Hey everyone! I just wanted to let you know that I wrote a guest post for the DC Area Moms Blog on postpartum yoga and body image.
“Totally worth it.”
That was what Dan said when I asked him recently what he thought about hiring a doula. If you’ve read Elliot’s birth story, you know that it did not go entirely to plan, and that there were a few curveballs even beyond what you might expect from an induction. And through it all, I relied on my husband and he relied on Jenny.
I know that there’s still a feeling among pregnant women that a doula is only for women who are planning an unmedicated birth and want to avoid allopathic medical interventions, but I wanted to talk a little about my experience with hiring a doula without being fully committed to unmedicated birth. Yes, I prepared using Hypnobabies and would not have been upset to have a totally unmedicated birth, but I also know myself, and know that I do not deal well with discomfort. And from our first consultation Jenny and Rose of Silver Spring Doula made it clear that they were here to support my birth, however that may go.
Silver Spring Doula consists of doulas Jenny and Rose, who have together attended more than 200 births as doulas. They also both have children of their own. Rose is a certified Hypnobabies instructor and actually was the one who pointed me in that direction when I expressed that I wanted some way of coping before getting to the hospital. She’s also a bereavement doula and was particularly helpful as I went through a pregnancy after loss. Jenny is a former actor and singer and I’ll admit, I gravitated towards Silver Spring Doula simply because Jenny’s bio spoke to me. Also, our cat likes both of them.
I will admit that I did not do much research or due diligence in choosing a doula, which is strange for me. But, as I mentioned before, Jenny’s bio clicked for me, and when we met Rose at our initial consultation, I was sure these were the doulas for us. We did our community prenatal class with Jenny and had Rose as our primary contact doula for our private prenatal visits, but Jenny was the one who attended my birth (I very narrowly avoided having the backup doula, which would have happened if I’d gone into labor on Christmas Day). Throughout my pregnancy, Jenny and Rose helped me feel more comfortable and gain confidence that I could handle what was coming. And they lent me the Spinning Babies Daily Essentials, which was absolutely key in my physical comfort in the last month or so of pregnancy.
Fast forward to the hospital. I’d been doing my Hypnobabies study, and Dan had gone over his Hypnobabies material and read The Birth Partner. We felt pretty confident and prepared for my induction. The first night was easy, and we decided we’d wait until I started pitocin to ask Jenny to come to the hospital (we were texting with her the whole time). By the time she got to the hospital, my water had broken and my contractions had intensified and I was already beginning to think it was time for an epidural.
Jenny came in and chatted with Dan and me about how I was doing, and made sure I had had enough to eat (I didn’t really have any desire to eat anything besides the approved clear liquids, but I did eat a lot of homemade gelatin). We talked through getting the epidural and she hung out with me and helped calm me down during contractions. Dan definitely picked up on what she was doing differently because when she had to step out during the actual epidural placement, Dan took over and mimicked a lot of her techniques.
Then she came back in and suggested I get some sleep while I had to lay flat. Once I was able to get back up, she helped me into a side-lying position that would still encourage Elliot to descend.
And then the epidural started to fail.
I first noticed that my left hip was starting to feel more uncomfortable. We thought maybe it was that the medicine was pooling on my right side because of how I was laying, so Jenny helped get me flipped over. When that didn’t work, she went to work advocating for me. Now, most of my friends’ epidural stories are of the “epidurals are magical” variety, but one friend of mine had a not-so-magical epidural experience, complete with nurses who refused to believe her when she knew something was wrong. Well, Jenny was my advocate while I was too busy coping with the now-increasing pain (they’d hit maximum pitocin while I was still feeling the epidural, so when it wore off, I was at almost twice the dose of pitocin from where I’d been when I first asked for the epidural). Dan was free to sit with me and help keep me calm through contractions while Jenny stayed on the nurses about my pain.
I honestly don’t know if we could have convinced them to redo the epidural if we hadn’t had Jenny there. They were certain that I just needed more medicine in my line because it’s very common for epidurals to wear off, but not so common for them to fail like mine did entirely.
