omega’s to see if it helps) (Not recommended just sharing my experience)

Fast forward to week 12 when I did my first (and only) international trip  while pregnant (which was the hardest trip ever) – I had no energy, felt irritable, had weird salty cravings (thank goodness for the amazing airhostess) who somehow kept me going by supplying me with nuts and salty crisps all with a smile.

Being pregnant (especially that early was and is not the greatest time to do trips where you need a lot of energy to enjoy it) Keep your traveling to a minimum for your own sanity.

(Travel tip: Tell the airline and hostess you are pregnant, you will be treated “extra special” which I appreciated as I did not have the energy to deal with normal travel stresses at that point)

As my pregnancy progressed (and me still photographing weddings up to week 34) I regretted not stopping earlier to give my body the rest it needed for the last few weeks (I will definitely not recommend shooting weddings after week 28/30)  as honestly being that far pregnant not only takes a toll on you, being active and on your feet 8 hours + just makes you feel like you got hit by the “pregnancy bullet train” afterwards and not worth it to put yourself through.

From week 32 I started experiencing Edema “Swelling of feet” which got worse the further I got along, and it made walking difficult as it hurts a lot and is really uncomfortable – yes you will run out of shoes to wear and will start loving going barefoot or  wearing flip flops. (Not my favorite thing to do as there is just so many outfits that flip flops can be passed off as appropriate footwear)

Also, I now understand the saying “everything hurts” more clearly as there is no way to really explain to someone without sounding like you are  exaggerating when you say…EVERYTHING HURTS! Believe me you will experience it and it is not pleasant at all. (This is due to stretching ligaments and your body getting itself ready for delivery)

That being said, there is amazing milestones throughout pregnancy we have experienced, and with each scan got more and more excited to meet our little guy.

As a pregnant mom, feeling the little tumbles and kicks inside you is a very special yet weird feeling you can not describe to anyone who has not had the experience before.

Fast forward to Week 39 and the day of my baby’s birth:

Everybody’s birth experience is different – some goes smooth, some very rocky and some just downright nightmarish.

Even though I have been through the experience before, I was nervous, excited and scared to go through the C-section delivery process. That being said, the actual delivery was a breeze (the doctors, medical team was amazing)

They kept me calm & comforted throughout the experience. I felt like they treated me with soft cotton ball gloves in the theatre and at that moment it was exactly what this very nervous and “completely out of her comfort zone” mommy needed.

Giving birth is such  a humbling experience as not only are you completely dependant on others to help you through the process, you will need the help of others more than you can imagine for quite some time afterwards too.

Tip – Get your C-section done as early in the morning as possible – I had mine late afternoon which resulted in my recovery going throughout the night. Having been awake the whole day, going through surgery and then have nurses check on you and wake you up every two hours to monitor you felt like torture.

Day 1 after birth :

There is honestly no event like giving birth and the aftermath that will make you leave your “shyness”, “modesty” and dignity at the door.  You will be utterly dependant on people to insert things, wipe you, touch you, clean you, get up close and personal in your “business” and ask you intimate questions like ” did you poop yet” &  “how much are you bleeding”

My experience on day one pushed me to the limit of what I possibly could bare (and I think I am pretty tough in terms of endurance) – However at 6am my pain medication (the little pump they  give to have you administer your own pain medication) has run out and I started to be in some serious pain, and due to a busy morning in the hospital, busy doctors,  delayed pill delivery from the pharmacy, I only received pain relieve after more than 6 hours of no pain meds in my system! This was traumatic.

I felt so bad I was on the brink of tears & a meltdown (partly because of ZERO sleep to recover from the day before but also because the pain was just too much to handle at that point).

One would think that after I got the medicine the experience would get better, but no, it only got worse due to the fact that they made me get up and take a shower. (I desperately wanted one, but my body just was not ready)

That first shower was the worst experience of the entire birthing process (how ironic) – as I was in so much pain I walked huddled over like a 100-year old woman, further more, the duty of removing my bloody pads/underwear, as well as washing me fell squarely on my partner’s shoulders as I was in so much pain I could not stand straight or bend.

(What a nice visual – but like I said there is no room for being shy or squeamish) – Thank goodness I have an amazing partner who supported me throughout this journey. Lets just say we know each other from the inside out after this process.

On the morning of day 3 (for me it was actually just 2 days) after delivery I went home and then the fun started: (sense the sarcasm)

I honestly think they should make it mandatory for C-section mom’s to only leave for home on day 4 after delivery – this will give just that extra day to recover, have help with the baby and be in hospital if there is anything that needs to be addressed with mom or baby.

Those first two weeks at home was the worst! It SUCKED!

You get ZERO sleep, you are recovering from a major surgery and you are pushed to the brink of insanity with the sleep deprivation and major responsibility of caring for a newborn.

People always ask you, “how is the baby doing”, but people should ask more how is mommy doing.

Honestly I think there should be more support groups for new mom’s, to not only physically assist for at least the first two weeks of having a newborn, but also mentally “be there” in terms of assistance, support and comfort.

