I’ve been struggling to write the post detailing the postpartum period. I was calling it “The Aftermath.” The more I think about it, the more I don’t want to post that. The thoughts are very jumbled and all over the place and as a whole, it was kind of a downer. I don’t think I focused enough on both the positive and the negative side of things.
In truth, the postpartum time was as much a difficult time for me as it was a happy time. Let me start by saying that I absolutely fell in love with my daughter before she was even born. That love only grew, and continues to grow even more each day. But to say that period was also challenging is an understatement. Absolutely nothing could prepare me for the more difficult aspects of new motherhood. It was an extremely rocky transition, but one that allowed me to learn so much about myself and really inspired me to want to reach out and try to give more to others (see Support Without Strings).
My time at the hospital: was just such a blur. Here in Rochester, they require you to stay at the hospital for 48 hours, so for me that meant we checked in on Friday morning as a family of 3 (dogs count as family members!) and left on Sunday morning (my due date!) as a family of 4. I mean, Macie wasn’t there at the hospital, obviously. But our family expanded in our time there.
After my Epidural wore off, Justin packed up the items in the birthing room. They had me get up and try to use the bathroom, which just wasn’t happening at that point (the peeing part). Walking was no picnic and the bed that I gave birth in looked like a crime scene. So they popped me into a wheel chair and we headed down to my recovery room on the other side of the wing, where we would spend the remainder of our time. Once there, I again attempted to pee, which I finally succeeded at. On a side note they measure your urine the first 2 times, so you have to pee in this special container that’s attached to the toilet. Wiping took a whole damn roll of toilet paper because oh-my-gosh-the-BLOOD. Yuck. And it burned my stitches. Thank God for dermaplast and ice pack diapers.
By now it was past midnight and we were exhausted. We went to bed with Alice right next to me, but after an hour of jumping at every tiny sound she made (and there were a lot!) I called the nurses to take her to the nursery so that we could get some sleep (though they were bringing her in to feed every 2 hours). Sending the baby to the nursery is not for everyone, but it’s what worked for our family.
The next day I finally showered which was amazing on a cleanliness/freshness level. Interestingly, the shower became a place that the weight of it all really took over. I’m not sure if it was seeing my stretched, sagging skin in the mirror, or the water flowing over my sore, aching body but every time I was in the shower at the hospital, all of the feelings and heaviness of my hormones just came flowing out and I cried. The great care my husband took in helping me slowly get around the bathroom and staying there outside of the curtain for my whole shower, not saying anything, just being there in silent support makes my heart sing for this man who really was strong enough for the both of us. Don’t get me wrong, I was so very happy. But the crashing hormones paired with the weight of this huge transition, the paranoia about being a terrible mother and having no idea what I was doing created an overall feeling of being in way over my head which was overwhelming to say the least.
We had a slew of family filter in and out throughout the day, and many sub-par attempts at breastfeeding. At the end of the day it was just J and I with our pretty little baby. We were exhausted. Even with all the people there, I felt so isolated (this seemed to continue through the newborn days, I can’t really explain why but I’m guessing the hormones played a large roll).
That night was a rough one. A’s and my difficulty establishing a decent latch moved on to her refusing to breastfeed for 6 hours. We ultimately supplemented with a bit of formula which ended up being an excellent decision. It calmed A enough to get a little rest and regroup before we met with a lactation consultant that next morning. She was friendly and helpful, though a tiny bit pushy (with good intentions, of course). She gave me a nipple shield which is really what allowed me to be able to breastfeed as long as I did. It was a pain in the butt, but it really did help.
All of our nurses were so friendly and supportive, always willing to answer questions and offer advice without being pushy. J got right down to business with all of the paperwork and stayed organized like a boss. Watching him get to know and fall in love with our girl was one of the most breathtakingly beautiful things I have ever seen.
Before we left, J pillaged the room. We took pretty much everything that wasn’t attached to the walls including the towels (which was great because I didn’t want to ruin my nice towels). The way I see it, we’re paying for everything, anyway.
Leaving the hospital was bittersweet. It was scary to think try and wrap my head around the fact that there would no longer be all these wonderful nurses to call in if we needed help or a nap. At the same time, I could not wait to sleep in my own bed and to dive in and start learning on our own. I still couldn’t believe they were allowing us to take a baby home! What in the world were they thinking?