Then, almost 36 hours after I’d gotten to the hospital to begin the induction, it became apparent that Elliot still wasn’t descending and I was stuck at 8cm dilated and -2 station. Jenny sat with Dan and my doctor and me as we discussed my options. She agreed that it wasn’t too early to consider the c-section because she’d seen the heart rate decelerations Elliot was having when I tried to lay in any position that encouraged him to descend.
Unfortunately, Jenny was asked to leave before I came back from the OR, but she kept in contact via text and came to visit while I was in the hospital to see how I was doing. And she came by the house for our postpartum visit the week we got home from the hospital. She even helped Dan and I figure out the stretchy wrap, thus starting our babywearing journey, and suggested that I look into getting a ring sling to help keep him off my incision.
She’s continued to keep in touch via email and has been a great source of support through all stages of my journey into motherhood. I hope that by sharing my experience with her I can convince others that a doula is not a frivolous expense, even if you’re having a medicated, hospital birth. I would argue that a hospital setting makes a doula even more necessary, as it was helpful to have someone who had experience with birth whose only job was making sure Dan and I were comfortable and supported.
NB: This is not a sponsored or paid review. I have not been given any incentive to write this post other than my own good experiences and all thoughts are my honest opinion.
Those of you who follow me on Instagram might have noticed that Dan and I often wear Elliot, especially for walks, or around the house. What started as a passing interest during my pregnancy turned into a full-blown necessity when it became clear that Elliot loves to move and I was not strong enough to carry him around in my arms as much as he wanted. Since Dan and I have both gone through a few iterations of babywearing carriers, I thought I’d share our experiences and talk a little bit about the styles we each prefer.
We started out with stretchy wraps, as many parents do. We were fortunate enough to be gifted both a Moby and a Boba wrap from some generous friends, and our doula helped us figure out how to tie the wrap during her postpartum visit. Dan was immediately excited about wearing the baby because it usually fell to him to walk Elliot around the house while I was recovering from my c-section. I was less enthused by the stretchy wrap because I couldn’t really handle anything around my middle without it causing pain for many weeks.
So I got a ring sling. The ring sling was amazing because it puts absolutely no pressure on your abdomen, and, once I had a friend show me how to use it, I still find it the quickest way to get Elliot up and into a carrier when he’s being fussy around the house. I purchased two linen slings from Sleeping Baby Productions and I would absolutely purchase them again (I bought one, loved it, and bought a second when she had a sale on because I wanted a backup for when my first was in the wash).
But my favorite way of wearing El for longer periods of time, such as our daily walks, has got to be the woven wrap. It is, of course, one of the more expensive ways to babywear, but I found a beautiful 100% cotton woven wrap from Little Frog for under $100, shipped from Poland. I use this wrap in a simple front wrap cross carry for all our outdoor walks now. The wrap is supportive enough that Elliot doesn’t try to kick out of it like he sometimes does with the ring sling, it distributes his weight evenly across my back so I don’t end up with a tweaked back, and the woven material doesn’t sag or stretch out as we walk. And they’re super gorgeous.
We both decided that we don’t love the stretchy wraps. The stretch makes tightening a bit more forgiving, but that also means that they sag and feel less supportive. I once went on a walk with El in the Moby wrap and by the middle of the walk, his wiggling had stretched out the wrap to the point where I basically had to carry him home. Dan decided he prefers a soft structured carrier. We got him a Boba 4G, which he wears around the house in the evenings. Since we’re different sizes, I let his carrier be his (plus, I tried it once, and I’m not a huge fan of it).
So those are our favorite babywearing methods. I’m looking forward to experimenting with more carries with my woven wrap as El gets bigger and more developed. And maybe I’ll treat myself to another woven wrap sometimes (or ask for one for Mother’s Day!).
When I was about six weeks out from my c-section, I tried to start up my yoga practice again, but found that my body had changed more than I’d expected. On the first day of March, nine weeks postpartum, I decided I was going to get back into my yoga practice and I made a deal with myself to try to practice every day of March.
