The secret weapon

Every once in awhile, someone will ask me this question:

“Is there anything you didn’t know about birth that you wish someone would have told you ahead of time?”

By the time I was 39 weeks pregnant with Animal, I was 100% sure that I knew everything there was to know about labor and birth. I had read everything I could get my hands on–books, articles, research studies, websites, etc. I had talked with countless women who were experienced in natural childbirth. I asked my midwife everything under the sun.

In the last month of pregnancy, I had covered one wall of my bedroom with pictures and descriptions of every position and comfort measure known to woman. I wanted to make sure I could easily reference these during labor. (And I did!) I walked a lot. I leaned on counters, sinks, and on my bed. I sat on the toilet to relieve the pressure of a 9lb baby impatiently pressing down into my pelvis. I sat on the birth ball and rocked. I slow danced with B. I swayed and moaned and hypnotized myself. I found my rhythm, my unique ritual. There were no surprises.

Until a few moments after my baby was born. Until the afterpains came.

I knew that there would be some mild-ish contractions, to expel the placenta. I knew there would be some cramping, as my uterus tightened up. I remembered the aching I felt every time I breastfed my firstborn. But in no way was I prepared for the pain that immediately followed birth. I later learned that afterpains can be more intense as you have more babies. I really had no idea that they even existed, considering I had been completely numbed from the epidural during my first two births. I wonder sometimes if the terrible cramping I experienced was due to the Cytotec my midwife gave me orally immediately following the birth. But what I really wonder is why I did not find these afterpains mentioned in any of the books I had read. Maybe everyone thinks, “Hey, you just went through the pain of childbirth, and now you have this beautiful infant on your chest and you’re so wrapped up in the bliss of Babyland that you just don’t notice too much.”

Well I did. That’s for sure. It hurt so badly that I wanted the baby off of me. In the video we took, you can hear me saying “This is so unfair! My baby has been born and I’m still having CONTRACTIONS!” For me, the contractions were all well and good when there was a baby coming out of the deal. But at that point in time, I really didn’t give a flying fuck what was going on with my uterus. It was terrible.

Somewhere along the line, someone (God bless your soul, whoever you are) brought in a hot rice sock and placed it on my lower abdomen. The relief it brought was amazing.

That rice sock got some serious use. Not only did I use it for the first week or so before EVERY nursing session, I also used it to ease the stiff neck that plagued me from trying to learn how to breastfeed. Later, I would wrap it around my breasts to encourage letdown while I pumped. I utilized it again and again during TWO boughts of mastitis when I came down with influenza and was bedridden for two weeks. The thing was a savior to me.

And so, I want to make sure my clients have the option of a rice sock. Since I don’t have the funds to go buying the fancy schmancy version, I searched the web for tips on how to make my own. Almost everything I read told me to use an old tube sock. Fill it with rice, tie up the end. Voila. Well folks, there is no way I’m pulling out an old sock for my clients to use on their most tender parts.

And so, today, I visited the thrift store and picked out some scraps of material. I came home, lifted the sewing machine that my mother-in-law gifted to me, and took it out of its case. I opened up the instruction manual, carefully following the directions on how to wind the bobbin, thread the machine (wow! complicated!) and sew a straight stitch and a blanket stitch. I cut the material, figuring out how exactly it would work. I sewed. I filled the long rectangular pillow full of rice. I sewed it shut. I SEWED. Amazingly, this thing came out looking really, really nice. I bet you would never guess that I don’t actually know how to sew.

All I can say is that I am totally addicted. And still, the thought of me sewing makes me crack up. Every time. Damn, I’m domesticated. And proud!


5 Responses to “The secret weapon”

  1. 1 antropologa March 18, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    How neat! I know, what a great feeling of accomplishment.

    Sewing machines ARE complicated. I always have to pore over the manual when I fire it up and it’s been a while since the last time.

    When I first got my machine, I did something that made a needle fly up, so until I took lessons, I hunched over that thing wearing ski goggles. I’m still kind of scared of it.

    Good work!

  2. 2 Louisa March 18, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Consider buying a big bag of raw flax seed and substituting your rice for the flax. Flax is very oil rich and so heat faster and retains heat better than rice. It also doesn’t get that scorchy smell that rice sometimes can. You’re right though, afterpains SUCK and heat is magic…

  3. 3 shan March 19, 2007 at 5:18 am

    love the flax seed packs.
    I had afterpains so bad when nursing my second baby that I actually had to psych myself up before each nursing.

    Oh, and now that you know the basics of operating a sewing machine, you can sew all your kids’ halloween costumes. Fun.

  4. 4 liz March 29, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    hee, hee, hee, I’m sewing too!!!

  5. 5 Libby April 9, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    I realize this was writen some time ago, but I was reading your posts about how your first births went…. and… DITTO!!! I had the same deal at 19…. and ecampsia to boot…. and while I feel the two cesareans I had in my late 20’s were totally justified (I have a very jumpy uterus and my son was lying transverse… no way he was coming out at home!)… I still would have given my pinky toes for home births. Anyway, the whole reason I found your blog was because I am researching squatting. As a wannabe yoga instructor, I feel it’s very important for us women in general. But especially for childbearing!

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