19.8.11

Letters to a New Mother - Part 3 - Biology


Part 1
Part 2

It's important to understand what your body is doing right now, and what it will do in labor and afterwards. It can make you feel crazy sometimes, all the changes. Here again it's helpful to know that you aren't the only one and even more importantly, there's a reason for it.

Let's start with the symptom you probably noticed first, your digestion. When you are pregnant your digestion literally slows down, leading to all sorts of uncomfortable side effects, such as heartburn, gas, and nausea, to name a few. But there's a reason for this. When you digest food slower you absorb more nutrients from it. You can be eating the exact same amount of food and your body automatically does what it needs to in order to get extra nutrition for that baby.

You may have morning sickness, which is probably a combination of the slowed digestion and low blood sugar from needing so much more food all the time to support all that rapid growth going on in your uterus. So please eat. Please eat as nutritiously as you are able, several small amounts throughout the day, and make sure you're getting a lot of protein, because protein takes longer to absorb so your blood sugar stays more stable, and your baby needs it.

You may have heard people joking about mommy brain before. You may find you are spacing out and forgetting stuff. You may be extremely emotional and sensitive. It's all true. Your hormones are conducting an all out campaign to make you a more nurturing, responsive and caring person. They are flooding your brain and actually changing it's structure. This is a good thing. This is how woman can go from somewhat ambivalent about children in general to completely and utterly infatuated with one infant in particular in the space of about 9 months.

It's frustrating to feel like you can't rely on your brain to remember things any more, or to not suddenly start crying in the middle of a cleaning supplies commercial, or to not suddenly take every single thing some one says so personally. But I can promise you that it won't always be this difficult, and you won't always feel this crazy. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, but there comes a day when you feel normal again. This normal will be nothing like your old normal, you won't get that brain back again, but the brain you have will still be able to do all those everyday things again, plus more.*

In the meantime, may I suggest, ever so gently, that all those people who suddenly seem to have turned on you and spend all day dreaming up new ways to be mean are probably not doing that at all. Remember, you are the one who is changing. Your husband probably didn't just become cold and distant, you are just needing far more reassurance than you normally need. For example. (Not that I have ever had anything like this happen to me when I've been pregnant, *cough* 5 times crazy *cough*.) If at all possible, try not to make any big changes like relationships or careers or 10 year plans when this stuff is going on. You'll look back and realize that your head was on a little crooked, to say the least.

Now, I know you're freaked out about labor and delivery. It's how big? It comes out where? I feels like what?

Here again, I'd just like to reassure you that your body is on your side. It was designed to do this, it can do this. Do yourself a favor and trust in your body for a change. That's a hard thing for a woman to do in our culture, but give it a try. Take care of yourself, walk, eat right, get plenty of rest, gently belly dance and hula, and get to know your body more intimately. It is your body that will get your baby out. You really need to just learn to get out of the way and trust it to do it's job well.

An aside: Your doctor doesn't know everything. Your GP probably took a total of 3 classes on labor and delivery in all 4 years of medical school. Your obstetrician has probably never witnessed a completely normal, undisturbed birth with no interventions. They are trained to deal with emergencies after all. Don't let anyone tell you what to do simply because it's more convenient for them and their lawyers to have you conform to their assembly line approach to getting babies out.

How you get the baby out can have a huge impact on how you enter into your first months of motherhood. It can be incredibly empowering and you feel like you can do anything, and that's just from the hormones alone. Ecstatic Birth - Hormones During Birth You don't need to have a euphoric post labor hormonal cocktail to bond well with your baby or to gain the confidence and resilience you will need to mother the child you birthed. I didn't the first time and we bonded just fine. But it sure helps.

So read. Read about how you hormones work with you in labor, read about natural childbirth and women who learned their bodies.

(Here's a short little list of my top 4.)

Ina Mae's Guide to Childbirth - Ina Mae Gaskin
Birthing From Within - Pam England and Rob Horowitz
Born Free - Read all the unassisted birth stories if you have the time.
Rediscovering Birth - Sheila Kitzenger

As you read and try to wrap your head around this just remember one thing. Birthing babies is something you can only learn by doing. Until you've been through it you really don't know what it is. Your body, on the other hand, knows what to do. You can't really help it much at first, when you don't know how, but you can get in the way of it doing it's job. So in the end, get out of your head and down into your body as much as possible. Let yourself slip away and be carried on the euphoria of the moment and relax and let your body do it's job.

You can do this. You were designed to be able to do this. Trust. it will come.

________________________
*Some of this I got from skimming through a book called The Mommy Brain.

11 comments:

  1. I love this series :)
    I had both of my babies completely naturally, at a birth center with midwives. For a minute during pre-labor with the first one I thought, "oh what a horrible idea! I can't do this!" But then I DID do it and I felt completely invincible for nearly a week after.

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  2. Carrien, very nice post about Mommy brain and mommy digestion and all. One thing I really feel compelled to comment on, however....even knowing you and your reasonings and all, I find your comments about natural childbirth to be a little...not offensive, but...I'm not sure of the word. You come across very anti-doctor, very "they have no idea what they are doing, they are all idiots, everyone should go natural childbirth"...and I don't think that is right. Sure, natural childbirth is wonderful, and if it all works out, great...but there ARE people and instances where it would be better to be in the hospital. Maybe I take a bit of offense here. Maybe because I am getting the same vibe from you on this topic that I did from the lactation nurse when I had been attached to my baby for 24 hours, she was still not getting enough, was losing weight over 5 weeks and screaming constantly from hunger and frustration,  and I was a horrible mother for even considering supplementing.
    It really is coming across as if you believe having a doctor assist in your birth is a dumb idea. I don't think you necessarily intend it that way...but if you do, food for thought, I think you'd feel pretty awful if someone NEEDED that doctor and didn't go (ie was having complications and had the time to get there, and decided not to because they thought doctors had no idea of what they were doing), and it ended very badly.
    I'm rambling, I'm sorry, but I feel very strongly about the vibe I am picking up here. I guess long and short is that I think it's great you support natural birth, advocate for it, talk about it, explain it....but don't do it in a way that puts down those who choose to go the doctor route. Some of us (like me) would have died in natural childbirth. And that is no exaggeration. And you know that.