As the month went on, my practice flowed and changed like my body and my feelings about myself. I didn’t quite manage every single day, but I made a good start. In restarting my practice, I’ve started re-forging my relationship with my body and myself, and I wanted to share my thoughts as I move forward from this new beginning, through my yoga practice. So I’ve decided to start a monthly Yoga Diary to document my new yoga journey.
This month, I mostly focused on rebuilding my practice and listening to what my body needed on any given day. At first, I started falling into a sort-of schedule of a more vigorous vinyasa-based practice on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with more restorative practices in between. But as I battled illness and dealt with two of Dan’s work trips, I found myself coming back to my original plan: to listen to my body. Some days I didn’t feel up to a vigorous practice, even though it was Monday, and other days I was ready to move more because I’d been sick, even though it was Tuesday.
I also had to find modifications for my postpartum, post-surgery body. Backbends are still a bit too intense on my lower abdomen, and I’m not doing full planks down to the floor. But on the whole, I feel a lot more confident in my body since restarting my practice (more on that later this month!).
My favorite pose this month has been viparita karani, or legs up the wall pose. I end most of my practices with this gentle inversion. On days when Elliot won’t nap consistently, I will sometimes set him to watch while I practice and if he gets fussy towards the end, I’ll hold him on my belly while I lay in my final pose. We can connect quietly, while I feel the tension release from my lower back and shoulders.
This month has also been about learning how to fit yoga practice into my current life. While I’m the type of person who thrives on routines and schedules, we don’t really have a schedule for Elliot, so I have to take my time when I can, usually during naps, or occasionally when he sleeps later than I do. I have to let go of my preconceived ideas of what “counts as practice” and allow myself to consider ten minutes of poses while on the floor with him my daily practice. I have to find time for myself and make time for myself by asking Dan for his help when he’s home. It’s been an exercise in self-care, more than just physical exercise.
Next month, I’m curious to see how returning to work at the end of the month affects my practice. I might not be able to practice every single day, but I’ll definitely work on ways to make space for yoga during my work day.
Elliot is three months old! We’re officially at the end of the so-called “fourth trimester” and I can definitely see it. Sadly, this also means that I need to start thinking about going back to work next month. I’m definitely not ready.
How I’m Feeling:
This month, I got back into my yoga practice and we started venturing out of the house more. I also got the chance to see how I deal with parenting by myself while Dan took some trips out of town. It’s nice to get out more and be able to take some time for myself during the day. It’s not so nice to have to do the bedtime routine by myself!
My incision is almost completely pain-free now, though it will get irritated by clothes or the occasional body product. I imagine that will linger for a while, but for the most part, I don’t think about my incision as much during the day. I definitely think about it while I do yoga, though, since I’ve noticed that I feel the pulling in my lower abs when I try to do back bending positions. So I’m taking it easy and listening to what my body wants to do.
Obviously, I’ve also been carving out more time for writing this month. There have actually been a few posts this month! Elliot is taking more predictable naps, which means I get a little guaranteed downtime during the day. Unfortunately, I sometimes don’t know whether he’ll nap for 45 minutes or two hours, but such is life. I generally try to prioritize getting a snack and a cup of tea first, and then use any remaining free time to decompress.
I will say, I’m not missing work at all yet (though I miss my coworkers a little). I know plenty of people are eager to go back to work and get a break from being alone with the baby all day, but I’ve rather been enjoying it. I suppose that comes with being a little introverted and more than a little lazy.
Also, Elliot started daycare this week. We were able to get a spot at convenient daycare, but they would only hold the spot until now, so we had to start paying a month before going back to work. So I figured it would be good to send him a day or two a week to get used to it (for both of us). He seemed to enjoy it, but I was a bit of a mess for most of the day. That said, by the end of the day, I was more used to the idea of him being at daycare, and realized that he was handling it fine.
How Elliot’s Doing:
El continues to grow and develop. This is our first month without a pediatrician checkup, but I can tell he’s getting bigger every day! He started outgrowing his 0-3 month clothes a while ago and has started officially wearing 3-6 month sizes!