Being a new mom (especially recovering from major surgery) puts you in a very vulnerable position and you will need support and “your village” to make it work.  Ask for help, accept help and kind gestures from family & friends. For me personally having my mom take over the “cooking/food delivery” for us in those first 2 weeks saved us all as the last thing you can think of or get up and do is cook a healthy, hearty meal.

Lets start with the big challenges:

Your hormones (Oh boy)

Your hormones are playing havoc on your system! Personally I was a crying emotional mess. For about 2 weeks post-partum  I was so emotional and I cried over the smallest little things. (Felt like I had turned into a huge “I want to cry about EVERYTHING” pile of mush) and not only that, I started having hot flashes (like menopausal women).

I called the first two weeks “Baby Blue’s” and luckily it went away and I started to feel more like “myself” as the weeks progressed, however for some mom’s this “Baby Blue’s” stage does not go away and it turns into Post Partum Depression, which is a huge challenge. I urge every new mom out there to PLEASE RECOGNISE THE SIGNS and get help! There is help out there for you! It is very common, it is not something to feel ashamed off and it is treatable!

To the partners – please be vigilant in checking in on your partners mental state, help them recognise if there is a problem that needs to be addressed. The sooner you get help the better for you, your baby and your overall well-being.

Being at home with a new baby, having to figure it out as we go was not easy, its still not easy, but it gets better as you go.

I have to admit, one thing I did differently this time around is to limit the amount of people who came to visit us in hospital as well as the 3 weeks afterwards. This was purely since I did not have the energy to even get out of bed and could not imagine trying to entertain company when I felt like a walking zombie and most probably looked like it too.

I am sure some of my friends did not understand this at the time, but for us it was the best decision.

Lets talk about breastfeeding:

My baby did not latch correctly and on day 2 I had to receive lazer therapy for my nipples that felt like it was being cut by razor blades when he latched. (FYI did not really help but at that point I would have tried anything)

On day 4 I started expressing and bottle feeding him as we realised that it was not only latch issues, I had an over supply of milk that when the “let down” happened it was just too much milk gushing that he was swallowing air, and choking. (Not a fun experience) – Expressing is not always easy due to it spaced out every 4 hours, and sleep + work commitments needs to be planned perfectly to keep to the schedule but it is worth it.

However there is an upside to it, my partner could take over feedings at night as well as you know exactly how much milk your baby is getting at each feeding.

One thing I can tell nursing moms, be very careful what you eat, as we have realised at week 3, me eating tomato based pasta caused terrible gas and cramps for baby.

I am going to be honest, I am one of those mom’s that will never judge another mom on what she feeds her baby or how she does it, however personally I want to feed my baby breastmilk for as long as I can maintain it, however there is nothing wrong with formula and we have started supplementing with formula from about 4 weeks (at this point only about 2-3 feedings a week) – We chose Similac Total Comfort 1 as this is the closest formula to breastmilk, easy on tummy’s and helps with gas. This allows for a little flexibility when baby needs to stay with grandma for a few hours as well as me building up my breastmilk stash.

At week 4/5 we started getting into a routine that eased the sleep deprivation a little bit as we started to get baby into a great sleeping/feeding routine.

Then…week 6 happened and this means vaccinations – Not only was the two jabs my baby received in the upper legs with the blood curdling scream that followed the worst thing to witness, the aftermath of the vaccine side effects is worse.

The drops (Rotavirus) caused my little one to have the worst cramps and diarrhea that is still continuing (1 week after) and it makes me sad to see how much this hurts him.

My doctor recommended the following mixture to ease cramps:

5ml Water

10 Telament Drops

2.5ml Gripe Water

(mix together and only give baby 2.5ml of this mixture)

It does help a little but does not take it all away.

In all of this, my main support was my partner and many times we just looked at each other with either a “wild look of total bewilderment” when we just did not know what to do, or sometimes just laugh together as there is nothing else to be said to explain just how tired we both were. We chose to stay positive, not take out frustration or exhaustion out on each other (even though you can sometimes be grumpy) but understanding that pain, frustration, challenges, and no sleep does not always make for a good mix, staying positive is the best remedy to make the journey bearable.

I have talked to many new mom’s with story’s and experiences more traumatic than mine, the main thing I take away from this is that no two women experience pregnancy and birth the same. Some have severe complications and wish they only had to deal with sleepless nights or just feeling ill, others had an amazing pregnancy but there was major issues with the birth and health of their baby or themselves afterwards, and some never experienced any severe issues whatsoever, however the main thing is all mommy’s go through something life changing and challenging and they need support and some “extra love” to get through it.

So here we are, most of my 2018 captured in a nutshell and feeling stronger and better than I have for many months, hopefully from here on out things will get easier, routine will help to bring order to the chaos, we will start sleeping more…and life will continue as we know it.

To all the new mom’s out there, please note you are not alone, there is many of us out there, walking around in desperate need of strong coffee, more sleep and a little bit of “break” every now and again.

Last but not least I dedicate this to my amazing partner Sam who has been my rock and support and such an amazing hands-on dad with our son that  it made me love him more. Our relationship has grown stronger throughout this journey and it will only continue to grow in depth as we continue.

To Be Continued….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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