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One of the first things my mother said to me when I got pregnant was how terrific she felt while pregnant and how it would probably be the same for me. Well ladies, let me just slay that mythical unicorn right now and call it what it is, a big steaming pile.

My mother had Crohn’s disease so she was very sick prior to her pregnancy which probably had a lot to do with her feeling so good . As far as I can tell there wasn’t a whole lot of that during each of my three pregnancies. I’m not trying to scare you first time pregnant Mamas. I’m giving you the gift of truth. Pregnancy is rough. Your body is not your own and I want you to know those glowing, happy, feeling great mamas are NOT the norm.

The Secret Sauce of “Pregnancy Glow”

You want to know what that pregnancy glow consists of – sweat and oil. There’s a reason they say you’ve got a bun in the oven. You feel like an oven. I myself had the misfortune of having two of my babies in the miserable heat of summer (July and August) and hot doesn’t begin to describe it. Near the end of my August pregnancy, there were several occasions when the temperature reached above 70 degrees in the office I worked in and I had to be sent home because the heat made me so sick. Whatever the thermostat says, add at least 10 degrees due to your baby oven. The oil is not much better.

My skin has always been acne prone, but nothing could have prepared me for the horror show that my skin became during pregnancy with my daughters. All that extra estrogen coursing through my veins made literal mountains out of mole hills on my face. Though I did have fabulous skin when I was pregnant with my son.

You Never Forget Having PUPPS

But while I had no acne, I got the PUPPS (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy) rash late in my pregnancy with him. If you’ve ever had this rash you don’t soon forget it. Imagine taking a whip, setting it on fire and striking it all over your body. Yup, that is the horror of PUPPS and for most women the only real cure is giving birth. For me it got worse AFTER I gave birth.

Every Symptom In The Book

I had almost every pain and problem of pregnancy you read about in the pregnancy bible, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” I spent the majority of my time with my head over a toilet bowl or finding concealed places on the side of the road to toss my cookies. I’ve marked my pregnancy territory over much of Orange and Sullivan Counties.

I had pelvic pain like nobody’s business. I had Braxton Hicks Contractions (a.k.a. practice contractions) so painful I couldn’t walk. So if your doctor, friend or your mom tries to convince you they are painless you can call shenanigans on them.

High Risk Mamas Are My Heroes

I count myself lucky that I only had the most common aches, pains, and challenges of pregnancy. Those mamas with high risk pregnancies, on bed rest for months, you ladies are my heroes. You are a testament to motherly love!

So why I am telling you about my pregnancy miseries? It’s not so you run screaming from the pregnancy test aisle at the drugstore. It’s to let you know that it’s normal. There’s nothing worse than wondering where the hell your glow is? Where is this happy go lucky pregnancy people speak of?

Let’s stop putting unrealistic expectations of pregnancy on new moms. Pregnancy and labor suck out loud. There’s no doubt about it.

Pregnancy Is All About The End Game

Pregnancy is the preview for the coming attraction of parenting. They’ll be many days of worry, many nights of misery and many moments of pure heart melting joy like when you hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time or when you meet that little person who’s been using your bladder as a trampoline for 9 months. So breathe deep the smell of their little fresh-from-the-womb faces. That’s what makes it all worth it.

Pregnancy is all about the end game. I look at my kids and think, “What wouldn’t I have gone through to have you?” Most people wouldn’t willingly go through the emotional and physical upheaval that pregnancy puts you through without expecting the reward at the end.

The Real Unicorns

If you know a surrogate who selflessly goes through the misery of pregnancy, knowing they are walking away with the scars and no baby, well then my friend there just might be a real life unicorn in your midst. As for the myth of “easy” pregnancy, consider it slayed.

P.S. If you laughed while reading this post and are pregnant or just gave birth and peed a little let me just say, “Welcome to motherhood!”

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent Magazine when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This frugal, “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on Money Saving Mom and Mamapedia.

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Scarier Than A Costume?

So as usual while brainstorming ideas for this week’s post, one idea keeps pushing its way to the front of the line at the club even though I tell it to wait its turn. I try to turn my attention to Halloween which will ultimately be over by the time this is published and there’s that thought again which is even scarier than any costume and the reason being is that I can’t take it off. It’s my pooch. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. That lovely little belt of skin that hangs around your mid-section like a fanny pack. Maybe if it had the functionality of a fanny pack I wouldn’t mind it existing there on my body. This is not baby weight. I’m definitely pre-baby weight and it’s still hanging out, chilling like it has no intention of getting its lazy butt up off the couch and looking for a new place to live. I’m getting stronger at the gym, doing my best to find the body I once had, but the truth is that body is gone.

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It’s Moved In So I’m Fixing Up A Room

So I have a choice, keep trying to fight it or just accept it and build it a bedroom in the basement. It’s not ever going to move out and I need to accept that. There’s no amount of time or crunches that fixes skin that was stretched to accommodate the growth of three babies. Sure there may be painful surgery, but that’s really not the route I’m willing to go.

Flat Stomach Daydreams

I had my gallbladder out when I was three months postpartum with my son and that was a nightmare I don’t want to relive anytime soon. At first losing weight was exciting, to see my body changing and getting stronger. But the more changes I see, the more the pooch stays the same. It’s not like I’m mourning my ability to wear a bikini because I wasn’t the type to wear one before. I’ve always been on the modest side. Maybe I would have worn more mid-drift shirts when I was younger if I knew the option was going to be off the table permanently at some point. But then again, probably not. As I said, it’s not like that for me, missing the chance to show the world my flat tummy. Though it might be nice to have a picture just so I can remember what it looked like. Then again, that’s not really helpful for moving toward acceptance now is it?

