After recently having my daughter here in Japan, I often find myself thinking back to my pregnancy, labor, and delivery experience. Even after going through it all, I still sometimes wonder what exactly happened? Everything seemed so painfully slow at the time, but now it’s like a blur, and I’m wondering what I could have or should have done differently.
So, I reached out to another mother, Lindsey, living in the US so we could compare what our experiences have been like giving birth in two different parts of the world. Labor and delivery are routine occurrences in Lindsey’s professional life. She has helped many mothers through the process, and gives some tips that could help soon-to-be moms living in Japan as well.
Here’s the interview:
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Lindsey, and I’m from upstate New York, USA! I’m a busy momma to two sweet girls, I’ve been with my husband Eric for almost 9 years, and I work as a labor and delivery nurse. I absolutely LOVE my job, and it brings me so much joy. There’s something magical about watching a woman become a mother, or a man become a father. It’s really amazing!
Before I was a labor and delivery nurse, I worked as a medical-telemetry nurse and then a preoperative and post-operative nurse. I decided to go into nursing because I love to care for people, I am a compassionate person, and I knew it would give me flexibility so I can stay home with my kids. It wasn’t until after my first daughter was born that I decided I loved labor and delivery.
I had a very negative birth experience with her, and I knew I could prevent other women from feeling the way I did throughout my labor. It was the best decision I ever made, and I find so much fulfillment in my work.
How has your job as a registered nurse affected your role as a mother and vice versa?
I am definitely much more…tired…than if I worked a typical 9-5. It can be really exhausting to care for your kids all day, and then go to work and care for strangers. Sometimes I wonder when anyone is going to care for me!
I also feel like being a nurse, I’m expected to know more about my kids. Even though I’ve never worked in pediatrics, I often feel stupid asking questions to the pediatrician. They’ll often say things like, “well you know this because you’re a nurse, but….” and I feel like “wait! But I don’t know that when it’s my own kid!!”
Being a mother has definitely affected my nursing practice as well. My youngest is only 11 months old, and my oldest is not quite 2.5 years old yet, so the pain of childbirth is very much fresh in my brain. I can have a lot more empathy and compassion for moms because I was just on that side of the hospital room not long ago.
It’s also easier to teach breastfeeding when you have breastfed yourself, though I work with many nurses who aren’t parents and are fabulous nurses.
How do you juggle being a mom to two young girls with your busy work schedule?
I currently work mostly evening shifts, because I hate missing the day with my girls. This means I sometimes don’t get home until after midnight, but it’s worth it to spend these early years with them!
I’m fortunate that our finances allow me to be a per diem employee. I work about 16 hours a week right now, and I find that to be the perfect balance. I don’t think I’d ever want to stop working entirely because I love my job, but I also want to be home with my kids as much as possible.
Do you have any suggestions for relieving morning sickness, swelling, and other common symptoms women experience while pregnant?
This is the golden question!
I always find ginger products to be a great, natural way to relieve queasiness. Ginger ale, ginger tea, or even crystallized ginger can be a great remedy. I also think you should eat what you can in the early days! I always craved dairy products my first trimester, and I could never eat meat. I ate what I could, and eventually the sickness subsided.
For swelling, you should drink lots of water and put your feet up as often as possible. Some physicians recommend compression stockings, so it may be worth asking if that’s an option for you.
Back pain is a common complaint in pregnancy, too, and the biggest things that seem to help are heat, baths, and support belts. Your physician may be able to prescribe a support belt to you, or you can find them easily on Amazon. They tend to work really well in the second trimester and the beginning of the third, but don’t really have much effect when the pregnancy is nearing the end.
Are there any common mistakes you see new moms make? What do they struggle with the most at the hospital?
YES! I actually have a whole post about this on my blog that lists the 10 common mistakes women make while in labor.
For a quick summary:
Inviting too many people into your delivery room can be super stressful. Everyone has an opinion and a thought on how things should go, and while they may offer advice out of good intentions, it may not be what you need. A stressful environment can actually slow labor down! So keep it calm, and keep the visitors to 1-2 supportive people.
