My second daughter will be seven weeks old on Friday. She came into the world in a totally different way than her sister and this postpartum experience has been totally different for me as well. I spent many posts on this blog sharing my postpartum plans this time around and I thought it was only fair that I share what worked and what was still challenging. I’m so glad that I spent time thinking about what would help ease the postpartum experience. It was also so useful to share my thoughts with those who would be supporting me during that time. Ultimately all the planning can only do so much for an unpredictable experience and I found that out this time. Here are my reflections on what worked to ease the postpartum period and what was still challenging this postpartum time.
- The best planning I did was to have extra help (my parents) here for the first 10 days. My parents were true work horses all week and really helped ease the transition for my partner and I. Just having extra people to walk the dog, make food, entertain our older daughter, and clean was crucial.
- I can’t take credit for this, but my mom brought some fun novel activities for our older daughter which was a huge win. Our oldest was so excited to have a baby sister and her energy was overwhelming to me at times. Having activities that peaked her interest was a great way to help her give me space.
- I stock piled postpartum supplies for physical recovery. I found that I didn’t end up using a lot of what I had because my physical recovery went more smoothly than last time, but I was glad to have it. The most used items were: pads, intimate wipes, new mama bottom spray, and Mother’s milk tea. I took a few sitz baths, but it was hard to find the time – so the spray was a good substitute.
- I was really direct and at times demanding about what I needed. I actually felt pretty good, physically, from the start, but I know rest is so important for recovery – so I still tried to let myself be pampered. I asked people to bring me stuff all day long so I didn’t have to get up and down too much. I let people know if I was hungry and what I wanted. I made a list of things I needed first thing in the morning and made sure my partner got them to me asap (e.g. vitamins, water, food).
- I set up a postpartum nest. I lived out of bed for the first week. My room was (and still is) a mess, but I had everything at hand. Here’s what I kept close: water, snacks, blankets, all sorts of pillows, phone, charger, headphones, books, thermometer, newborn and mama care info sheet from midwife, diapers, and wipes.
- I asked for help, a lot! I called the midwife about 1x/day with various questions (including a panicked 4am call). I had a lactation consultant come to help us get a good start nursing, I asked a lot of my partner and parents. This felt crappy at times. I felt guilty about being so helpless. I wondered if I should suck it up and do more for myself. But, I stuck with the rest and recuperate protocol and I think it helped me recover and helped baby get her needs met.
- I was prepared for, and encouraged baby being on or near me almost all the time. I didn’t pass her off to anyone or try to get her to sleep by herself. I wanted to make sure we had a good start with nursing because I had some low milk supply issues last time. So I nursed as much as I could and didn’t really let anyone else hold baby for very long. This helped keep me at ease about her well-being, and helped establish a good milk supply and healthy weight gain.
What was still challenging:
- There were moments the first weeks where it was a little isolating. Sometimes I felt lonely and isolated stuck in my room. Yes people were buzzing around the house, but I was in my own little world. My parents and partner went out and about and I could hear them and neighbors laughing and chatting outside while I was stuck in bed. I also had a few regretful moments the first few days. If I let my mind get going it was easy to go down the “what did we do/ we ruined our perfect easy life” road. I cried a couple times to my partner and let him know I was overwhelmed. I also asked for company at night the first couple nights so I didn’t feel so isolated.
- Communicating with my partner was a bit challenging this time around. At times I got a vibe that he was frustrated or annoyed, but it’s in his nature to suck it up and not complain. There were moments when we were both irritable, exhausted, and impatient which led to unkind and ineffective communication. Sometimes I still feel like we go whole days without talking to each other. We have a childcare rhythm and it works, but we have to work a little harder to connect with each other as adults.
- It was sometimes hard for me to zero in on exactly what I needed in the moment. It was even hard to figure out what I wanted to eat sometimes. This meant that I was sometimes irritable and less than gracious to my helpers. Luckily my helpers were the 3 people in the world that have agreed to put up with me, even at my worst. I’m not sure this challenge was solvable. I tried to do a lot of thanking people and apologizing for moodiness.
Overall this postpartum experience has been much smoother than last time. I think what has made it easier is just knowing what to expect. I can’t be a first time mom again, but my hope is that all of us who have been there start helping to prepare our expectant friends for what to expect during a typical postpartum experience.
On another note. It’s my hope to share a brief reflection about each month of motherhood during the first year of baby’s life. Here are my thoughts about the first month with baby number two:
The first month is full of sleepiness, lots of nursing, healing, resting, and thinking that baby care will be simple and easy. Time stands still and also flies. A week can pass and I feel like no time has passed at all and yet a lifetime has passed. The person I was before baby entered the world and the person I am now are different, but I’m not sure how just yet. Somedays it feels like things are simple and I can do this. Other days are endless, confusing, and overwhelming. There’s not much rhythm or routine to the days there is just a slow flow of nursing, sleeping, eating, and healing. The moments between sleeping and wakefulness are hard to distinguish. There are moments of darkness, isolation, and regret. There are moments of bliss and appreciation. There is hopeful anticipation of the future. There is mapping what the next year will bring, then scolding myself for not being in the moment. There is acceptance. There is love.