The Emergence Of The Bump

I have pictures of those first few months when I was pregnant with my first child. Back then I was excited to FINALLY have proof of the life growing inside me. Not that my face full of hormonal acne wasn’t enough for me, but there certainly nothing that produces that warm and fuzzy feeling like the first glimpse of the baby bump. I remember telling my husband when it got closer to delivery time that if he was ever called to make the choice, if something went wrong during delivery that he was to choose our daughter’s life over mine. That’s what motherhood is all about. So I’ve decided that since I can’t erase the stretch marks, or magically tighten the skin then I must choose to love it. I must not look away from the mirror when changing my clothes. I must force myself to remember that a mother’s body was built to nurture and comfort and that doesn’t stop once your baby is born.

Mother’s In Motion

I think we forget all the ways our bodies were built for comfort. The other day I was watching a fellow mom in my church small group swaying back and forth with her baby. It made me think of how I’m always swaying and rocking with or without a baby in my arms. Maybe it’s muscle memory. Maybe it’s just to remind us that we are meant to be comfortable and safe and maybe a flat tummy with visible abs just isn’t important.

I may never love my pooch, but it's Sydney's comfort and there's beauty in that.

I may never love my pooch, but it’s Sydney’s comfort and there’s beauty in that.

Sydney’s Pillow

My youngest daughter Sydney is 15 months old and her personality is starting to come out. When I tell people she’s cat-like with her affection they laugh. She’s not one to snuggle and she turns from kisses. But when she’s ready, she climbs up on my lap and lifts my shirt. She seeks out the pooch I try to keep covered. Then she lays her little head down and finds the comfort she’s seeking. I wonder if she remembers that she lived there. Sometimes her eyes close and she falls asleep. My pooch is Sydney’s pillow and there’s something really beautiful in that. None of us want to look like a pillow, least of all me, but we forget our bodies were not built to be looked it. They were built with purpose.

Cute And Comfortable

Our children don’t love us because they think we’re physically perfect. My oldest daughter Hannah has taken to saying, “You know mommy, you’re cute. Why are you so cute?” She doesn’t say beautiful or pretty, but cute. And you know what? I think I know why. Our kids don’t need us beautiful, they need us cute and comfortable and soft. They need us there for them, physically carrying or rocking or kissing their little faces. They need us cute and maybe we need to let go of what the world tells us is beautiful in order to love the pooch instead of trying to get rid of it. I may never see it as a badge of honor, though I know full well what my body went through to house three humans. But I don’t need to be tough or hard or have a flat tummy again. I don’t need to love it for the sake of loving myself or reminding me what my body has done. Those three amazing people walking around are the only real proof I need. I need to choose to love my pooch for the comfort it is to my child. I’m their comfort for now and always, even when they’re grown and gone. I suspect that’s when I’ll get a rocking chair, because I’ll always be rocking and swaying and comforting whether my babies are there or not.

I’m built for comfort now. I’m built for motherhood now. The pooch is here to stay so it’s time I accept that it is just a part of what makes me “cute” to my oldest daughter. Someday she may brush her fingers over the lines on my face or twist them into my graying hair. I will still be cute to her. She doesn’t need to see me as beautiful. I’m lucky to have my husband for that. But being the walking embodiment of maternal love for my children, that’s enough for this body of mine.

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While I summon the courage to publish this post along with photos of my pooch pillow, the soundtrack in my head is the Baha Men’s, “Who let the dogs out?” Just replace the word dogs with pooch. And I let the pooch out, that’s who.

Where’s Waldo Has Nothing On Me

I was recently asked to provide a new photo for my blog and I came to the startling realization that since I’m my family’s resident photographer there were virtually no photos of me to be found. It’s rather sad that the profile photo I’m currently using for my blog was taken during my pregnancy with Hannah roughly eight years ago. Seems like pregnancy is the only time I make a real effort to get a shot of myself and even then it’s more about the little person I’m carrying then myself. Going through photos was like a Where’s Waldo search as most shots of me were photos of my kids where I’m accidentally captured in the background. It got me thinking..are you guilty too?

This photo of Sydney and myself was taken by my good friend Sean Wall-Carty at Sam Sylvester's Disney Character Christmas display in Malboro. If you haven't seen it. I highly recommend it. He even added the characters from Frozen this year.

This photo of Sydney and myself was taken by my good friend Sean Wall-Carty at Sam Sylvester’s Disney Character Christmas display in Malboro. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. He even added the characters from Frozen this year.

Are You Erasing Memories Of Yourself?

I don’t think it was intentional, at least at first, that I stopped getting in photos. I was just always the one manning the camera. Then the more kids I had, the more in love with them I fell, and the less I loved my post-baby body so it was easiest just to take photos of my husband and kids. I even put off doing a family portrait, opting to only get the kids photos done so I could have more time to shape up before the next one. The last family portrait we had done was almost 5 years ago when Jay was just a few months old. At this rate, maybe the next family portrait will involve a cap and gown. I know I can’t be the only mom or dad who is accidentally erasing the memories our kids will have of us at birthdays, events, vacations, etc. We probably should pass the camera to someone else and get in the shot for our kids’ sakes.

