after-pains* Warning: Some of the information in this post is not for the faint-of-heart.  I feel that the information is important for two reasons: 1. It gives an example of the ideas and procedures of the Norwegian birthing system, and 2. I have yet to find any resources that discuss some of the ‘secret’ things that can happen to a woman’s body after giving birth.  This post is only intended to give information from my own personal experience and hopefully it will give comfort to women with the same circumstances that certain ‘scary’ things can be normal.

Breast Feeding – No Discrimination?
Deciding not to breast feed is always a hot issue in Norway.  Norway prides itself in being one of the top breast feeding countries in the world.  They obviously don’t want their stats to go down and so go to extreme measures to ensure a mother breast feeds.

As mentioned in the post Having A Baby In Norway – Breast Feeding, I had decided not to breast feed.  Considering the timing of the baby, it was a wise move as Moose was on a research project up in the mountains for the first two weeks of the baby’s life and the stress of looking after a very jealous toddler and dealing with my own recovery, on top of the difficulties I have with breast feeding, would have been a little too much.  Now this doesn’t mean I didn’t want to breast feed – I would love to breast feed – but my three unsuccessful attempts was enough to make me accept my limitations (if only I had nipples of steel…lol).

However, when Lil’ Red was born I did put him to the breast to suckle straight away and for two days after I also let him suckle.  I did this for two reasons: 1. Even if I don’t breast feed, it is good for the baby t0 get the first milk, called colostrum, because it has all the antibodies and goodness to help him in the first couple of weeks of life, and 2. The suckling encourages your uterus to shrink back to normal size quicker, amongst other things, (and secretly, 3. I was hoping that this time round the breast feeding thing would work.)  After four babies the pain of the uterus contracting was a killer.  I thought there might be something wrong because as soon as I put Lil’ Red to the breast I would cramp as if I was in labour again.  My midwife said it is usual for it to hurt more with each pregnancy as your uterus has to work harder to get back to normal size again.  But don’t think you have to be a hero, the hospital staff are more than happy to give you some paracet to curve the pain.

When you walk into the maternity ward at the UNN hospital, on the door there is a sticker that reads  ‘Dette er en sone fri for diskriminering‘ (You are now entering a discrimination free zone).  This is certainly an ideal of the maternity ward but is definitely not a reality.  On the second day Lil’ Red was getting very hungry.  Even though I was putting him to the breast every two hours there was not a drop of colostrum.  I could tell that Lil’ Red didn’t understand how to suck properly and putting a big non-lactating nipple in his mouth wasn’t helping.  I couldn’t let this go on – having no milk come through frustrates mothers because they want to have a happily well fed baby.  So I broke and gave him his first bottle.  My stress floated away with all those bottle bubbles.

When asked by my midwife how the feeding was going I told her I had gone to the bottle.  She was a little surprised (as she hadn’t seen any bottle supplies because I had been hiding them).  I guess being a young midwife she could understand my wanting to keep the bottle feeding a secret while in the maternity ward.  She actually apologised at the fact that I felt I couldn’t trust my midwives with telling them I felt more comfortable bottle feeding.  My faith in the midwives respecting my decision to bottle feed was restored until I went to the hotel and was confronted with: ‘So, you don’t want to breast feed?’

If you don’t feel verbally discriminated against in the maternity ward, then you are sure to feel it physically.  The only possible way for me to bottle feed in the maternity ward was for Moose to wash and sterilise the bottles at home every day and bring them in.  I don’t mind providing my own formula (I understand the hospital doesn’t want to fork out money on formula when they only want women to breast feed) however, there are absolutely no facilities available for preparing and sanitising bottles.  This causes so much stress especially when you are waiting for your hubby to return with more bottles before your baby gets hungry again.

This is the same situation for the hospital hotel.  We had to plan ahead to make sure our little one could have food.  We had to wash the bottles in the bathroom sink.  Go down two floors to the cafe-restaurant and sterilise the bottles in the microwave used for heating pastries.  Fill the bottles up with boiling water from the coffee machine enough time beforehand as to allow them to cool so they wouldn’t be too hot for feeding time.  I think what the sign on the maternity ward door should read is: Discrimination is free – because at least we don’t charge you for the hot/sterilised water.

For no discrimination to be achieved the maternity ward and ALL midwives need to appreciate and respect a mothers decision not to breast feed and provide the facilities for non-breast feeding mothers to give their babies a safe and healthy start in life.

