This past weekend, Miles turned 1.
I think this is a common time to take a walk down memory lane for a milestone like this. It’s a time to reminisce over how much he’s grown and remember the day he joined the world. And, while I’ve certainly done that, it’s also been a year since I gave birth.
I think one of the only surprising things about pregnancy and childbirth to me has been the postpartum period. While I had knowledge of a lot of the trials and tribulations, overall, I was mostly unprepared for it. And I think the reason is that we don’t talk about it and fuss over it as much compared to other parts of having a baby.
We talk about pregnancy a ton. We ogle over pregnant women, ask how they are feeling, and ask what they need. Ladies talk about labor and childbirth like it’s the season’s hot TV show when we’re out at happy hour. We ask how long labor was, what the birth was like, share our own war stories, and bring brand new moms casseroles. But when it comes to the rest of the postpartum period, we kinda just stop. We don’t gossip about postpartum or share experiences with girlfriends. We stop asking mom how she is feeling.
So I wanted to write a post about my entire experience one year postpartum. I also feel like like another weird thing about the postpartum time is that we typically refer to postpartum as the few weeks after childbirth, maybe the next 3 months (the fourth trimester), and then we stop. But I’d argue the entire postpartum process is much longer.
I feel like “recovery” is the only part of postpartum people really talk about, if at all. But for me, personally, it was the quickest part and barely touched the surface of my entire postpartum experience.
1-4 days Postpartum
I’ve shared before that one of the most surprising things to me about actual childbirth was how uncomfortable I was in right after. And, it’s kinda funny to think that seeing as what “down there” had just gone through. OF COURSE it’s gonna be a little sore. Although I know it’s different for everyone, I had a vaginal birth and a perineum tear which required stitches.
About 2 hours after childbirth a nurse assisted me to the restroom (because of my epidural they needed to make sure I was good to walk) and showed me how to load 8 million pads (slight exaggeration) onto my mesh underwear. Then she showed me a little freezer with some frozen pads to help with the pain. They offer you a Tylenol, then offer you something stronger if you need it.
Now, when I say I was in pain, I don’t mean it was excruciating. The Tylenol was fine, and I actually only took two doses of it before I told them I didn’t need it anymore. I was in pain. It hurt to sit, it hurt to lay on my back, it hurt every time I had to go from sitting to standing and vice versa. Getting in and out of the car hurt. Standing up to hold my new baby hurt. It wasn’t unbearable, but I was definitely in constant discomfort. Imagine a bad wound that’s been stitched up between your legs, and that’s what you’ve got. There’s also a lot of bleeding.
4 days-2 Weeks Postpartum
The pain and discomfort starts to ease around the first week, and I’d say pretty much all my pain was gone by week 2. While I was still healing, the overall discomfort had faded. I was still bleeding, but not quite as much at the beginning. I’d say the bleeding mostly tapered off around weeks 3-4.
Nursing and Breastfeeding
Hands down one of the hardest parts of postpartum life for me was breastfeeding. Oddly enough, it was also one of my favorite parts. I shared our breastfeeding journey at 3 months as well as a 10-month update. Long story short, I had a baby who wasn’t a great nurser. I was stuck pumping a lot. It left me with a mediocre supply. I also had to supplement with formula.
I put breastfeeding into the postpartum category because I think it has a huge impact on the postpartum period. When you’re nursing your body is basically, for lack of a better word, a milk machine. It’s pretty hard to get back into feeling like yourself when you barely have time to take a shower alone. And, it’s such a weird time when you have this desire to just have a little time to yourself, but you’re also totally and fully consumed and in love with this tiny person that the second you are away from them for a moment all you want to do is rush back to them.
The Time Commitment
Y’all, nursing and feeding a baby is a FULL-TIME JOB. In the early weeks, I spent 10-12 hours a day on feeding/nursing-related things. I was not prepared for this. After I’d fed, pumped, cleaned any pieces, and had 5 minutes to pee it was basically time to feed again.
This time commitment tapers off slowly, going from 12 hours to 10 to 8. But for the first 3-4 months you spend A LOT of time feeding and/or planning for the next feed.
Pain and Engorgement
I was lucky enough to avoid some of the rougher nursing side effects like mastitis. I also didn’t get any cracking or bleeding too bad (just a very little bit at the beginning). But I did struggle with engorgement the first two months A LOT since Miles was not that good at nursing and a pump can only do so much. Engorgement is basically what it sounds like, when there is just too much milk in the duct – it’s overfull. It makes the area super sore, it hurts to touch it, it hurts to raise your arms. It’s overall just a pain – literally and figuratively.