I made a conscious effort to give the camera to my husband so I could get in on this photo with Hannah and Sydney meeting Santa at the Santa Express that visited South Fallsburg last night.

I made a conscious effort to give the camera to my husband so I could get in on this photo with Hannah and Sydney meeting Santa at the Santa Express that visited South Fallsburg last night.

You Are Beautiful Mom!

When my mom died I had the hardest time gathering the few pictures I secretly took of her since she absolutely hated having her photo taken. She didn’t like the way she looked, but she was my mom and that meant that of course she was beautiful. She was important and special and I’m sad that she didn’t see herself the way I did. I suspect my kids think I’m beautiful too, even when I don’t think so. I think that it’s just the nature of being their moms. We love them so much and we want to capture that in every shot, but I think it’s time that we capture ourselves laughing, playing, being silly, and just being there. Sure even without those pictures of us maybe our kids will remember we were there, but maybe they will want to share those memories with their children one day.

I sometimes wonder if the term “baby bump” was created specifically to “out” pregnant celebrities. Every tabloid cover is filled with pictures of celebs sporting the tiniest little nothing of a stomach with a circle around it questioning if she is in fact pregnant. Pregnancy creates some crazy speculation in people. Is she pregnant or just getting fat? When is she due? Is it a boy or a girl? Most of the time the concern is all in good fun or to avoid an embarrassing mistake like assuming a woman who has gained a few pounds is pregnant. I think the reason is this – the mystery and power of a woman’s body being able to give birth to another human being is just so crazy and awe-inspiring at the same time. But what nobody tell you is that “the bump” many times doesn’t go away just because the baby is out.

My husband with baby Hannah. Will created "the baby bump" as a non-verbal way to communicate "I love you" to our baby.

My husband with baby Hannah. Will created “the baby bump” as a non-verbal way to communicate “I love you” to our baby.

Those Awkward Teen Years

I’ve always been amazed at the moment right after giving birth where your stomach seems to deflate almost like a balloon as soon as the baby comes out. Then months later I look in the mirror and think, “yup, looks like my stomach deflated alright.” BUT I’ve learned to look once and then let it go. I’ve spent so many of my teen years feeling uncomfortable in my own skin; teased for being too skinny, being flat chested, having braces, etc. I wish I could go back in time and smack myself for not appreciating my body, for letting others make me feel bad about myself, and feeling like if only I could change x, y or z then I could actually be pretty. I wasted my youth, waiting for the stars of adolescence to align perfectly in order to be happy with myself.

Body Image Struggles

Anyone who knows me, knows that my 30’s have brought the era of the “I don’t give an F@#$.” It’s made life a lot more beautiful let me tell you. I no longer care what others think about me and there is something so incredibly freeing in that. But the more important question to ask is this, “How do I feel about me?” I’m ok with who I am as a person, but what about my appearance now that my body has undergone four pregnancies and three births. As I was typing I was tempted to say three pregnancies, but that wouldn’t be accurate. I lost my first pregnancy at only six weeks. For all my early angst about my body, losing my baby is the only time I ever really looked at my body and said “I hate you.”

Making A Deal

I literally begged it to stop bleeding out the baby I wanted so badly. It was the one moment in my life I really didn’t want to be in my own skin. So when I made it past the first trimester with my oldest daughter Hannah I made a silent agreement with my body that I wouldn’t criticize it anymore. It was giving me another chance, one I wouldn’t squander by lamenting my stretch marks. I remember my mother touching my very pregnant belly and saying, “My God Erin, you don’t have any stretch marks.” Well, that WAS the case until two weeks before I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. Then came Jay who weighed nearly 9 pounds at birth and brought the additional complication of gallstones for which I had to have my gallbladder removed when he was just 2 months old. So add to the sketch mark collection some surgical scars and a botched hernia repair which permanently changed my belly button from an innie to a halfie – still in but kinda trying to come out. By the time I got pregnant with Sydney I just stopped seeing any of it.

Bye Bye Bikini

I’ve really never been the bikini wearer, even when I was younger and could have pulled it off. But after I became a mom I knew I was saying goodbye to the possibility forever. So there are women out there who have babies and go on as if nothing has changed. My sister is a good example. Her vacation photos of her in a bikini at the beach with her three kids is nothing short of envious. BUT I think it’s the exceptions to the rule that screw women up forever. We look at them and think well if I only do x,y, or z I can look like that too. But pregnancy does things to a woman’s body that make it impossible to go back to the same body you once had. How many of us are still pining away for that pre-baby body? Maybe we always will, much like if we are blessed enough to live till we’re old we’ll lament our non-wrinkled faces.

The Human Growth Chart

But do me a favor ladies, next time you look at your body and see the markers of pregnancy don’t wish them away. Don’t think of them as battle scars. Instead see them as a growth chart. Trace each line of the growth of your precious baby or babies. There are women who would gladly sport your so-called “flaws” if it meant they had a baby in their arms. Jennifer Garner said it best when she named her post-baby bump Violet, Sam, and Sera. She’s proud of her body not for what it looks like, but for what it gave her and we could all take her lead on that.

