My positive birth experience and what helped me along the way

 

Anxious, scared, nervous – all words I would use to describe how I felt when I was pregnant and knowing that as I was counting down to meeting my little man I was also counting down to giving birth. I didn’t have any close friends that had given birth before and so I had only heard second count stories – a lot of them rather frightening IMO.

“Contractions are a pain I can’t describe.”

“I had such bad separation and tearing, I am not sure my body will ever be the same again.”

A few of the things I heard during my journey – these quotes accompanied with horror stories of episiotomies, emergency c sections, 24 hours of labour.

As I moved further along  in my pregnancy, I started to deal with some issues. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I was experiencing high blood pressure at times. Needless to say the fear of birth crept into my mind on a daily basis and I was having trouble actually enjoying the pregnancy.

But then it occurred to me that this is an experience I may never get to go through again and so instead of being afraid of what was to come I should try my best to enjoy every kick, every movement, every ultrasound photo. I should do my best to connect with the little bean that was growing by the day, that I was creating.

So instead of letting fear take over, I decided to take matters into my own hands and started to do certain things that made me embrace the experience instead.

I started doing daily meditation and breathing techniques which helped with my blood pressure. I made sure that I moved every day to keep my blood sugars low and to keep my body strong. I started doing prenatal yoga (which if you know me, you know I am not a big yoga person) to help with my flexibility. I started listening to hypno-birthing podcasts, particularly ones that focused on positive birth stories for all different kinds of birth (large babies, home births, c-sections) so that I could realize that no matter what happened with our birth, it could be a positive story.

On top of mentally and physically preparing as much as possible, I also wanted to have as much knowledge as possible. I know for some ignorance is bliss, but for this I wanted to understand all of the possibilities. I came up with a birth plan, did research on c-sections and how to make them a positive experience as well, came with a list of questions for my doctor for each checkup, asked if I could visit the birthing room when I visited the hospital. Having as much information as possible made me realize this wasn’t going to be a glamorous experience but I was feeling prepared and confident that my body wouldn’t let me down and I would be able to deliver a healthy baby boy.

Then came those unexplainably painful contractions at 12:30 on Christmas morning. The stories I had heard were right, this was a full body pain that I had never experienced before. There is no way to describe it – I won’t lie it is bad. I just had to keep reminding myself that it would only last a minute and then I would get a break, be it a short break but a welcomed one.

We made it to the hospital about an hour later and about 2 hours from when the contractions started I had an epidural put in and finally the pain subsided. By the time we made it to the hospital I was already 6cm dilated, we were in active labour.

Baby boy was sitting pretty high for quite some time and so the nurses told my husband and I to relax, we were in for a bit of a wait. I was actually able to get some sleep during this time (thank you modern medicine). Once in a while a nurse would come in to check baby and my vitals to make sure we were good. The team at the Squamish hospital  was so incredible, making sure I was as comfortable as can be, and keeping me as calm as possible – even when the doctor told me that if the baby didn’t move further down we might have to do a c-section.

They started me on some oxytocin to try and move babe down and the incredible nurses helped me move into different positions. Since I had an epidural I couldn’t really use my legs so they worked with me to get me on hands and knees and on my side. They also helped me walk around a little bit.

12 hours after we arrived at the hospital the nurse casually checked me. I was 10 cm and after checking with the Dr. she came over and told me, ‘it’s time to push.’ The anxiety came over my body but it was quickly calmed when she started telling me how I was going to do it. I knew I had an incredible team with me that was going to make sure me and baby were safe.

I didn’t have the sensation that I needed to push now – maybe because of the epidural, but we started on my side. Deep breath in and then pushing as hard as I could for 10 seconds – and repeat. We then moved to my back and as soon as I got into this position (even though I had read all the terrible things about it) the baby’s head was starting to make it’s way out. The doctors and nurses were so positive – affirming me on every push that I was one step closer to meeting my baby boy while my husband lifted my leg to help out with every contraction.

