I’m not going to lie, this is the hardest of these three posts to write. One because it’s probably the most personal and two because I’ve seen a lot of posts about the postpartum experience and how difficult it is and how many unexpected things happen to you after you give birth. I’ll just lay it out there, this isn’t one of those posts. I knew what I was getting into before I got pregnant. I knew there was a very good chance I would be left with stretch marks and it might take me years to get the baby weight off. I knew postpartum depression was very real and that there was a chance I might not be able to breastfeed. So this isn’t a post about all the things that happened that surprised me and how difficult it was being a new mom. Because to be quite honest, I absolutely love being a mom and haven’t had struggles like I know many people do. It is a post about the things that happened to me and how I dealt with all of it though. I’m going to break it down into sections so that I hopefully don’t get too off topic, also this is going to be a pretty long post. So you can sort through what interests you.
Oliver was born early in the morning on a Tuesday, and we went home Wednesday afternoon. So we technically only spent one night after he was born in the hospital. The first day was a pretty big blur. Our parents came to visit, as well as my sister and brother-in-law who were able to come down to meet their new nephew. We had one friend, who actually works at the hospital, stop in and meet him but overall its was just our parents and us which was really nice. I know some people with bigger families might like having everyone come to the hospital to meet the baby, but I just feel like that would be way too overwhelming, for me at least.
That first day I spent the whole morning in bed. At some point, I decided I wanted to stand up. I don’t really know why, but all of a sudden I was just over being in the bed. So I called my nurse in and awkwardly said “I feel like I want to stand up..” It’s kind of weird asking for help to stand up, but it was definitely necessary. The hardest part for me was actually scooting the the edge of the bed, and that would be the case for the next week or so until I healed a bit. Actually standing and walking wasn’t horrible, just kind of shaky and awkward, but not overly painful. My nurse walked me in to the bathroom and showed me how to use the peri-bottle, and let me just say ladies, that thing will become your best friend over the next few weeks. She let me do my business but did come to check on me once just in case I’d fallen and couldn’t get up, I hadn’t.
Once I was able to walk around, I didn’t feel much like laying in bed. So I got up every now and then and walked around the room, just to get my body back to normal again. Our doctor and nurses came to check on us throughout the day, but overall everything was going totally normal and we were going to be able to go home the next day. So after our short hospital stay we were heading home with baby.
There Will Be Blood
Okay. This is definitely the most graphic I’m going to get. I’m going to include it because it’s kind of hard to know what to expect and not everyone talks about it a whole lot. So here it goes.
It makes total sense that you’re going to bleed after giving birth right? I mean, no period for 9 months, then you somehow push another human out of you, that’s not going to come with no blood. The first day or so is the worst. There’s a lot of soreness and bleeding and you aren’t really sure if its being absorbed by the massive pad they put you in, but you sure as hell hope it is. Like I said, I spent a lot of that morning in bed, so I was a little terrified as to what I would find when I finally made my way to the bathroom. It wasn’t as bad as I had mentally prepared for. Don’t get me wrong, there’s blood, but it just wasn’t as intense as I had prepared for. I guess that’s a good thing, maybe I should tell you it was really horrible so you prepare for it to be a lot worse than it is…
Anyways, after the first few days it does calm down a little, but be prepared to bleed for about a month after you have your baby. Stock up on pads before you give birth so you don’t have to be bothered with going to the store, or with sending your husband/significant other to find them for you. But get super absorbent ones as well as some lighter ones. After a few weeks, there’s enough bleeding to need something, but you really don’t need to be wearing adult diapers anymore. By the time I went in for my 6 week check-up, I had just about stopped bleeding. Then I had another IUD placed, which guess what? Causes some bleeding. Then I was one of the lucky ones who gets their period back pretty quickly after giving birth. So when Oliver was about 2 months old I felt like I’d been bleeding his entire life. I sort of had.
