Breastfeeding- blood, sweat, and tears

It's world breastfeeding week as you've probably heard by now.   Breastfeeding is such a great thing to do for your babies, but unfortunately it doesn't come easy for a lot of people (myself included.)  My journey was filled with emotional and physical blood, sweat, and tears.

When I had my son, I knew I wanted to breastfeed.  Honestly, leading up to his birth I was so incredibly freaked out by the idea of nursing my baby.  I can't even really articulate why but I was.  Regardless, I knew God had designed my body to feed my baby so I was going to do it.

Right before my son was born, he took a big ol' gulp of amniotic fluid (guess he was thirsty?) so he spent his first 24 hours of life just spitting all of that up and not wanting to latch on at all.  I had a really amazing lactation consultant in the hospital who taught me how to hand express and spoon feed then how to pump and syringe feed.  Despite all my attempts and all the attempts of the lactation consultant and the nurses- no one could get my precious baby to latch on to the breast.

 So I left the hospital feeling pretty discouraged but equally as determined.  I was going to breastfeed this baby hell or high water.  I would pump, try to get him latch (while he screamed like it was torture), syringe feed him, clean the pump parts, sleep for maybe 45 minutes then it was time to do it all over again.  It was a viscous cycle.  I was terrified to give him a bottle because I thought for sure that would be death to my ability to breastfeed him (that's what everyone online says anyway right?)  I was DREADING every time he needed to eat.  My anxiety was climbing higher and higher every single session.  I was barely sleeping because of how much work it was to feed him.  This went on for 2 weeks.  Then he finally latched on.  I cried and cried, I was SO relieved.  I thought "this is it, we're going to make it!"

What I didn't know is by this time, I had gotten thrush so to say nursing was painful was an understatement.  I cried every time I nursed. The pain continued long after he was done too.  Somehow, finally, around 12 weeks old, I heard about a latch clinic put on by For Babies' Sake.  I figured I had absolutely nothing to lose so I was going to go because what we were doing wasn't working.  They were able to tell me he was misaligned and that a visit to the chiropractor may fix most of their problems.   I probably looked at Mellanie like she was crazy.  My baby at a chiropractor- nice try.  However, I went home in desperate tears and said okay let's do it.  GAME CHANGER.  Instant difference. I couldn't even believe it.  This was the start of the road to pain free breastfeeding for us.

I would love to tell you I had an easier time with kid number 2, but that would be a lie.  She had severe tongue and lip ties and also didn't latch for 2 weeks (seriously- why do my kids think that's okay? haha)  The second time I knew to call For Babies Sake and the chiropractor ASAP.  My daughter went on to need more help like osteopathic manipulation therapy but having the knowledge in my back pocket the second time made it all seem a little bit easier.  I also had the IBCLC tell me that bottle feeding her in the beginning was not going to be the kiss of death for our breastfeeding relationships.  This allowed me to get so much more sleep than I got when I was syringe feeding my son in the early days.  While we still had the physical struggles,  I mentally was in a much better place. Most of the time.  I'd be lying if I said it was all rainbows and sunshine- there were some days I felt SO defeated and overwhelmed but I had resources and support. Game changers.

So that was kind of a lengthy story of my breastfeeding journeys but I give you all of that will a purpose.  I was determined to breastfeed.  DETERMINED. but at what expense?  My mental health?  My family?  My childrens' ability to have a present mother?  My all or nothing mindset with breastfeeding was adding to my stack of anxiety that was spiraling me straight towards a mental breakdown.

Breastfeeding is NOT all or nothing- I so wish I would have understood that with my first.  I wish I would have known and believed that breastfeeding wasn't the ONLY thing that matters.  

Breastfeeding has many faces.

  • Nursing
  • Supplemental Nursing System
  • Syringe feeding
  • Pumping
  • Bottle feeding
  • Supplementing with formula
  • Cover or no cover
  • In public or private
  • Induced lactation
  • Donor milk

There isn't a wrong way to feed your baby.  You will sleep less when your baby is here- but you do have to sleep some.  For your health- physically and mentally.  Make sure you aren't neglecting that for the sake of your baby.  You baby needs you present and healthy.

Grace. I know I say this A LOT but I need it A LOT.  

Your baby needs you.  They need to be fed and loved.  I hope you can make breastfeeding work.  I hope you have all the best resources and support that you need.  I hope you can find peace with whatever your breastfeeding relationship looks like even if its not exactly what you had hoped for.  

