Posts Tagged ‘recovery’

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: 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 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. 

My Pregnancy: Week 1 Postpartum

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Week Postpartum 1

Another beautiful baby graced the world with its presence this week—my sweet baby. We spent half of this week in the hospital and the other half at home. Three pregnancies in and I felt more confident than before. A few little things I’ve learned along the way brought me comfort in the hospital this time around:

  • I shifted my expectations somewhat, no longer really hoping to sleep much in the way that I hoped with our other children in those newborn days. Accepting that my child is going to spit up on me, causing me to go through three shirts some nights, makes the actual experience less frustrating.
  • I learned with the last pregnancy that changing into my own clothes helped me feel at home. This time as soon as they removed the catheter, I transitioned to my clothes that were nursing friendly.
  • I limited visits. The day is surprisingly full with nurses and doctors visiting, nursing, getting used to baby, sifting through paperwork, trying to take in your newborn, ordering and eating food to coincide with medication times (if on pain relievers), updating family and friends, and recovery. Those first 48 hours I got only 4 hours of sleep yet I didn’t have a spare moment.
  • I took my time getting baby onto social media. We share on a private page with family and a few close friends that live scattered around the country. We don’t have smart phones, so photos went on that private page when it was first convenient for us. I didn’t rush and found confidence in knowing that prior to social media, just ten years ago, people used to wait days or weeks to see a photo or update about baby. People can wait.
  • I bathed as soon as able to stand for a few minutes safely. With my first baby I put off bathing, partly in fear of the healing and partly because I didn’t want my husband to have to help and see me in all my postpartum mess and glory. This time I utilized the nurses who were more than willing to help get me undressed and cleaned up. I still use the restroom with privacy from hubby and this didn’t change in the hospital; he did help me dress and get to the bathroom as needed. Negotiate your own comfort zone as you go, but be open and willing to ask for help without shame. Nurses are there to help in all aspects of your recovery.
  • I didn’t try to cover up. I remember my mother-in-law holding up a towel while I tried to nurse my first baby. He wouldn’t latch and all I recall from that moment was my anxiety mounting while visitors chatted in the background. This time I either more strongly advocated for visitors to leave when needed or I didn’t try to cover up so much, particularly with nurses (they’ve seen it all). Your hospital room is a sacred space, the initial place where you and your baby learn to thrive in this world. Let it all hang out.
  • Utilize the services they offer, especially lactation consulting. This was my third time around nursing. I’ve nursed two children successfully for over a year each. Still I welcomed the consultant when she first stopped by unasked. I then sought her out the moment I noticed difficulty with nursing (soreness).
  • Let the nurses assist you (significant other and family too). With each child there was a night that proved especially difficult. I was tired, in pain, and at emotion’s end. Hubby slept at home each night due to back pain and sub-par sleeping options at the hospital. With my second child my mattress started to slide down. I remember finally using the call button as my C-sectioned-self tried unsuccessfully to push it back where it belonged as my child screamed, ready to nurse. This time the nurses rounded just as I FINALLY got my very sleepless baby to sleep, waking her. Let people help you. Picking up on how frazzled I seemed, my nurse offered to take the baby just for an hour or two to let me rest. I’m so glad I allowed it; she rocked her to sleep that once, offering me a major reprieve at a crucial moment.

Given the uncomfortable end to my (any?) pregnancy I was a little surprised to find myself missing being pregnant by the week’s end. While I’m still sure we’re done having children I find myself nostalgic already in a way that is uncharacteristic of me. Maybe it’s the hormones. Ultimately, it’s the end of the baby-making era for us and I feel it. In a way I enjoy the late, long nights. It may be that this isn’t my first rodeo so I’m just used to them. Add in there the nostalgia factor and I know all too well these are the last nights that I’ll have a newborn to enjoy.  With that said, another week of life, new life, is in the books.

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. 

Tips for Your Postpartum Transition

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Tips for Postpartum transitionYesterday, you were pregnant. Yesterday, your doctor/nurse/midwife saw you at least once a week (or, if you were like me and had a pregnancy concern, every other day). Yesterday, everyone wanted you off your feet, wanted to make sure you didn’t lift that heavy box, wanted to make sure you didn’t eat that sushi you so desperately craved.

Today? Today, your baby is here. Your doctor won’t see you for another 6 weeks, your best friend is already calling for a coffee date, and you’re supposed to automatically know how to do it all without guidance or support. Basically, today you’re on your own.

Recently a number of my friends and I were discussing this article about the sad state of postpartum life that is reality for many women in the United States. Personally, this rings true for my own experience. After being seen every other day for the last 2 weeks of my pregnancy and basically surround by people and instructions, I suddenly found myself clueless with a new infant and unsure where to turn or who to turn to. My daughter was seen 3 times by her pediatrician and once by a drop in home nurse in the 6 weeks that I waited for my own checkup. I found well-meaning family overwhelming and stressful, rather than helpful. Breastfeeding was hard and I had no idea where to turn. I even had to ask my husband to watch for the signs of postpartum depression, since I realized that no one else was.

So, what can a woman do to lessen this postpartum isolation? Here are a few great ways that you can help ensure a smooth transition after baby arrives.

  • Establish reliable help. For me, that would have been my husband, who took some time off of work. For you, that may be a mother, sister, family member, or good friend. Whoever it is, be sure that they understand that you’re looking for more than someone to hold the baby while you keep house. Choose someone who will really help keep the house running while you recover and bond with your baby.
  • No guests for a week, at least. Of course, everyone is eager to meet baby, so explain that you will be more than happy to see them all in a week or two. If you do receive guests early on, try to limit the length of those visits and establish clear hours when visitors are allowed to come by.
  • Find your community. At the time I had no idea that a community full of women who were ready and wanting to help me was literally at my fingertips. The internet, and more specifically Facebook, is a wonderful resource for the new mom. Your local La Leche League, postpartum support groups, mommy meet ups and any number of others forms of assistance can often be found with a simple search.
  • Be your own advocate. Your doctor or nurse will typically be happy to take a phone call to answer questions and many even offer email as a method of communicating with patients. Call, ask questions, and trust your gut. If something seems off, call for an appointment earlier than that 6 week checkup.
  • Look into hiring a postpartum doula. When I was pregnant I was well aware of what a doula does, but had no clue that postpartum doulas exist. I wish I had. According to Dona International, “the role of a postpartum doula is to help a woman through her postpartum period and to nurture the family.” While what each doula will do will vary, the additional help could definitely ease the transition after baby arrives.

What was life like for you when you brought baby home? What tips would you give new moms on surviving, and hopefully, thriving in those first few weeks?

Kate Cunha is a mostly stay-at-home mom of a 2.5 year old little girl. Living in the Pacific Northwest, she’s always on the hunt for good friends and good coffee.