Even an OB/GYN can learn a few things when having her first baby. Especially when it doesn’t all go to plan (and when does it ever all go to plan?). We asked Dr. Adrianne Colton, M.D., to share her story as well as some tips for how to be ready to have your baby when you’re not quite ready to have your baby.
Was your pregnancy experience what you would’ve expected as an OB/GYN?
I am very much a planner in all things, so the greatest struggle of pregnancy for me was relinquishing control. Like many women, I experienced the “pregnancy milestones” – nausea, fatigue, sleep difficulties, frequent urination, swelling. (I had significant swelling after being on call for 32+ hours of being on my feet and operating – that was the start of my daily compression socks and elevated feet in the evenings and at night!) All these “normal” challenges were tolerable for me, and I knew they might occur so I was less concerned when they did.
But when my husband lost his grandfather when I was 36 weeks pregnant, I got a sudden lesson on how far off the plan this pregnancy thing could go. We figured it would be okay for him to attend the funeral in Connecticut even though I had been experiencing issues with my blood pressure. Being an OB, I knew what that could mean and had already resigned myself to needing an induction for the safety of myself and the baby. However, I was thinking I’d need to be induced only a couple of weeks earlier than my due date. I did not anticipate that things would escalate so quickly! Prenatal testing showed I was developing preeclampsia, and it was no longer safe for my son or for me to continue with the pregnancy after 37 weeks. This meant calling my husband to rush home from Connecticut for the birth of our first baby! That took some scrambling – he took an hour-long UBER ride to the airport, hopped on a plane, and flew to Richmond where my mom picked him up around midnight – just in time for a good night’s sleep before the big day. We named our baby Patrick William as an homage to both of our grandfathers.
What were the best aspects of your pregnancy?
I absolutely loved having the company of my little boy with me during the day – I still miss his movements and knowing I was doing everything to keep him safe since he was always with me. It’s harder now that he is his own independent being and in daycare – I miss the constant company.
I took my oral boards when I was 20 weeks pregnant. It was one of the most stressful experiences of my life and the culmination of all my studying/experience and education as an OB/GYN to this point. However, this was also when my little peanut started getting more active, so I felt there was a greater purpose. I knew the stress of the board exams was tough on both of us, but I also knew how important it was to manage that stress and pass my board exams so I could focus on the remainder of my pregnancy and providing the best care for my patients.
Was it comforting to have so much knowledge going into your pregnancy, or the opposite?
I was grateful to have my obstetric background to help understand some of the normal “discomforts of pregnancy.” Experiencing them first-hand has helped me to better explain some of the things my patients might expect in pregnancy.
Like I mentioned before, being pregnant has also taught me to expect the unexpected and adjust. So much for “morning” sickness – it was the afternoons that always got me. When 4pm hit, I was ready for the couch and the idea of food was no longer appealing. I could work around this by planning to eat my meals before this point and making sure to stay well-hydrated during the day. I was also aware of over-the-counter options for nausea management like Unisom and B6 for morning sickness. I usually advise prenatal vitamins before bed for most of my patients, but I knew afternoons were tough for me, so I switched to the morning.
Despite knowing what could happen, it was still difficult to predict everything. And it’s amazing how sometimes even denial can go a long way. This is why OBs still have their own OBs! I’m grateful to have had an OB who worked with me at VPFW as a physician-mom, but she knew when it came time for me to be a patient and when to make the tough call to deliver (even though I wasn’t mentally ready yet). She gave it to me straight – no hedging. I needed someone to be direct with me even when I didn’t want to hear it.
The postpartum period definitely evened the playing field. Despite knowing what to expect, nothing prepares you until the actual experience! Learning to sleep in 1-2 hour increments, 24/7, is only possible once you’re going through it – but it is possible, it’s worth it, and each day gets easier.
What are the 5 tips you would give an expecting mom now that you have gone through childbirth?
Keep ACTIVE! Pregnancy is not a disability – the more you are active, the easier childbirth can be. If you exercised before pregnancy, you can continue to exercise, making some adjustments in activity and weight restrictions as your pregnancy progresses. Even getting out and walking most days of the week is beneficial. Ask your physician about a referral for ACAC’s p.r.e.p. program (physician referred exercise program) to start the process prior to pregnancy!
Try to start preparing meals approximately 1 month in advance of your due date. Freezer meals are great, especially in those first couple of weeks when your schedule is so much more unpredictable (or predictably sleepless). Check out these 25 easy freezer meal ideas before the baby comes. If friends or family offer, a meal train is a special treat.
Pack a hospital bag around 34 weeks. You may realize there are things you want to add or take out along the way, but having the basics already done is a major stress reliever and is helpful if you end up in the hospital earlier than planned without an opportunity to pack something yourself. A few items to remember:
- Underwear (you may find you prefer the hospital mesh underwear the first few days!)
- Nursing bra
- PJs or loose nightgown/sweatpants/tank tops
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Face wash or makeup wipes/ Shampoo, conditioner, and soap
- Socks and slippers
- 1-2 Baby outfits: socks/ mittens/ hat (size Newborn and 0-3 months)
Having a birth plan can be nice, but be willing to stray from it if things do not go as “planned.” You can have expectations of what you would like, and this is helpful for your OB to know, but the primary goal and birth plan should be “healthy baby, healthy mom.” Sometimes these babies have a plan of their own (and don’t consult with us first!). We have to accommodate their plans – it may mean having a c-section when you wanted a vaginal birth, it could mean getting an epidural when you planned a natural childbirth, or it could mean having an operative delivery when the plan was for you to deliver with only maternal pushing. When it means the health and safety of you and your baby, it’s important to be willing to adjust your plans.
You can do it! Relax. Breathe. Focus. You are ready.
Any inspiration to share?
“Whether your pregnancy was meticulously planned, medically coaxed, or happened by surprise, one thing is certain – your life will never be the same.” ― Catherine Jones