One thing is for sure: in this fast paced, instant gratification world of social media, being an online person who disappears for a few days apparently results in some digital hand wringing. When I finally turned my Blackberry back on following 58 hours of labor, I was touched and surprised to see so much concern about my whereabouts on Twitter and Facebook. There have been some frequently asked questions, and I thought I'd share the responses here since some of the information may be handy to other expecting parents.
Q: 58 hours of labor? Seriously? What was that all about?
This by far has been the most frequently asked question! I recently wrote about my birth story if you want all the details, but in short, yes, it was really that long! I spent about 48 hours in early labor (though at some points it felt as if I was transitioning to active labor), and that may have been in part due to the fact that Violet was in an awkward position that slowed her descent.
Q: Where did you deliver?
I was private about this question in advance of the delivery because some of the media requests I received asking for this information weirded me out. Apparently, because I was willing to be interviewed for print about things like grooming before and after delivery, some people also figured I'd be willing to be filmed in the hospital (um, no). However, now that we're through the process, I cannot say enough good things about the Cambridge Birth Center and Cambridge Hospital.
When I learned I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to work with established midwives and the Cambridge Birth Center and Mount Auburn Hospital were recommended by my PCP. I have heard great things about the midwife group at Mount Auburn, but that is where my father and grandparents died, so I didn't want to be in that thinking space in labor and delivery. Plus, admittedly, I liked the idea of being near Inman Square, since I figured there would be good food and retail distractions for Jon and Laurel should they need it.
One thing I loved about the Cambridge Birth Center is that it is its own house, right across from the hospital. I received all of my prenatal care there and would have loved to deliver there too, but ultimately, because I was trying for a VBAC I needed to deliver at the hospital. However, there was always a midwife on call at the hospital (and it was a midwife who delivered my baby...I didn't see the MD on call until after the birth) and the hospital staff in labor and delivery and the maternity suite were fantastic. I truly couldn't have asked for a better birthing experience...they were amazingly supportive of my desire for natural childbirth.
Q: So, did you primp in the hospital?
Well, I've written here about how the points I made in the Globe article were not to suggest that I think people need to don full makeup in the hospital -- my point was about general self care. And I think the best thing I did this time around -- both for my own spirits and to be more happily attentive to Violet -- was showering, brushing my teeth, and brushing my hair while in the hospital (and since returning home). Seriously! After I delivered Laurel, I was in the hospital for five days because of the C-section and did not shower that whole time. I can't remember if I brushed my teeth and I'm fairly certain I didn't brush my hair. Suffice to say, I felt gross. This time, I have showered every day since delivering Violet and that simple act goes a long way in making one feel human. Add in brushing my teeth and combing my hair and I feel like a million bucks. I did brush on some concealer one day in the hospital, and that felt pretty nice, especially since it made me look a little less scary since my eyes were all bloodshot (more on that in a second).
So bottom line, a little basic self care post-delivery goes a long way!
Also, I recommend taking care of yourself in advance of delivery, not only because it will be more challenging to do so after the delivery, but because when you're hugely pregnant, it just feels nice to take care of yourself. In the weeks leading up to my due date, I took care of grooming matters that I normally enjoy -- mani/pedi, hair cut, eyebrow wax... Funny enough, I received a shocking number of compliments on my pedicure in the hospital.
Q: How has Laurel reacted to her new sibling?
Kids no doubt react very differently to a new sibling and I won't be surprised if we hit some rebellious patches, but to date, Laurel's response to her new sister has been amazing. She already feels so protective of Violet and loves holding her...it's unbelievably sweet.
That said, I think it's important not to take older kids for granted when a new baby come along. I put together a little gift bag for Laurel from Violet and Laurel loved that. Also, my in laws came bearing gifts for both girls. And possibly the best and most simple gesture came from my sister Jenn. When Jenn walked into the hospital room, Laurel said, "Do you want to hold Violet?" and Jenn said, "Actually, can I give you a hug first?"
Also, since returning home, I've made a point to carve out one on one time with Laurel, whether it's cuddling and reading or working on homework or whatever. I think this has helped the transition a lot.
Q: Aside from the crazy long labor, has anything surprised you?
Actually, there are a few things -- the first of which really shouldn't surprise me. And that is how startlingly knowledgeable people on a maternity ward can be. When I was pushing, the midwife told me to open my eyes otherwise they'd get all bloodshot (I had never heard of that before). I tried but found it hard to resist closing them, and the next day I woke up with bloodshot eyes. Also, when I was moving from the delivery to postpartum room, the nurse warned me that some people get woozy and pass out and asked if I needed a wheelchair. I said no, of course I was fine and we started to walk and then I said I was starting to feel woozy. Then I passed out standing up, apparently with my eyes completely open. A wheelchair arrived just in time to catch me and the nurse immediately produced smelling salts (which really do work). Remarkable.
Second, I have a new perspective on people who are in a profession where they might not yet have experienced the core event itself. Meaning, admittedly sometimes I've been surprised to meet women who are doulas who aren't mothers themselves. But clearly, being passionate about a profession and logging enough hours of experience makes all the difference. Our intake nurse was not a mom and she was phenomenal; she knew what to do at every single turn and her presence was an enormous source of comfort for me. Same goes for the (not yet a mom) nurse who helped me address a breastfeeding problem the day we were leaving the hospital.
And finally, I've been surprised by how awesome it's been to have a second go at parenting and how smooth the transition has been so far. Everyone talks about how hard and onerous additional children can be but Jon and I are over the moon. I mean, yes, sleep is now interrupted and we have to think a little more when planning logistics, but it feels great to be so relaxed about things this time around -- for example, we don't completely freak when Violet cries and just don't sweat the small stuff. Also, remarkably, Jon and I grew closer than ever following Violet's birth experience; it's just been wonderful all around and we are very, very grateful.
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