You're doing an amazing job.  Don't ever forget how important you are to your family.  They think you are just the best.  Try to see yourself as they see you sometimes.

Happy World Breastfeeding week everyone.

 

 

Pumping While Working 101

To all of you AMAZING moms who work full time and pump for  your babies- hats off to you!  It's a hard job.  Nicole Covarelli is a teacher who has worked hard to master pumping at work to provide breast milk for her sweet little boy.  She was kind enough to write this blog post to help out all you moms that are wondering, "how am I going to make this work?"  So learn from her wisdom and experience below!

 

Pumping While Working 101

 

Working full time is hard. Being a working momma is also hard. Being a working momma who has to use every spare minute and break she gets to pump milk for her baby is extra hard. But being a working and pumping momma makes you a rockstar.

 

Unfortunately, we don’t always feel like rockstars when we are pumping at work. You actually probably feel alone. For me, pumping at work was often lonely and some days it made me downright sad (tears included). Locking myself in a closet while watching videos of my baby on my phone while pumping milk for my baby who I couldn’t be with was lonely.

 

BUT every day I knew I made an amazing choice for my baby by committing to breastfeeding. I knew that every ounce of breastmilk I pumped was full of nutrients that I wouldn’t find in formula. I knew that every minute I spent pumping was to help a tiny human grow healthy and strong.

 

That being said, I would like to take a minute to go over my basics of pumping while working.

 

WHAT supplies I needed to pump easily at work:

  1. Breast pump

  2. Pump attachments and bottles

  3. Breastmilk storage bags (Target Up & Up brand are THE BEST)

  4. A refrigerator

  5. Baby wipes to clean up spilled milk (sorry, you will spill milk)

  6. My phone to watch videos of my baby while pumping

 

HOW I pumped:

On my breaks I would go into the closet at school and pump. I often pumped both sides simultaneously for about 10-15 minutes total. I always started with the let down feature on my pump and then would revisit the let down feature every 5 minutes or so. I could tell when I needed to have another let down to get out more milk.

I found after about 10 minutes, I had to pump only one side at a time to finish emptying the milk. My pump seemed stronger when I pumped one side at a time.

Once I was done, I poured breastmilk into 6 ounce storage bags and kept them in the refrigerator. I also kept my pump attachments and bottles in the refrigerator so I didn’t have to wash them after each pumping session. (I washed everything at the end of the day).

This whole process from setup to clean up was about 20 minutes.

WHEN I pumped:

5:00 AM - wake up and pump*

10:30 AM- pump on my conference period at work

3:00 PM- pump right after school

5:45 PM- nurse my son after day care

8:30 PM- nurse my son for a dream feed

9:30-10:00 pump before I went to bed**

*I always pumped out all milk first thing in the morning and set aside a bottle for my son. I got way more milk from my morning pump than he needed for a feeding, and this allowed me to save LOTS of ounces of milk by giving him a bottle rather than nursing in the morning.

** Once my son was a few months old, I was able to sleep for 7-8 hours without getting up in the middle of the night to feed or pump. Thankfully, my supply stayed consistent. You do what is best for you.

 

When I was working, I had to go 5 hours or so between pumping sessions. This is how my schedule at work was, so I had to pump when I had free time. You will have to do what works best for you and your employer.

 

WHAT extra information should I know about pumping:

-Keep snacks in your pump bag/room. Breastfeeding mommas are always hungry.

-Your let down reflex is inhibited by stress, alcohol, and caffeine. If you notice your milk won’t come out, but you know it’s there, limit these things.

-Do your best to pump at the same times each day so you can really know how many ounces of milk you produce over the same time frame each day.

-Find a momma who also works and pumps to have as your buddy. You will need to vent and cry some days, and that okay.

-When your milk supply dips, drink extra water and have a good high fat, high protein, high carb cheat meal. That always helped a little.

-Your value is not in the ounces of milk you pump. Your milk supply will dip, but that does not change how amazing you are.
 

Moms, you are amazing no matter how you feed your baby. Pumping is hard and rewarding. However you feel on a given day is normal, but always find someone to talk to about how you are doing. On the hard days, I had to remind myself what a miracle it is that a mother can feed her baby the best food possible from her own body. I reminded myself to be thankful that I COULD pump at work and continue to send breastmilk to daycare each day.

Solidarity, pumping mommas. Solidarity.