I wasn’t totally prepared for these extra pains of nursing. I feel like I had heard about the cracking and bleeding, but I wasn’t prepared for engorgement day after day that never seemed to go away. Not the mention, once again, and the sheer amount of time it took to take care of it all. I finally had a moment to myself and I was left to tend to engorged boobs…new mom life…
My tips for engorgement:
- Heat. My LC gave me the tip of soaking a newborn diaper in hot water then popping it into your bra. It holds fluid perfectly and also fits perfectly into a bra cup haha. I used heat before any kind of milk expression (nursing, pumping, etc.).
- Hand expression in the shower under warm water. This was probably the best thing I could do when it got really bad. It’d clear it up almost immediately. What the pump couldn’t do, hand expression could.
- Nurse, nurse, nurse. (Or, pump, pump, pump.) At the end of the day you just need to get the extra milk OUT.
The Impact of Nursing on Your Day-to-Day
Fitting nursing a baby into day-to-day life is easier said than done. I was definitely unprepared for how difficult it would be on the daily. You see beautiful images of women breastfeeding on Instagram and assume it’s so easy and peaceful. (And I’m not against these kinds of pictures because I’m 100% on the #normalizebreastfeeding train) But, while many times nursing Miles was extremely calming, relaxing, quiet bonding time with him… it’s not always that. Sometimes it was hot and sweaty, and sometimes it was in tight, uncomfortable restaurant booths or airport benches. While many times nursing was so calm and peaceful, other times it was just straight up a pain in the ass.
Some of the daily nursing struggles were:
1. You need to make sure you’re wearing something easy to nurse in. This sounds simple enough, but it’s honestly an added challenge every single time you go to get dressed.
2. If you’re going out, you need to plan where to nurse. This gets easier as the baby gets older and is quicker about eating. But, for his first 3 months of life, Miles would nurse for 45 minutes at a time. I don’t really want to be sitting in a public restroom for that long.
Your body goes through A LOT to bring a baby into this world, lemme tell you. I gained almost 45 pounds during pregnancy (about 10 pounds more than the top of the range they told me I’d gain). It’s safe to say I didn’t feel all that confident about this. I remember standing in the hospital bathroom a few hours after delivery and I was too scared to look at myself in the mirror. I had no idea how this post-baby body would look.
Some of the baby weight just falls off on its own thanks to nursing and your uterus contracting and all that good stuff. But after about three months, 8-10 pounds still hung around. I honestly didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself to lose it. I didn’t want to change my diet too much since I was nursing. I just focused on eating really well. But this added weight does make you feel a little uncomfortable in your own skin. Clothing doesn’t fit right, you’re a little self-conscious in things you used to wear, and you kind of just feel off.
By about 5 months PP (postpartum) I was back to my pre-baby weight. But none of my pre-baby clothing seemed to fit right. Shirts were tight, dresses didn’t button correctly, jeans felt uncomfortable. By 7 months PP I actually weighed about 7 pounds less than I did before I got pregnant, and yet, still things didn’t fit the same. I think there is this misconception that you can get back to your pre-baby body but the truth is...you can’t.
Your body is really never quite the same. My rib cage expanded during pregnancy and never shrunk back down all the way. My hips are literally not in the same exact place as before – they hit lower. Your body spent 10 months stretching, rearranging, and expanding to carry an entire human being, so it’ll never be exactly the same. And it shouldn’t be.
Dressing Your Postpartum Body
I wrote an entire post all about tips for dressing your postpartum body, especially in those tricky first 3-4 months. Check it out to see my favorite pieces that got me through that hardest postpartum period.
Embracing the mom bod
At first, I struggled to accept this new body. It’s not easy. Like I said, you feel a little uncomfortable in your own skin. You don’t see the body you remember when you look in the mirror. There are veins and cellulite and lines where there weren’t before.
But, as time has worn on, I’ve actually embraced this body more than ever before. I had spent a lot of time in my younger years, before being a mom, shaming my body. It wasn’t thin enough, tan enough, fit enough, smooth enough – whatever. The one amazing thing about this whole experience is I don’t do that anymore. This body I was given is (excuse my French) a fucking miracle. It has hiked mountains, trekked across multiple continents, taken me through college, into my career, created life, and made me a mama. I’m honestly done obsessing over wanting to be it perfect. I think that’s one of the greatest gifts motherhood has given me.