“He has a lot of hair”, is the one thing I remember the doctor saying. The next thing I know she is passing this purple human to my husband who then placed our little man on my chest. 53 minutes after I started pushing our sweet Max was here.

Most of the labour was a blur. I do remember the relief of pushing out the placenta and a bit of pain being stitched up (I had two category 1 tears and one category 2). But I finally had my perfect little human in my arms.

He was weighed and because of my gestational diabetes his blood was checked. 9 pounds 9.5 ounces and 53 cm was the final outcome ( I knew he would be large but I didn’t think I would have the strength to birth a baby that large.) When everything was done we made our way to the postpartum room where we were going to spend our first night together as a family, which also happened to be our first Christmas together.

Every few hours a wonderful nurse would come by to help us with latching and feeding. We were struggling a little with this, but thankfully I had collected some colostrum and we could feed him that in the meantime. Any questions we had were answered, any bell we rang a kind nurse would be there right away to help. I was bleeding, and in pain, and starting to realize my whole life had changed forever – but I felt at peace knowing that we had help.

And after one night of recovery, and a test to make sure we could put Max in his car seat properly, we headed home to start our new life together, and to finally open our Christmas presents, even though we already had the best gift of all.

My tips for a positive pregnancy and birth experience 

Let me start off by saying I was pretty open and honest throughout my pregnancy that I didn’t love the experience. I was dealing with really bad indigestion from day 1 (everyone told me this means my baby would have a lot of hair -and he did). I was then diagnosed with gestational diabetes and so was on a pretty strict diet for most of the pregnancy. But as I got closer to the end I tried  to embrace the experience. I reminded myself how lucky I am to be able to experience growing a human inside me. I would find ways to try and connect with my baby through reading or chats. I would gently poke to get a kick back. I realized these were moments for the two of us that no one else would get to experience and that was pretty special.

Secondly as I share my tips and things that helped me throughout my pregnancy and birth I realize that every woman’s experience is different. What worked for me may not work for someone else and that is ok, but these are tips that were either passed down to me or that I did some research to prepare myself for the best labour (and recovery) possible, so here we go.

1. Do your research 

As the old saying goes ‘ignorance is bliss’ – not when it comes to giving birth. I was so anxious and scared that I figured I wanted to have all the information possible so I could know exactly what might happen and how to best prepare for it. I took my first prenatal birthing class when I was only 15 weeks. I took a prepare to push course at 36. I watched different videos and read articles on best birth positions, breathing techniques, how to avoid tearing, how to have a positive c-section – you name it. But I also tried my hardest not to let my anxiety completely take over and when I saw something that made me nervous I would go to my doctors appointments prepared with questions. I realized that giving birth was completely out of my control, and that was ok because I was as mentally prepared for any situation that could come up and that gave me some comfort. I also came up with a birth plan. Thankfully I didn’t have to use it – but I was prepared to ask questions and understand options in case labour didn’t go as planned.

2. Find something that can help keep you calm

I was so afraid every time I went to the doctors office that I would be diagnosed with high blood pressure that I ended up having high blood pressure. I ended up having to go for 2 tests for hypertension. In my third trimester I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. I started listening to the calm podcast and practiced meditating. On top of that I started watching youtube videos for labour breathing techniques that I could use to stay calm but also to help with pushing. The hypno-birthing J breathing technique really helped me focus on pushing down and relaxing my pelvic floor during labour

3. Exercise

Gestational Diabetes proved to be a curse but also a blessing. It forced me to move everyday, even just for a 15 minute walk. This helped keep me in the best shape possible right up until birth – I also did a lot of nature walks, which helped me get out for fresh air. I also credit the working out in helping my post birth recovery go pretty smoothly.

4. Listen to some hypno-birthing and positive birth stories

I only discovered hypno-birthing late in my pregnancy so I never ended up taking a course ( I think I will if we have another baby). But even the podcasts were a huge help for me. I remember the first podcast focused around how your body is creating the right baby for you – and that your body is preparing for that baby. This was a mantra that I carried with me throughout the pregnancy – even when my baby was measuring over 7 pounds at 32 weeks. On top of that I listened to podcasts of positive birth stories for everything from having a big baby to c-section. This made me realize that no matter what experience I had with child birth, I could make it a positive experience.

