The day I found out I was pregnant, I really wasn’t planning on being pregnant. My husband and I recently returned from a vacation to Mexico and I had just stopped taking my birth control pills about a month prior. I thought, “what are the chances?” Despite my medical knowledge, I felt in my heart there was no way we’ll get pregnant right away. Well, let’s just say, I stopped the birth control pills, and a period never happened.
My emotions were mostly excited and elated, but there was also some reservation due to the anticipation of the unknown. “Wow,” I thought. “I’m going to be a mom. How does one do that?” It was a bit of enlightenment and enchantment, but altogether, a very special memory for me.
I remembered the day I started spotting. I was about 6-7 weeks into pregnancy and have not yet seen an OB/Gyn. Actually, like millions of Americans, I was in-between jobs and did not want to pay the enormous fee for COBRA insurance coverage. I was still covered under my husband’s insurance, but knowing so little from the patient end of dealing with insurance since I had been so healthy so far, I wasn’t sure what I would be responsible for in pregnancy. I decided that until I got my insurance from my new employer, I wasn’t going to let any insurance know that I was indeed pregnant.
Keep your cool — I thought desperately. I knew odds are, the pregnancy will be just fine, and it could be a number of things, but miscarriage was still in the picture. My family has a history of miscarriages and that really worried me. I think it worried my husband more.
I finally got in to an OB/Gyn at about the 9th-10th week. A urine culture positive for infection and an ultrasound that showed a little gummi-bear like figure with a beating heart made me realize, my baby is safe, alive, and the spotting was probably more urinary infection related. In my heart – a sigh of relief.
The rest of the pregnancy went relatively smoothly… except for a few bumps in the road here and there. I developed the most horrible heartburn in my entire life for which popping Prilosec was the only thing that kept my churning, pressure cooker stomach from developing into vomiting-producing nausea. I hate vomiting, but of course, I developed gastroenteritis around my 26th week that thankfully lasted only 2 days. It was the first time in about 20 years since I’ve actually vomited.
I developed the prototypical pregnancy related back and pelvic aches – but these were manageable. I tried to continue exercising but by about the 3rd trimester, huffing and puffing for 10 minutes holding a protruding belly did not seem very worthwhile to me, so I rested instead.
Finally, my due date came and went. I worked up until my due date, and then waited about 5 days before my OB induced my little girl into this world.
Induction and Labor & Delivery was a different world when you view it from the side of the patient bed. The dreaded medicine called Pitocin that continued to make the uterus contract harder and harder took away my drive to try a non-anesthesia birth. I gave in about 6 hours into labor, and the Epidural allowed me to be pain free enough to take a 2 hour nap and have the energy to continue on until the 18th hour when after feeling quite nauseaus and vomiting (no, not again!) I pushed about 6 times and delivered a beautiful, big 8lb baby girl.
My newborn daughter distracted me mostly from everything else that was going on down below. I had a labial tear and a 2nd degree laceration. I thought, ah well, I’ve repaired these before, no big deal – they’ll heal up eventually. I kangarooed cared my baby and shared her with the family; pictures were taken, folks where shuffled away and I was settled into the bed for observation. I had a bit of a bleeding uterus from all the pitocin, but everything seemed to be just fine and I was moved to a normal patient room to be with my baby. We were able to leave after 2 days in the hospital.
The aftermath of the delivery… oh, the aftermath. This is the part that I regret I had not advised to other women, because I’ve never actually experienced it before until that day. When the epidural numbness wore off, I was given a clear squirt bottle, mesh panties with super large diaper-like pads (frozen) and helped off to the toilet for relief. Thank goodness for the super large diaper-like frozen pads because I really, really needed them day one post-partum. Thank goodness for the peri-bottle that sprayed like a makeshift warm water bidet — used that for about 8 weeks after delivery. It hurt like nothing’s ever hurt before, and I pride myself over a pretty decent pain tolerance. If they offer the plastic donut to sit on, take it. If they offer stool softners and ibuprofen, do not hesitate. If they offer more ice pads, hoard them like gold. Swelling is normal, but definitely painful especially if you’re lucky like me and got a number of stiches.
After I came home, I discovered a number of other maladies; it had never occurred to me that it would happen to me. I developed urinary incontinence – I had to wear a pad for at least 8 weeks because of this. I was so happy when this went away. I suffered the most painful bowel movements in my entire life. Remember those stitches? Well they’re in and around that area. Stool softners and senna laxatives — they were my best friends. Ibuprofen – I continued taking this for at least another 3-4 weeks. Working out at your 6th week? Lucky me had urine leakage every time I jumped during an aerobic workout. Kegels, ladies… Kegels as much as you can. Post-Partum blues? You bet. It took 3 weeks for me to get over myself. Back to work? 3.5 weeks… what a big mistake. Sleep? Forget it. Oh, it was crazy and horrid.
The 2nd week post -partum, I never wanted to do it ever again. I was more tired than I ever was when on-call in the hospital during 30 hour shifts. Let’s just say, I’ve learned a lot from pregnancy, mainly: don’t try to be a superwoman; you’re human, after all.
What had kept me sane through the aftermath was knowing that a little person’s life is completely and solely dependent on me and all she knows is that I am there to take care of her. Although stress, pain, fatigue and blues wore me down, she kept me going and wanting to do as much as I can and push as hard as I can — she was a light in the dark. Months later, when she smiles so broadly and sweetly when you come into the room, your heart goes out to her, and having another baby really wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Welcome to motherhood.