Expecting your first child is a joyous time and also one filled with brand-new things to think about and prepare for. Grace Nixon picks out five of the top worries she hears from soon-to-be parents and helps to ease those nerves. For more information, join Grace at Practical Parenting Antenatal.
- Learning to dad – poop, postnatal depression and silver linings
- Your first baby is here – navigating those early days
- Preparing for baby on a budget – what do you really need?
1. How will I know when I’m in labour?
Well, it’s not like the movies where your waters break in the middle of the street and you’re instantly in intense pain and rushing to the hospital. Nope. Labour generally starts off a lot slower than that.
The biggest sign you’re in labour is contraction pain. For most women, labour starts with irregular, mild-intensity contractions. For example, you get a contraction that lasts 30 seconds. Then 10 minutes later, you have another one. Then 30 minutes later, you get another one that lasts 40 seconds. This is early labour. It can go on for days and feels more like period pain and tightenings.
The textbooks say you’re officially in labour when you are having a contraction every five minutes, lasting a minute each, for over an hour. But not everyone will get in that exact pattern. If your contractions get into a pattern and the contractions are increasing in length, strength and intensity, you’re in labour.
2. When is it too late to get an epidural?
If baby is already coming out, it’s probably too late to get an epidural! You can’t be refused one any time before that. However, your lead lead maternity carer (your midwife or obstetrician, for example) or anaesthetist may advise you to not have one. This usually happens if they think baby is very close to being born. In that case, baby may have already arrived by the time they get the epidural in and it starts working.
Getting an epidural can be quite a lengthy process. You may have to wait 20 minutes or longer for the anaesthetist to get to you, depending on the number of expecting mums in the queue before you. Once the anaesthetist is with you, it take another 15-20 minutes for them to get organised and insert the epidural. After that, it’s another 20 minutes for the epidural to actually start working. My advice? If you think you want an epidural, request it sooner rather than later.
3. How can dad practically support mum during labour, birth and beyond?
Dads often feel a bit like they are left on the sidelines during labour, birth and those first few weeks, but there are actually so many things you can do support your partner.
During labour and birth
During the labour and birth the number one thing you can do for your partner is – whatever she asks you to! Massage her back, don’t touch her, get her a cold cloth for her forehead or a heat pack for her back, run the bath, get her a snack! Check in often and ask if there is anything you can do for her. Another thing – keep offering her sips of water. Don’t let her get dehydrated.
Be her advocate. You know her best and how she’s dreamt of baby’s birth day going. Stand up for her if things aren’t going to plan and she’s too tired to stand up for herself.
In those first few weeks
If she’s breastfeeding, there’ll be a lot of it happening in those first few weeks. So make sure your partner has a snack and glass of water at every feed. You can learn to change the baby’s nappy, bath them, wind, swaddle and settle them to sleep. You can cook dinner, clean the house and put on a load of washing while you’re at it too!
Ask your partner how she’s coping or what you can do to help her. All she might want is for you to hold baby for five minutes while she has a shower in peace.
4. Will my vagina recover?
The short answer is yas. Our vaginas are incredibly vascular – this greatly helps the repair of any damage that may be done during birth. It may look and feel a bit different but after about six months and/or when you’ve stopped breastfeeding, it should be back to feeling normal.
The reason it may feel a bit different while you’re breastfeeding is because the hormone oxytocin is produced in very low quantities in that time. This what causes vaginal dryness – so make sure you use lots of lube when having sex. If you are still feeling uncomfortable, book an appointment with a gynecologist to get it sorted out as soon as possible.
5. How can we prepare our relationship for the changes a new baby brings?
You’ll probably have an idea of some of the changes you’re expecting to make in your household already. So here’s what recommend in our Practical Parenting Antenatal course – implement them now! That way you don’t have to negotiate it all while you’re both over tired and grumpy.
If you’re going to have to make changes to your budget, start living on your amended budget now. If you’re making changes to who’s going to do certain household chores, start them now. You can have a nice gradual handover period so everyone is happy with how the new person is cleaning the bathroom or that the new person on supermarket shopping is choosing the right rice!
Doing these little things now will make your transition into your new life with a baby so much more enjoyable and much less stressful on your relationship. You want your relationship with each other to be strong so that you can be a strong team for your child.
Attend a Toolbox parenting course
Toolbox courses inspire and equip whānau. They are bursting with great advice, humour and encouragement, offering practical strategies and insights into developmental stages. Parents leave reassured that challenges are common to all families and that they’re not alone on their parenting journey. The courses are run over a number of weeks in a relaxed and conversational small group setting with a trained facilitator. The five courses – Building Awesome Whānau, Baby and Toddler Years, Primary Years, Intermediate Years, and Teenage Years. Find out more and register here.