Things I've learned after giving birth:
Be open to any changes! Anchor came 10 days after his estimated due date, after 50 hours of labor and not having the homebirth I had planned. Breastfeeding has not happened as easily as I thought it would. It's hard when you have an image of a perfect birth and things happen differently—but it all worked out and is perfect in its own way! These things aren't entirely in your own control, so it's important to set realistic expectations and go with the flow.
It's important to have a good support group and a strong foundation with your partner. There are times when I will just start crying and I can't tell you what a huge help it is to have Dan as my husband to calm me down! He is so supportive and always telling me what a great job I'm doing as a mother. Sometimes that's all I need to hear when I'm emotional/having self-doubt. Friends and family members that know what you're going through is also huge! Anytime I'm not sure if something is normal, I can count on them to assure me it is!
A doula is basically a necessity! I can't imagine having gone through this labor without the support of our amazing doula. She was helpful during pregnancy, during labor and has been after labor as well. She provides something your partner or midwives can't. When Dan got too tired, she was there to step in as support. She is trained in ways to best comfort and manage pain and avoid certain interventions you may not want. I have to say during the pushing stage she gave me the most confidence out of everyone. I had no idea whether I was making any progress and she assured me I was and told me when she saw his head full of hair! Bonus: she took some amazing photos during the birth that I will cherish forever! She also did my placenta encapsulation, gave us a baby-care class beforehand and has been an ongoing support after birth.
Staying in shape during pregnancy will do wonders for your labor. If I hadn't kept up with exercise during pregnancy, I don't know that I would have had the stamina to go through 50 hours of labor! During the first 28 hours of labor, I hardly laid or sat down at all except when I was in the birthing tub—even then I was on hands and knees and moving around! I was constantly walking around, on my birth ball and squatting during the labor. If I hadn't kept up with yoga and lots of walking during pregnancy, labor would have been much more difficult, I'm sure!
I am so happy and proud to be Anchor's mama! I can't wait to see him grow :)
For all you mamas out there—did your birth(s) go exactly as you had planned? Is there anything you learned from the experience?