“I gave birth to my daughter, Devany, on December 31st of 2020. The last baby at our local medical center. Her birthday alone holds a very sentimental place in my heart; two years ago my older brother passed away in an ATV accident. It’s a loss I have not yet coped fully with, as we were not on the best terms when we lost him. I’m still working through my own regrets with it. He was born on December 31st, 1977. I am not religious, but I do believe in signs, and I believe he was sending me a signal to say he was there. Before we even entered the hospital for my induction, which was scheduled for the night before, another mother went into full labor and was brought in before me. A song played on the radio of my Rav as we waited to go in. ‘Lady,’ by Brett Young. A song I had been singing to my daughter in the car as we drove home from work. I’d had other hard days where I’d be looking for a sign he was with me, and Garth Brooks would play. His favorite.
Anyway, my labor was swift. I had already surpassed my due date by a week; I was 41 weeks and one day when I was induced. I was brought in at 8 a.m., they settled us in, and we went through the process. I was feeling a bit of anxiety. This was my first child, and there’s a pandemic, so only my boyfriend, who never left the room, was my support. I wished so badly for my sister to be there; growing up without a mom, she is the sun to my moon. And my father, who is so loving. I wanted him to be one of the first to hold her. Unfortunately, this was taken from us. This was also the case with the majority of my appointments. I went alone. My boyfriend was only at the 16-week sonogram. So he was ready, we were ready, to meet our sweet Devi.
I was given the balloon first, which within a matter of hours, as I went pee, popped out. I panicked, thinking I had just done something wrong, but no. We were officially at 4cm. We were getting close. I had gone in at 1cm, and they told me it takes twelve hours max for the balloon in some cases. The next few hours were a real whirlwind. I spoke to anesthesiologists about my epidural; I have an internal fear of needles, so this was the one thing I was afraid of. But the pain in my hips, wriggling down my legs, was at a point we needed to make a call. And I’m glad we did. By 7 p.m., when we were getting ready to start the process, my OBGYN, Kelly, came in. The sweetest woman, and quite the cheerleader, she broke my water.
And then the contractions really started intensifying. I was comfortable, though—my day nurse, Natalie, made sure of that. And as they did a changing of the guards, another phenomenal nurse joined us, Lynn. She had a no-nonsense attitude, her focus was solely on me and a safe delivery. I, unfortunately, do not remember the other two nurses, but they also were great support as one reminded me to push and the other held tight to my left leg. Lynn kept me focused, she was my guardian angel; she also kept an eye on my boyfriend who hadn’t eaten all day and had developed a headache. She told him he’d end up in the hall if he got any more pale. He began drinking water. The scariest part was losing her heart monitor. For a few moments, the room filled with nurses. I was instructed to get in the doggy position and to breathe, which was hard because I began crying, with the epidural, knowing she was low, and knowing this could possibly be a serious issue.
I mustered all my strength, I begged her to be okay, and she was. After, we were ready to push. I put all of my might into it, and Lynn reminded me to hold and tilt down, to push hard, and to not lose that breath. I was chewing a piece of gum through my delivery because I had terrible indigestion. But we did it, and when I finally felt her slip from her safe haven inside of me, she was placed on my chest. At 9:01 p.m., on my brother’s birthday, I gave birth to the love of my life. One more minute and they would have had the same birth time. The next few hours were spent with me being stitched and her being checked by all of her doctors, and even a NICU attending, for a small bump on her head, which was from bashing her head into my pelvis. Nothing major, it was cleaned off at her first bath the next night. January 1st was her father’s birthday, and we spent the day in recovery. We watched videos for discharge, granted to us by our pediatrician, as long as everything was good and clear. We spent the day watching TV: the Food Network, a lot of Guy Fieri.
We started to get anxious. I was ready for my own bed, I was worried about my cat, and I just in general do not enjoy the hospital.
