I had taken the prenatal yoga class, breastfeeding class and an 8 hour class on labor and delivery. My husband and I wrote our birth plan and discussed at length all the possible scenarios we might encounter. I was ready. We were ready.
Our first child, Kelly, arrived 7 days late, so we even had extra time to prepare and think about the impending labor and delivery. And here's the thing, I was TOTALLY READY for labor and delivery. I had an idea of how I hoped it would go, but I also had a lot of knowledge about what could go wrong and what interventions may be necessary. I was also REALLY LUCKY, because my labor and delivery went as I had hoped and were uneventful (except for the fact that I stayed at home a little too long, and wasn't sure I would make it to the hospital, but that's a different story for a different day).
Here's the thing, I wasn't ready for everything that would come after. I had a vague idea of what life would be like with a baby, but it mostly reflected those posed, post-delivery pictures taken in the hospital. I have some of those pictures, and they're accurate (to an extent), I was in awe of my daughter, and so was my husband. Once we got home, things got REAL.
I was in a lot of pain. I couldn't stand for more than 5 minutes at a time without an overwhelming aching sensation in my pubic area. My nipples were red and bleeding (latching is harder than it looks), and I was crying at the drop of a hat. After those first couple of weeks, I actually sort of got into a routine with my daughter, and the post baby blues wore off. I worked in education at the time, and the summer was part of my maternity leave, so I didn't have to go back to work until Kelly was 5 months. I had the audacity to think, I've got this.
Here's the thing I didn't know about babies: they change so quickly and are extremely unpredictable. What works for them one week, doesn't work the next week. Just when you think you've got something figured out, they stop sleeping, or refuse their pacifier, or start rolling over, so you can no longer swaddle them. Whenever I saw women with their children, I had no idea the challenges they were facing at home just to get their child to sleep, or not cry...for 5 minutes. I had spent so much time thinking about labor and delivery, and very little time thinking about what happens after that day. And everything after that day lasts a WHOLE LOT LONGER than labor and delivery - we're talking 18 years minimum!!
Here's the good news: my daughter, Kelly, is turning 4 next month. To some extent, I've got this. In some ways, she's easier and more predictable now than she was during that first year. But this is why I've decided to turn my focus to working with moms and parents. We don't spend a lot of time planning for life after baby, but it is one of the biggest changes we will ever encounter. Sometimes you may think, "I've got this." Other days you may wonder how your child has survived this long because you don't feel like you have any idea what you're doing. Keep your head up and don't be too hard on yourself. No one told you to make an after birth plan, and if they did, all you could really put in it would be: keep baby alive.
For more information about postpartum services in Madison, please visit the Madison Postpartum Collective website: madisonpostpartumcollective.com