Letters to a New Mother - Part 3 - Biology
It's important to understand what your body is doing right now, and what it will do in labor and afterwards. It can make you feel crazy sometimes, all the changes. Here again it's helpful to know that you aren't the only one and even more importantly, there's a reason for it.
Let's start with the symptom you probably noticed first, your digestion. When you are pregnant your digestion literally slows down, leading to all sorts of uncomfortable side effects, such as heartburn, gas, and nausea, to name a few. But there's a reason for this. When you digest food slower you absorb more nutrients from it. You can be eating the exact same amount of food and your body automatically does what it needs to in order to get extra nutrition for that baby.
You may have morning sickness, which is probably a combination of the slowed digestion and low blood sugar from needing so much more food all the time to support all that rapid growth going on in your uterus. So please eat. Please eat as nutritiously as you are able, several small amounts throughout the day, and make sure you're getting a lot of protein, because protein takes longer to absorb so your blood sugar stays more stable, and your baby needs it.
You may have heard people joking about mommy brain before. You may find you are spacing out and forgetting stuff. You may be extremely emotional and sensitive. It's all true. Your hormones are conducting an all out campaign to make you a more nurturing, responsive and caring person. They are flooding your brain and actually changing it's structure. This is a good thing. This is how woman can go from somewhat ambivalent about children in general to completely and utterly infatuated with one infant in particular in the space of about 9 months.
It's frustrating to feel like you can't rely on your brain to remember things any more, or to not suddenly start crying in the middle of a cleaning supplies commercial, or to not suddenly take every single thing some one says so personally. But I can promise you that it won't always be this difficult, and you won't always feel this crazy. Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, but there comes a day when you feel normal again. This normal will be nothing like your old normal, you won't get that brain back again, but the brain you have will still be able to do all those everyday things again, plus more.*
In the meantime, may I suggest, ever so gently, that all those people who suddenly seem to have turned on you and spend all day dreaming up new ways to be mean are probably not doing that at all. Remember, you are the one who is changing. Your husband probably didn't just become cold and distant, you are just needing far more reassurance than you normally need. For example. (Not that I have ever had anything like this happen to me when I've been pregnant, *cough* 5 times crazy *cough*.) If at all possible, try not to make any big changes like relationships or careers or 10 year plans when this stuff is going on. You'll look back and realize that your head was on a little crooked, to say the least.
Now, I know you're freaked out about labor and delivery. It's how big? It comes out where? I feels like what?
Here again, I'd just like to reassure you that your body is on your side. It was designed to do this, it can do this. Do yourself a favor and trust in your body for a change. That's a hard thing for a woman to do in our culture, but give it a try. Take care of yourself, walk, eat right, get plenty of rest, gently belly dance and hula, and get to know your body more intimately. It is your body that will get your baby out. You really need to just learn to get out of the way and trust it to do it's job well.
An aside: Your doctor doesn't know everything. Your GP probably took a total of 3 classes on labor and delivery in all 4 years of medical school. Your obstetrician has probably never witnessed a completely normal, undisturbed birth with no interventions. They are trained to deal with emergencies after all. Don't let anyone tell you what to do simply because it's more convenient for them and their lawyers to have you conform to their assembly line approach to getting babies out.
How you get the baby out can have a huge impact on how you enter into your first months of motherhood. It can be incredibly empowering and you feel like you can do anything, and that's just from the hormones alone. Ecstatic Birth - Hormones During Birth You don't need to have a euphoric post labor hormonal cocktail to bond well with your baby or to gain the confidence and resilience you will need to mother the child you birthed. I didn't the first time and we bonded just fine. But it sure helps.
So read. Read about how you hormones work with you in labor, read about natural childbirth and women who learned their bodies.
(Here's a short little list of my top 4.)
Ina Mae's Guide to Childbirth - Ina Mae Gaskin
Birthing From Within - Pam England and Rob Horowitz
Born Free - Read all the unassisted birth stories if you have the time.
Rediscovering Birth - Sheila Kitzenger
As you read and try to wrap your head around this just remember one thing. Birthing babies is something you can only learn by doing. Until you've been through it you really don't know what it is. Your body, on the other hand, knows what to do. You can't really help it much at first, when you don't know how, but you can get in the way of it doing it's job. So in the end, get out of your head and down into your body as much as possible. Let yourself slip away and be carried on the euphoria of the moment and relax and let your body do it's job.
You can do this. You were designed to be able to do this. Trust. it will come.
*Some of this I got from skimming through a book called The Mommy Brain.