He’s also doing great at tummy time, and even seems to be enjoying it for longer. I’m seeing a little personality shine through, especially when it comes to exploring new things. I had to leave him on the floor with a toy nearby when I had to go to the toilet a couple weeks ago, and while I was in the bathroom, I heard him grabbing at the crinkly leg of his stuffed dragon. He’s started reaching out and grabbing for things, and has definitely started trying to put more things in his mouth.
He has also started tracking things with his eyes. He’ll watch a toy if I move it back and forth while we’re playing, and he loves to look for me in the mornings when Dan is changing his diaper. I’m excited to watch him achieve these milestones and see his development!
I’m also noticing that he is starting to need more quiet and dark during his daytime naps. He stays awake longer when I take him for walks, and I’ve started taking upstairs to the bedroom for naps so he sleeps longer. I have my fingers crossed that this is the beginning of the so-called “four month sleep regression” and that we’ll have time to figure things out if he stops sleeping at night before I go back to work. Plus, we’re probably going to have to move him out of his bassinet sooner rather than later…
When I was born, my mother didn’t have any support breastfeeding and eventually chose to switch me to formula pretty early on, so I know that formula-fed babies turn out just fine. And, having gone through the first three months of breastfeeding myself, I totally understand why she gave it up. The first days and weeks of breastfeeding can be really tough, and while I have a solid breastfeeding relationship with Elliot right now, it wasn’t always easy and I came very close to quitting a couple of times. Now, I don’t know what will happen as I go back to work and Elliot goes to daycare and I have to start pumping more regularly instead of nursing, but since it’s been almost three months, I thought I’d share a little of our breastfeeding journey thusfar.
Our breastfeeding journey started well. I will start by saying that I never had any leaking at all during pregnancy, and like a lot of women, I worried that that meant I wouldn’t produce colostrum right away. Well, immediately upon arriving in the recovery room, the nurse was helping me get set up for skin-to-skin and was able to express a big blob of colostrum. El latched on well from the start, and things seemed off to a good start.
Then the second two nights hit and El stayed up screaming all night. The first morning after that happened, the nurse noticed that he was shaking his hands a lot and tested his blood sugar, but it was okay. And he wasn’t showing any signs of jaundice, so we decided to stay the course. But our third night in the hospital, the nurse explained that he had lost 10% of his birth weight and that the pediatrician would probably want to talk about supplementing with formula in the morning anyway, so we might want to consider giving him just a little bit to top-up to see if it helped him calm down.
I will say, supplementing with formula brought up a lot of feelings that I was trying very hard not to have. I have nothing against formula-feeding, and I even made sure to get plenty of samples of formula because I knew I wanted to make sure my baby was fed, even if breastfeeding didn’t work. Well, now that I was faced with the reality of needing to use formula, I felt broken and inadequate. But we gave him supplements and he was happy and I’m forever grateful for that nurse for broaching the subject in a very pro-breastfeeding hospital.
One we got home, we kept supplementing. The second day at home, my milk came in fully and El started refusing his formula supplement. The next day, the pediatrician found out he’d put on a lot of the weight he’d lost, and we were given the okay to stop supplementing. So we had a short supplementing journey, but I’m still glad we did it. I also had some issues with cracked nipples, and there was one night where I couldn’t face switching the baby back and forth between two already-raw nipples, for more than an hour, so I handed him to Dan for a top-up to see if it would satisfying him and give my nipples a break.
Ironically, after our issues with weight loss, the next major issue we had was an oversupply and an overactive letdown! All of a sudden, he went from nursing for 20 or more minutes per breast, to barely 5-10, and he would pull off, cough, sputter, and get fussy. Luckily, our pediatrician has a lactation consultant on staff and they strongly recommend having an appointment with her the first or second time you visit, so we were able to do a weighted feed and realized that he was eating for so short a time because that’s all he needed.
Since then, as my milk supply has been regulating, I’ve done a little bit of pumping to help take the pressure off, especially as he started sleeping longer stretches at night. We introduced a bottle of breast milk at about eight weeks to make sure he’d be used to it before he went to daycare. I will say, I think he prefers the breast because it’s actually a faster flow than the newborn nipples we use. It takes me less time to pump the amount he eats in a bottle than it takes him to eat it from a bottle!
