This post has been a long time coming. I've gone back and forth a million times on what to call it, how to format it and, most importantly, how much to share. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't think anyone comes by motherhood easily. Whether you gave birth, adopted, had a surrogate, are a stepmom or something else, it's all hard. And quite honestly, I had a mostly scare-free pregnancy and a relatively non-dramatic labor and delivery. For these things I'm endlessly grateful. Nothing below is meant as a complaint. It's just my truth. For some of you, this is likely Too Much Information. For me, I'm just scratching the surface. For everything I say below, know there is far more unsaid. It's tough to know where to draw the line but I feel quite strongly that these are things that no one really talks about, and I feel an even stronger pull to talk about them. So here are 5 things I wish someone had told me before I went into labor and had a baby...
When the nurse offers you pain medication in the recovery room, FOR GOD'S SAKE TAKE IT. Holy regret. I've said this before and it's worth repeating. I was NOT prepared for the pain that set in once the epidural wore off. I was so focused on laboring and delivering Ari (see more on that below) and then I was in such a state of baby bliss that it never occurred to me that I was in for a world of hurt once the epidural stopped doing its thing.
The first thing our nurse did when we were wheeled into our recovery room was offer me Motrin, and I looked at her like she was nuts. "I don't need that," I huffed. "You don't have to take it," she said. But what I WISH she'd said was, "BUT YOU SHOULD, YOU IDIOT." I am not anti-OTC meds by any means, but I also don't take them very often. I'm a believer that most minor pains can be solved with lots of water and lots of sleep, so it's pretty rare in my every day life that I reach for an Advil. I don't know that taking the Motrin at that moment would've made a HUGE difference, but I do imagine it would've taken the edge off. The contrast of going from feeling groovy to all of the sudden being in excruciating pain was shocking.
Breastfeeding is hard. ...and in the end, it didn't work for us. I was determined to try, and I did. But no one truly tells you how challenging it is. My mom didn't breastfeed and I was totally clueless. I kept asking our nurses to send the lactation consultant in because I had no idea what I was doing and they promised me over and over again that she was coming. She did, and she was wonderful, but unfortunately this was AFTER Ari had a poor latch and cut me up pretty badly. (YES THAT'S A THING.) No one had told me the difference between a good latch and a bad latch, tongue ties, lip ties, etc. In the end I had to stop nursing and pumping shortly after we got home for a myriad of reasons, but I can't help but wonder if things might have gone differently if the lactation consultant had come the day Ari was born. What I do know is that for us, fed is best, and I literally Thank God every single day of our lives for formula. Ari is a great eater and a happy, healthy baby. I think there may always be a part of me that feels guilty that I couldn't do what other mothers seem to do so effortlessly, but it is what it is and I'm going to leave it at that.
You can focus on labor & delivery all you want but the truth is that the recovery lasts far longer. I obsessed over labor and delivery my entire pregnancy, which is ironic because Ben and I didn't take a single child birthing class. (He even cracked a joke when the doctor came in and said, "You're ready to push." I was all, "I don't know how!" and Ben goes, "Just do what they showed us in Lamaze class!") Even so, I was so consumed by the idea of being strong enough for the labor and delivery that I never once, not for a single second, wondered what my recovery would be like. Oh, Teddi...
No one really wants to say that birthing a baby is a trauma to your body but I'm here to tell you it is. Sure, it's "natural" but so what? I pushed for three long hours because I birthed a big baby out of a small pelvis. And I plan on holding it over Ben's head for the rest of our lives. Kidding. Maybe.
The truth is that L&D took far longer than I'd expected and my recovery was much, much more difficult than I anticipated. Of course, I have no basis for comparison. On the flip side, I'm comforted by the knowledge that if we have another kid, I'll at least have a better idea of what I'm in for.
The hormones are unlike anything you've experienced before. Or, they were unlike anything I'VE ever experienced before. Because I've never been one to be affected by period hormones or birth control hormones. People would talk about them and I'd just think, "Huh?" I've never had PMS and I didn't feel too terribly different emotionally during my pregnancy. But the extreme highs and lows I felt in the days following giving birth were terrifying to me. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster and to quote my beloved Bethenny Frankel I just kept thinking, "Stop the ride. I want to get off."
