Friday, September 9, 2011

Postpartum postmortem

These are some thoughts I collected in the first days, weeks, and now three months of mothering my second child. I'm not really sure why I hadn't published it till now.

newborn baby just after home birth homebirth


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big brother and baby brother meeting — watching father hold newborn


I am deliriously happy. And yet, at about one day after the birth, I looked over at Mikko, my dear firstborn, and thought of our former sweet grouping of three, and thought, "I've ruined my family."

I felt devastated in that moment. Why had I let down Mikko like that, bringing this interloper into his life?

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newborn baby Alrik holding finger of mikko 3yo

newborn baby Alrik 4 weeks with big brother mikko 4 years


Is this a kid whose life has been ruined?

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I had heard that many parents have trouble seeing their older kid(s) as cute after the newborn comes into their lives. I don't doubt this phenomenon exists, because I experienced this with (no joke) my cat. When Mikko came home, I couldn't look at my cat, previously considered a beauty, without deriding her in my mind, "Ugh, so … hairy."

But I don't (fortunately) feel this disconnect against Mikko (yet). I think some of the problem might be that I think Alrik, while adorable, is still in that lizardy-alien-old-man phase of babyhood. And since I read in Mother Nature that we as humans have an established ambivalence toward fetuses and a tendency to value chubbiness as cuter, I don't feel so bad that I'm not taken with the scrawny newborn stage. After all, Mikko's cheeks? Alrik just hasn't risen to such heights yet…

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newborn baby Alrik looking concerned at camera


Who you talking about not being cute?

Alrik has perfected the concerned look.

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newborn baby alrik anb breastfeeding just postpartump


It's amazing how familiar breastfeeding feels. Oh, I know, I haven't stopped breastfeeding the older one yet, but nursing a newborn is a whole different ballgame. They really do just eat all the time.

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Let's just be clear that any postpartum post is going to be TMI, shall we? Because then we can talk lochia.

My midwife recommended staying put in bed for at least a couple weeks after the birth, for healing purposes. I'd had a few stitches, and of course just the normal loss of blood and fluids and muscle tone.

family on water taxi


Not my brightest idea, but at about exactly two weeks, we went downtown to celebrate Mikko's birthday. I'd been chafing under the boredom of imposed confinement. But it was a sunny weekend in June, and we live on a beach. Um, yeah. So, for logistical parking- and traffic-related reasons, we ended up walking rather than driving most of the way to the water taxi, and then from the water taxi to the restaurant (of course) and then to the arcade, and then back to the water taxi, and then back to the car. Which, all told, was probably two to three hours of walking. With a baby strapped to me for just the wee bit of an extra challenge. When he began to cry and needed to nurse on our way back, Sam offered to stop at a bench so I could feed him. "No," I said, cradling him into position with one arm and continuing to trudge onward, "if I stop now, I'll never get started again."

In any event, it wasn't my arms that were feeling the burn. It was my decimated pelvis.

But I emerged none the worse for wear except that my blood had soaked through my pants. Not too much, though. I had been afraid to check at the restaurant for fear I was sitting in a great red pool on the bench seat.

Note to any postpartum exercisers: Bring an extra pad along!

The upside, though? The next day, nada. Clean as a whistle. Oh, it came back the day after that, but it was so lovely to have a little lochia break. Apparently I'd shaken out all that was in the canal with all that bouncing around. It's enough to make me want to exercise more.

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At a month now, my lochia is pantyliner-light. But still there. I'm so. sick. of it.

I heartily recommend going with cloth pads instead of disposable, and I have a couple reviews coming up of postpartum pads that I've liked. But even so, I can't wait to have a break from wearing them again!

[Update: Here's one of MotherMoonPads. Enter the giveaway by September 28.]

MotherMoonPads label closeup


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I've discovered the real cure for acne (at least, for me): pregnancy.

My skin was smooth as a baby's for nine glorious months.

Two days after I give birth? Huge zit.

