My postpartum journey: the second time around
Hi everyone! I am so happy to get back to writing. Especially because today's topic is something that's very important to me - postpartum. While there are SO many books and resources about pregnancy and taking care of a newborn, I don't think postpartum is talked about enough. I shared my postpartum journey with Tatum (you can check that out here) and thought it was equally as important to share my experience this time around because while some things have been easier/similar there have also been a lot of differences. I am 16 weeks postpartum so I'm writing this a little later in my postpartum journey than I did with Tatum. For the most part I am feeling back to myself although it can take up to a full year after having baby to heal 100%. So give yourself grace and be gentle with yourself.
Just like with my post with Tatum I want to start by saying that everyone's postpartum journey is different. It's important not to compare your story to someone else's (more on that below). I also am no expert. While this is my second time going through postpartum, I know I do not have all the answers. This is simply me sharing my story and my hope is that it can help someone going through their postpartum journey or maybe help an expectant mother feel a little more prepared about what's to come.
Now just a quick background on my birth experience (I wrote a whole blog post about that which you can read here), I delivered Poppy vaginally after being induced. Both of my girls have been delivered vaginally so I cannot speak to C-section recovery and what that's like. I've kind of broken down this post into two different sections - immediately after birth (focusing more on the physical recovery) and several weeks into postpartum (I talk more about the mental aspect and things I do to help my mental well being).
Again, my goal for even sharing this is to help someone not feel alone. I talk to friends and acquaintances all the time about postpartum and the recurring theme I've learned is that no one is ever prepared for how hard it actually is. I had NO idea what to expect my first time around and because of that, I think I struggled more than if I had known somewhat what my body and emotions were in for after giving birth. This time around, while it was easier because I knew what to expect, I dealt with some things that I did not have in my first postpartum experience. This is my story.
All my love,
I will say that my physical recovery was a lot easier the second time around than it was with Tatum. I am so thankful for that. I had my girls 22 months apart so maybe my body just knew what to do. Don't get me wrong I still needed to take time to let my body recover, but I was up and moving A LOT sooner than I was with Tatum.
**This next part I talk about blood and all the fun postpartum supplies so if that's not something that interests you feel free to skip ahead.
Postpartum bleeding: If you read my postpartum post from Tatum, you know I bled a lot after birth. This time my bleeding was nowhere near as heavy. To the point where I thought something was wrong because I wasn't experiencing the type of bleeding I did with Tatum. I had pretty much no clotting. The nurses assured me that that was a good thing and no need to worry.
I used the same supplies I used the first time around including the Always Discreet Boutique underwear, Always maxi pads (I put a pad on top of my discreet underwear so I don't have to change those out every time), and the Frida Mom peri bottle. One thing new that I used this time was the Frida Mom witch hazel pad liners and they were a game changer. I tried using the Tuck's pads in my recovery with Tatum but I thought the circular shape made it hard to line my pad and then try to pull everything up without them moving. By the time I got everything up and in place I felt like the Tuck's pads had moved around so much that they couldn't even do the job they were intended for. The Frida Mom pad liners are as long as the maxi pad and did a good job of providing a cooling relief to help with pain.
The hospital will send you home with a lot of supplies as well. Make sure you take advantage of that and take anything you may need to help you recover at home. They will also send you home with a prescription for Tylenol. I took that any time I was having pain and would say I took it off and on for about two weeks after giving birth. After that I was able to switch to regular strength Tylenol or Advil.
Like I did with Tatum, I had postpartum stations in our bathroom and half bath downstairs. I filled a little basket up with underwear, pads, a peri bottle and cooling liners so I knew I'd have everything I need no matter where in the house I went to the bathroom.
Bowel movements: I didn't have a hard time with my BMs after giving birth to Tatum and I didn't this time around either. It was not painful to use the restroom and I had my first BM the day after I gave birth. The hospital did give me stool softener as part of my medications immediately after birth but once I went I didn't take them anymore and didn't need to take any once I got home. I know this is not the case for everyone and if you're having trouble going after you give birth, make sure you communicate that with your nurse.
Breastfeeding: This is something I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about because everyone's breastfeeding journey is different. But there are a couple things I want to talk about in regards to breastfeeding. Before I get into that though I just want to reiterate the fact that breastfeeding is HARD and I don't say that to scare anyone but I remember when I had Tatum I thought breastfeeding would be so easy and come very natural to me. It didn't. I struggled and I felt like I was a horrible mom because I was not easily feeding my child. I am a very big believer that all moms need to make the best decision for herself and her child and should not be made to feel guilty about whatever choice that may be. So whether you're breastfeeding or formula feeding, just know you are doing a great job!