Heading home: When we got home I went in first alone and gave Macie a bunch of love and new toys. Then J brought the baby inside in her carrier and gave her to me. He then gave Macie some attention and then together we held her and let her meet A. She sniffed her for a second, gave her a little kiss on her foot, and ran off to play with her new toy. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
We had some McDonalds and then some of my family came over and they made us dinner. The original plan was to start A in her crib from day one, but in my hormonal haze, I had a small breakdown and decided to put her in the pack and play in our bedroom.
To say that first night was rough was an understatement. Between A hating the pack and play, needing to feed every 2 hours, the difficulties of breast feeding and us stumbling through the night in general, no one slept that night.
The next day, my parents came over to watch A so J and I could get a little sleep. At that point, I was at my lowest low, thinking I had completely failed and wondering what had we gotten ourselves into. The lack of sleep and the hormonal crashes were quite the combination. I was just not prepared for the emotional roller coaster that the first few postpartum weeks bring to the table. A lot of crying for no apparent reason added to physical and emotional exhaustion and topped off with an overwhelmingly heavy new love that you’ve never felt before for both your husband and your new child.
Later that day we had our first family outing, or as I call it- the emergency trip to babies-r-us to get a rock-n-play. This turned out to be a good decision and helped us get a tiny bit more sleep for that first 3 weeks (after which we transitioned A into her crib, which went pretty well). I may or may not have cried 3 times during this one hour outing.
Breast feeding was still a challenge. A didn’t latch too well and pretty much only wanted to stay on if I used a nipple shield which was a hassle and quite messy at times. She would also frequently pull off and sometimes cry and scream in a way the seemed like a cross between discomfort and impatience. As we later discovered, this was due to her having reflux, which has since gotten to be a lot more manageable. We ultimately made the decision the add some formula into the mix after a couple months which was probably one of the best decisions we made for our family. I used to cry and have such a hard time during our particularly difficult feeding sessions, I was so scared I wasn’t giving her what she needed. Once we finally bit the bullet and added a bit of formula, it’s as if the pressure melted away and I actually began to breast feed A more. This ultimately dwindled when my period abruptly returned around 2.5 months postpartum and my supply tanked. A cut out breastfeeding on her own, denying it altogether around 3 months. I know what I’ll do differently to try and make breastfeeding last longer with out next child, I don’t regret how things unfolded. A is thriving I feel great about that.
A couple weeks in, my sister in-law and her husband and our two awesome nephews came to visit followed by my mother in-law shortly after they left. This was awesome because they were all very helpful and we got to have some quality time with out of town family. This combined with the help my family provided was a God-send
One thing that did not go as I expected was my relationship with J. We went into parenthood with an already strong and healthy relationship. I’d previously heard that adding a child into the mix can put a strain onto even the best relationships. I’ve found the opposite to be true. If anything, adding A into our life brought us even closer and gave us a new respect for each other. I find that we cuddle more often and J has been very forthcoming about the fact that he is very much attracted to my new post-baby body (thank goodness because I’m still getting used to the redistribution of things…). That’s not to say it’s easy. Nothing is easy when there’s a new baby in the mix, but I think we’ve both really risen to the occasion on our own and as a couple. I find myself identifying not only as a mother but even more as a wife, which is awesome.
There were certainly a lot of ups and downs in those first weeks; my hormones and overall moods were full of high highs and low lows. I was particularly a mess when J went back to work after 2 weeks home with us. I just missed having him with me all day so much!
After the first couple for weeks, I slowly began to learn my way. I no longer feared J going to work. I began to learn what A was trying to communicate to me throughout the day. I read the aby whisperer and learned a little bit about Eat/Play/Sleep. I didn’t actually put her on a schedule, per se. I didn’t really watch the clock. I followed her cues and that really made sense for A’s particular situation turned into her own little routine. I recognize that this may not work for every baby, but A seemed a lot happier when things were relatively consistent (feeding when she woke from each nap, noting when she was getting tired and overstimulated and putting her down for her nap, etc.).
We have certainly gotten a lot more comfortable in our role as Mom and Dad. New challenges present themselves daily and we are definitely learning as we go. A seems happy and well adjusted so far, so that is great. We’re just taking it a day at a time and appreciating the little things.