As if I needed proof that (a) acne is hormonal and (b) no, you 35-year-old mother of two, you have not outgrown it.

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The good news is, at one month postpartum, my maternity pants are now loose on me. The bad news is my non-maternity pants don't close.

Now I begin to see the wisdom of "transition" wear. Like newborn clothes that will fit for at most a couple months, I questioned the expenditure. But when it's all that fits, it's all that fits.

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Here's a visual progression:

1 day postpartum belly shot still looking pregnant 2 weeks postpartum belly shot with newborn baby alrik anb 3 weeks postpartum belly shot in clothing


The first shot is the day after giving birth. I look easily 6 months pregnant still.

I lost 20 pounds the first week.

The second shot is at 2 weeks postpartum. It was almost more depressing to lose the rounded fake-pregnant look and go into the flabby-tummy look.

The third shot is 3 weeks postpartum, with multiple layers on that are holding some of my flabby tummy in. I still have 20 pounds to lose to be back at my (admittedly high) pre-pregnancy weight.

Not "had" 20 pounds to lose. Have. At three months now, I have lost zero more pounds since that first week. And all my weight seems to have been redistributed, so that nothing fits, not even my image of myself.

I've been feeling kind of sad about that. But look back at that second picture, the one I said was depressing.

See Alrik? See how he's gazing up in adoration at my face? See that life and love that came out of that flabby belly?

I guess that's what we should be concentrating on as mothers, huh?

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placenta encapsulation pills on table


I have gotten my placenta encapsulated! There was a slight delay because the first person I contacted never called me back, and the idea of doing a lot of research to find someone else right after the birth just didn't pan out. So Sam popped it into the freezer for me for a couple weeks.

Then Heather from Seattle Placenta Encapsulation came to my rescue. She picked up my thawed placenta, cleaned and dehydrated it, and put it into 100+ capsules, which she (and her cutie-patootie of a 2-year-old son) delivered back to my door. The cost was $100, which is a good price for the area.

I'm hoping it's $100 well spent. I already feel like, even if it's a placebo effect, I could use a placebo effect. But I actually do believe, based on other mammals eating their placentas, that there's a value in ingesting it — the rich iron, the regulating hormones. (Here's a little round-up of some research.) Anything to stop me from bursting into tears at the slightest provocation, and to get my anemia under control, yes? I'll let you know how it goes.

The idea of eating internal organs raw or cooked icks me out. I know some people eat part of their placenta as is, or mix it into a smoothie or a lasagna. I just — can't. But with my placenta in capsule form, I've been totally fine with swallowing the pills three times a day. And, hippie-dippie magic or not, I already feel better.

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It's fascinating to me how quickly babies learn what they need to to survive, or maybe how they come out knowing it. Alrik latches on like a pro, and he's already got his little passive-aggressive cries down pat. Like, if I'm not around, he'll be crying in earnest, but as soon as I pick him up and start moving him into position, as I'm still getting my shirt arranged he'll change his cry to a half-volume "uhh, uhh, uhh." It's so clearly just to shame me for taking so long, like, "I'm not really that upset anymore, but I'm going to keep announcing my displeasure so you don't forget that I really want to eat."

And then, when all is ready, "ha-rowmp," this hilarious attack-the-boob noise as he lunges for it.

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I am so, so proud and happy with myself for having a natural birth, a homebirth, a water birth, and an unassisted birth at that. The last element not planned that way, of course, but it's very empowering now that it's over.

newborn baby on mother's chest born unassisted at home water birth — homebirth Pictures, Images and Photos


And yet, I keep remembering how very, very uncomfortable I found labor. That stuff … man … it's powerful. It's intense. And I really didn't like it much.

There, I said it.

Even during contractions, I felt like I was somehow letting my blog community down by not feeling ecstatic and instead feeling a little bit scared, somewhat overwhelmed, and a lot wishing for it to just be over already.

So when people have been congratulating me on my birth and asking for my fabulous birth story, I keep thinking in this corner of my mind, Stop, stop, I don't deserve it. Silly, isn't it?