I ate these cookies to help with my supply.
One thing I forgot about (which I don't know how I ever did) is the fact that you have contractions while breastfeeding for the first few days. Your body has contractions to help your uterus shrink down to it's normal size and they hurt. Luckily this time around they were not as painful and didn't last as long as they did with Tatum. Again, not sure if it's because Poppy was my second and my body was just used to it and knew what to do. Poppy also latched a lot better than Tatum. I think I was more confident going into it where as the first time I was so timid trying to get Tatum to latch. I didn't have any bleeding or cracked nipples which is something I struggled with tremendously the first time. Unlike Tatum who rarely spit up, Poppy has reflux and spits up a lot. We are still continuing to try to manage her reflux in different ways. I strongly encourage you to talk to your pediatrician if you are having any trouble with feeding your child. There are no silly questions or concerns and a lot of time if something is addressed early on it can help to prevent it from coming a bigger issue. You can also schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant where they can take a closer look into things like latch, tongue/lip ties, your supply, etc. But again, whatever choice you make in regards to feeding your child feel confident in your decision and know that you are an amazing mother!
The other thing I want to touch on with breastfeeding is mastitis. I did not have mastitis with Tatum but I did this time around and let me just say, it came on QUICK. I was out shopping and running errands one day and all of the sudden started feeling like I had the flu. My fingers started to ache and I overall felt very blah. I decided to leave the store and drive home. Well by the time I got home I had to lay down immediately. I took my temperature and was shocked when it read 103.2. I immediately called my OB's office - of course it was 6pm Friday evening so I had to wait for an on-call nurse to call me back. When she did I told her my symptoms and by that time I had taken some Advil for my fever but it only brought it down to 101. She asked if I had any discoloration or hard lumps on my breasts. I didn't but she still wanted me to go the ER to get checked out. At the ER they determined it was in fact mastitis and gave me several IVs of fluid and antibiotics as well as a prescription for antibiotics to take for 10 days. Luckily I caught it early enough to where it did not have to be drained. I say all this to say, make sure you breastfeed or pump regularly and try not to let too much time go in between. Looking back on that day, I did wait way too long in between pumping and I'm fairly certain that's what caused it. And the other thing I want to mention is be an advocate for yourself. And this goes for anything going on with your body. You know your body best and if something doesn't feel right make sure you talk to someone about it! No problem is too small or too silly to talk about.
Postpartum hair loss: My postpartum hair loss is in FULL FORCE right now. Mine always starts at about 12 weeks postpartum which is always such a tease because for a second I think wow maybe I'm not going to deal with postpartum hair loss...WRONG. It comes out in bunches at this point. It's just apart of the process but I'm definitely looking forward to the day where it slows down a little bit.
Alright this is the part where everyone's journey can be very different. Everyone has to physically recover from giving birth but some go through a completely different type of recovery mentally. I'm not going to talk too much about this because I'm not a professional but I want to share what I went through and a few things I did to help myself mentally. The main point I want to reiterate is that your body is dealing with a lot of hormones after birth and you can't control how your mind reacts to all the things going on in your body. There would be days I would cry and say I just want to feel like myself again. Just know, you will feel like yourself again! So if you are struggling with postpartum in any way, please know it is not a reflection of you as a person or as a mother. Things will get better!
This time around, I dealt with postpartum anxiety a lot more than I did with my first. I actually dealt with anxiety pretty much my whole pregnancy. I talked to my OB about it a lot and while I never went on medication my doctor reassured me there is medication I could take that's safe during pregnancy should I feel like my anxiety was affecting my ability to get through the day. Please know anxiety and depression are not specific to postpartum and can happen during pregnancy as well so if you are feeling those emotions I encourage you to speak to your doctor about how best to manage it.