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  3. Sonja European7:45 AM

    Carrien, I love this series. I find myself nodding my head going "Yes! I remember that!" It's very edifying to read pregnancy/birth/mothering advice that's gentle and encouraging rather than scary and negative. Thank you!

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  4. Yes! I love that invincible feeling. It's like, "I just pushed a baby out, I can do anything!"

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  5. Oh I'm glad this is coming across as gentle and encouraging to you. That's what I'm aiming for. Thanks :)

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  6. Hi Deb,

    I'm rereading this trying to figure out where it was I said, "Don't go to a doctor"? Because that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying don't go against your instincts as a mother and in labor just because whoever is attending you tells you to because it's more convenient for them.

    I had 2 amazing, incredible, peaceful ecstatic births. I had to go to the hospital after one of them, and I was totally grateful for the help they provided. I also had 2 frustrating and defeating labors and deliveries, also attended by midwives, and it was because I let them tell me what to do, rather than being firm about doing what I knew my body was telling me. They were more interested in themselves and what was comfortable for them rather than in helping me labor well. One ended in a c-section, one ended in a episiotomy.

    It doesn't matter what title your birth attendant has, they are not the one getting your baby out for you, UNLESS, it's an emergency. Until then, they should get out of the way and let your body work.

    Please don't read from that that I'm looking down on anyone who doesn't have a home birth. I think your chances of having an empowering labor experience are better at home than a hospital, but I don't think I said anywhere in here any thing about where you ought to labor, or who you ought to have
    attend.

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  7. Thank you for clarifying your intent. It was based on the part where you put down the amount of training the doctors had. I guess just the way it was worded, in my mind, equated to "doctors are idiots, don't know what they are doing, and only perform based on their lawyers' suggestions"....I do agree that your body knows what it is doing, but for myself, I'd also say my doctor knew more about what my body knew it was doing than I did. My body was out to get me. Both times. BEFORE the doctor got to me. :)
    I'm so happy for you that your home births went well....maybe just what works for you just would never work for me, mentally, physically, or otherwise. :)
    I'm sorry I misinterpreted your post and its intent.
    And for the record, I personally couldn't have cared less about an empowering labor experience, I just wanted them OUT! :-D Maybe that's the difference for me. :)
    Forgive me for my previous post, and I hope you can see where I came up with the interpretation I did.

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  8. Nathaniel & Jessica Moos2:29 PM

    really enjoying reading these... and i'll be taking note of the books you mentioned, i'd like to read them when/if i have another child.  my first birth experience was not what i wanted, but i did get my way on some things that i wanted, for which i was very happy.  the second time round, i had a much more definite idea of what i wanted and didn't want and had the birth experience i'd wanted all along.  it really does pay to be able to assert yourself and to know information about birth and labour (knowledge is empowering!), but also to have someone who listens to you and what you want, which definitely helped me!  jessica

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  9. It takes practice to birth well I think. :) But there are things that can make a first try so much more peaceful and I wish it wasn't such a fight for women to get that kind of care.

    I'm so glad your 2nd birth was what you wanted. :)

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  10. No worries. :)

    Had I said what you thought I was saying you would have been very right to speak up.

    We all want to get the baby out. :) Perhaps I could explain how important I think the way you get it out can be to your early days of mothering like this. Imagine you and another woman are headed to the same destination, a mountain cabin. The first woman has a nice leisurely mountain hike. Parts of it are hard work and steep but it's beautiful scenery and she enjoys the journey and feels accomplished and satisfied when she arrives at the cabin.
    The other woman starts out the same but about 10 minutes in someone knocks her down in the dirt and she sprains her ankle. Then another person comes along and says they'll help her, so they drag her with them through the dirt and gravel for several miles. Eventually she can't even do this any more and someone else calls the EMT's to bring a stretcher and they tie her onto it, throw a blanket over her head and bump her along to the cabin where she collapses in an exhausted battered heap just relieved the whole experience is over and far too beat up to enjoy the mountain scenery. She stumbles through the next few days blindly, finding the simplest tasks draining and whenever afterwards someone says to her the words mountain hike she recoils in horror and doesn't understand at all why people would want to do that.
    How you get somewhere matters. It's not the only things, and it's not
    something that can't be overcome later, but it does matter.

    Hugs friend.

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  11. I suppose if my experience was anything like your second analogy, I would definitely find an issue with things. :-D That sounds like somebody's nightmare! If doctors actually treat people that badly down there, I definitely see your point of view.
     I wouldn't say my deliveries up here were like the first analogy, either, but I was certainly happy and satisfied with my experience, other than the blood pressure issues during my first labor and then a month before delivery with my second, neither of which were due to anything the doctors said or did.(To be honest, with my first birth, it had a fair bit to do with my NOT listening to the doctors, taking castor oil to induce labor, and screwing my insides up) :)
    And no matter HOW you get it out, I have to say I think even MORE important is the support system you have at home afterwards. I had that, you had that, and that makes all the difference, I think. :)
    Even a heavenly birth experience would be tarnished if you then went home alone, became overwhelmed as we all do at some point, and had no help at all. :)
    Hugs back. :)

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