Having your first child is a HUGE eye opener, it cannot be denied.
With first pregnancies and births, women often tend to be less assertive; we’ve never done this before, everything is pretty overwhelming. I knew what I wanted, but because I was a terrified new mum and so unwell after having my son, I was like a headless chicken, and looking back now I know where I was given advice that was perhaps not so great, and where I should have spoken up. I also made some choices that didn’t benefit me or my baby at all.
It’s very important to note that birth plans often go awry, and that while it’s nice to have hopes and dreams, it pays to remain practical. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain control over YOUR experience.
With all this said, my next pregnancy and birth will hopefully be a lot more positive, thanks to the empowerment of my first experience. Here’s what I’ll do differently…
Eat better during my pregnancy
I had the opposite of morning sickness (besides a little nausea)… Constant, unrelenting hunger. I was a bottomless pit, and I gained six stone thanks to my voracious appetite. I now know this was a sign of diabetes lurking in the background… Sure enough, I was a gestational diabetic turned Type 2 after having my son.
It’s more the fact that I ate SO badly. Yes, I ate a lot, but if I’d perhaps replaced half of those greasy takeaways with a nice leafy salad and protein, things may have not been so bad. I know now. ‘Eating for two’ is a myth!
Exercise during my pregnancy
The second my test turned positive, I swear I became one of these women who acted like the only person to ever have expected a baby in the history of planet earth. ‘I can’t, I’m pregnant…’ became my favourite phrase, and apart from the odd walk to the shops, I became a total slug, a big fat pregnant queen slobbing out on the sofa. This of course didn’t help my weight gain, and there’s plenty of evidence suggesting exercise in pregnancy can actually help you to labour successfully. Mine ended in an emergency caesarean, not for those reasons but I didn’t help myself, really.
Next time, I’ll try to go swimming a few mornings a week. I’ll take daily walks. I’ll do pregnancy yoga and all the other classes out there. Anything to prevent the damage I did the first time!
Make sure I birth at a hospital knowledgeable about my genetic condition
I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (read more here as it’s too long to explain), but long story short, it makes my pregnancies and births higher risk. I chose my booking hospital as it was a bit closer than the larger City hospital, and whilst my booking hospital is pretty good, they don’t have people who specialise in my condition, and hardly any consultant seemed to have a clue. They said a letter from my diagnosing genetics department would suffice, but the letter I received was confusing and contradicted all of the EDS resources stating the risks of pregnancy and childbirth with EDS, so I had to really push for the correct treatment. I still ended up having a huge haemorrhage during my emergency caesarean, and I still felt every single iota of the local anaesthetic and spinal, as EDS makes me resistant to local anaesthetic and more prone to haemorrhage. These things could have been avoided with correct management.
Next time, I’ll go to the other hospital. It’s further away, but they know EDS, and many of my EDS friends have had their condition properly managed when they’ve had their babies. It’ll be worth the extra travelling. If you have a choice of more than one booking hospital, really look into your choice and don’t pick the closest for the sake of it.
Be more assertive during the birth
I feel so empowered for the next time I have a baby. Of course, I will always listen to medical advice, the medical profession are amazing, but there are times where the care isn’t as good it as could be, and vital information is missed.
I have ‘weird veins’ and only one spot where blood can be drawn, but the number of doctors who ignored me and butchered me when I was pregnant is honestly ridiculous. I felt disregarded, like they thought I was talking nonsense, when in fact I wasn’t! Next time, I’ll do more than meekly protest as they stab at my poor arms 100 times without success.
I was induced for preeclampsia and gestational diabetes at 37 weeks. I was stable, baby was stable, both of us were doing fine, but after 14 hours I was only 4cm dilated, so I was pushed into a category 3 emergency caesarean. I now know, after speaking to the Head Midwife, I should have been given a choice to take more time, and it should have been explained to me that neither me or baby were in immediate danger. I was devastated when she told me this during my after birth reflection meeting. I had a seriously bad recovery from the caesarean, and to know it may have been avoided really upsets me. It turns out that the decision was made towards the end of the shift, and it was just easier for them to take me down to theatre. I was exhausted, very emotional, and just wanted my baby, so I was easy convince that it was needed… My sons head was at an awkward angle making my progress slower, but I could have had a natural birth and avoided major abdominal surgery.
Of course, I’m hugely grateful to have had a healthy baby, but I now know that I was misinformed and misled into a procedure (which caused a serious infection and adhesions) out of convenience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If your baby or you are in danger and unstable, I’d strongly advise listening to medical advice and doing what you need to do, but don’t be afraid to demand all the facts. I couldn’t make an informed decision based on the drip feeding of information, and being so exhausted. Next time, I know exactly what is right and wrong.
Seek out the correct advice for breastfeeding
I was SO exhausted after having my son. Breastfeeding was going badly, I was very poorly with an infection, and my brain wasn’t in the right place to seek out the breastfeeding support I now know exists. The health issues he had that led to me putting him on formula as advised by others turned out to be CMPA (cows milk protein intolerance), and by the time he was diagnosed, it was too late. I had plenty of milk, and I’d cut out dairy before stopping breastfeeding, but I didn’t realise that it takes a while for the protein to stop crossing over into my milk, hence why it didn’t work. He also had secondary lactose intolerance as a result of the CMPA, but this could have been managed with lactase supplements (breastmilk contains lactose naturally, contrary to the common misconception).
Next time, I’ll be seeking out the experts, and not relying on incorrect advice given with the best intentions.
I won’t be so hard on myself
The ‘mum guilt’ is real, guys, and oh my lord, it’s amplified in that vulnerable post natal period. I felt like the worst mum ever! I cried so much, and I’ll admit for the first time EVER that I even researched putting my son up for adoption during one exhaustion-fuelled, incredibly emotional moment where I felt completely unsuited to being a mummy to my beautiful new baby. The ‘baby blues’ are so common, you’re not alone or abnormal in experiencing it.
Next time, I’ll know that it’s my crazy, hormone driven new mummy brain warping my thoughts, and I’ll know to disregard those scary tormenting thoughts of being a bad mummy.
What would YOU do differently next time? Tell us in the comments!
Love from Katie. Xx