5. Change your langage 

Another very helpful podcast that I listened to was on language and the importance of that in having a positive experience. Instead of talking about labour in a negative way I would try focus on the positive. The podcast spoke about not using language like where is your pain, because then you will focus on that. Instead try and find ways to focus on what feels good, or what steps you can take to feel better. I wasn’t so concerned about contractions, but I have heard of some people calling them waves or surges to make them more positive.

6. End the day with daily affirmation 

Every morning when I woke up I would come up with a daily affirmation or mantra. Something along the lines of ‘Every day (or every push) brings me closer to meeting my baby’ or ‘I am growing the right baby for my body’. I found some others online that helped me throughout my pregnancy and that I even had in my head as I was in labour to help me get through.

These again are just a few things that helped me during my pregnancy and childbirth. Every women’s experience is different and what helped me might not help you but I was able to (mostly) change the narrative from negative to positive. Sure I was still scared of childbirth, but these steps helped me believe in my ability to get through it – and guess what? We did.

Good luck mommas you got this

xo

Mia

 

 

Must have items for your baby registry

Creating a baby registry can be extremely overwhelming. When I was putting mine together a lot of the websites would just recommend adding a ton of items, half of them I didn’t even know what they were for, and half of what we got we haven’t used in the first month. So with this in mind as a new mom I wanted to share some of the top items that have actually come in handy in the first month with our little man and items that I would definitely include on your baby registry if you are doing one.

I am not going to include stroller/car seat/crib and other necessary items since we decided to buy those on our own since of the price – but here are some more affordable items to add to your registry that have proved to be extremely helpful during these early days.

 

1 .Change pad covers

It is amazing how many change pad sheets we go through in just a day – having a boy especially there are numerous pee accidents. Originally the ones we got were cute and soft material, but we were pretty much needing to wash it after a single use. We then came across some plastic wipeable ones at walmart and that was a game changer. We can just wipe up any accidents and don’t have to wash them as often. You can find them here. 

2. A nursing pillow

Figuring out nursing was one of the hardest things to do postpartum – in fact we are still trying to figure it out fully, but having a comfortable nursing pillow has made a big difference. It helps prop up Max so that he is in a more comfortable position and it also helps bring him closer to me so I can have a decent posture while feeding. Trust me this will save your back, which you will be extremely thankful for especially if you are like me and have a 10 pound newborn. Here is the one I use and love.

3. Diaper bag with storage space

It is amazing how much harder it becomes to leave the house. Do you have diapers? wipes? extra clothes? A portable change pad? The list goes on and so it has been so helpful to have a diaper bag with storage space and different pockets so that everything is in the bag and ready to go before you leave the house. I also think the one I put on the registry was stylish and I love carrying it around.

4. White noise machine

There is a lot of noise in the womb and so a white noise machine is a great addition to a nursery to help calm a baby down. I use mine to help sooth Max when it is nap time and also bring it out with us for changing on the road.

5. Swaddles and blankets

Max doesn’t love being swaddled because he likes to have his hands free but many babies love being swaddled – it keeps them nice and cozy like they were in the womb. We use blankets a ton since Max was born in December and we need to keep him warm. I also use blankets as a cover when nursing.

6. Infant swing

When I am struggling to get Max to go to bed I will sometimes throw him in his swing. It is battery operated  and will rock and play music to help sooth him. This is the one I got and love it.

7. A baby play gym or play mat

I didn’t realize how early you start tummy time and so having a play gym or mat on hand is important. Max loves his play gym, it also has lots of toys attached to keep him entertained when he is a little older. Max seems to prefer his playgym right now. This is the one that we got for him.

