Thoughts at 5 Weeks Postpartum

So much to write about and so little time! So excuse this very rushed and probably disorganized post.

We are doing pretty well. We’ve had a lot of sickness, which has been really hard, but besides that, things are going well. Mae was sick for almost two weeks. Then I got bronchitis, and we are currently hoping Mae isn’t getting it again. Yeah, not fun. However, through it all, Jimmy and I have remained pretty calm and a team. But it’s tough when someone is sick because no one wants to visit and catch it!

James is definitely a different baby than Mae. I am, of course, still holding my breath for him to become colicky, but so far, I think he is normal-baby fussy. And while I knew Mae was a challenging baby since I couldn’t soothe her most of the time. I didn’t understand what being a able to soothe a baby does for a mother. Every time I succeed in soothing James, it builds my confidence. I know one more trick that works. I become more and more comfortable with him. I didn’t get to have this feeling with Mae until she was much older. Instead of feeling more and more confident, I felt more and more insecure and ashamed of not being able to soothe her or do what a mother “should” be able to. I can actually rock James to sleep. Just rock. I didn’t get to do that with Mae until she was about 18 months old.

I guess I just want moms to know that often it’s not you: it’s your baby. If you had an “easy” baby, I hate to tell you but you aren’t a supermom. Your baby just had a certain temperament. And if you had tough babies, it’s not you, mama. It’s the baby. And someone who has only had “normal” babies can truly never understand the experience of having a colicky baby. I know that now because James is still hard, and so it must be very difficult to imagine just how very much harder a colicky baby can be for other moms.

The other thing I’ve realized is that last time I secretly thought a mother should do more than a father. Yes, I’m a self-proclaimed feminist, but I think deep down I believed a “good” mother always did a little more than a father. So it made it difficult for me to accept Jimmy’s help in some ways and trust him to be an equal parent. All of that is different this time around. I completely trust Jimmy as a father and parent. I know he can handle any situation thrown at him, and that he can soothe and care for our baby as well as I can. And that doesn’t make me less of a mother. And we are sharing things 50/50 this time because I am allowing it to happen.

Breastfeeding is still going well for the most part. James gets fussy in the evening and sometimes fusses at the breast. Last night, I was so tired and he was fussing and not nursing well, and I just wanted him to go to bed so I could take a hot bath and drink a glass of wine. So I tried to give him a bottle of formula. He rejected it, and then nursed just fine. And I’m okay with the fact that I tried to give him formula because it doesn’t mean we were going to stop breastfeeding, it just means I needed a break in that moment. It’s not all or nothing, as it was last time.

So things are normal-hard, I think, which is still hard, but so very different from last time.

We are headed into weeks 6-8, the fussiest period for most babies, so be thinking of us. This also coincides with when Jimmy returns to work, so be thinking of me. I’m taking it one day at a time, though, so I just have to see what the next few weeks bring.

James’ Birth Story

Dear James,

You were scheduled to arrive on April 7 at 10 AM, but I secretly hoped you would pick your own birthdate, and you did. You were born on April 4, my father’s birthday, at 10:37 AM at Rex Hospital in Raleigh.

You still came via c-section as we’d planned, but you tried to come so quickly towards the end that we thought you might come vaginally.

It all began Sunday night when I started having mild contractions. I already had a doctor’s appointment Monday morning, so they hooked me up to monitor your heart and my contractions. Everything was fine and mild, so they sent me home. I labored through the day and night, but the contractions weren’t strong. I was able to sleep through most of them. But at 5 AM Tuesday morning, I had a contraction that woke me up and scared me. I woke up your dad and said “it’s time to go.” I wish I had a video of your dad trying to get himself ready to go to the hospital. He was a bit frantic trying to get himself together and ready.

We made it to the hospital by 6:30. The shift changed at 7 AM and Dr. Brazeale came on. I was happy about this as I knew he’d do a great job. I was still not contracting that strongly or frequently, so I would have to wait to make it into the OR. They told me 1 PM. I got my mind right for the wait. Your dad held my hand and supported me through it all.

I got up to use the bathroom and on my way back to the bed I was hit with a 5-minute-long contraction that was more intense than anything I experienced during my 32 hours of labor with your sister. I barely made it back to the bed and writhed in pain. I yelled for your dad to get the nurse. She came running in and checked me. She could feel your head! I panicked and asked “Am I about to have this baby?” The nurse looked nervous, which made me more nervous and she answered, “I’m not sure. Maybe. Do you want to have a vaginal delivery?” I answered with a hard “No. That’s not what I planned for. I’m just not prepared for that.” So for a few minutes, we thought you might be coming right then, and I was trying to wrap my mind around pushing. But then Dr. Brazeale came in and reassured me I’d make it to surgery, but we went right back. And thank goodness, I didn’t have to experience another one of those contractions!