With postpartum in particular I was having a lot of intrusive thoughts. I've looked into intrusive thoughts a little bit and from what I've read, there can be varying types. Some can have them so bad they actually think their thought is happening and it can cause panic attacks. Mine were never that bad but basically I'd get lost in thought of a bad situation happening mainly to one of the girls or my husband. It caused me a lot of anxiety and I was constantly checking on Poppy or calling my husband to make sure he was okay. What was most shocking about my intrusive thoughts was that it's so different from how I usually am - I am usually very good about thinking positively and looking at the bright side of any situation. Thankfully, the intrusive thoughts have decreased as time has gone on and I've been able to get back to more positive thinking. One thing I would do that would help was any time I was having an intrusive thought, I would ground myself and think something positive. I would make a conscious effort to tell myself I was safe, my family was safe and think something positive.
One thing I talked about in my postpartum post after my first and I want to reiterate in this one is the fact that baby's cry and it can impact your mental state. You can make sure they're fed, changed, not tired, all the things and they still cry. It does not mean you are not a good mom. I also would sometimes get frustrated with the crying and feel so guilty afterwards for being frustrated with my baby. Mom guilt is a very real thing. But it's okay to get frustrated, especially when you've done everything you can to help your baby. And it's also okay if sometimes you need a break. Around 4 weeks old Poppy went through a rough stretch where she was fussy pretty much all day everyday and I just needed a break. My mom came over and watched her while I ran out to do some errands and get my nails done. It allowed me to mentally reset and come back home refreshed. If you need to take breaks, that's completely normal. It's so important to take care of yourself and speak up if you need help. It's true what they say - it really takes a village.
One part of postpartum and maternity leave that is hard for me is making sure I'm taking the time how it was intended. Leave is meant to be used for taking care of yourself and your new baby. For a busy body like me, I constantly feel like I should be cleaning or going to the grocery store or cooking and on days where I didn't get much done I would feel like a failure. I am here to remind you you are NOT a failure. If at the end of the day your baby is well taken care of then you had a very successful day. And trust me, I know it is much easier said than done. My husband and I had a long talk early on in postpartum that sometimes I need to hear words of encouragement if I'm feeling down about my lack of productivity and that helped a lot. He was my sounding board and constant reminder that taking care of Poppy was my job and that I was doing a great job. That would always help to put my mind at ease and not stress about the other things going on around me. One thing I did that helped me was make a checklist of things I wanted to get done and spread them out across the week. That way it was more realistic and I could get one or two things checked off my list and feel like I had a productive day.
Another thing I liked to do was get dressed every day. That's something I did with Tatum and I did it this time around too. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I found myself changing out of my pajamas at 2pm but that's okay. Just changing into fresh clothes helped me feel a little more put together and ready to take on the day (or the remainder of the day in some cases). And trust me, most of the time I was changing from pajamas into something that could probably be considered pajamas - leggings and a t-shirt - but hey it's the process of changing that helps!
One thing that has been tough for me to do this time but I highly encourage it is getting outside when you can. It's good for both you and baby! I went on so many walks with Tatum when she was a newborn and it was always refreshing getting some outside air. It's been really hot here this summer so I haven't been able to take Poppy out as much but I do try to get out in the mornings before it gets too hot.
And probably the most important thing that has helped me is my circle of friends. Make sure you have a person or group of people that you feel you can talk to about anything. It helps so much. Whether it's a friend, a partner, a family member, a mom group, a counselor, a doctor, a minister etc. find a person or people you can talk to about what you're going through. It's important to have people that will check in on you and really care about how YOU are feeling. Trust me, there will definitely be those people who want to hear about the baby, hold the baby, see the baby, that's all well and good but those people who stop and say "how are YOU doing?" "how can I help YOU?", they're very important to have in your life when you're going through postpartum.
Finally, a friendly reminder that I think is really important to reiterate is that social media can be very deceiving and can hurt you mentally during postpartum. It's so easy to see someone else's social media and think "it looks like she is handling postpartum so easily and I'm struggling, what's wrong with me?". Just remember social media is someone's highlight reel - you see their best moments and not all the mess in between. A real life example: one of my followers on Instagram who just had a baby messaged me asking about what swaddle I was using with Poppy. At the end of our conversation she said I don't know how you do it, you have two kids and have it all together and I'm struggling with one. I messaged her back and assured her that 1. she was doing a great job and 2. I definitely do not have it all together all the time. So please just know how important it is not to compare your life and what you're going through to someone else's highlight reel.
Well if you made it this far, I applaud you. Thanks for reading and hearing about my journey. I hope it is helpful or insightful to someone. I am always very transparent about my postpartum experience so if you ever have questions or need someone to talk to, I am here. xoxo.
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