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This kid urps so much we should have named him Wyatt.

I had naively thought that burping and burp cloths must have been created by the bottle feeding movement, since Mikko held every ounce of milk he got and instantly turned it into flubber.

Not so with this guy. Is any of it actually staying in to nourish him? I suppose so, since he's gaining weight, but it's mysterious to me how when what seems like the entire contents of his stomach are spewed upon every available surface on a half-hourly basis.

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Back to lochia. Oh, come on, you missed it. And stitches, and general genital discomfort.

Just before the birth, we installed bidets on both our toilet seats.

I worried that visitors might think we were snooty, or weird. I don't give a fig now.

These things are awesome.

So long, peri bottle. I have a new lover now.

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When Amy was visiting me right before the birth (as in, she left the day I went into labor), she just serendipitously, as it turned out, happened to mention that after her birth she'd had trouble breathing when she stood up. Her diaphragm muscles apparently were being overwhelmed by her drooping belly, and to breathe she had to learn to physically hold her belly up and in.

Her story sounded scary and intense. Whereas when I stood up for the first times after the birth, to use the potty, I just felt a little … off. I remembered what Amy had said and gave it a try, holding my stomach in and up. Wouldn't you know it? I could breathe fully again.

So I present this to you as a great idea to try if you're having trouble when walking in the days after birth. Thanks, Amy!

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I had heard that after-pains were worse after subsequent babies — that the more babies, the more it hurts after birth, and the longer it lasts, as your uterus contracts back to its normal size.

Boy howdy, is that right! In the first week, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't still in labor.

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It's two months now, and my four-month fallout is starting early. Hair — is — everywhere. In Alrik's diapers (always), clenched in his little clenchy fists, getting stuck in his drool when I foolishly lay him on the carpet for tummy time. (Which I do very infrequently. Too much hair, after all…)

I paste all the strands that come out in the shower onto the bathtub wall so they won't go down the drain, and then sweep them off and into the trash afterward. I keep creepily wanting to show Sam the haul, as if he cares about my follicular anti-achievement.

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blogging mother trying to type one-handed on computer over newborn baby alrik anb

Yes, that blue envelope is a formula mailing I was wanting to blog about.
But I spent all my energy that day taking a shower.


I really hate typing one-handed, as it turns out. I forgot about that. It's a challenge to keep writing with a newborn always, always in my lap, since I have two choices: (1) typing one-handed, which makes it impossible to keep up with my thoughts, or (2) wrenching my back to lean over to type with both hands. I am heading for a chiro appointment and a massage…

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Those fears some mothers have about whether they can love two children? Don't sweat it.

I do love each of them, very much so.

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I feel like Alrik's been a part of our family forever. This feels right.

newborn baby Alrik sleeping peacefully week 3

24 comments:

Amy said...

You are so awesome and honest and wonderful. I started reading when preggers and your blog, and blogs I found through you, have become an essential part of my support community. I loved this post.

Amy @ Anktangle said...

I loved this post, Lauren! It was so beautiful to read all these thoughts. And I'm glad that my droopy belly story helped you out...I had totally forgotten that we talked about that. =P For a little more information on that, if you're interested: I ended up wearing an abdominal binder for several weeks so I could (you know, conveniently) walk while using my hands for other things (like holding my baby). The intense breathlessness went away after just a week or so, though.

Thanks again for writing this!

Ella said...

Hi , I gave birth to my daughter Sicily 2 weeks before you had your baby. You probably don't remember but we chatted on twitter on the day you went into labour. I've just (like in the last week) started my very own blog yey, and posted about the topic of post partum body changes on it, I'd love it if you took a look http://www.purplemum.com/2011/09/my-post-baby-body/
It's great to see you adjusting to being a mom of two so brilliantly and you have some wonderful pics of your family, well done.

Rachael @ The Variegated Life said...

Thank you thank you thank you. I'm a little terrified of life with two. So thank you.

Cyndie said...