The only other part that didn’t go according to plan was after I’d gotten my spinal (which was a breeze) the power went out! Thankfully, surgery hadn’t started yet. Your poor dad was still waiting to get into the OR and was stuck in a little room with all the lights off. He was just a bit worried. But the power came back on and all went really smoothly. When you came out, there was a pause but then I heard you cry, and then I cried. They brought you to my chest and said, “It’s your mommy. I’m here,” and you began to calm down. The nurses all remarked on what a big boy you were. You were 8 pounds and 6 ounces and 21 inches of sweetness.

 

3 Weeks Postpartum

Where to start?! There is so much I want to write about and so LITTLE time. In fact, the baby is trying to wake up right now.

For having a newborn, we are doing really well. I’m up every 2-3 hours to feed him at night, but I’m actually going back to sleep fairly easily after each feeding (different from last time). He also isn’t screaming at me during each feeding so my nerves aren’t shot. It’s amazing to have a baby who is soothed by breastfeeding. I can understand why breastfeeding is so special for so many women. The boob is magic to this kid. Once again, so different from last time. Breastfeeding James is like some superpower. I can just hit him with the boob and he relaxes. It was the opposite for Mae. I don’t have any goal for how long I’ll breastfeed him. I’m just thankful for each day that we are successful, and I have no expectations.

We have had so much support. My mom stayed with us for about the first ten days. She covered almost all of the care for Mae, so I was able to take care of James and Jimmy could take care of me. This was HUGE for my recovery. I felt so protected and safe. It was like my mom and Jimmy were my guardians, and I could just relax, knowing they had my back completely. I wasn’t able to accept this kind of help last time. I was trying to be supermom.

Just last weekend, my mother-in-law came up and she cleaned out my fridge! That’s the kind of support we’ve gotten. One of my best friends came to visit and helped fix our broken faucet. People have been so helpful, but more than the help, it’s just made us feel loved and not alone. Having a newborn can be isolating.

I’ve also made self care a priority. Jimmy and I give each other at least one small break per day. He might go for a run. I might nap. Or I might just run to Target to walk around for a little bit by myself. These snippets of self care are only possible because Red Hat has given Jimmy 6 WEEKS of paternity leave. I truly believe this is the main reason I’m not suffering from postpartum anxiety. Every mother and family deserves this support and time with a partner at home. I’m almost positive I wouldn’t be doing as well if he was at work. And it also gives him time to bond with James. I pumped a bottle for the first time yesterday and Jimmy got to do a late-night feeding. It was so sweet to hear him talking to James as I drifted in and out of sleep at 3 AM.

And the last difference I’ll mention while I have one more free moment: I know this is fleeting. I know it is the “longest shortest time.” When I’m up at 2 AM, I am tired, but I am also soaking up his sweet smell and face. I understand how temporary this all is, and I couldn’t understand that last time. (It’s also impossible to soak up and enjoy a colicky bab like Mae was).

So that’s the quick report. He is really waking up now and I’m going to breastfeed (in public!). Go me!

37 Weeks and Waiting, Anticipating

We’re in the final stretch of my second and most likely last pregnancy. It would be bittersweet if I wasn’t so uncomfortable. 🙂

Do you want to hear the list of pains? Probably not, but I will share them anyways:

heartburn, cramps, back pain, extreme pelvic bone pain, fatigue, sore hips…

But you know what’s really great?

I’m already on maternity leave and I can the most supportive partner I could ask for. We had a lazy weekend, and I got to stay horizontal for much of it. In fact, I did so much laying around that Mae said “One day, I will be pregnant and I will lay.” Ha!

Mae definitely senses the change coming. She has been extra snuggly with me. Yesterday, on the way home from a festival, she said “I want to go home, watch a show, eat mangoes, and cuddle you, Mommy.” That’s my girl. She’s got a plan for chilling and knows what she wants.

I’m enjoying and savoring all the cuddles and trying to take the pressure off this “big sister” thing. She recently said “I still want to be little” and “Mommy, I want let you down” when talking about baby brother. Whoa! That’s too much pressure. I just keep telling her she’ll always be my baby and that we are all just going to do our best, but we won’t be perfect with this new baby. I don’t feel like I’ve put any pressure on her about being a big sister, but it’s also the question that everyone asks “Are you ready to be a big sister?”

I would say “Of course not” if I was feeling rude, but I don’t. But I also know she will eventually be a great sister. She is funny and smart and empathetic. I have been trying to carefully explain to her that I will have to heal from getting a cut (C-section). “And I will give you a band-aid, Mommy, and take care of you.”

