Lessons From A Firstborn
Recently, we celebrated the 6th birthday of our eldest daughter. At her request, she got a chocolate cake. Dealing with food intolerance can make baking a bit of a chore, but I found this recipe for one. It may not look as beautifully decorated and the stacking is rather wonky, but the end result tasted delicious, and was perfect for a special treat.
We spent her actual birthday at White Post Farm, which is a place we have loved going to since she was just a shy of a year old. She then celebrated with her friends and a pizza party at Pizza Express. By the way, if you or anyone you know has food intolerances, they cope marvellously with various food needs.
Our first baby teaches us a lot of things, about ourselves, about pregnancy and about birth. They also graciously become guinea pigs for our first floundering steps into parenthood and are most patient with our shortcomings.
So I decided to take a look back on what lessons my first born taught me at that time and how it has shaped who I have become.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a horrible affliction.
I expected the textbook nausea and “morning sickness”(whoever coined the term morning sickness anyway?!), but I was not prepared for what hit me at 5 weeks along and continued right to the very end and beyond. I was sure I was going to die, and sadly some mummies and babies do. There were the constant well meaning advice givers who touted the wonders of ginger and dry crackers for morning sickness, but hyperemesis is a whole different ball game. Dealing with comments of how wonderful it was that you were pregnant and still so skinny did nothing to make matters better as I was so desperate to keep food and liquid down to ensure both me and my baby survived this ordeal. In going through it, twice now, I have a deeper empathy with those who experience this during their pregnancy, and it taught me so lessons in patience as well.
From the minute I knew she was growing within, I researched every topic upside down and inside out. Vitamin K, options for giving birth, whooping cough vaccinations, vaccinations post birth, breast feeding, bottle feeding, placenta remedies, meconium, inductions, epidurals, you name it, I was reading about it. I spent the entire 9 months googling, reading articles, books etc and arming myself with information.
Question What You’re Being Told To Do.
I am either blessed or cursed with a personality that doesn’t blindly accept what I am being told to do, but I questioned everything. I had some health issues during this pregnancy alongside the hyperemesis that combined caused me to be under consultant care as well as seeing my community midwife. If I had blindly followed the advice given without listening to my mother’s intuition, without questioning and without asking for further information and real statistics, I would have been induced at 38 weeks; a move that would have been even more detrimental to the issue they were trying to “rescue” me from. The outcome would have been a cascade of intervention and far removed from what I did experience. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Find out what the benefits, risks and alternatives are to what you are being told.
Ensure that you have all the information.
This follows on from the point above really. You cannot make an informed choice when you are only being presented with one side of the argument or manipulative language that plays on your vulnerability and emotions at such a time.
Have good support.
You need to be 100% sure going into your birth that the people you bring into your home or into that birthing room are going to protect you and your birthing space and help you to achieve the birth that is right for you and that you desire to have. If they are nervous and anxious about the whole process, that is not going to be great for getting the birth hormones flowing. If they are not supportive of your plans or like to plant seeds of doubt in your ear over your abilities, they don’t deserve to be there. If you cannot count on them to protect you from unnecessary pressures and point people back to your birth plan and wishes and ensure you have received information for all possible scenarios before making a choice, then you may want to consider taking someone else in as your birth partner. This is where a doula can be an amazing support for both you and any anxious dads as well.
You can request that you be cared for by a different midwife.
If there is a bad vibe in the room between you and the midwife that is sent to care for you in labour, you are fully justified in requesting that they leave and you be given a different midwife to care for you.
I wish I had known this before going into labour as I would have sent away the midwife that was sent to my home. It was someone I had met previously and did not see eye to eye with, so it stalled everything for a good few hours. The whole happy hormone cocktail was put on pause because my body sensed a threat in the room and your body’s natural instinct is to protect you and your baby from that so it isn’t wanting to let go and give birth while this presence is still on the scene.
You are stronger than you imagine.
It takes endurance, patience, a surrendering to a force that is so powerful, but you discover that you are able to overcome it all.
Birth is wonderful.
Of all the lessons she taught me during that time this one was the best and the one that I am so grateful for. Are there things I would change about what happened? Sure! But overall, I walked away feeling empowered, and my passion for everything birth related started to take over my life from that moment on.
What lessons has your first born taught you?