Posts Tagged ‘fourth trimester’

My Pregnancy: Postpartum Week 6

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

postpartumIt’s the end of the blogging journey for us, six weeks after baby’s birth. We’ve covered those first hesitant weeks of hoping this pregnancy would go all the way to feelings around gender and managing work while symptomatic. I spent time talking about the rough and happy parts of pregnancy and the great anticipation of waiting until baby finally arrives. I spoke to the exhausting challenges of having several children and my journey as a C-section mama, anticipating another cesarean birth. I spoke to the healing of it all, the challenges of breastfeeding, and now here we are.

What would I, as a mom of three, want to impart on a new family? If asked advice, what would I want them to know?

  • Life changes, and with that comes grief. It could be you wanted the natural birth and had an epidural or C-section. Or maybe baby came earlier, much earlier, than expected. Maybe you experience loss in those late nights when you just want sleep. When your friends want to catch dinner and drinks but you can’t stand the thought of leaving your young one or have to find the money for a sitter, this great bundle of joy is also a source of great change and sometimes it hurts. Life abounds around you but give a little space for your losses and don’t feel guilty. Process that pain.
  • Get out! It’s worth the trouble. If you can’t afford a sitter, simply accept when someone offers their time. You can also trade—you watch my kid an hour and I’ll watch yours an hour. Grab coffee with a friend, dinner with your hubby, run a few errands, take a longer shower, or just go for a quiet walk. Make it 20 minutes or 4 hours, whatever you can manage. If you don’t have someone, start investing in a person, a friend, someone else’s babysitter, a church member, or someone else with whom you can build trust. I’m not saying you need to go on three-day vacations, but I truly believe sanity can be found in short bursts of autonomy.
  • You have the opportunity to be more vulnerable than ever before. Sure, you can try to tidy up before someone brings you dinner or you can just let your life be as it is. Accepting help is a form of vulnerability. Or maybe you want to cover your tears when you cry for “no reason.” Don’t try to play strong when in reality you are super hero strength! Who else could manage staying up through the night, changing diapers endlessly, rationed showering, balancing one or more children, feeding non-stop, and all the other ceaseless needs of children while hyped up on a large dose of hormones and, for some, pain meds? Batman move aside!
  • You look great, mama. In all your swollen feet-dirty hair- comfy clothes glory, you are a rock star. How you “look” doesn’t matter, but I know deep down it probably does. So I say embrace the belly, the leaky breasts, and the stain-covered shirts. It’s the season of life you’re living. Live it. When you’re ready, take some walks and pull out something besides yoga gear—I find it lifts my spirits to carve out just a little space to care for myself.
  • Grace, grace, grace. Offer your mother grace when she says not quite the right thing. She’s learning to be a grandma just like you’re learning to be a mom. Same with hubby. Offer yourself grace when you mess up or think you did. It happens. Your worth is not dependent upon doing everything “right,” whatever that even means.
  • Break the rules you set for yourself. Maybe that means having a few disposables on hand when you committed to cloth. Use the co-sleeper, swing, or whatever else you have in your arsenal to let the baby sit while you take your shower or fix a lunch, even if it means baby cries for a minute and you swore you’d never make let your baby cry. A couple of minutes are ok when it brings you some respite to meet the day with renewed strength and patience.  Sit with the feelings of wanting to run away instead of covering them up because you said you really would “enjoy every minute.” It’s hard. Pretending it is not doesn’t help.
  • You got this mama.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and now a newborn gal. She is taking in every moment of every day because, let’s be honest, she’s not getting much sleep. 

My Pregnancy: Postpartum Week 5

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

postpartum week 5Postpartum anxiety and depression are very real things for many mamas. It is not something I can speak about from personal experience, so I will link a resource below. I will speak to my daily experience as just a typical overwhelmed mom—I imagine all new mamas feel overwhelmed.

I feel overwhelmed for short bursts about half the days of the week. I feel tapped out, sometimes as early as the moment I wake. I’m an introvert and spend all my hours with children. I’m the classic prototype for the flourishing mommy presence on the Internet, particularly in Facebook groups these days. I did the working mommy thing for a year last year but I’ve mostly been a stay-at-home-mom. It’s very isolating unless you make effort to connect with others. For some mamas I’ve heard it’s isolating even when you make the effort to connect or are already well connected.

I’m introverted in my socialization. I don’t say that as an excuse but rather to emphasize that it’s not my style to initiate friendship. At the playground I sit to myself. I am not one to jump at social outings like mommy and me or MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) groups. Did I mention I’m already tapped out? Strangely the bonding with other people over three feet tall would probably do me good but it comes at the cost of energy, which I have very little of these days. Luckily I have a couple of mamas I can rely on when I need some contact.

My occasional isolation plays with my mind sometimes. Seeing the clock says only 9 AM and knowing I won’t come in contact with another adult for eight more hours can make me feel a little on edge. I get sad and feel desperate for a half-day here or there. I have short patience with my children sometimes and then feel guilty that I’m not fully engaged with them all day. I get anxious, a little fearful sometimes. I lend this, again, to my years in social work and hospital chaplaincy, fields that tend to see tragedy far too often, far too up close. Every night I check our doors to make sure they’re locked even though I am fairly certain I already locked them.

