baby

Meditations on the Beginning of Spring

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.

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baby, childbirth

My C-Section Recovery Essentials

So even though I had an unplanned c-section after almost 36 hours after the beginning of my induction, including 14 hours of pitocin, I probably had an easier time of recovery than a lot of unplanned c-sections because I never tried to push, so I had pretty much no perineal damage. That said, recovering from a c-section is never easy, and I thought I’d share a little bit about my recovery, and the things I found absolutely essential while recovering.

Of course everyone is different and every recovery is different. It’s my hope to help other women facing c-section see that it’s not the end of the world, and while recovery may be rough, it’s not impossible. If a c-section is what your body and baby need, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. And remember that you just went through surgery; it’s okay to need help. This was particularly difficult for me because I was so active before and throughout my pregnancy. To just be able to lay on the couch all day and not do anything more strenuous than nurse my baby was a big shift, both physically and mentally.

One thing that helped immensely was some perspective from my husband. About a week after we went home from the hospital, I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible abdominal cramping. Worried that something was wrong, I went in to the doctor to get checked out. She said that I’d strained a muscle. Strained a muscle? I thought. How, exactly did I do that when I’d been doing nothing but lying in bed? Well, from the location of the strain, I realized I’d probably strained it twisting over to the side to pick up Elliot from his bassinet to feed him. Which was disheartening to say the least. Until Dan reminded me that most people who have abdominal surgery are told not to lift anything, rather than “nothing heavier than the baby,” so it made sense that even lifting the baby could cause problems.

Which brings me to my list of essentials:

1. A Supportive Partner

My number one c-section recovery essential is a supportive partner. In my case, I was lucky that my husband was not only able to take off work for a month, but willing to stay away from his job for that long. I would say, at the very least, you should plan on someone being around to help you all the time for the first two weeks, until you know how your body is going to heal. I spent all my time laying in bed or on the couch, so I needed Dan to do pretty much everything else. I fed Elliot, but Dan fed the two adults. He did all the laundry. He kept me hydrated. He rocked, burped, and changed Elliot. Heck, when Elliot was still on formula supplements, Dan fed him most of his formula supplements. He made sure that all I had to think about was breastfeeding and recovering.

2. A Good Robe

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t buy this robe (which I’m wearing in the picture above) sooner. It’s not cheap, but it’s fantastic. It’s soft, thick, comfortable, and the belt is attached so you can’t lose it in the wash. I came home from the hospital with a belly the size it was at five months pregnant, and an incredibly sensitive lower abdomen. Wearing real clothes was out of the question for a while, and breastfeeding meant I needed frequent easy access in the front. This robe over a nursing bra, and some thick socks was my uniform for at least a week.

3. Maxi Dresses

The first few weeks of my recovery, I couldn’t stand wearing anything with a waistband. Wearing underwear was bad enough, but even leggings or a jersey skirt was out for everyday wear. While my robe was perfect for at home, I had to leave the house occasionally for doctors appointments. When that happened, I turned to my maternity maxi dresses. I have this dress in three colors and it’s basically all I wore out of the house, or when people visited, for weeks. It’s soft and comfortable, looks like real clothes even though it feels like a nightgown, and it’s cut ideally for easy breastfeeding access.

4. Cold Packs

My doctor clued me in that the perineal cold packs that were in my postpartum recovery bag at the hospital are also great for soothing an angry incision. When I got home and ran through the extras that the nurse gave me to take home, I found these, for a reusable option. They stay in the freezer and I wrap one in a dishtowel to prevent frostbite. Cold on the incision is key.

5. Postpartum undies

One thing for which I was completely unprepared was how much I would hate my normal underwear when I got home. I used hospital disposable undies for a while, but eventually, I wanted to feel like a normal, underwear-washing person again. I got these from Kindred Bravely, which are fantastic, if a bit delicate (some stitching is already coming undone on a few pairs), and when I went to order more, I tried these, which probably wouldn’t have worked for the early recovery days, but are great now that most of my immediate soreness is done. Seriously, wearing the wrong underwear caused a lot of my worst pain days after the initial healing period.

Now that I’m past the initial healing period, I’m still not wearing most of my normal clothes. I stick to soft-waisted bottoms, like yoga pants, wide-waistband leggings, and jersey skirts. I can’t imagine when I’ll ever want to wear jeans again, and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep my maternity skirt in rotation when I go back to work. But just shy of six weeks from the surgery, I woke up one morning and realized that I didn’t hurt at all. And since somehow pregnancy has made me sickeningly optimistic, I will say that the bright side of the c-section was that Dan was able to bond immediately with Elliot and I think it makes it easier for him to soothe El when he’s fussy.