My therapist made this comparison the other week: What if your husband came home with a new wife? And suddenly he was giving her extra attention and she was super needy?

Well, I’d be pissed. Although, right now I wouldn’t mind a helpful sister wife. 😉

So we are all anticipating and excited and nervous in our house. And napping. I think I’m on four days straight of taking an afternoon nap. Here’s hoping for five!

 

Savoring the Days of Three

This weekend, we have nothing that we have to do. The long list is done. The baby car seat is  in the car. The newborn clothes are washed. We are ready, as we can be.

And Mae slept until 8:45! So we all slept in. I went and got Mae from her bed and she gave me a big kiss and said, “You’re here, mommy!” I’m usually gone to work when she wakes up.

We all snuggled in bed together, tickling Mae and talking non-sense. We are savoring our little family that is about to grow.

Now Mae and Jimmy are downstairs making waffles together, one of their favorite things to do. I love to just listen to them talk to each other.

Mae has just called up “Hey, Boo!” I think that means me. “And, mommy, pretend to be a bear!”

Sure, I can do that.

 

 

 

 

Toddler Survival: Book Recommendation

We turned the corner into total threenager territory this past weekend. Mae has been rebellious and a bit rude. So I picked back up How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, and while we are still in a challenging phase, this book is giving me tools to help decrease the level of emotional outbursts we have.

The book gives a lot of helpful, practical tips to incorporate into your everyday life with a toddler, but here are the two that I have been able to really implement over the last few days:

  1. Just give information, instead of an accusation. This is SO simple, yet I wasn’t doing it and it seems to really work. For example, instead of saying “Can you put your shoes away?” I say “I see shoes on the floor.” When I just convey the information to Mae, she just does the task (80% of the time)!

2. Instead of telling her what to do, I ask her how she’d like to do it (problem solving). For instance, I usually would have asked “What do you want for breakfast?” This almost always turns into me asking a half dozen times and her flip flopping between different ideas and driving me crazy. This morning, I said “We need to figure out breakfast.” I invited her to problem solve with me. She immediately got excited about making a smoothie! We haven’t made one in months, and I would have never thought to suggest it, but she did, and it was a healthy choice!

 

As a college professor, I see such a lack of critical thinking abilities in my students. They are told what to do and what to memorize in school. I just read my students’ midterm self-assessments and 75% of them said they wished high school had better prepared them.

So, I like how this parenting style invites your child to problem solve and recognize what needs to be done. It both makes life easier in the moment and encourages them to think for themselves in the future.

 

 

I Went to See a Psychiatrist: it was awesome 

Y’all, I’m proud.

I did it. I went to see a psychiatrist.

I’ve been talking openly with my OBGYN about my concerns and likelihood of a second bout with postpartum anxiety after this pregnancy, and I’ve been making a plan, but I still just felt worried. I know from working with so many other moms that I was really lucky that a simple Zoloft script from my doctor did the trick last time. What if it doesn’t this time? What if I could do better? Care for myself better? Then yes, obviously I should go see a psychiatrist who specializes in Postpartum/Perinatal mental health, BUT…..then the voices come in:

You’re fine. Don’t be weak. You said you’d make it to 36 weeks before taking medication.

You’re doing enough already. You don’t need all that. You aren’t crazy.

Why can’t you just be like normal women? Everyone else is fine.

Y’all, I know these voices are bullshit, but here they were. 

But I made the appointment and when I voiced my disappointment in myself, my partner said, without hesitation, “You’re taking care of yourself, which means you’re taking care of baby James.” Damn. That’s right. Isn’t that what I would say to any other mom but myself?

So I went today. And I was a little panicky in the waiting room, and I was letting myself feel ashamed for being there. 

I reminded myself how many times I’d wished this for friends and family, that they’d seek the care they needed, and I was no different. But it was scary. 

And it was all worth it. When you go see an expert, they can actually give you expert advice. Surprise! I felt so much safer and protected just from talking with the doctor. I realized that the OBGYN has been great and open to my concerns, but this is a doctor who is looking out for me, especially my mental health. I finally felt like my mental health was the priority and that made me feel so reassured about the future and the next year ahead of me. I’d never even thought that one had to consider blood volume and metabolism and pregnancy and how complicated medication can get then.

We talked about medicine but also about protecting my sleep. She gave me permission to advocate for myself in ways I wouldn’t have thought of. 

So, I took care of me. And I’m taking care of baby. And I have a safety net. I recommend any mom who is thinking of taking this next step in care to do it. Let me know if you have questions!