Headaches
After leaving the hospital I noticed I had a constant headache normally at the back where the skull and spine meet but in other places too.  It felt similar to the headaches I would get the year after my epidural mishap from my second labour.  Moose had been massaging me every night before bed but it wasn’t letting up so I went to my doctors.  I got the intern again.  She made me do all these exercises as if I was drunk – touching my nose, following objects with my eyes, raising opposite arms and legs, and tapping for reflexes etc.  My blood pressure was 106/60 – really good considering I was about 150 with pre-eclampia.  She asked me if I felt traumatised by the birth.  I said, ‘Well, in my pictures straight after the birth I look traumatised (hence, I haven’t posted them…lol).  She called my doctor to confirm results.  The diagnose… I have post traumatic stress.  Hmmm – I didn’t really understand what that was as sometimes Norwegian doesn’t translate too well into English but she said there are some ‘people’ I can talk to at the hospital about it.  Did she actually mean I have postnatal depression?  It’s hard to tell because Norwegians don’t like to call psychologists ‘psychologists’ but ‘people’.  The thought of going back to the hospital exhausted me but the intern said that I can call her any time to make an appointment with the ‘people’.  I understand that I need to accept help when I need it especially when it is offered but all in good time.  I will see how I go with the Moose-massages first.

Facing Diabetes After Pregnancy
The intern did order a blood and urine test straight away.  I was really keen to know the results as I wanted to know the condition of my body after pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.  Unfortunately the results where not good – my results where higher than when I had gestational diabetes.  More talks happened between the microbiologist, intern and doctor.  I need a proper fasting blood test but right now my body isn’t ready for it.  I will need to wait two months for my lochin to disappear first and my body to recover a little more from the pregnancy.  In the mean time I need to eat very well – ‘grønnsaker, grønnsaker, grønnsaker!’ (veggies), said the microbiologist.  So now I’ve put myself on a strict diabetes 2 diet until I am ready for my fasting blood test.  The diet will firstly give me a good start if I do have diabetes but if anything it will help me to get healthier and lose those extra baby pounds.

Lochin and Uterus Scaring
(if you are squirmish… turn away, turn away! ;D)
Lochin is the bleeding a woman has after birth.  It’s normally very heavy straight after birth, is red up to 14 days, then changes to a lighter flow and a browny-yellow colour until it disappears four to six weeks after birth.  Sometimes you can have your period during this time which will bring back the red flow again.  After having three babies already, I thought I knew what to expect.  Boy, was I wrong. Every four days my lochin would subside and on the fifth day it would return to bright red again.  This was very confusing (and scary).  Your first thought is always that some placenta might have been left behind.  (That is why it is always good to find out if the placenta is intact when you deliver it at the birth.)   I knew my placenta was all expelled so the next thought is ‘infection’.  Moose called up the hospital (and in cases like this I don’t want misinterpretations or misunderstandings) and asked about it.  The midwife told him it was too early to tell if it’s an infection.  This just boggles me.  I don’t understand why an infection should need to get bad before medical staff will recognise it – this also happens with diseases and sickness, and seems to be a Norwegian thing as I have never experienced ‘rejection’ by medical staff in Australia or England.

A couple of days later the lochin went thick and black-red.  This time I thought if it wasn’t an infection it could be a problem with my stitches or something.  So out came the mirror to check it out myself and I got the shock of my life.  I got Moose to call up the hospital to explain what I saw in Norwegian so the midwife could fully understand what was happening to my body.  She said it was my uterus scar tissue coming out and was perfectly normal.  After all my reading in books and on the net, and after three other pregnancies, I had never come across such a thing.  For the next three days I had to wait for the uterus scar to detach and fully come out.  It was like expelling another placenta.  I think I was in shock and I wouldn’t leave the house.  I felt like I had lost control of my body but certainly my relationship with it was damaged.   Afterward the scar tissue was fully expelled my lochin went back to normal.  I still feel a little fragile about the whole experience but I understand now that it was just my body working properly to heal itself after birth.

Happy Days
Even though you can face many challenges after pregnancy and birth it still doesn’t over power the fact that you have a wonderful new love in your life.  If you’d ask me if I’d do it all again – after pains and all – I’d say ‘where’s the bedroom!’ 

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