I spent a lot of time preparing for the possible things that could happen during delivery, but the one thing I never planned for was a c-section. If I had it to do over, I would know to make sure I had the above things on hand (if I didn’t already have them), as a relatively simple way to make sure I was prepared for everything. And, seriously, that robe is awesome and I still wear it to and from the shower every morning!

baby, Fourth trimester, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: Two Months

Elliot is two months old! He got his first major round of shots yesterday at his two-month appointment and he handled it pretty well (although the nurse who gave them was a total ninja and I could have sworn I only saw her give one shot!). He did cry a lot at first, but a little nursing helped and he was just a little fussy later in the day. I had planned for lots of fussiness, so we spent most of the afternoon snuggling. And he got that awesome Wonder Woman bandage (the other leg has Superman).

How I’m Feeling:

I’m doing okay with the whole taking-care-of-a-baby-during-the-day thing. Last week was nice because Dan only had to go to work two days (he had off Monday and Wednesday for a holiday and snow, and had already planned on taking off Thursday for a dentist appointment and some other things), but this week we’re mostly back to the routine. I actually had my first excursion out without Elliot since he was born. I went to the dentist on Wednesday while Dan stayed home with him. Apparently, he mostly just napped and then woke up to have a bottle right before I came home. I was a little worried, but the amount of work Dan has put into helping care for El when we’re both home left me totally confident he could handle it.

Now that breastfeeding is more established, we’ve started introducing bottles of pumped milk in preparation for when he officially starts daycare later this month. The spot we got in the daycare started a month before I go back to work, so we can ease into it, sending him one or two days a week to get used to it, but the one thing is that we want to be sure he’s comfortable with the bottle before then. So I’ve been pumping a little bit between feedings to build up some extra milk to give him for one feeding on days when Dan is home, and then I pump while he feeds El. So far so good, but who knows what will happen to my supply when I’m actually back at work and pumping for at least three feedings per day.

Therapy has been going well. My therapist has even checked in on me via email when she knows something stressful is coming up. And my OB gave me a very low-dose prescription for Zoloft, which I’ve been taking for two weeks now. It’s not clear that it’s helping, but at least the initial side effects only lasted a couple of days. I’ve been feeling a lot better lately, mentally, and it’s probably some combination of the treatment and just feeling seen and supported.

How Elliot’s Doing:

El continues to grow and develop and it’s adorable. He’s sleeping well at night, and we’re currently working on naps. We set up a Pack ‘n Play in the living room so he can nap in a separate area from his play area. He can do half-hour naps with no problem, but longer naps remain mostly elusive (although he napped for an hour after his shots yesterday). But I’ve heard that no matter how well they start sleeping early on, it all changes at four months anyway, so I’ve been pretty relaxed about letting him nap in the ring sling or on me.

He still tends to get fussy in the afternoons and wants to be held a lot, so the ring sling has been a lifesaver for me. I’m getting more confident with him in it by the day, and even made part of dinner the other night while wearing him. This week we haven’t gotten any walks in, but we try to take a couple walks per week at least most weeks, which he appreciates until he falls asleep.

He’s also discovered his hands. The other day when he woke up from his nap, he wasn’t fussing, so I let him stay in the Pack ‘n Play for a little bit and when I looked in, he was just examining his hands. He’s also started “talking” a lot, making “boo” and “goo” and “gah” sounds. He also says “ow” a lot, which I like to think is the sound he thinks his mumma makes because I did say it a lot in the first month of my recovery.

Other than that, we’re just hanging out most days. We still play and “chat” and do tummy time a few times a day, plus he likes his Montessori mobiles. And I try to read him a story at least once a day. He enjoys being around people, especially his parents. Now that he’s gotten his first round of shots, and it seems like flu season is calming down, we might start venturing out of the house more.

As far as his doctor’s appointment, the doctor said he looks great and healthy and very alert. His weight gain has slowed down a bit, but she’s not concerned, especially since he’s still gaining, and getting longer. He’s probably just going to be tall and thin like his parents (especially his dad!). And we even managed to get him weighed without him peeing on everything and everyone this time!

baby, Fourth trimester, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: Six Weeks

Officially, six weeks marks the end of the “postpartum recovery period,” according to my doctor and short-term disability (actually I get a little longer because I had a c-section). And, honestly, I can kind of see why. It’s been a good two weeks and Elliot is continuing to develop and hit new milestones. But really, I prefer the idea of “the fourth trimester” that extends up to 12-14 weeks postpartum. And since I’m taking 16 weeks of maternity leave, I have plenty more time to spend recovering and getting to know El before returning to work.