Love this post! I too looked at my oldest right after I had my second baby and thought I had ruined my family. My second baby was a surprise pregnancy so there was a lot of stress in that but now, just like you, I cannot imagine life without her. And I know my little guy (the oldest) won't remember life without her cuz they are 18 months apart.

I had my second baby around the same time you did, she's 4 and half months. I just had to laugh when you mentioned the hair falling out. I have started clogging the drains again-ugh, one reason I miss pregnancy.

I really love your posts. I feel like we are old friends and this is the first time I've ever commented, lol. Thanks for sharing all your information and knowledge and thoughts.

Ashley said...

Thanks, Lauren - wonderful as always :) Especially being pregnant now with my second, and relating to so much of what you said (ruining my first's life, not being able to love 2, and all the reminders of the early breastfeeding and lochia) ;) Oh, and the acne? Pregnant with a girl this time, and it is like I am 13 all over again... ugh - where is my pretty pregnancy glow??? Have a great weekend.

Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said...

I had about 50 different comments to share with you as I was reading this, but my sleep deprived brain held almost none of those comments in, so here's what I remember:
- I laughed out loud for about two minutes during the cat part because I felt the same exact way.
- I think there would be thousands upon thousands of mamas out there who would be completely in the dark about certain mama experiences, or feel like they were the only ones going through things, if your blog didn't exist. I don't know where we would be without your honesty and humor!

Alicia said...

Beautiful, thanks for sharing these bits and bites of becoming a mother 2nd time around. Alrik's spitting up sounds like my son, until we relaized it was the dairy in my diet. Could it be a food intolerance? Oh and the cat part..it's been 2 years and I still feel like that with my dog...

kelly @kellynaturally said...

This is such a great post, thank you so much for sharing, Lauren!

Adrienne said...

Wonderful post, as usual. My favorite phrase being "decimated pelvis." That one had me cracking up.

And yes, I too found myself covered in zits after having Burkley. Boo. :(

And your readers don't expect everything to be blissfully perfect for you-- we just have come to love and expect your honesty. Oh, and your wit. That's what brings us back for more. :)

Joyce Lansky said...

Each baby just makes the family better and better.

Joyce
http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

Gaby @ Tmuffin said...

Wow, wow, wow. That was awesome. I'm so jealous that you kept track of all those little thoughts along the way. That was beautiful.

I can relate so much, too. I came home and bawled when Baby T asked to nurse the first time he saw Little M nursing. The way he asked was like, "holy cow, you are giving my milk to someone else!" And I thought I had just ruined his life. Now, neither Baby T nor I can imagine Little M not being part of our lives.

And the breathing after delivery! I would get so short-breathed after I had both babies. Just for 12 hours or so. I never heard of someone else having that! Good to hear.

And the attack the boob noise. I love that. I love the panting, tongue out, trying to grab the nipple as you're undoing your bra.

You really capture motherhood beautifully. Thanks for these images, smiles, and laughter.

Momma Jorje said...

I hope Sasha is as happy with her new baby brother!

We had a dog when Tyler was born. She didn't understand my 2 day absence and looked for me every time my husband went home. The dog was intended to be his, but... animals in my house just wind up mine. But with a newborn in my lap all the time, I didn't have enough attention for our dog and had to find her a new home. We'd actually gotten her while I was pregnant!

It looks / sounds like you have the makings of a body image post there...

$100?! I guess it helps to live in a hippie state! The charge here is $200, but thankfully I'm able to barter for it + a $50 deposit to cover supplies. But she'll be doing all the work in my home in two session.

There is NO shame in not enjoying contractions! Your birth story can still help to empower other women. And can be cathartic to write as well.

My first born had "projectile" spit up! She didn't do it ALL the time, but when she did... it FLEW!

Diaphragm and breathing... must remember that.

I haven't noticed NOT losing hair because Sasha pulls so much of it out all the time. :-P But when I did lose hair after Sasha, I totally showed my husband! heh

I also hate typing one handed. Do you have a desk? That might help with the leaning over baby? I STILL do that with Sasha when she nurses (she's nursing right now), but I do make my back hurt some. I think it'd help if I'd move my keyboard closer.