When Ari was placed on my chest I cried hysterically because I didn't know what else to do. She and I both worked so hard to bring her into this world safely, and I knew her heart rate was low towards the end and I was so scared. Once we were in recovery, I'd go from feeling overcome with joy that after 33 years I was FINALLY a mother to suddenly being scared out of my mind that I was suddenly a mom and I had no idea what I was doing. The physical pain was also affecting me mentally, not to mention I was so sleep-deprived. I will never forget someone I don't know sent me a direct message on Instagram that said, "DO NOT send your baby to the nursery at night! It's the worst thing you can do! They need to be with you at all times!" Well, guess what, random Instagrammer whose opinion I did not ask for? I sure did send her to the nursery AND I DON'T REGRET IT FOR A SECOND. At that point in time Ari was already being supplemented with formula because of challenges I was having, so the few hours of sleep I got while the nurses looked after her were my truly bridge from despair to hope and I had enough sense not to let myself stew in guilt over it.
My hormones were at peak insanity the day we brought Ari home from the hospital. Our discharge was very strange and anticlimactic and left Ben and I both feeling pretty uncomfortable. We had a wonderful experience overall, but when it came time to leave they were basically like, "PEACE!" No one walked us out to our car and helped us put Ari in the carseat. We had no idea what we were doing and we were totally flustered and she was screaming. Once we were home there was so much going on and I was still in so much pain and completely overwhelmed. I overheard my mother in law say to our baby nurse, "I'm the grandmother," and I immediately thought, "Oh right, because my mom is dead." Which is such a gross way of putting it but that was literally my guttural reaction. Suddenly, her absence sunk in. It sounds absurd but it hit me at that moment like a pile of bricks that I was finally a mother, my own mother was still gone, and Ari only has ONE grandmother. I hadn't really had time to mull over that thought process in the past 72 hours and now it was all I could think about. I will never forget how I stumbled into our living room, sat on the couch next to Winnie and just sobbed into her fur. Perri came and sat next to me wordlessly and held me and cried into my arm. My dad then came into the room, looked at the three of us and said something to the effect of, "Oh, brother." It was a dramatic sight, I'm certain, and I still shudder when I think of that moment.
Hindsight is 20/20. My mother in law is an amazing grandmother and Ari is so lucky to have her. I told her that I hope she has the relationship with Ari that I had with my Nana. God, it was a hard thing for me to say because it kills me that Ari is robbed of a relationship with my own mother - and that will never not feel horribly unfair to me - but I meant every word of it.
Your body will never be the same again. In the weeks after giving birth when people would say to me, "Your body will never be the same again," it made me fuming mad. "What do they know!!!" I'd think. "I know plenty of hot moms!" Now that I'm a little further away from it, I get it. For the record, "Your body will never be the same again," can come off to a hormonal new mom as "Your body will never be strong, firm or beautiful again," and for that reason it's a sentence I personally will never say to another new mom. On its own, it sounds REALLY negative. But I GET IT NOW. It just means that your body went through something life changing and it isn't the same. Personally, I'm determined to get even stronger and lift even heavier than I did pre-Ari. But once you've given birth, there's no turning back. And truthfully, I'd never want to.
After I gave birth my friend Mallory told me something that goes like this: "Welcome to the largest sorority in the world. The hazing is crazy." I've always loved kids and I've dreamed of being a mom my entire life. I'm still in disbelief that it's here, that she's here. God, the beginning was tough in ways I never expected. Ben posted a photo of Ari on Instagram a few days after she was born and wrote, "Teddi, what an unbelievable weekend!" I read that and thought, "Seriously? Sure, you didn't actually have to do anything!" Unbelievable? True. Yes, if you're lucky, you have a wonderful husband or partner who is holding your hand and there with you. But when you're the only one giving birth, you're also the only one experiencing the pain and the hormones. For me, that part was incredible isolating because I couldn't put into words how I was feeling and therefore I didn't know how to talk to Ben about it. It was easy for him to brag about his beautiful baby girl without a second thought. It took me a few weeks to realize that he can brag all he wants, but I get the joy of being her mother. I'm the one who got to share a body with her and I'm the one who got the honor of bringing her into this world. YES, it's a huge responsibility and it tested me more than once. But being a mother - all of it - is unparalleled. Once that started to sink in and I got a real feel for being a mom - for being Ari's mom - I realized it was all worth every millisecond of pain and discomfort.
I'm going to end this by saying that of every feeling I've felt over the past three or so months - and there have been A LOT of feelings, many moments of euphoria and admittedly moments of darkness too - the one feeling I keep going back to, the one that I go to bed with every night and wake up with every morning - is gratitude. I'm so grateful. I'm so damn grateful for every single bit of it. I'm more grateful than I could possibly ever say, write or express.
Ari and Ben, thank you so much for making me a mom. :)