 

Nicole Covarelli

Ncovarelli@gmail.com

What is the face of your fear? (and ways to beat it)

Fear can be such an all encompassing emotion.  It also has a way of making you feel all alone in it.

Fear also has an ugly way of sneaking up on you in times you thought you had moved past it.  I had done all the right things to let go of the fear I held from my first postpartum but when it came time for pushing with my second baby ALL of that fear came flooding back- and it was intense.

Sometimes fear is a loud roar and other times its a constant, soft whisper.  Sometimes it's rational, other times it's not.  Fear can wear many faces.  It looks a little different. I find, however, that many moms carry the same fears surrounding childbirth and parenting.  They just manifest themselves a little differently.

When I took a pregnancy test and knew I was officially pregnant with my daughter, I was hysterical. They were not happy tears. I was absolutely terrified at the idea of going through what I had gone through again. Fears of anxiety, depression, failing my child, rage, marriage struggles, all the things.  I learned to cope some during the pregnancy but I carried that fear. I carried it all the way into my labor. 

In the picture beside here, I was at a point in labor where I remember crying out, "I'm scared!" It wasn't of the pushing or the pain. It was of the impending postpartum. My midwife spoke peace over me. I'll forever be thankful for that. In that moment, I finally let go of the fear that had been there for so long.  

Your fears are valid but they don't have to define you, and you don't have to carry them alone. You can overcome them. I wish I had a magic answer, but it's a different road to walk for everyone. Just know, you can win. You can overcome your fears. Postpartum can be filled with joy, and you can actually enjoy motherhood- even if you didn't believe that was possible before.

I talked to some moms and came up with a list of common fears in this season of life.  Below I'm going to list them- not to frighten you but to encourage you.  Sometimes seeing that you are not alone in your fears can be a catalyst for helping you move past them.  I want you to see these fears and know that you aren't alone and that you are heard.

  • Fear of being a bad mom
  • Fear of now knowing how to be a mom
  • Fear of having a son because of issues with your own father
  • Fear of having a daughter because you don't have a good relationship with your mom
  • Fear of not living up to expectations (even if you're the only one who put them on you)
  • Fear of raising your children to be bad people
  • Fear of doing something that will irreparably harm your child
  • Fear of the same birth experience if your first birth was traumatic
  • Fear of making the wrong decisions
  • Fear of not getting a VBAC
  • Fear that it's your first pregnancy
  • Fear that it's your last pregnancy
  • Fear that you won't love your baby
  • Fear that you can't love the second as much as the first
  • Fear of pain
  • Fear of change in family dynamics
  • Fear of what other people will think
  • Fear that your body won't work right
  • Fear of having to transport if planning an out of hospital birth
  • Fear of having a baby roadside/ that you won't make it in time

Good news!  We are NOT a slave to our fears.  I like to give very practical steps of ways to help handle our emotions so listed below are a few things that helped me.

  1.  Pick a trusted care provider for your pregnancy-  a A good care provider does far more than just check your blood pressure and baby's heart tones.  They know that pregnancy and postpartum are filled with emotions (a lot of which are really big and new) that we need help navigating through.  
  2. Set up reminders around your daily life-  I put painting up in my daughters room as encouragement to help fight against living in such an anxious place with my second postpartum.  Seeing them in hard moments helped me remember to give myself grace and breathe.
  3. Reach out to your friends who have been there-  So often I just wanted to know that it was okay that I was scared.  You don't need a friend who will just mope with you but a friend who will hear you out and process with you.
  4. Read Scripture, Meditate, Journal-  Words carry a lot of power and can help processing fears.  Speaking truth into your life matters.
  5. Cry- Sometimes a good, gut wrenching cry is really what people need to release. There is absolutely no shame in that.
  6. Take action steps to make sure you don't fall into your fears again-  Choose a VBAC supportive provider.  Make a plan for a better postpartum.  Set up a vision and goal for your family to break chains of generational bondage (you do NOT have to repeat the mistakes of the family before you)

You can do hard things.  Your story can be one of redemption and not one of fear.

I learned to dance with the fear I'd been running from. -Ben Rector

I hope that you too can learn how to dance with fear, and not let fear steal from you all that life has to offer.

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Older PostAdvice for new moms- or not.

Advice for new moms- or not.

