As a reminder to myself and for any new Mamas who are able to take advice better than I can, I have composed my first list of Do’s and Don’ts. It’s not exhaustive, because I am (that’s it – that’s as funny as I can be right now).
Don't ask for heartburn help in labour. On top of everything else terrible happening to your body, burping up stomach acid because you’ve eaten nothing all day is still WAY better than popping a small thimbleful of antacid and then violently throwing up. in the nick of time, in a green plastic bowl, all from a horizontal position. (Mad props to my Mama for jetting across the room for that bowl and getting it cupped under my chin with no time to spare.)
Do have friends and family with you at the Hospital for the long haul. I would have thought the sounds of their not-in-dire-laser-pain voices talking and laughing would have made me furious – but it was actually wonderful having them around, popping in, providing a sense of normalcy around me while my head and body were swirling around in some other orbit. They will bring you wonderful things, they will run out and take care of things, they will entertain each other into the wee hours of the night when a bubs won’t come out, they will have stories to tell your bubs years later about the night she came. They will be a beautiful part of your labour story and you will somehow love them just a little bit more.
Don't make a playlist on an iPod. We spent an evening putting together a playlist of music that would help entertain, soothe and provide a soundtrack to the birth, with the thought of how cool it would be to tell bubs what the very first song she heard was, playing in the background as she crowned into the world. So, we had hours of great, carefully selected music (mostly due to Pops – the playlist King of the Western Hemisphere) that we played exactly 1.5 songs of. We’d totally forgotten about it and when we did remember, the few old jazz songs that came on had drums that perfectly mimicked the bubs’ heartbeat that echoed into the room, and I was concerned it would interfere with it, so I asked Nuv to turn it off. So all the bubs heard when she was busted out, dripping and pooping, was the enormous sighs of relief and breaths exhaled from a room of very tired and exhilarated people.
Do have the iPhone 4. Not only has Face Time absolutely made it worth every penny (it’s how her Godfather, out of town briefly, has been able to see her real-time, and how Gramma H. gets her daily fix), but having this in hand when breast feeding gives you an outlet and connection to the real world. It’s not just me and this girl suckling stuck in this apartment. It’s us and PEGGLE!
Do buy more than one nursing bra. I thought somehow one would suffice. Retarded, I know. Because you will wear it every hour of every day other than the 6 minutes you get in the shower to quickly bathe yourself and shave your armpits and ankles. And have a fun jelly glitter bracelet that you wore in grade six and wear it on whatever wrist you just fed on so you remember. Because unless after she’s done on one side you leave that tit dangling out, leaving a milk trail down your legs, you will not remember which one you last gave her greedy little mouth.
Do buy maxipads. Lots and lots. (More than you think you’ll need. I’m on my 4th package.) The embarrassing ones. The gross “I bleed all over myself because I’m too young to fathom tampons” ones you bought when you first got your period. Because every period you missed during your pregnancy pops in to say hello pretty much the second you give birth. All, “Hey pal, how’s it going? I MISSED you! I hope you have some shitty underwear ‘cause I’m about to get sloppy!”
Do have a baby mentor. I found mine in an unexpected way – she’s a good friend of a good friend who lives in Victoria. She had her bub in July and even though we literally just met (finally!) in person a week ago, we talked and bonded via text and Facebook, and she got me through a dreadful 24 hours where I didn’t know what was right, wrong, up or down. Even though I have many many wonderful females around me that I could ask advice from in a heartbeat, having her to bounce any frustration or fear or joy off of has been a tremendous lifeline. Because she has just been where I am. She is beautiful, through and through, and I look forward to leaning on her and learning from her as we travel down Mama Boulevard.
Do know people who can cook/bake. Because you will not have time to think about food, let alone make it in the first few days and weeks. The first day home, while the bub was cuddled by 12 pairs of family arms, I woke up from a rich beautiful nap starving. Like kidnapped and held in a cellar with no food or water for days famished. I requested the following meal – 2 slices of gluten free bread, toasted, topped with crunchy peanut butter, apple slices and drizzled honey. I inhaled it like it was going to be taken away from me if I wasn’t quick enough, and it was so fucking good I nearly passed out. The best thing I ate, though, was this amazing applesauce Mama Lark made that was so smooth and bright and so perfectly represented this time of year, the very best of what Autumn can taste like, it should be given out to every new Mama as she leaves the hospital. Along with a makeshift bidet (squeeze bottle to douse your crotch after every pee), a vial of sleep juice and the phone numbers of my family and friends. Because I have The Best Ones. Seriously. Everybody has walked the walk as far as being there for us after bubs came. I catch myself feeling swallowed up by the new and strange ways I spend my hours now, and I am rescued by the love and kindness of my dude and all the people that love me and us.
Do breastfeed. At least try it. If your boobs and their mouth aren’t a match made in heaven, I won’t judge. Just know if it works and you’re patient, it will become the most magical time of your day. But be prepared: have copious amounts of Lanolin (your nipples' new bff), and be realistic that you will have to drop everything at any time when they need you. This will be hard to do. The begrudging sometimes will creep in. That’s normal. Unless you do a little pump on the side and let someone else help, you need to be on call at all times. In the middle of the night when they nod off seconds into a feed, you will need to resist the urge to lean in with your gross night-time breath and hiss, “So, this was suddenly so urgent moments ago when you lost your shit and your face turned into a red turnip caricature of itself, but now that I’m up and have inserted my rugged nipple into your Dyson-suction mouth, now it’s lights out after only 2 swallows? THAT SEEMS FAIR.” Until they learn words and sarcasm, this is entirely okay.