I feel like there is a lot of pressure in society today about “Breast is Best”. The breastfeeding class I took before giving birth emphasized that, but it didn’t really offer anything in the ways of what if you’re not producing enough and baby is still hungry? They basically just pushed that breastfeeding has so many benefits, which it does, but I think the best thing to remember is fed is best. I was mentally prepared for the fact that I might not be able to breastfeed. I planned on breastfeeding for 3 reasons: cost, ease and nutrition. Breastfeeding is cheaper than formula, obviously. Insurance typically covers a breast pump and other than that there really isn’t much expense to it. Also it’s easy, by easy I mean there’s no getting up in the night and making bottles, so there isn’t much delay from a crying, hungry baby to an eating baby. And of course there’s all the nutritional benefits that have been proven over the years. But even with those things in mind, I knew that there was a possibility that my body wasn’t going to make enough food for my baby, and if that was the case I’d have to spend the money and make bottles and guess what? My baby would still get the nutrition he needed and that’s what is most important. I feel this is a really hard thing that is put on moms, especially first time moms. They are expected to breastfeed, so some may be left feeling not good enough if they aren’t able to. So while I think breastfeeding is great if you’re able to do it, there is absolutely no shame in formula feeding. And another thing while I’m on an expectation of nursing mothers rant, I think our society has a major issue with breastfeeding. We put so much emphasis on breast is best, but then society turns around and says “oh but not in public”. What are we supposed to do? You’re telling me breastfeeding is what I should be doing, but when I’m in a public place and my baby is hungry I’m expected to go to a gross bathroom or dark alley to feed him? When I’ve fed Oliver out in public I have always covered up with a blanket, or found an out of the way place to feed him and that’s mostly because that’s what I’m comfortable with. Because of that, I haven’t gotten any nasty looks or gross comments made towards me, but if I had I think I would absolutely lose it. If people can’t accept a nursing mother, they should also be offended by the countless ads using sex to sell products. I don’t see anyone, other than the occasional super conservative, complaining about the victoria’s secret ad, so let the mom feed her baby when it’s hungry and move along if you don’t want to see it.
For me breastfeeding had its ups and downs. It takes a few days after delivery for milk to really come in, so for the first few days it felt like Oliver was barely eating. But he was happy and doing fine at his first check up appointment when he was 4 days old. He had lost weight, which is normal for babies to do after they are born. But my milk was starting to come in that weekend, and when it does you better be ready. I felt like I needed to feed Oliver constantly to stay comfortable. My breasts were leaking and engorged for a few days. But it mellowed out. The body really is amazing, and it learns what baby eats and adjusts after a few days of awkwardness. I’ve been able to successfully breastfeed so far. The hardest part about it for me is pumping. I really don’t like it, and building a stash for when I was going to go back to work was really hard. While my body makes enough to feed Oliver, it doesn’t make any extra. So squeezing in an extra time to pump was really hard, I didn’t want to pump and then not be able to feed Oliver when he got hungry the next time. About 2 weeks before I was going to be going back to work, I started pumping every night just after Oliver went to sleep. It worked out for me and I was able to have a small stash built up before I went back to work.
Oliver has always loved eating, so he caught on pretty quick to the whole eating thing. The first day in the hospital I wasn’t sure if it was going well or not, it’s really hard to know when you’ve never done it before. But the nurse I had on day 2 was a mom herself and she was so easy to talk to. I asked her if things looked right and she assured me that Oliver had a great latch and we were both doing exactly what we needed to do. She also assured me that even though they tell you breastfeeding doesn’t hurt, it hurts. And she was right. For the first few weeks I’d say, it can be downright painful. One thing I’d recommend you have in your postpartum stash of goodies if you’re planning on trying to breastfeed is nipple cream. It seriously helps so much. Also, if you don’t already have them, get some loose fitting shirts to lounge around the house in. There’s a few reasons for having these, but they really are so much easier to feed baby with. Other than that, stick with the awkwardness of the first few days/weeks and hopefully it will get better. If it doesn’t, remember there is no shame in switching to formula.
Going Back to Work/Leaving Baby
Mauricio and I were both very fortunate to have a full month off of work together after Oliver was born. I truly believe that my postpartum period was easier because I had Mauricio to rely on for that whole month. I didn’t have to figure out how to be a parent on my own, we did it together and that made a world of difference. Oliver is a pretty great baby, so there were very few moments where I felt overwhelmed, but when I did, I had Mauricio right there to help me. Mauricio did have one day that he went in to work when Oliver was about 2 weeks old. Then, after a month I went back to work for one day. It was so hard leaving Oliver, but I knew that he was at home with Mauricio and I was just a phone call away. It was the weirdest feeling being away from them after I’d grown so used to spending all day everyday with my new little family.
I know there are women who have careers and genuinely love working, I’m not one of those women. I’ve always worked to pay bills and dreamed of the day I can stay home and raise my kids. We’re getting really close to that dream, but for now I still work part time. So when Oliver was about 6 weeks old, I went back to work. With how expensive child care is, and how limited it is in our town, daycare wasn’t really an option for us. Luckily, Mauricios mom has Mondays and Tuesdays off and was so excited to be able to watch Oliver while I worked. So not only do we get some free daycare, but Oliver gets to bond with his abuela at the same time. We had this plan laid out from before Oliver was born, but once the day came for me to go back to work, it was a whole different feeling. It was so incredibly hard being without him all day and not knowing exactly what he was doing every minute. Think about it, this baby had been with me for 10 solid months, 24/7. I work about a half mile from my in-laws and Mauricio literally works across the street from them (small town perks), so it’s really easy for us to go to their house for lunch and visit. We go over and see him on our lunch break and its so nice.