My boyfriend slept a lot, but would wake to eat and hold Devany for skin-to-skin contact. It was a very anticlimactic day. Finally, at 11 p.m., we were told we were free and clear. Devi was dressed, and we got her into the car seat. We hadn’t loosened the straps and hadn’t really taken the time to find the ins and outs, and we had trouble removing it from the car the night before because we couldn’t find the release. I suppose it was my brother too, telling me not tonight. We had the desk nurse double check we were all good and we excitedly began our first family ride home. Who would’ve thought the next few days would test what we left thinking we knew. I was never given pectin. My colostrum was not producing enough to sustain her. We spent an entire day tirelessly trying to latch, and my goodness it was painful. For everyone.
Tension was high and we finally made a choice to go to the store for formula. I was planning on supplementing, anyway, as my work would not allow me to pump. Not that I couldn’t ask, but I work a demanding, physical, and highly customer-based job, so I genuinely don’t have time during my shift. She took to the formula and I was relieved. She slept and she ate, and I decided to stimulate my nipples to produce, and eventually they did. I should’ve stopped the formula right there—the consistency was thick, and I was producing. We kept giving her formula because, ‘They will lose weight, you’ll want her to gain.’ Well, my daughter got constipated. For three days. And let me tell you, I did as much as Google could provide me to stimulate her bowels. Finally, as of 1/9/21, she took a poop. And let me tell you, the excitement was silly. We couldn’t have been happier. As of 1/10/21, our final feat, the irritating, kind of gross but incredible stump, has fallen off. You learn as you’re going, and I can now pick up on her cues.
But it isn’t just about the baby, this is where the education falls flat. No one told me what my own journey would look like: it would take me close to five days to poop, I need to stock up on pads. Seriously. The emotions of the first few days, as someone who doesn’t cry, were absolutely exhausting. So here is my advice to new moms. Take it or leave it. I left the hospital with a very large amount of false security and confidence. I was stubborn and did not reach out when I should have. My sister and my daughter’s grandmother and great grandmother got me through it, even my cousin’s advice saved me a small panic. I’m thankful for the powerful women who helped me labor, and who’ve allowed me to lean on them. I am like my brother in this respect, I forget I have a tribe because my Napoleon Complex gets the best of me.
Witch hazel will help with the sting. Lanolin will help your cracked nipples—thank you to my lactation specialist for suggesting it, the nipple guard did not work, unfortunately. Take sitz baths, they help. Those 20 minutes will give you a reset mentally, enjoy them. Try and get a nap in, I was stubborn about this as well. God forbid she gets hungry and I have to give her formula, now that we have the probiotic similac, I’m not as nervous. She’s taken to it well. Do small housework, it has given me a sense of self back, if my house is picked up and the dishes are done, I feel a sense of calm. Enjoy your showers—I turn my into dance parties. Eat three meals and maybe a snack. Avoid dairy (I have creamer in my coffee, but haven’t had a projectile vomit yet, fingers crossed). Ask every question that pops into your head. No question is stupid. The only concern I have on our journey is how she will acclimate to her daycare as I return to work in the weeks ahead.
But for now, I am soaking up the cuddles, the silly leg cross, and all the beautiful facial expressions this little girl makes. I’ve waited a long time to be a mom, and I am the happiest I’ve ever been. Trust your instincts, you’ve got this, momma. Don’t forget to reach out. This is an experience that requires the knowledge of other moms. You’re not perfect, but you’ll find what works for you, and that’s motherhood.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mandy Brunelle. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories from new moms:
‘I remember being ripped open. ‘Let me tell him I love him. Just once.’ I can hear the final scream.’: New mom battles traumatic labor and postpartum depression, ‘Some stories don’t have happy endings’
‘As soon as you birth your baby, you’re a different person. Take it and run. You’re now a mama before anything else. There is no higher title than that.’: New mom shares candid reality of first-time motherhood, ‘You’re doing an amazing job’
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