 

The New Definition of “Baby Bump”

So if I may submit for your consideration a new definition of “baby bump.” When Hannah was a baby, my husband invented a silent communication of “I love you” to our child. He leaned his head towards hers and she did the same, culminating in “the baby bump.” It’s a tradition we’ve carried on with our son and soon it will be Sydney’s turn to learn “the baby bump.” Because of my husband’s invention my kids have been saying “I love you” long before they could talk. I’m willing to lend you our family tradition if you want to try it with your babies. Let’s reclaim “the bump” in the name of love and gratitude for the precious gift of life and start loving our bodies because no matter how “flawed” anyone thinks they are, they are pretty freaking awesome!

I had a different, fun little piece ready to share, but when I opened my Facebook page my news feed was full of posts about Robin Williams’ suicide. My heart broke. Not because Hollywood lost a great actor, but as humans we lost a great one– his kindness, compassion, wisdom and joy now gone from this earth.

Depression is a scary, unpredictable beast. There are several members of my family who live with this every single day. From seasonal affect disorder to bipolar depression to clinical depression. Not everyone who suffers from depression talks about it or even appears depressed. Many people with depression are capable of getting up every day, going to work and appearing happy and complete. No one else hears that inner voice convincing them suicide is their only option.

No one is immune- not even moms. After hearing the heartbreaking news about Mr. Williams, I thought about moms who may suffer from depression. How many moms get up every day and go through the motions of taking care of their families and leave themselves last on the list? How many moms won’t reach out for fear of judgment or losing their kids?

I often feel lonely in my mothering journey. There are few adults to speak with or to help navigate the difficult days. Being at the service of two demanding toddlers reminds me how difficult the days are compared to my carefree life before kids. All my single friends have moved away or feel they are intruding when asking to spend time with me. My mom friends are just as busy as me. When we get together there’s not much time for bonding between interruptions. Social media is great to keep in touch, but there are days I don’t have time to connect. Some days exhaustion overrides any emotion I have, and I go to bed feeling numb.

I do not have depression, but often feel uneasy about sharing with my friends the loneliness of my day. I don’t want to burden them and so I keep quiet. I wonder how many moms with depression feel the same way. Loneliness itself does not make a mom depressed, but living in a silent, lonely state for a prolonged amount of time can certainly contribute to depression.  According to an online article at OCfamily.com “Statistics show that twice as many women suffer from depression as men, and experts say moms with children at home are a particularly vulnerable group. Women ages 25 to 44 are the hardest hit with clinical depression, the years when most moms are raising their children … Just being a mother does not cause depression, says Dr. Stotland. She treats many depressed and anxious mothers who are overworked, under pressure and do too much with too little support or help with tasks such as childcare.”
“It isn’t that women want to have it all, it’s that women have to do it all. Nobody says that a man with a job and children wants to have it all,” says Dr. Stotland.”

Suffering in silence is not a safe way to live. If you think you may be depressed, have postpartum depression, or maybe you have difficulty finding joy in life please speak to your doctor right away. Please don’t worry that someone will think less of you, or that you can’t be a good mom. Taking care of your own needs is part of being a good mom. Don’t worry about what other people will think, please just worry about your own health. No one will think you’re being selfish. If they do, Whatever! They are not living your life. Most of all please don’t think suicide is your best option. It will end your pain. It will also end your joy and your tomorrows. It will leave a big whole in this world and in the lives of the people who love you. No one can replace you and the important role you have as Mom.

Dear Lonely Mom,

Please reach out.

Please call me for coffee.

I won’t judge you.

Please know you are not alone.

Love,

The Whatever Mom

robin williams suicide hotline

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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http://www.afsp.org/ Find local resources and resources to cope with a suicide loss, and to educate yourself on the risk factors and signs of suicide.

So this is actually my second attempt at a blog post this week. My first was a train wreck of scattered thoughts and vague parenting advice. So today I prayed for some inspiration and as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, but I guess that goes double for what you pray for. Today’s sermon at church talked about seeing the opportunities amidst your struggles, so hopefully this post will help another new mom out there. After a very nasty breakdown this afternoon I realized that all the randomness of this week’s events had one thing in common. They all made me cry, and not the pretty kind, the ugly raw cry of someone who just can’t seem to keep it all together.

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Iceberg Right Ahead

So I gave birth just two weeks ago and it both feels like the blink of an eye and a lifetime ago all at once. It’s like time slows down right after you have a baby. I’ve gotten the question repeatedly this week, “How are you feeling?” It’s only just this minute that I’ve actually stopped to question myself, “How do I feel?” Physically I’ve bounced back so well that my immediate response is – “I’m fine.” But what’s on the outside is really only the tip of the iceberg and you know what they say about icebergs – what you see is only about ten percent and the rest is below the surface.

I’m Innocent – I Swear

Here’s the run down of my crazy week. I got accused of stealing gas and had an angry stranger shout at me. I returned to the gas station to clear my name, but like I said there was some ugly crying involved as I started to sob, “I would never not pay.” One of the cashiers actually came out to hug me as I was getting into my car after they pulled up my receipt and apologized. On a normal day I don’t like being accused of something I didn’t do, but on this hormonal day I positively couldn’t hold back the tears.