To be honest, the days I have to go to work are the hardest days for me as a mom. I wonder what he’s doing, how he’s sleeping, does he miss me? I know that he’s fine with my mother-in-law, but adjusting to having someone else care for your child is really hard. Power to the mamas who do it and work full time, I’m not strong enough for that. I still have days where I just want to quit work and spend every moment with Oliver, but for now working is the best thing for my family. Even if I’m only working part time. We get the extra bit of money each month, and Oliver is creating a great bond with his abuelos.
Weight Loss/Body Changes
If you read my pregnancy post, you know I gained A LOT of weight while I was pregnant. Now, I’ve never been too focused on weight as an indication of how healthy I am. I believe you should be happy with the way that you look and feel and not so focused on a number on a scale. In fact, we don’t even own a scale. However, when you’re pregnant and going to the doctor at least monthly, you know how much you weigh all the time. My doctor never commented on the fact that I gained a lot of weight, but I know that I was well above averages thanks to the internet. I did my best to eat healthy through pregnancy, with my one weakness of my nightly bowl of ice cream. And I did my best to stay active, which is hard to do when you’re growing like a hot air balloon. Despite that, I gained 60 pounds while I was pregnant. I told myself that I would give myself 9 months to get back down to where I was before I got pregnant. 9 months on, 9 months off. I wasn’t so concerned about getting back down to me pre-pregnancy weight, but I wanted to be able to wear my pre-pregnancy clothes without feeling like a stuffed sausage.
I know that there’s some women out there who leave the hospital looking like they were never even pregnant. But I left the hospital looking about 5 months pregnant, which is totally normal. I think it’s important to note that celebrities are on some sort of different scale when it comes to child bearing. No one should look to them as the normal standard, for anything. My baby weighed 9 lbs 7 oz. Pair that with the pound or two of the placenta and other fluids lost, I would guess I walked out of the hospital about 45 pounds heavier than I was 9 months prior. It takes a few weeks for your stomach to go down after giving birth, so I didn’t feel any shame is wearing the same maternity clothes/sweats I’d been wearing for the last few months. But I also knew I didn’t want to stay in them forever.
There was one thing that I experienced after giving birth that I was not ready for. I sweat like a pig! I don’t know if this is normal for everyone, or if I just retained a whole lot of water. But for about 2 weeks I was constantly sweating. I’d wake up in the night just drenched in sweat, even though it was a totally normal temperature in the house. But in those two weeks of sweating I lost about 20 pounds. My hands went back down to their normal size, I could fit in my shoes comfortably again and even my thighs shrunk. Again, I don’t really know if this is the case for everyone, but I really think a lot of my pregnancy weight was water retention.
The weekend after Oliver was born we went out walking, I made it about twice as far as I had the weekend before. I was still pretty sore, so I wasn’t fast but I definitely had way more energy than I had a week before. I knew that walking and being active again would be my best friend. So I dug out my fitbit to help me get a bit motivated and make sure I’m moving every day. I also made the effort to stop eating a bowl of ice cream every night. Then when Oliver was a few weeks old, it was recommended that I cut back on dairy. I typically eat a lot of dairy, its my snack, my topping, my desert ect. Dairy is literally half of my diet, so that was tough. But I think it made a huge difference on my weight loss honestly. I didn’t eat dairy for a good 2 months and in those months I lost about 20 pounds. I was also breastfeeding, which burns a lot of calories they say.
It felt good that at 5 months postpartum I could wear my pre-pregnancy clothes. I had done it! Well, kind of. My body is definitely a different shape than it used to be, so a lot of my clothes no longer fit in the right way. I also still have about 5 pounds hanging on to my stomach that I’m working to get off. I’m staying active and watching what I eat, while still eating enough to make food for my babe. It’s tough, but at 8 months postpartum I’m very close to my pre-pregnancy body and I can’t complain about that!
The one major difference is my stomach. I grew a big baby, and my belly got HUGE. Therefore, I have a lot of stretch marks. They’ve gotten a lot lighter as the months have gone on, but they are still very prominent. I see a lot of posts about embracing your stretch marks and how they are a sign of what you’ve sacrificed for your child. I’m not there yet. I don’t love them. I knew that I would likely have them, but it’s hard adjusting to seeing them in the mirror. I’m not comfortable in a two piece swimsuit anymore. I’m not really sure if I ever will be, time will tell on that one. My amazing niece did a photo project on the toll childbirth takes on a woman’s body, and I offered to let her take pictures of me. She did an awesome job with portraying these difficult things in an abstract and beautiful way, and its helped me take a step in accepting my new mom bod a bit. She’s part of the reason I’m comfortable sharing some of them with you all here.
Check out her Instagram