Labor of Love: Navigating Change with Courage and Grace
mamabare.co is starting a new segment in this community where women can share their own stories of pregnancy, loss, labor and motherhood. In Labor of Love, we are reminded that our stories are each so unique in their own ways, yet entirely universal.
We are lucky to have a daring and brave mama up first:
Melanie recently relocated from Montreal to New Jersey for her husband’s new job. She packed up house and her two gorgeous mini-me’s to start something new and challenging! Since becoming a mama nearly 6 years ago, she has navigated many moves and career changes with courage and grace. Here is her story of taking on that role for the first time and how her life has changed since then. Welcome Melanie!
Hi there fellow mamabares! My name is Melanie Baker. I grew up in a small northern Ontario town called Nakina. I have had the fortune of living in many amazing Canadian cities. I’ve moved from Ontario to Nova Scotia, then from British Columbia to Quebec. Now my husband and I make our home in New Jersey with our two young children.
I have worked in health care for over ten years in many different roles: as a support worker, practical nurse, registered nurse, and forever student! I love nursing. There is something very unique about helping people when they are at their most vulnerable but doing it in a way that doesn’t make them feel ashamed or embarrassed.
My religion is being outdoors. I enjoy biking, hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, and lazy days at the beach. Most people say I’m pretty grounded, and I cannot lie. I’m always the girl who can offer an honest opinion.
What was your pregnancy like?
My first pregnancy was unexpected. We took one chance and surprise! Turns out, that’s all it takes sometimes.
My sister had just lost a baby due to an ectopic pregnancy. She needed emergency surgery to remove a fallopian tube. She and her husband had been trying to conceive for a year. Here I was unmarried and not wanting to have kids. So I had a heavy heart with this news when I first found out. But after 12 weeks of waiting to tell everyone, my partner and I were already so in love with this little surprise.
What surprised you the most during pregnancy?
Pregnancy was typical. I was, at varying times, shocked, scared, excited, anxious, with crazy mood swings, tired and hungry all the time. The occasional uncontrollable crying was pretty surprising though!
Things they don’t prepare you for: if you have a queasy stomach, really bad farts and brushing your teeth can make you hardcore gag. But through trial and error, I found that iron supplements really helped for my nausea. I would sprinkle hemp hearts on everything for my insatiable hunger. Everyone has different tricks and really, it comes down to giving your body what it needs.
What were your labor bag essentials?
I packed wipes, diapers, blankets, hats and onesies. I only packed onesies for up to 7lbs though and none of them fit. So please pack multiple sizes, just in case. Must-haves in my overnight bag were snacks and drinks, heavy duty pads, nursing pads, slippers, music, a tennis ball for back massages, and aromatherapy essential oils.
For essential oils, I used a wonderful blend called Peace and Calming. This is a mixture of ylang ylang, orange, tangerine, patchouli, and blue tansy, which enhances a (yes…) peaceful and calming environment.
What was your labor like?
My baby came on his due date. After drinking camomile tea for two nights and stimulating my nipples, my labour started at 10 a.m. It was textbook progression, starting at 15 minute intervals between contractions. I took a few long walks and played some cards before I called my doctor at suppertime. Barely able to breathe, I was encouraged to come in for a checkup even though my water had not yet broken. The staff nicely informed me that with a first baby, I would likely be sent home because most women come in to the hospital too early. But surprise! I was 8cm dilated and almost completely effaced!
I had an open mind going into labor. I wanted to deliver naturally with minimal drugs. I also knew that if my baby became distressed, I would make the best decision for his health at the time.
What surprised you during labor?
If you have any healthcare training, hospital staff assume you are a well-versed professional in baby delivery. I’m a registered nurse, but specialize in mental health and addictions. So when they were talking to me in all sorts of medical jargon, I had no idea that my baby was face up until he came out looking at me. That might explain why I pushed for four hours (also something I never knew wasn’t typical). So ask questions if you don’t know what your healthcare team is talking about. It will help you better understand what is happening. I think after delivering babies every single day, doctors and nurses sometimes forget that labor is not your normal.
I never found out the sex of the baby beforehand, so the best moment for me was when they pulled him out, told me he was a boy and placed him on my chest. Also (mostly because by this point I was delirious and singing Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One”), I was so relieved that I didn’t need to have an emergency c-section.
But watch out for those “extra helpful” nurses who just start squeezing your nipples and shoving baby on your breast. Everything is happening so quickly at this point: you’ve got a nurse holding your baby, another manhandling your stomach because *SURPRISE* you still have to deliver the placenta, and the doctor is stitching you up (which is more offensive than all of labor put together!).
What were the first days like for you as a mama?
You get sent home with your bundle of joy. You may have bought the crib, changing table, blankets, onesies, burp blankets, nursing bras, diapers, diaper genie, etc. etc. etc., but no one can prepare you for those first few days.
Your body is exhausted from labor. Your hormones are drastically changing once again. You have this little demanding creature that might as well be speaking another language because they don’t know what they need or how to ask for it. And you have to guess every single time they cry. And seriously, you go through this list every hour: are you hungry? are you tired? is your stomach upset? do you need your bum changed? are you too hot? are you too cold? is it too bright? too dark? too loud? too quiet?
And once you figure out what they need, you might get 15 minutes of rest and boom! It starts all over again. Or the complete opposite occurs: when my son first slept through a feeding, I thought he was dead. I poked him, undressed him, and panicked because he was still sleeping. Turned out he was perfectly content.
Just when you start to get the swing of your new baby, the moody blues kick in. It is biological. But also, here you are in this new world that has completely changed you, your body, your life – your everything.
And you may look at your husband and resent all of these things he did to you. Maybe not everyone experiences this, but I really really did not like my partner the first month after baby. He was great and very supportive, but I never thought he could do anything right. I thought his life was still the same. He could come and go as he pleased. He was still working, still drinking and still seeing his friends. He slept through the night while I was attached to this new person I didn’t know, who needed me so desperately.
It’s rough. Anyone who tells you the first year isn’t rough is lying. And I was lucky enough to have family and friends to support me. There is nothing wrong in asking for help. So tell yourself you aren’t failing at motherhood and let someone cook you a meal.
What has been your experience transitioning from a full-time career to becoming a full-time stay-at-home mama?
Unless you always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, switching gears from being a career woman to a mother is not easy. Having said that, it’s definitely worth all the sacrifices and difficult days. When your children grow up (which they quickly do), you will not regret the time you get to spend with them when they are little.
That’s not to say there won’t be days when you have a child screaming in your face. The dishes are overflowing in the sink and there are 5 loads of laundry to do. There are no groceries in the fridge and you have been wearing the same clothes for days. At those very moments, you might wish you still had a life and a job, but those little creatures are all yours.
So if you choose to work outside the home, that’s great! And if you get to stay at home full time, awesome for you as well! Every family has to face so many unique decisions to make life work for them. While there are many opinions of what the right choices are, only you know what works for you and your family. If it turns out that what works for you is not working outside the home, you can always change.
The best thing I did for myself and my children was to find support groups of moms living in my neighborhood. I look for moms with similar parenting styles and we raise our children together.
Kids need other kids and moms need other moms. Period.