Farewell Good Friend

Then I saw my cat of 11 years being attacked by a dog right in front of my house. I yelled at the dog to get away but the damage was already done. He had crushed my cat Cesar’s pelvis and back leg and there was blood on his belly. It was a pretty awful sight, but worse than seeing the attack was the decision my husband and I had to make to put him down so he wouldn’t be in pain anymore. Telling the kids was hard and there were more tears as I watched them cry. These are the sad life lessons you never really want to teach your children. They are getting to the age where they understand death is forever. When I told my daughter about my mom’s passing two years ago I got virtually no reaction, but upon telling her about our cat she sobbed for two days straight. This is the dawn of understanding that kids go through when they finally get that life is not always fair and it certainly doesn’t come without some tears.

Where Did My Brain Go?

While in Middletown today I was supposed to stop at the bank and deposit a check so we could pay the installers from Home Depot who are coming Monday to install new gutters. Wouldn’t you know that after paying for gas with my debit card and bringing two kids and a crying baby into Quick Check to grab sandwiches for lunch, I pull up to the ATM and space on my pin number. I mean it’s gone. It’s like I never used it before let alone 10 minutes ago. So after two useless attempts it locks me out and now Sydney is once again crying her little head off because she hates the car seat and I know I can’t take her out of it for at least 20 more minutes. This kicks off an hour long ugly cry to end all ugly cries. I feel stupid and useless and like the train that is my family is going off the track and I’m sitting by the wayside watching helplessly as it derails.

The Failure Alarm

None of my children liked the car seat so I’ve spent years listening to my babies cry their heads off in the car. I always feel so helpless when this happens since I can’t pick them up or take them out till we reach our destination. The louder, more frantic the cries become, the more I feel like I’m failing them. It’s my job to take care of their needs and not being able to do it makes me feel like an awful mom. I know in my head a little crying isn’t going to hurt them and other than being mad, they are otherwise ok, but call it mother’s guilt or blame postpartum hormones and Sydney’s car seat crying session added a special touch of UGLY to my cry-a-thon today.

There Is No “ME” In Mommy

I’ve noticed that some of my crying jags this week had a key component – one or more of my needs weren’t being met. I was hungry, but still breastfeeding the baby or changing the baby yet holding my bladder for too long, getting the baby to nap so I could do errands while I myself am tired. The longer I ignored what my body needed, the worse the crying. I’ve spent the last two weeks getting to know my new daughter, but at the same time pretending that I could still keep everything else in my household running smoothly the way I did before she was born.

Put On Your Oxygen Mask First

 

What I didn’t factor in was that I’d be back on baby time. It’s been nearly 5 years so maybe I forgot that once you have a newborn, you plan around their schedule. They don’t conform to yours. The price I was paying for this mistake is small pieces of my sanity. It makes me think of the instructions you get on an airplane. In the event of a crash you are supposed to put on your oxygen mask first, but how many moms do you know that think of their needs first? Certainly not this mom. BUT of course the reasoning is true – if you pass out you’re certainly not in any position to help your children. So I guess if I want next week to be less stressful and without so many melt-downs, I’ve got to start listening to my body when it tells me what it needs.

God bless my husband and my older children for putting up with me this week. Hopefully they don’t require too much therapy in the future to recover from the many many mommy melt-downs they’ve had to endure. Here’s what I know now. I can’t do it all and get everything done they way I did before. I have to accept my limitations and let go of my need to keep it all running smoothly. If the train derails I’m just going to have to say, “Alright kids, pick up your bags. It looks like we’re walking from here.”

So one week ago I brought home my third child, Sydney Alexa Grace and we’re all adjusting to life as a family of 5 instead of 4. What is “bressle milk” you might be wondering. This is how my 4 year old son refers to breast milk. Though I corrected him in the beginning it’s so cute when he says it that I just let it go. Jayden was very curious about breast feeding and I can’t say I blame him. Remember the first time you became a mom and learned that your body could make food? I don’t know why, after creating an entire human being from a tiny egg, this came as a shocker but it’s still pretty awesome.

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Changing Society? Nah, I’m Just Feeding My Baby

Don’t worry I’m not going to bombard social media with pictures of my baby nursing. As I’ve said before, I’m an extremely modest person and to me breast feeding is a special bonding time and that means I’m not about to put me or my child on public display in order to “normalize it” whether it’s something you want to see or not. That’s not my job and frankly in order to change societal views about women’s breasts being objects of sexual desire we first need to stop feeding that fire with low cut tops and boob jobs and as a mom of a newborn, I’m too damn tired to take that challenge on. Until Victoria Secret starts selling nursing bras instead of water bras, I don’t know that a few nursing photos is going to do the trick. I’d rather spend my energy encouraging moms who want to nurse. I don’t judge women for formula feeding just because I nurse. I think we should support moms whatever their parenting choices because we have a hard enough job as it is.

Breastfeeding Breakdown

When I was in the hospital I had my first exhaustion break down because after a 20 hour labor and then a night of nursing almost every hour I just wanted to sleep. I could almost hear my mind starting to break. When the nurse came in she asked me why I was crying and I told her I didn’t know how I was going to sleep with my daughter nursing so much. She told me I was putting too much pressure on myself and that one or two bottles wasn’t going to affect my ability to nurse. This flew in the face of the lactation nurse’s advice right after I had my firstborn who warned me that I needed to nurse exlusively for the first two weeks because bottle feeding was easier for babies and they might not want to go back to nursing. So a little nervous, but totally exhausted I let the nurse take Sydney for the night and I actually got 5 hours of sleep – woo hoo. Right now I’d kill for 5 hours in a row. She went right back to nursing, despite a few bottles.

Wait For It…The Drop

So here’s my advice, RELAX new mamas. Nursing isn’t easy and trying to be perfect at it or worrying about your supply all the time doesn’t help. Sydney was an instant nurser right after birth. I was shocked at how she latched on the first try. But as most moms know all you have is colostrum the first few days and now I understand why some moms believe that their babies need a bottle because they are starving. She nursed a LOT while I was in the hospital, but she only lost about 2 oz by the time we were discharged. So, if you just gave birth and are worried your baby is starving, don’t. My advice is simply this…wait for it.

I’m talking about the drop of course. Your milk will come in like a flood between the third and fifth postpartum day and then you’ll be wishing for those first few days back. Though I knew it was coming, I still wasn’t prepared for the pain I was in when my breasts became, well Dolly Parton size, hard as rocks and so hot I could fry an egg on them. Ice packs and Ibuprofen helped, but it was hard dealing with engorgement for 3 days. These are always the postpartum days where I feel the most emotional, coincidence? I think not. Thankfully your supply regulates after a few days and it gets easier.

Discharge Day from the hospital
The day I was discharged from the hospital

“No Pain, No Gain” or Weight Loss In My Case

Also if you’re a new mom you might not be prepared for the cramping that takes place in the days after birth. Though it stinks having period like cramps every time you nurse your baby, the good news is that it helps shrink your uterus back to its normal size and burns calories. I can’t say for certain, but I credit nursing for helping my body return to normal so quickly. One week out, I’ve lost about 21 pounds of my nearly 30 pound pregnancy weight gain and I only look about three months pregnant instead of the five months I looked when I left the hospital.

DSC00269
One week after giving birth, I’ve lost 21 pounds and
I’m sporting a flatter though still squishy belly.

Ready When You Are

Though I still feel a little zing when she first latches on, it’s a lot less painful now and I really love that nursing comes pretty easily for us. I know that I’m lucky and that it’s not the case for everyone. What I love about nursing is that I’m ready to feed her whenever she’s ready to eat. No bottles, no mixing, no fussing while she waits and no half comatose trips down two flights of stairs in the middle of the night to mix and heat formula. My husband gave her a bottle of Similac (from a sample bottle the hospital gave us) when I went to the store earlier this week and he happily reported, “oh, she loved it!” Can’t say I didn’t feel a little jealous. How weird is that to be jealous of formula? But I was like, “do you know how much that bottle of formula would have cost if we had bought it at the store?”

Why Pay If I Can Make It Myself?

If you’ve ever purchased baby formula, you can understand why me, being the Discount Diva would be so grateful to be able to nurse. You save a ton of money on formula and bottles. After my second child Jayden was born I had to buy a few bottles so my mom and husband could feed him right after my gallbladder surgery and was shocked that two bottles cost me $21.

The Sleeper Hold

No I’m not talking wrestling moves, this is what I call the side by side nursing hold because if you’re co-sleeping this hold is the best for getting back to sleep both for you and the baby. Because you stay lying down it makes it easier to transition back to sleep. I wish I had figured this out when I had my first child. Silly me, I would take her out of her bassinet into the other room, change her and then feed her, which by this time she was pissed and crying her head off for making her wait. The co-sleeper really saved my sanity the second time around so of course I purchased another one (second-hand of course) for Sydney.

So this is how I’ve spent most of the week, nursing and then changing Sydney since she poops during almost every feeding. In fact she beckons to be fed right this minute, so have a good week everyone and stay sane new mamas, I’m right there with you.

Hurry Up And Wait

On Tuesday night July 22, 2014, the day before my due date, I went into labor. There is nothing fun about labor and in my case, nothing predictable about it either. I did what I was supposed to, according to the doctor, which was wait for my contractions to become very regular. Guess what? They didn’t. But the pain was worse than my worst Braxton Hicks contractions so I knew this was not a drill. They hovered between 3 1/2, 4 and 1 minute apart, never becoming consistent. I almost didn’t call in reinforcements (aka my labor coach – my sister-in-law, and my awesome childcare team – my neighbor and friend Allison and my step father Tim). Luckily pain is the ultimate dictator. It forced me to decide that waiting for a rhythm that wasn’t coming, wasn’t doing me any good.

Early Labor
What early labor looked like for me.

Will sleeping
What early labor looked like for my husband.

Labor Not By The Book

I had heard pleasant theories that subsequent labors would be shorter and easier. I got the easier part right and the shorter part oh so very wrong. I went into labor at 9 pm and didn’t have her till 5:08 pm the next day. I can tell you one thing after one 12 hour delivery and one 10 hour, I sure as hell didn’t see a 20 hour labor coming. My labor stalled at 4 cm and then again at 6 cm so I had to be given Pitocin to move things along.

Doula In Disguise

Julia Doula
My sister-in-law Julia really helped me get through
all my labors, including this one.

I’m pretty proud of myself for reaching a new level of pain tolerance, and perhaps I can chalk that up to my body’s experience by my third delivery. I was up with headphones on dancing around my room for several hours trying to get gravity to help things along. At some point I had to admit that even though it made me feel better to be up and doing something, it just wasn’t moving things along. So after the first 10 hours, I got my epidural, which I had forgotten hurts like a B@$#%. It truly was worth it though. I got to avoid the pain of them putting in the catheter and the more painful contractions that follow once they break your water and/or start Pitocin. I know there are women that can go natural, but I know it’s not for me. Someone told me to get a doula after I wrote my post Post-Traumatic Labor Disorder. What I discovered was that I had one all along in my sister-in-law Julia.