Having a very rigid birth plan is a curse when you’re in labor. It’s great to have an idea of how you’d like things to go, but unfortunately the baby calls the shots sometimes and things can’t go quite as planned. You should communicate what you want to your team, but keep an open mind, and don’t beat yourself up if things go awry.
What are some of the unique requests you’ve seen in the delivery room?
There have been a few! One of my favorites is when dads request gaming monitors or TVs so they can play video games when their partner is in labor—not cool, dads! I wish I could say this has only happened once, but that would be a lie!
What are some things partners can do to offer support in the delivery room?
One of the biggest things a partner can do is just offer support. Just being there, holding her hand and offering reassurance is a great place to start. Many moms are very vocal about what they need, so try not to be offended and take the cues. If she says she is hot, help her remove her gown and get cool washcloths. If she’s thirsty, offer her ice chips. If she needs some space, stay close but let her do her thing.
Was there anything that took you by surprise with your own pregnancies and childbirth?
I didn’t realize how uncomfortable pregnancy would be! I had big babies, so I’m sure that played a part, but I felt like I could hardly move my last few weeks. I could not wait for labor both times because I could not wait to have my body be my own again!
And the crazy part is, after birth I missed being pregnant! How crazy is that?! I didn’t like having to “share” my baby, and there’s something special about being pregnant when they’re only yours.
Do you have any suggestions on how to recover and heal faster from vaginal births and c-sections?
Lots of rest and TLC! Let your partner be your hands for awhile. Reach out for support to people you trust!
After a vaginal birth, ice and Dermoplast spray will be your friends. The spray has numbing medication in it, and it’s incredibly helpful for healing the soreness.
After a c-section, get a really good abdominal binder. It helps to suck everything back in and offer your belly support.
Regardless of how you give birth, stay on top of those pain meds (ibuprofen and acetaminophen should do the trick) and take your stool softeners!! Also, I always found it helpful to prep meals in advance for us and store them in the freezer. Dinner was the last thing I wanted to worry about, and it was so nice to pop something in the oven and have it ready in under an hour.
What advice can you give to new mothers who will be home alone with the baby without any support?
This is a tough spot to be in, but you’ll be OK. Get fresh air and exercise whenever you can. If the baby is fussing and you find yourself getting tense, don’t feel bad putting your baby in the crib and stepping out of the room to calm down.
Three of the biggest things that can help calm a baby are:
- Fresh Air
- A ride in the car
- A bath
I also encourage moms with poor support systems to try and make mom friends! Actually, I encourage everyone to make mom friends! Chat it up at a playground, playgroup, or even join some mommy Facebook groups! I met my “best mom friend” in the baby section of a department store. Two years (and another baby for each of us) later and we still get together a few times a week!
How was bringing your second baby home different from your first one? What changed the second time around?
I felt much more calm about certain things the second time around, while I was definitely more anxious about others.
A little backstory: I went through fertility treatments to conceive my first, and conceived my second baby naturally. I was also told early on in my second pregnancy to anticipate a miscarriage, and that stayed with me until after she was born.
My little Annie is my miracle baby, and I love her so much that I feel like I don’t deserve her sometimes! I know that sounds like a crazy thought, but I feel so overly blessed to have her in my life and I feel like that is going to get taken away from me (I’m sure this all goes back to thinking I was going to miscarry!) For those reasons, I’m very protective and cautious with her, which I didn’t think I would be since she’s my second.
However, breastfeeding, sleep schedules, car seats, feeding, and that sort of thing felt very easy this time around. I definitely fretted over every minute detail with my first, and it felt good to have some of those things mastered the second time!
How has being a mother changed you as a person?
I have wanted to be a mother as long as I can remember. I am truly fulfilled with my two baby girls in my life! While I certainly have days where I am stressed and overwhelmed (who doesn’t?!), I take a lot of pride and joy in motherhood. Overall, I am happier, more content, and more excited for each day. Being their mommy is the best thing in the world.
Lindsey is a mom to two little girls, a wife, and a labor and delivery nurse. She enjoys spending time in the kitchen, making ridiculously messy crafts with her girls, and helping other mommies in all walks of motherhood. You can follow her blog These Hungry Kids, or follow her on Pinterest or Facebook, where she shares about all things motherhood, from pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond.