Monday, November 21, 2016

What I Wish I Knew In the First Week Postpartum

This photo sums up the first week after Rose was born
Pregnant women hear a lot of the same things over and over again. Some of these things are a little annoying, such as dire warnings or anything negative because it's just not what a pregnant woman wants to hear. Some of the advice or cliches I heard, though, actually helped me. Hearing them from other moms helped me to know that I wasn't the only one going through what I was experiencing, it was normal. They also helped me know what to expect at times. So although the comments can get repetitive, I appreciated them.

I want to start out this post with the positive side of the first couple weeks postpartum. Because there was a very positive side- I had my beautiful baby, who I loved so much, on the outside with me! Little moments like seeing her sweet "gas smiles," or the feeling of her lying asleep on my chest, were so special and so beautiful. I felt a whole new bond with my husband because we now shared this baby who we loved uncontrollably, and a whole new appreciation for him because of everything he was doing for Rose and me as I lived the life of a half-zombie half-milk-distributor. The actual thought that came to my head was milk cow but I probably shouldn't be comparing myself to a cow.

Giving Mama and Nana sweet smiles
After Rose was born, I was on a sort of adrenaline high. I was ecstatic to have my baby, I wanted to share her with everyone because I couldn't imagine anything being more amazing than her, or being more proud of anything than I was of her. I wanted to soak her up as much as I could and I was just plain excited. We had so many visitors, hung out with our families a lot and were very busy. Yes, I was walking around like a penguin because I was a sore, but it wasn't too bad. I was so happy!

I had her on a Friday, so she was only 2 days old at mass on Sunday. A friend of ours who is a doctor told me I should be at home resting, because it really helps with the recovery to rest, rest, rest- like stay in bed for a week. She told me I should read a blog post called how to postpartum like a boss. I laughed at the time, because I really didn't feel too bad.

I believe it was the next day when everything sort of hit me- the adrenaline must have worn off. I was exhausted. I was in so much pain - down there. I couldn't even sit up and even moving tiny amounts was painful, it was honestly a huge challenge to get out of bed. I felt completely unable to cope with the obstacles that came my way because of sleep deprivation and my hormone-induced emotionally unstable state. I felt like I had the flu because of clogged milk ducts, my nipples were cracked and in pain, and then a crack in one got infected so nursing became even more painful. I found nursing extremely challenging. Then Rose wasn't gaining enough weight and still had jaundice, so the doctor told me I needed to top her up after feeds with formula, which completely stressed me out. I found breastfeeding so hard to figure out, when it came to the latch, whether she was swallowing, the amount of pain I was in, the clogged milk ducts, and potentially having mastitis (I didn't end up having to go on antibiotics). I think all of these things are pretty normal things for a mom to go through, but I just didn't have the mental capacity to feel like I could deal with these things. In the end, though, I did!

I showered and put on makeup just to take this picture, because
I wanted there to be at least one newborn picture with
her where I looked somewhat presentable :)
As the days went by (days and nights really just blurred into each other), I can remember feeling very trapped in my situation. It was not that I was trapped with a baby. I was overjoyed to have a baby the entire time. I felt trapped in the cycle of nursing, sleeping for a little bit (or trying to meet some basic need like eating or showering), and doing it over again. Never getting a long enough sleep to actually feel rested. Never doing anything for enjoyment- I felt like my whole existence consisted only of satisfying my most basic needs and feeding Rose. Being faced with obstacles that I didn't feel I had the ability to cope with. I remember crying to my mom one day "I didn't know it would be this hard."

Matt and my mom helped SO much with Rose, I am so grateful!
Now I don't think this would have all been so bad had I known it was so so temporary. In retrospect this sounds ridiculous, but at the time, I honestly thought this was now my life- forever. I did not realize that it gets way easier. That is what I would go back and remind myself, over and over. It gets way easier. During that little bit, I honestly could not imagine having free time. Or doing something for fun, and not regretting it because I should have been sleeping.

Writing this out, it all sounds very dramatic. The reason it was all so dramatic in my mind at the time was because I just wasn't in a rational state. I was overtired and my hormones were going crazy. So that is what I wish my irrational brain knew- it gets so much easier Alicia!

My experience (and every single experience is different) was that after the first week it started to get easier. My stitches no longer "pulled" every time I moved so there was just a soreness rather than shooting pain, the flu-like symptoms had subsided, I was starting to figure out breastfeeding, and I would say that after 2 weeks things were a lot easier for me and I was able to enjoy Rose a lot more.

Even though it was hard, I don't look back on those first weeks as a dark time by any means, because there were moments like Rose lying asleep on my chest in the middle of the night. I remember realizing that I was her Mom. Lying there, on my chest, she was in the exact place she most wanted to be. She was in the most comfortable and special place in the world, hearing my heartbeat and feeling my warmth. Nobody else could give her that- nothing is better than Mom (okay Dad too!). She was my baby and Matt's baby. She was half me and half the person I loved most in the world! It wasn't a dark time because Rose was a bright light making any challenge that could come my way worth it. So yes it's hard, but being a mom is really, really amazing.

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