How I’m Feeling:

Actually, pretty good. This past Tuesday, I woke up and for the first time since the birth, I felt no pain in my body. Of course, that’s not a constant thing, but I’m starting to have longer and longer stretches of feeling good. When I got over my first trimester nausea while pregnant, I described it as feeling like I had bad days while mostly feeling good as opposed to good days while mostly feeling bad. I think I’m getting to that point.

Last weekend, I went for a walk for the first time since the birth. I discovered that I can put El in the ring sling and walk for a mile or two with no problem. It was particularly helpful because I found a therapist within walking distance who had an appointment available. You see, with my history of anxiety and depression, I knew I was at risk of postpartum depression. And when El’s pediatrician suggested I discuss it with my own doctors after scoring my EPDS assessment, I decided to make an appointment.

The therapist was lovely and had no problem with me bringing El to the appointment and wearing him while we chatted. Plus, I got to see my acupuncturist because they work out of the same center! And since the therapist started out as a yoga teacher (she went back to school to get a degree because her yoga students kept seeking her out for help she wasn’t qualified to give and she wanted to be able to help), she also had some suggestions for yoga classes I could try.

But being active again has helped my mindset more than anything. Being able to get out of the house and not worry about being in pain later is wonderful. Now that I’ve officially been cleared by my doctor (I had my six-week postpartum checkup a couple days ago) for returning to normal activity, maybe I’ll try to get back into my yoga routine, albeit gently. I’m definitely not going to be going back to barre class anytime soon, but at least I can see that going back to barre is in my future, which was honestly a bit tough the last few weeks, as sore as I was.

How Elliot’s Doing:

He’s growing and developing and having a great time. He’s definitely starting to spend more time awake for reasons other than needing to be fed or changed. We can actually play together, kind of. I bought some toys, including a set of Montessori-designed mobiles to help engage him during his awake time, and I also brought down a mirror from our bathroom. Plus, he has a great library of picture books from our friends and family (especially Dan’s mother). The favorites right now are the Black and White series by Tana Hoban, which have silhouettes of objects, either black on white or white on black, to be more visible to a baby’s sight while he’s still primarily seeing contrasts. But as he develops, we have lots of other books to share with him.

I’ve also started reading to him from books. I’ve read a couple Beatrix Potter stories to him, as well as some of my favorite fairy tales from the storybooks I bought for Kindle. While they don’t have as many pictures and he doesn’t necessarily understand the words, he seems to enjoy listening to me read them. He definitely has started responding to our voices. During the day when Dan is at work, I can calm him down by holding him and singing to him more easily than just rocking him.

But probably the most exciting new development is that El has definitely started smiling. He smiles in response to us smiling at him and when he sees certain things. He gave a huge smile at a black-and-white cow toy that a family member gave us for him, so we’ve decided that’s his favorite toy. And he definitely smiles for his mumma and daddy. No matter how frazzled or tired or sore I might be, his smiles warm my heart. Dan says that he feels like he can’t even remember what it was like to not have him around most of the time, and I kind of agree.

baby, Fourth trimester, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: One Month

Elliot is one month old today! And what a month it’s been.

How I’m Doing:

Well, I was feeling really discouraged because every time I started feeling a little better, I’d be a little more active, and then suffer a setback and feel like I could barely move. But around last Thursday or Friday I realized that I actually felt much better. I’ve actually started wearing clothing with a waistband again! I’d been in nightgowns, robes, and maxi dresses for most of the month, so wearing a skirt was a big step. And today, I wore leggings to our pediatrician appointment, which is the closest to pants I’ve gotten in a month.

But I’m still managing to overdo it. I think it comes from being a pretty active person during my pregnancy. It’s hard to grasp that I was five times more able at 40 weeks pregnant than I am now, without the belly or all the extra weight. I’ve been experimenting more with babywearing because my arms get tired carrying him and Elliot likes to be walked around. I’ve come to the realization that the stretchy wrap is going to have to wait until I’m a little more healed because I’m having back pain after a couple days in a row of wearing it for a bit. But the ring sling seems to work better, probably because it keeps the baby weight distributed higher and doesn’t go around my middle at all.

This week marks the last week that Dan will be staying home, so I need to take some time now to try to become more independent with Elliot. I’ve started doing a little more at night, although I still need to make sure I’m standing and being careful when lifting El in and out of his bassinet, rather than being able to just grab him while sitting in bed. But we generally do a diaper change when we feed him at night anyway, so once I take over more of the overnight work, I’ll have to get up anyway.