8. Clothes

We were gifted some adorable clothes, but most of them were 3-6 months and 6-9. As lots of people say, they grow out of clothes so fast and this is true but you definitely need some newborn sizes and 0-3 for the early days. Even though Max was close to 10 pounds at birth he fit into newborn sizes for the first couple of weeks.

9. Contrast cards and toys

In the early days babies can’t really see or focus on too much but one thing they can see is high contrast shapes in black and white. We love playing with our animal cards.

10. Snuggle me or other baby lounger

As a newborn they spend a lot of their time sleeping (over 17 hours a day) and so it is nice to have the lounger for Max to relax in during the day when I am doing chores around the house

11. Ergobaby carrier

A lot of my mommy friends recommended the  ergobaby carrier. With all the snow we had this year in particular it was difficult to take Max out in a stroller so we used our carrier a ton for family walks

12. A breast pump

This one can be tough to put on the registry since they are quite expensive but it has been very helpful early on especially to make sure I keep my milk supply up. However an easier item to add to the registry is a haaka pump. I have the medela pump and love it

13. A nightlight

When it is 1am in the morning and you are waking up to feed the last thing you want to do is turn the bedroom light on. Also when you are sleep training you want to try and keep the lights dim for those late and super early feeds so there isn’t day and night confusion. Nightlights  have been a huge help.

14. Soothers

After doing some research it turns out you can start using soothers from day one. We held out for a few weeks but Max loves his soother and it really helps calm him down when he is irritated.

15. Changing caddy 

When it is 2 in the morning and you have a poo explosion the last thing you want to be doing is struggling to find wipes. I found a few affordable baskets that have different compartments so you can have a section for diapers, wipes, rash cream and everything else you need for change time. We still have some poo explosions but they are a little more contained.

16. Bottle set

Breastfeeding is challenging and demanding to say the least and you never know what your experience is going to be like. Some of my friends have had to rely on a bottle pretty early one and so it is great to have a set on hand in case they are needed and eventually you may want to start bottle training so that you could have a few hours to yourself. This is the gift set I got.

17. Baby bathtub

We ended up adding an adjustable tub to our registry so that it can grow with baby. You can use it from infant to toddler. While we have also been enjoying taking baths with the little man sometimes it is nice to have this as an option

18. Bath towels 

Newborns have a tough time regulating their body temperature so having some receiving blankets or cute newborn towels is important. I love the little hooded ones. So cute and functional

19. Baby first aid kit 

Unfortunately babies are going to get sick. We were back at the hospital on day 2 due to an eye infection. It is important to have some first aid items on hand. You want to make sure you have a thermometer that can be used under the armpit (easiest for babies).  Baby ibuprofen is also important and make sure you have nail clippers (or at least a file for the early days.

20. Diaper genies 

They aren’t glamorous that is for sure but you need somewhere to put all those dirty diapers and the diaper genie makes it so easy. We actually bought two so we could have one on both floors of the house.

21. Diapers 

Again, definitely not a glamorous gift for the little one but potentially the most important. You are going to go through a LOT of diapers – in fact usually after every feed – you are going to need an endless supply of diapers so it is great to have them on the registry.

22. Burp cloths

The spit up is real and so it is nice to have some burp clothes on hand for those feeds. I have had to do plenty of laundry because I have forgotten to bring the cloth along.

 

 

 

 

The two week postpartum period

“Be ready to cry.. a lot… for no reason at all.”

That was the advice I got from a few friends as I was in the final countdown to give birth to Max. And to be honest as I am sitting here and writing this blog I am crying for who knows what reason.

I had done a lot of research on the 4th trimester, one that is hardly talked about but one that poses its own set of challenges (some say it could be the hardest trimester of all). It is considered the 12 week period after birth. During this time your baby is adjusting to being outside the womb while you adjust to life as a new mom. You are dealing with sleepless nights, intense feeding demands until the baby is back to his birth weight, and a rollercoaster of emotions as your hormones balance out again – hence try crying. Oh and on top of that the constant worrying, is my baby too hot or cold? Is that poo a normal colour? The google searches never end and they can take you down a very dark rabbit hole. It is so important to not just take care of your baby, but to take care of you as well because if you aren’t functioning  – how can you be in the mindset to take care of the little one also.