Transition
If you’ve never seen it before – this is what the
transition phase of labor looks like.

Her words were steady, reassuring and yet insistent. I listened and trusted her and it paid off big time. When laying down she noticed my contractions weren’t as strong and urged me to sit as much as I was comfortable doing so. She talked to the nurse who told her that when the baby’s heart beat dips slightly with each contraction, it’s because the baby is pushing down, working with the contraction. So she was able to reassure me that the baby was working just as hard as I was to come into the world.

When transition pain hit, she urged me to breathe even though I felt like there was no air left in my lungs. She talked to the baby and rubbed my belly. She told me I was doing good when I felt like she was never going to come out. Can you believe they had a lock down drill take place while I was in transition? I thought they’d never come in and check me and I had a pretty good feeling I was ready to push. The only thing quick about my labor was the pushing. I was so exhausted and determined that I did one “practice push” and refused to stop until she was out.

Welcome To The World – Sydney Alexa Grace

Sydney Alexa Grace
Sydney Alexa Grace, born at 5:08 pm July 23, 2014.

Mommy & Sydney
Love at first sight.

Daddy & Sydney
The proud Papa!

Recovery in the hospital is not restful, but I’m super happy to be home now with my new daughter – Sydney Alexa Grace. She was 7lbs, 9 oz, 21 inches long and the most beautiful thing I ever saw. I wept with joy the second they placed her on my stomach. My theory popped into my head clear as bell – you don’t forget the pain of childbirth, what you do is look at your children and think, “What wouldn’t I do for you?” Looking at my little peanut that’s exactly how I feel.

DSC00188
My sister-in-law Julia holding Sydney for the first time.

DSC00189
My Step-Dad Tim made an exception to his no
holding newborns rule.

So the first day and night home has been all feedings, diapers and lots of sleeping. I’m thankful that even though my body would never let me nap except during pregnancy or sickness it has allowed me to nap with my daughter. I’m so thankful I enrolled my older children in camp and that my husband is home for a week to help me. I just couldn’t have done any of it without my husband Willie, my sister-in-law Julia, my neighbors and dear friends Sean and Allison who took care of my older kids, and my step father who hung out for the duration and reminded me how much my mom would have loved the baby if she was still around to see her.

Sisters
Big sister Hannah and little sister.

Jay Kissing Sydney
Big brother Jayden loves giving her kisses.

Bringing Sydney home
We got to bring her home Friday,
July 25, 2014.

We are all in love with her and I’m looking forward to all the wonderful ways she’ll change me as a person and a mother. I have no idea how I’m going to handle the challenges of having three kids, but I’m ready.

As I mentioned last week, I’m closing in on D-Day with just about three weeks till I give birth to my third child and the anxiety about going through labor again is kicking in. If you weren’t completely traumatized by my last post about the top 10 things nobody warned you about labor, then read on. If not, hopefully it’s not to late to consider surrogacy.

The closer I get, the more my memory comes back in healthy anxiety-producing flashbacks, but I know the crazy body changes don’t stop once the baby is out. If you’re a first time mom you may want to turn back now, but I always aim to prepare with the truth and dose it with just enough humor so that you don’t go running for the hills. So here are the top 5 hilarious and weird changes your body goes through after your baby is born.

1. Am I Bleeding To Death? – The nurses warned me about the size of the blood clots I would see when I went to the bathroom, but that still didn’t prepare me for that one massive clot that had me frantically pushing the call button, sure I was bleeding to death. I can’t speak to the C-section mamas because I never had one, but massive clots and heavy bleeding are pretty standard after giving birth. Invest in the most ginormous pads you can find, and granny panties you don’t mind throwing away if they get super gross. I snagged a few extra pairs of those mesh disposable undies from the hospital. Dermoplast spray and Tuck’s pads (witch hazel) are tremendously comforting, especially if you’ve had stitches. They also give you a squeeze bottle for warm water rinses which also helps. Be prepared for your bathroom routine to take twice as long as usual between all these different steps.

2. Sweat Much? – I don’t consider myself someone who sweats a lot, even while exercising so I was shocked to wake up days after giving birth with damp and matted hair, completely covered in sweat. Nobody ever warned me that this is how your body gets rid of a lot of the excess fluid it takes on during pregnancy. Wear some loose clothing and be prepared to change the sheets. It’s not a matter of being too hot so you just have to go along for the ride on this one.

 

3. Well HEEELLLOOO Dolly – I know some women would be thrilled to wake up one day with their boobs double their normal size. However, nobody quite prepares you to suddenly find yourself as busty as Dolly Parton. On about the third post-pardom day (it could be the second or fourth) your milk will come in and when it does holly crap does it come in. Your breasts will feel huge, hot, and hard as rocks. It’s not the most pleasant feeling as you can imagine, so invest in some ice packs to stuff into your bra and heavy duty nursing pads. Some women swear by putting cabbage leaves in their bras, but I just don’t know if I can get past the idea of cooking cabbage in my bra. I hate the smell of it cooking in my house let alone having it on me. But hey whatever works.