Relationship with My Husband
When I took to Instagram to ask if you had any topics you really wanted me to cover this one came up A LOT. And, I’ll be honest, I was unprepared for this. Michael and I are best friends. We do everything together. I mean, we used to go grocery shopping and get gas together – so I mean we did EVERYTHING together. You throw a baby into that mix and it can mess with things.
In those first few months, you start to feel a little bit more like roommates than husband and wife.
We were in survival mode. Both of you will be neglected by the other in the beginning, it’s unavoidable. But it’s temporary. Michael and I used to remind ourselves that this phase wouldn’t last. While at that moment we didn’t have time to cook dinner together or snuggle up and watch a movie, we knew soon we would.
Relationship Tips for After a Baby Arrives:
- Make the Time: Having a new baby is a constant balancing act of time: time that the baby consumes, making time for yourself, time for your husband/relationship, time for your house. You always have to sacrifice one thing for the other. In the beginning, we’d physically write together time into our weekly schedule. It felt a little funny and forced at first, but it was just about making sure we spent time together.
- Don’t Sacrifice Yourself: While making time is very important, you don’t want to do it at the risk of yourself. While we’d make sure to find time for our relationships, sometimes I’d have to sacrifice time with Michael to give myself “me” time to take a shower or sleep or do some laundry.
- COMMUNICATE: At the end of it all, a good relationship all comes down to communication. And it’s the key to ours. When Michael felt neglected, he’d tell me. When I felt like I wanted to be felt more appreciated, I told Michael. So often in our day-to-day life, we can forget these things. We maybe become complacent or with a new baby, you’re in survival mode that you don’t think about it. For us, communicating our feelings was key. Even if we didn’t have the time to address the issues at that moment, we could acknowledge how the other one felt, and that made a big difference.
- Remember it’s temporary: This period of time is a blip on the radar of your entire relationship. Remind yourself that but more importantly, remind each other. Keep those lines of communication open. Just because you don’t have time for some of the things you used to right now, you will soon enough. And, remember that the GOOD stuff is temporary, too. You’ll never get your child back as a newborn. Try to soak it up together as much as you can.
Postpartum depression. You hear about it probably 1,000 times before you give birth. And this is important: MANY women struggle with this. And when women struggle in silence there can be dire consequences for everyone involved.
I personally didn’t experience any postpartum depression with this pregnancy. But…there are SO MANY OTHER THINGS that can also happen due to the constant flux in hormone in your body I think it’s important to talk about these too. While they aren’t as drastic, it’s good to know what your body and mind may experience.
I definitely struggled with postpartum anxiety. I remember the first time we put Miles to bed and sat down to watch a movie. I was watching the movie but had this nagging anxious feeling about what was going to happen in the movie. Mind you, this was a movie I’d seen at least 8 times. I knew what was going to happen. But I was anxious. What was going to happen? When was it going to happen? What was taking so long for it to happen? It was this nagging feeling in my chest of wanting the movie to get to the point quicker.
In my early postpartum months, I was so used to ALWAYS having something to do, I struggled to relax at all. I felt like I needed to always be doing something. This continued for a lot of my first year with Miles. Many times when I sat down to relax I couldn’t. I felt like I should be doing something. When I was in a conversation sometimes my mind would be somewhere else thinking about something else I needed to do.
It got better with time by acknowledging it and doing my best to try to slow my mind. I tried to find ways to force myself to relax. I found that asking for help so my to-do list didn’t feel mounting helped a lot (which was very hard for me at first as someone who likes to be able to do it all).
What No One Tells You About Weaning Breastfeeding
We talk a lot about the hormone rollercoaster that happens after childbirth. But, it turns out that’s not the only one you might experience. What NO ONE told me about the postpartum period is that when you wean off breastfeeding you are once again at risk of anxiety and depression. When you’re breastfeeding, your body is creating prolactin and oxytocin. Both of these help with milk production and let down but also are feel-good hormones. When I was going to my lactation consultant during Miles’ first months, she always joked how her room was the calmest in the pediatrician office from all the oxytocin floating around.
Well, when your body has all those feel-good hormones pulsing through them and then you stop nursing and your body stops producing them, you could notice anxiety creep in. Women experience this on all ranges from not noticing it all to suffer from panic attacks, depression, and general grumpiness. This post explains it in much more detail.
Once again, I didn’t experience anything too drastic, but I definitely had some mood swings and general anxiety right after weaning Miles.
Well, there you have it. It’s a hefty post and I THINK I covered it all, but who knows I probably missed some things too.
At the end of it all, just like everyone says, it’s all so worth it.
But, I wanted to share my experience because I feel like we don’t talk about the ENTIRE postpartum period enough and hopefully this sheds some light for some others out there.