When we first left the hospital Max wasn’t latching. I was so scared we were going to get home and I wasn’t going to be able to feed my child. Thankfully living in Squamish there is a large support system for new moms. The day after we brought Max home a midwife came over to help me with latching, but many new moms don’t have that support and so if you are struggling, there are resources out there like lactation consultants that can help.

On top of the fear of feeding the little man was the fear of well everything else. Even though he seemed to be a good sleeper I couldn’t sleep at all because I wanted to make sure he was breathing. I wasn’t sure if we should add a swaddle while he slept because he might be cold, but I didn’t want him to overheat.  A day after leaving the hospital we were back because he got an eye infection. I spent moments just crying because I was worried I wasn’t doing the right things for him. But overall I would say my two weeks postpartum was pretty positive, mostly because of a little help from Max (figuring out breastfeeding pretty quickly) and the research that I did ahead of time. I wanted to share some of the steps I took that helped me stay relatively sane.

 

1. Set boundaries

A new baby is such an exciting time and of course all of your friends and family are going to want to meet the little one. My  husband and I set some rules before he was even born, no one could hold or get too close to him unless they had the covid vaccine and flu shot. But once he is here we had to set other boundaries. We didn’t jam pack more than one visit per day, and it was limited to an hour so that we could have some time in-between feeds. I also wasn’t shy about letting friends know if we needed help. Asking for someone to take a change diaper turn or bring us some food or take our dog on a walk. I am usually the type of person who doesn’t like to ask for help – but you have a new baby and the small circle of friends that you are going to let see him in those first few days are the ones that want to lend a helping hand anyway

2. Find time for you still

Sleep when the baby sleeps – I am sure you have heard that before right? Well when you have a newborn and they have to feed every 2-3 hours that can be a tough task. Thankfully I have an extremely supportive partner who actually let me sleep while Max slept and he took care of cleaning, cooking, laundry etc. But now that his pat leave is over I am in charge of all poo explosions and temper tantrums. But one thing that the nurses told me before I left the hospital was if I don’t take care of myself (eat, sleep, stay on top of pain relief) then there is no way I will have the energy and mental capacity to take care of him. So as hard as it may sound – try and actually sleep when the baby sleeps – and again lean on friends if you need to. On top of that, keep taking those pain meds. I tried to stop mine early because I was feeling good but alas as soon as I tried to cut down and get moving again the pain started to creep back up and I was just in a constant state of discomfort, which made breastfeeding a challenge.

3. Don’t push it

I am a former professional athlete and during the pregnancy I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and so I had to stay active. Well then you have the baby and all of a sudden I am told I am not allowed to go on more than 5-10 minute walks for the first two weeks. One day I figured I would cheat. I strapped Max on and went for a 30 min walk. Worst decision of my life. I was in pain for hours after that and my husband had to feed him. As hard as it was, I learned that my body truly is healing from one of the most intense experience and I need to respect that  – also I have learned from others that if you don’t let your pelvic floor heal there could be life long consequences.

4. Lean on friends and find a good support system 

When I was in the hospital a lot of the nurses told me about the baby blues and postpartum depression. While I was feeling really good in the first week and a half, a few things happened in the second week that left me feeling anxious. Thankfully I had the support of my husband and midwife to get me through. It is important to be able to recognize these things and feel like you have a support system or someone you trust that can help you get through.

5. Give yourself a pat on the back 

For 10 months you carry and grow this human and then in a day they arrive and all of a sudden you are tasked to take care of him. I joked at the hospital that there should be a test before you are able to go home – the only test we got was that we knew how to use the care seat – the rest we had to figure out on our own and that is scary. Just take a moment each day to appreciate how hard you are working for your baby because even on the days when you feel like a complete failure – you are doing everything in your power to make sure your little one is happy.

You got this momma

xo

Mia