I still haven’t ventured out of the house except for doctors’ appointments, although we have some appointments to tour daycare centers later this week, which should be interesting. I’m hoping I can keep El in the ring sling to minimize his exposure to germs (although I doubt it’s much more risky than the waiting room at the pediatrician). And eventually, I will get out to take a walk in the neighborhood, even if it’s just around the block.

How Elliot’s Doing:

Still growing. At his checkup this morning, he’s still firmly tracking the 45th percentile for weight, despite the fact that he’s been feeding for less and less time. I guess he’s just very efficient at nursing. He also got a shot, which he did not like, but he got over. He did spend the first bit of the car ride home looking grumpy in his car seat, but he fell asleep and wasn’t any worse for the wear.

He’s also started focusing on objects and faces. He looks at us from further away, and will even pay attention to books and toys. And he’s started smiling at people and things. I picked up a stuffed cow toy to show him during tummy time (because it’s black and white and high contrast) and he broke out in a huge grim when he saw it. He’s also started smiling at us when we smile or talk to him. It’s really exciting because it feels like he’s becoming more engaged with the world.

We’ve started getting him toys and showing him some of the (many) books we’ve received as gifts. I got a baby gym frame to hang things from and some Montessori mobiles. The gym hasn’t arrived yet, but I experimented with holding up the Munari mobile for him today and he was entranced for five minutes.

Obviously, we’re still in the eat-poop-sleep-repeat phase of newbornhood, but it’s really cool to see the occasional glimpses of the baby that is to come. Oh and he officially weighs more than the cat.

Current Stats: 9 lbs. 11 oz., 21 3/4″ long

baby, Fourth trimester, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: Two Weeks

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done a weekly update. Last time I checked in, I was 41 weeks pregnant and looking at an induction in a few days. I’ll be posting my birth experience next week, but I thought I’d start by sharing how our first two weeks with Elliot have been going.

How I’m Doing:

So, the postpartum period (or “fourth trimester,” as it’s sometimes called) isn’t just about baby development. It’s also about maternal healing. And I’ve definitely found the postpartum healing period more challenging than I thought it would be. I was completely unprepared for how much pretty much any normal daily activity would hurt with my c-section incision. The first week was mostly spent figuring out how to cope with reduced mobility. Dan has been invaluable, doing pretty much everything except feeding the baby.

I’ll be honest, I’m extremely frustrated that I can’t do almost anything. Earlier this week, I ended up back at the doctor for a last-minute appointment because I was having so much pain my lower abdomen. The doctor said I’d probably strained something, and given where I was hurting, I’m pretty sure I hurt myself lifting Elliot out of his bassinet at night. So I had to pull back even further and rely on Dan even more, which didn’t help the frustration (or the fact that we couldn’t really take shifts at night).

But we’re slowly adjusting and figuring out a sort-of routine. And Elliot is obliging and letting us sleep for a few hours at a time overnight, rather than staying up all night cluster feeding the way he did the first few nights at home.

How Elliot’s Doing:

Well, little guy seems to be having some congestion the past couple of days, but he seems mostly content and healthy. After several days of hourly feeds overnight, he’s calmed down, probably because he finished a growth spurt.

In the hospital, we had some trouble with him losing weight too quickly after birth, so we supplemented a little bit of formula after feeding him at the breast, but the day after we got home from the hospital, my milk came in, and he started refusing his formula supplements. When we had our first pediatrician checkup, he’d started gaining weight again nicely, and we were given the green light to go back to exclusive breastfeeding. At our two-week appointment this week, he’d already gained back to his birthweight (and then some!) so feeding seems to be going pretty well.

Over the last couple of days, we’ve noticed that he’s been a lot more alert and interactive during the day, instead of only waking up to fuss because he’s wet or hungry. His umbilical cord stump still hasn’t fallen off, so we’re being careful with tummy time, but I do occasionally put him on my chest to practice holding his head up and pushing up a little. He has remarkable neck control for a newborn and has since birth (he was holding his head up during skin-to-skin in the recovery room).

He’s also starting to noticeably outgrow his clothes. I think he’ll be out of newborn sizes fully in a week or two, though I’m glad we got newborn-sized clothes because the larger size was slightly too baggy for my comfort while sleeping. But our growing little guy is growing like a weed. As precious as these sweet, sleepy newborn moments are, I’m excited to see how he develops over the next months and years.

Current Stats: 8 lbs. 3 oz., 21.5″