If you’re breastfeeding keep feeding your baby, but don’t worry if they stop frequently and cough or choke a little. Unlike the manufactured nipples you buy for bottles, yours only come in one flow and it’s your baby that adjusts by slowing down while eating and yes, spitting or choking a little. Don’t worry, you aren’t drowning them. The day your milk comes in you will have way more supply then your baby could possibly eat so don’t force them to drink more than they can handle. Instead pump just enough to take the edge off. But be warned, pump too thoroughly and your body will just produce more, prolonging engorgement. It’s a perfect supply and demand system. Instead try ice packs and a couple of IB profin and know that the worst of it will be over by tomorrow.

4. Cry It Out – Your baby isn’t the only one who’ll be crying when you bring him or her home. Your body is going through the process of dealing with a tremendous flood of hormones after giving birth. You may cry or feel sad for seemingly no reason. With my first child I remember having a conversation with my grandmother the day I brought her home. She asked me if I was going back to work and when I said yes she said, “Why? You wanted that baby so much.” Now I love and miss my grandmother dearly and in her defense she had no idea that I had a miscarriage before getting pregnant with my daughter and how desperate I was to get pregnant again as soon as the doctor gave us the green light.

But it was the spark that started a two week long cry fest. I would hold her in my arms and look at her little face and wonder how I could possibly hand her over to strangers at a daycare in a few short months. Because of my grandmother I hatched my job-share plan so I could work part-time and my mother could watch her. It’s an arrangement that worked brilliantly for four years before my company entered into a merger. I am so grateful to my grandmother, whose well-meaning but painful question gave me the courage and creativity to create the work/life balance I wanted and of course to my boss and family who supported me.

I can’t speak to Postpartum Depression, except to say that mood swings, sadness, and crying are normal right after birth but if you keep experiencing symptoms long after the baby arrives you should seek the advice of your doctor. It’s a real thing and there is help for it, so don’t be afraid to ask.

 

5. Incontinent? That Depends – Ok so I’m entitled to the occasional corny joke. I really didn’t expect this symptom after I had my first child. I think it’s because I pushed for an hour to bring her into the world, that I temporarily lost some feeling and I had no idea I had to pee until I was practically peeing my pants. It was all I could do to find a safe place to put my daughter down and run to the bathroom. The doctor assured me it was perfectly normal, but I guess this is another reason those ginormous pads come in handy and the granny panties you don’t mind tossing in the trash if need be.

And you thought it only took blood, sweat and tears to bring your baby into the world. Well, you still experience them after delivery as well. Whoever said pregnancy was a beautiful thing was never a pregnant woman. Sure the miracle of growing a baby inside you is pretty awesome, but all the weird changes that happen to your body can be pretty weird, gross, and scary. I always tell people you don’t forget how hard pregnancy and childbirth are, but you look at your child and think, “What wouldn’t I have gone through for you?” It’s a good mantra to repeat when they hit about age three and you want to tear your hair out, but that’s for another day and another post.

What was the most surprising thing your body went through after having a baby?

 

We interrupt this regularly scheduled crafty blog to focus a moment on Phase 2 of my frumpy to fabulous plan. Remember my post about how to spring clean your look? Well that was Phase 1 of my plan. I decided to add Phase 2, Healthy Eating and Exercise, after my daughter caught me getting out of the shower. Her exact words were, “Mama, you’re floppy!” (She used to be my favorite).

Before kids, getting out of the house was so much easier. I could be out the door in 15 minutes or less. Now it takes an hour. The breakdown of that hour looks like this: 20 minutes discussing pants (actual topic); 10 minutes spinning in circles before putting on socks; 10 minutes answering questions about socks; 5 minutes wrestling shoes onto toddlers; 10 minutes countering complaints about having to leave the house; 3 minutes 30 seconds just to cross over the threshold to the outside world; and 1 minute 30 seconds to count every single flower on the way to the car.

All that spinning and wrestling might sound like a work out, but it sadly isn’t helping any with the aforementioned floppiness. As a mom with twins glued to my hip I don’t get much time to myself. I don’t have babysitters or money for the gym

But, with recent news of my floppiness, I went in search of what could possibly work for a mom in my situation. I found an at-home solution through Great Expectings. Christine McCracken, owner of Great Expectings, is also a nurse, a mom and fitness enthusiast. She has made it her goal to help women (and moms like me) with limited time and access to a gym get fit. (Is that a choir of angels I hear?)

We spoke over the phone for an initial consultation. I shared all my injuries and postpartum issues and she went right to work creating work outs I can do at home. Each week she emails me a daily workout schedule to complete. Each day I log my food and exercise choices at myfitnesspal (she can see what I eat- ack!). I have access to her every day via email, text or phone. It feels like having an exercise buddy cheering me on and it motivates me to stay accountable.

On the healthy eating front I have my groceries delivered each week. This saves me from the candy aisle and impulse buying (yes, I meant to buy a Kit-Kat, 2 bouncy balls and a new hammock). I try to incorporate Christine’s tips for healthy eating into my meal plan. Like drinking water and including extra veggies at each meal. Outsourcing my workout planning and having my food delivered, I’m feeling pretty fabulous already!

Readers, I think you know by now The Whatever Mom Credo is to simplify and to do “whatever it takes to get through the day.” Well, that includes fitting in exercise and time to take care of our health. This is one area it is not safe to say, “Whatever.” You don’t have to join a gym, or do what I do. Just find what works for you!

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