As far as things that have helped me in my breastfeeding journey, here are my favorites:
A Nursing Pillow:
I got a My Brest Friend pillow at my shower, but I found the style to be limiting. I couldn’t use it for the football hold, plus it was occasionally irritating on my incision. So I splurged on a Moon Womb pillow from the Sustainable Baby Co. and, wow, it’s probably my favorite baby thing ever. If anyone finds a pillow that is the same shape, and stuffed with buckwheat instead of batting/foam, please let me know, so I can recommend a cheaper alternative. And a nursing pillow is totally worth it. When I need to wash my pillow cover, I miss my pillow when I have to try to rig up something with other pillows. Plus, the weight of the buckwheat-filled pillow felt amazing on my incision in the early weeks, and it smells like lavender and chamomile.
I had cracked nipples the first week or so, and in addition to nipple balm and all-purpose nipple ointment, I loved the hydrogel nipple patches from Medela. I got a handful of them from the lactation consultant at the hospital and bought more off Amazon. I will say that I absolutely have to change them every 24 hours or else my nipples get itchy. The lactation consultant said that some people can go up to 36 hours without changing them.
All-Purpose Nipple Ointment
Also called Jack Newman’s ointment, Dr. Jack’s ointment, Dr. Newman ointment, or just APNO, this was a lifesaver. Even now, I’ve noticed that if my letdown gets a little more painful than usual, a day or two of dabbing on APNO will quiet it down. If you have a doctor who will prescribe it and a compounding pharmacy where they’ll make it for you, it’s worth it, even though it’s not cheap (mine was $40/oz., but I’ve been using the same 1-oz. tube for three months).
Nursing Sleep Bras
I have a bunch of different styles of bra, but hands-down, my favorite nursing bras are the cross-over style sleep bras, like these from Kindred Bravely. I also have a bunch from Target, if you’re not feeling spendy. I like to wear a sleep bra with a deep v-neck or wrap-front top as my ideal nursing outfit.
A Giant Water Bottle
On the advice of a coworker, I bought a 32-oz. water bottle for my hospital bag and I’m so glad I did. Breastfeeding is thirsty work, and dehydration will 100% affect your supply negatively. I drink 3-4 of these bottles of water per day, and if I had a smaller bottle, I’d definitely be up too often to fill it. At the very least, it’s nice to have a bottle big enough not to need a refill in the middle of the night.
Breastfeeding is also hungry work, and you will need a variety of snacks. My favorite snacks are cereal, oat bars, and meat-and-cheese snack packs that my husband found for when I was getting sick of sweets.
So that’s where we’re at on our breastfeeding journey. I’ll try to update in a few months to see how going back to work and sending El to daycare affects it. But for now, I’m going strong towards my goal of at least one year of breastfeeding.
One year ago, I didn’t know I was going to get pregnant that month. I had just turned 35 and was still recovering from my loss the previous autumn. My oldest friend had just welcomed her son, a son that was supposed to have been born a mere three months before my own. But it was spring, a time of new beginnings, and I was trying to embrace that.
I had started acupuncture a few weeks earlier, and my acupuncturist had suggested I meditate on the green and growing things of springtime. He suggested that I focus on the fertile time of year that it was. And I was following my Circle + Bloom meditation program as well. I was meditating a lot. I meditated a lot in the months following my loss.
I didn’t know that I was standing on the cusp of a new period in my life. That a couple weeks later, I would see those two pink lines, and all the excitement and fears they brought up. This year, one year later, I’m sitting in a quiet house, watching my nearly-three-month-old son nap. We went to my friend’s son’s first birthday party this weekend.
I can feel the air warming and the world moving into springtime again, just as I did last year. This year, I won’t be blooming quite so obviously with the spring, but I’m still growing, becoming a mother, slowly but surely. And I get to watch my own little sprout grow as we nurture him.
Despite the years I’ve had in my life, I’m always amazed at the difference a year can make. As we emerge from winter, it’s nice to touch base with the constants in life — the spring, the sun, the flowering trees, the migrating birds — as I consider all that has changed. And I can sit here and appreciate every moment of my journey, joyful and sad, and appreciate that spring has come again.