I say all of this to share that being a mama is hard for everyone. We’re human. But if it’s more than what I’m describing—if there is no hope, little or no connection with your child, strong feelings of guilt, sadness, unexplainable or frequent tears—talk to your doctor. If there is deep anxiety that harm will come your way or to your child, maybe you don’t often leave the house because of that fear, you can’t sleep or eat because your mind leaves you too tense or shaky, talk to your doctor.

There’s more. I can’t speak to your specific situation, but again talk to your doctor or read more about postpartum depression, psychosis, anxiety, and OCD whether you think it’s you or not. Because if it’s not you it is someone else, maybe even another mama you know who could use your support.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and now a newborn gal. She is taking in every moment of every day because, let’s be honest, she’s not getting much sleep. 

My Pregnancy: Week 4 Postpartum

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Week Postpartum 4We’re four weeks postpartum and I’m starting to feel human again. Granted, it’s the barely human kind of human. I’m still up every two hours on average in the night. I think the hardest part of the day is after that 4 AM feeding when I start to go back to sleep only to have my preschooler wake at 5. I get him settled back in and the toddler wakes at 6. I’m essentially up at four most days. As hubby goes to work at 4 AM, there are few options for reprieve.

None of my three cesarean births had complications. Healing came with, overall, relative ease. This time at week four I am still slightly sore and a little careful around my rambunctious sons but am otherwise back to my old self, or some squishy, sleep deprived, breast tender, super love-filled version of myself.

It took three months with each of our last two children to feel “normal” again. I remember with our second son my husband and I had a moment where we looked at each other and essentially said “we got this” with a confident smile and sigh of relief. This time we’ve hit that stride at a month in. This could be because I’m used to having the chaos of two children so any illusions of control or high expectations are out the window. I don’t struggle these days as much to accept our fate as a family with young kids. I’ll clean up the mess later.

Also, this time, she just seems to fit more quickly. With our first child I struggled to discover “who I am” in conjunction with a wee little one. And, to be fair, that question of who I am, what was the point of those two master’s degrees, what will become of the career I worked so hard to establish–that’s still there in the back of my mind. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t creep up sometimes in the dark of night. But this time around there wasn’t a distinguished moment or transition of seeing that this was my baby, my whole world. She integrated from the moment she was in this world, before if that’s possible.

All that said, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. We aren’t a yelling type of family. I don’t like to yell nor do I find it the most effective strategy with my children anyway. That said, I’ve yelled more in the last month than in all of the last four years combined. Once hubby went back to work our two-and-a-half-year old really discovered mommy has little ability to execute her authority post-surgery and in the midst of nursing a newborn around the clock. So when I hear him coloring on the wall in the other room I yell. And I use his middle name a lot.

Hubby and I are also a bit on the back burner. We spend time together daily but it’s mostly in the context of kids playing loudly a room away or in between us. I’m also still consumed with nursing challenges. So we abide for now. We’ve figured out a way to pause our relationship a bit. We have nap time and evenings on the weekend. Overall we don’t let the busy-ness and stress of three young kids eat at our relationship or get us frustrated with each other. We try to offer a little more grace, remembering we’re a team confident that in the coming weeks we’ll find a rough schedule and carve out time.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and now a newborn gal. She is taking in every moment of every day because, let’s be honest, she’s not getting much sleep. 

My Pregnancy: Postpartum Week 3

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Week Postpartum 3Breastfeeding, I’ve learned, doesn’t necessarily get easier with each baby. Nursing was a painfully long lesson this time around. It involved learning anew my own expectations of myself as a mother, deeper understanding of why some might stop breastfeeding, and how I can trust my child and myself to figure out our way.

With our boys I struggled with a few weeks of sensitivity and one bout of mastitis each, about 6 weeks into nursing. I don’t want to downplay the challenges. I remember taking a deep breath before those early feedings, sometimes psyching myself up because I knew the initial pain that was soon to come. You’d think after nursing two children, each for a year, I would know enough to nurse number three with no trouble. I didn’t, but I also did.

I didn’t know enough in the sense that I didn’t trust myself. I couldn’t remember nursing a newborn as it was over two years ago. It started with a cracked nipple within the first 48 hours. Over the course of eight very painful and impossible weeks that included mastitis and two bouts of thrush I lost faith in my ability and knowledge. I poured over very helpful websites and sought out help from two lactation consultants. I was doing everything right, so far as we could tell. The consultants checked baby for ties (none) and said the latch looked great. They offered various suggestions and possibilities but all my symptoms were mixed up. What pain came from thrush versus a bad latch versus milk blister versus large breasts not being held in a supportive bra and so on was hard to figure when it all just hurt so much. There were so many things going wrong it seemed. Every feeding, with varying amounts of ease and patience, I negotiated with baby to open big but the pain continued. We became well versed in things I never needed before: antibiotics, anti-fungal medication, gentian violent, probiotics, vinegar, and more.

