You live and you learn, they say. Unfortunately, I only learned to ask for what I needed after my first child was born. In my defense, I was young and inexperienced so I didn't know what I needed when I needed it or if I even really needed it at all. I didn't know the window for certain opportunities to demand certain things was short and relatively fleeting. That's why there were so many things I wanted immediately after giving birth, but was just too afraid to ask for. It never occurred to me that there wouldn't be a "later." I didn't understand if I didn't get some sleep in the hospital, there would be minimal sleep to be had outside of the hospital. I didn't know I needed a lot more time with the lactation consultants because one 15-minute visit wasn't nearly enough for a new mom to learn how to breastfeed. I didn't know so I didn't ask, and in the end it's all on me.
After my second child was born, however, I was a pro. I asked for everything I needed and wanted. I did not feel ashamed of my emotions and I did not feel guilty over asking for what I needed. I asked and I received and it was great. I requested multiple visits from the lactation consultants, I minimized the number of visitors, and I asked for actual help. The second time around was much better and, because of my willingness to actually ask, much easier.
I feel confident saying that most women are worried about asking for help, and new mothers are the biggest offenders. They worry about how they are seen. Will someone think they are unfit to be parents? If they ask for help, does that mean they are bad mothers? The answer, of course, is no. You are not a bad mother if you ask for help. In fact, asking for what you need makes you a great parent, a strong parent, a parent who knows it takes a village to raise a child.
For Everyone To Leave Me Alone
While having visitors can be nice and can temporarily take your mind off your sore body and the shaky emotional state of being, it can also very quickly become overwhelming. There were definitely times when I wanted to be by myself with the baby, but my family and friends also wanted to come see the baby and I felt guilty saying "no." So I "hosted" visitors in the hospital room after I had just given birth.
For The Hospital "Swag"
My recovery room had a changing table with a bunch of cool baby swag in the first drawer and I wanted it. The drawer had diapers, wipes, extra swaddles, measuring tape, a nasal aspirator, a bowl, a pacifier, diaper cream, and cloth wipes. I irrationally wanted all the stuff but was too uncomfortable asking for it.
(Apparently, they let you take all of that stuff anyway.)
"Yeah so, like, can someone help me? Because I literally do not know what I am doing."
I wanted for someone to tell me what the next steps were. Like, what do I do now that the baby is actually out of me? How do I know when to nurse her, why she is crying, and how to soothe her? I've never done this before, people. Help.
For More Time With Lactation Consultants
I didn't realize I could request more time with the nursing consultants. I thought they had only a limited amount of time for each patient, so when one came and went I didn't ask questions. Never mind I had no idea what I was doing, so I thought I was the only new mother in the universe who didn't just automatically know how to breastfeed. I was too embarrassed to ask for more time and more education. They gave me a nipple shield and sent me on my confused and inexperienced way.
For Stronger Pain Meds
The whole "bringing a human baby into the world" thing is tough. Both labor and delivery take a tremendous toll on a mother's body. So, when all was said and done, I was given some ibuprofen and some stool softeners. The ibuprofen hardly masked the pain of tearing and pushing a human child out of my vagina and I needed more drugs. However, I was too afraid to ask as the risk of sounding like a weak human.
For The Baby To Sleep In The Nursery
"Someone please take the baby away for a few hours so I can rest and regain some sanity. Please?"
I didn't actually say that because I didn't want anyone thinking I am rejecting my baby or that I can't handle motherhood (see, the guilt starts immediately). I just wanted a break. I was already tired.
For A Constant Supply Of Food
Immediately after delivery I wanted pizza, and I actually asked for that. Once that wish was granted, though, I felt bad asking people to run around and get food for me, so I just ate whatever the hospital provided. It wasn't bad, but I could have gone for a juicy cheeseburger or a delicious grilled chicken salad and some fresh fruit.
For Someone To Take Photos
Thankfully, the delivery nurse was considerate and thoughtful enough to take a few pictures of my new family the moment our daughter was given to us. But other than those two pictures, I don't have photos of me and my newborn baby. I wish I would have asked for someone to take pictures of us to document this incredible life change and addition to our family.
For Some Sleep
After 15 hours of labor and three hours of active pushing, all I wanted to do was sleep. Sleeping proves to be impossible when you're in a world of pain and there's a newborn that requires your attention, though. Even at night I was so worried about leaving the newborn "unattended" while I slept, that I stayed awake and watched her breathing. If I had just a little more energy, I would have asked for a break so I can get some sleep.
To Be Held & Comforted
Going through labor and delivery can be brutal. It's painful, it's difficult, and it's emotionally draining. The experience is nothing like anything else you're sure to experience in life. So after giving birth I just wanted someone to hold me. I wanted someone to comfort me and to tell me it will all be fine. I wanted someone to hug me and I wanted to cry from hormones and exhaustion and from this brand new fear I was feeling. I wanted to be held because I just wanted everything to feel normal again.