Oh, and the uterine pain after? I didn't have it so much with my first two, but with Sasha... OMG! Yeah, I can definitely see how it could be compared to labor pains... only much more sudden!

Thanks for all the updates on your thoughts and process of expanding your beautiful family.

Arpita And Jonathan said...

Love this Lauren!! Btw- I had never heard of a bidget before!! Is it bad that I want one now?? Lol!! Hearing my sister's stories of her peri-bottle, I can only imagine the heaven of a bidget! Love how you keep it so real, as always!!

I'm a full-time mummy said...

What a beautiful post! I'm on day 8 after delivering my baby girl. Am still adjusting to tandem nursing (my older child is 30 months old now) and coping with it. I've read your post about tandem nursing and find myself in your position. I hope I'll be able to ride through the feelings soon!

Pearlsa said...

What a precious baby thanks for stopping by for WW. Please stop by on Saturday afternoon for my pictures - Saturday Scenes from Gibsons, BC

Laura Schuerwegen said...

so much to reply too... like damn! I hadn't thought of postpartum pads!
My concern right now, being 24 weeks pregnant is that I won't think this baby is as cute and beautiful and lovely as my daughter, because how can it be? Love that you got your placenta encapsulated! We'll be doing it to (note to self: order kit) sigh... so much to rpepare

Sarah Beth said...

Thank you for this. I am expecting my second so everything you have written is especially relevant.

As for feeling bad because your labor wasn't ecstatic...my first labor was hard and I was just kind of proud I got through it. Although now that I am facing labor again I'm kind of scared. Maybe more scared now that I know what it could be like.

Megan said...

Love this post. One thing that saved me post partum was Depends. Yes, Depends. I never had to stress about leaking. I would just wear pads inside and change those out. Especially with being in the Nicu, i never knew when i would get to a bathroom next. It was one less thing for me to think or stress about.
I too felt like i had ruined my older daughter's life. I still feel like that unfortunately, but am finally starting to bond with our new little girl. She is starting to feel like part of the family which is nice, but we've still got a long ways to go.
I also hat typing one handed, but it made it easier for me to realize an ipad would be good for me. I mean, i only ever have one hand free anyway, so it's not like it would be any easier to use a laptop.
Love the pictures, too. Your boys are such cuties!

Kat said...

Thank you so much for sharing all of these thoughts. I followed a link from a friend's FB to read your post on "Not having an AP poster child", and I think you have a new dedicated reader. This was wonderful!

katepickle said...

I've not had time to ready blogs for a while, but am so pleased I popped by yours tonight. What a lovely post about the crazy journey of bringing home a new baby.
I still remember the moment I saw my twin girls after the birth of their brother, I cried because they suddenly seemed so grown up and I was so sad at the loss of my baby girls...
It really is such a wonderful, crazy journey. Enjoy every moment!

Olivia said...

Love this post. It's bringing back a lot of memories from my first birth and kind of gearing me up for my next. I wonder how I'll feel after my second is born.

I like your comment about the cat, too. My poor, poor dog. She was my baby, my constant companion for 9 yrs, but once my baby was born I started to not even like her much anymore. All the hair, slobber, noise...I've actually considered finding her a better home, but I think that would be tough for an 11 yr old dog with allergies.

Diana @Hormonal Imbalances said...

My ovaries may have screamed, "Oh PLEASE!" during the pictures. :) I love this post, I love that you were willing to share all the ups and downs, the moments where you felt regret (THANK YOU) because I think all parents feel that at a certain point.

<3

jot said...

Thank you for this. I am expecting my second so everything you have written is especially relevant.

As for feeling bad because your labor wasn't ecstatic...my first labor was hard and I was just kind of proud I got through it. Although now that I am facing labor again I'm kind of scared. Maybe more scared now that I know what it could be like.

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