Turns out I knew myself. At some point, once the thrush and mastitis both settled (along with the flu-like virus I enjoyed at two weeks postpartum), I let other people fade into the background. I looked down at my baby and trusted that we could figure it out. I didn’t throw out all the helpful advice. Quite the opposite, their encouragement, listening ears, and inside tips got me through many feedings. The go-to suggestion of friends and consultants was to get more of my breast in the baby’s mouth. I would re-latch and re-latch through tears and gasps of pain trying to get the ever-elusive deep suckle. When I stopped forcing it and allowed her to take the lead something changed. While waiting on the mouth to be wide open worked for my other children, my daughter went against the grain. As I trusted her to pull my nipple into her mouth I noticed the pain began to subside. She knew what to do. One breast quickly settled into routine while the other took another week of effort before nursing finally became comfortable—at 10 weeks.

That was a long two months. Had my husband not been home for three weeks I certainly would have stopped because of the amount of time I spent nursing, reading about nursing, talking about nursing, stressing about nursing, and trying to ease the pain of nursing.

I also found in me deep expectations. I nursed two; there’s no good reason I can’t do it again I told myself. I wanted so badly to give her what her brothers got (breastmilk for a year or so). I felt guilty at the thought of quitting but I also couldn’t stand the pain—the burning, the shooting-knives into my chest, the pain of rolling over in bed, hugging my son, or simply wearing clothing as my breasts were too tender to stand a mere layer of cotton. I understand why people choose to end breastfeeding because I mulled on it daily for nearly two months.

At week three I was really struggling. It’s rough stuff, mama. I appreciate that some people nurse with ease. I do now, at ten weeks postpartum as I write looking back. I also know that nursing can be really, really hard. Even more frustrating, it can be really, really hard even when the lactation consultants say everything looks good. I can see how women try and then transition to formula for this (or other) reasons. I could have been ok with myself had I transitioned to formula feeding. I dug down and managed to make it to the other side. I’m so happy I did. Something that caused such pain is now comfortable, even healing, as I cozy up to my gal each feeding. We made it. We did it, she and I.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and now a newborn gal. She is taking in every moment of every day because, let’s be honest, she’s not getting much sleep.  

My Pregnancy: Postpartum Week 2

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

postpartum week 2Our first full week at home came went smoothly enough. I think with each child, generally speaking, the additional challenges and juggling come with more experience to help guide you. For this reason I have not found this postpartum experience to take more effort or provide more stress. Hubby took three weeks off of work and that proved essential to us easing back into our new normal. He focused mostly on our two preschoolers and me so I could focus on the challenges of breastfeeding this third time around (next week’s blog) and C-section recovery.

I camped out on our couch for about a month for each pregnancy. Lying down and getting up took extra effort and I wanted to avoid straining myself much in those first crucial weeks of healing. Hubby said his job was to defend the borders of Baby Central Station.

My central station includes a variety of essentials to make it through:

  • Blanket and pillow, big enough for sleeping but small enough to not get in the way. Also great for propping up legs, elbows, etc. for ideal comfort during feeding
  • Nursing pillow for both nursing or when we’ve had to bottle feed from time to time
  • Big insulated cup (32 ounces) with lid and straw. No sweating for cold drinks, lid for protection from other kids and random incidents
  • Remote controls
  • Phone
  • Wipes, wet bag, and diapers (I eventually moved the wet bag to the bathroom once able to walk more easily)
  • Camera and cord to connect it to my…
  • Laptop
  • Safe space for baby to sleep (co-sleeper for us)
  • A few changes of clothes for baby, extra sheet for co-sleeper, and an extra shirt for me
  • Burp cloths
  • Nipple cream, nursing pads, lip balm, lotion

I was camped out at the station most of my day during those first weeks getting up to bathe, use the restroom, and other small simple tasks. Recovery does involve moving around to help foster healing. Aside from having hubby and family around to help in key ways, I also found a few things eased my first couple of weeks at home:

  • Drop the act of independence. Take a deep breath and gracefully ask for help. Say thank you but don’t feel indebted. You are doing indispensable work “just” sitting with baby. Include children, if any, in simple tasks to assist you. My boys would grab a diaper or take my plate to the counter and enjoyed the opportunity to be included.
  • When possible (I know, you’re tired), set up your space for the next feed. Your future self will thank you. If you wait, baby will be waking and fussy, not sleepy and content. Fill up that cup of water, grab more burp cloths, or whatever else you need.
  • Get away from your spot from time to time. We packed up the kids and hubby drove us (since I couldn’t at first) just to get a drink or small treat from the drive thru. This helped ward off some cabin fever for me while staying relatively simple. It also allowed me to slowly gain confidence in my healing. Very short walks outside for a few minutes also gave me space to sustain the stresses of the first weeks.
  • Let go of expectations around dishes, clothes, clean floors, and messes in general. Sometimes I was too slow-moving to get to my toddler before he wrote on the walls with crayon. Other times I sat nursing as I watched my preschooler make a mess with play-dough or his bowl of popcorn. With most things you can always get to cleaning/fixing/asking someone else to deal with it later.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and now a newborn gal. She is taking in every moment of every day because, let’s be honest, she’s not getting much sleep.