A new baby is quite the conversation starter.  Sometimes people are nice and complimenting, other times people are rude, and a lot of times people mean well but may say the wrong things. I will never judge a person for well meaning conversation.  However, I would like to shed some light on things people say that may be more of a trigger and things that people could say instead to show they care.

When I had my son, almost everyone would comment to say and say, "isn't being a new mom GREAT?"  They meant well and I know that. However, every time I heard that it was like a sharp knife.  When someone is struggling with anxiety or depression statements like that can only heighten their sense of failure.  They want to enjoy it but aren't.  When they are in a situation where they have to smile and agree to the greatness of motherhood, inside it may deepen their feelings of inadequacy.  I know this is the way it was for me. 1 in 7 women struggle with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.  That is a really high number.  So even if you think someone is doing just fine, they might not be.  One simple thing we can do for new moms is to be mindful of the things we are saying to them.

 

Here are some things that new moms don't necessarily want to hear:

  • Isn't being a new mom GREAT?  Let them find their own feelings and their own way about this new journey of motherhood.
  • Treasure this time, if I could go back to those days I'd cherish every moment that I could with my babies.   For someone who feels like they are in survival mode, this will heap on the guilt that they are a bad mom and not soaking in the moments like they should
  • You're gonna miss this. You're right.  There are probably moments that every mom will miss.  When intrusive thoughts, fears, rage are what are consuming your mind then you aren't going to miss that at all.  Some people only see the sweet moments but you have no idea of how hard the sleepless nights are for that mom.
  • Are they a good baby? I've never understood this one.  Yes. Babies are good.  What people are really asking is if they sleep and don't cry much but even if they don't sleep and cry all the time, they are still good.
  • When are you going to lose that baby weight? I promise she has thought about it.  It's not a topic of conversation that she wants you to bring up.
  • Your baby is crying a lot. Are you sure he's getting enough milk?  Mothers, in general, are concerned about every little thing so no worries, they've got this covered too.  Let it be between the mom and her IBCLC and/or pediatrician about baby's eating.  They have it covered, promise.
  • Here let me show you how to do it.  Everyone has to find their own way.  You can offer help but never push your help/way on to someone. 
  • Is he sleeping through the night yet?   As a mom who had a baby who didn't sleep, I dreaded this question more than most.  I never wanted to answer because somehow my baby not sleeping meant I was failing.  EVERYONE has sleep advice.  It made my son a "bad baby" because he didn't sleep.  You honestly don't need to know how someone's baby is sleeping unless you're asking because you are about to offer to come take the night shift one night.

 

HELPFUL THINGS TO DO/SAY

  • When can I bring you a meal?  Food may be the single most helpful thing for a new mom.  She barely has time to go to the bathroom let alone cook a meal.  Seat up a meal train.  Door dash.  Drop of a basket of snacks at the door.  Food=love.  You will absolutely nourish their bodies and spirit if you ask this simple question.
  • Want me to watch the baby while you take a nap?  You've covered food. Great. The other sacred holy grail of motherhood- sleep.   Offering to take the baby so the mom can nap can really go along way.  She may so no at first.  Moms may take a while being comfortable letting someone else watch their baby but keep offering.  One day when she really needs that nap and the trust is built- she may say yes.
  • You are doing a good job.....It gets easier.  My kids are 3 and 9 months and I STILL benefit from hearing this.  Each season has its own set of trials.  Overall though, it does get easier.  Please don't tell people it'll get easier by 3/6/9 months/ when they can crawl/ sit up/ walk, etc.  When people told me certain time lines it set up expectation and then came disappointments when it didn't get easier at that time.  Remind the mom that she's the best mom for that baby and that this season won't last forever.  She needs to hear that.
  • I remember nursing my babies.  I remember how hard it as.  I remember the sleepless nights. Sometimes seeing/hearing that someone has been there and is on the other side goes a really long way. 
  • It's okay to cry. Women often feel the need to be brave and strong for everyone else.  Letting a mom know it's okay to cry and not feel okay for once can really take a heavy weight off.  Be ready to be there with a listening ear or some resources if she's struggling to the degree that she needs some outside help.   If you don't know how to help, you simply reassure her that you will find someone who can.

Remember, you can do hard things.  Let us lift one another up and work together on this wild parenting ride.

To epidural or not to epidural? That is the question.

For some people, getting an epidural is what they want or what they need.  That is perfectly okay. I am exceptionally thankful that modern medicine exists because it definitely has its time and place.

However,  I think there is a common misconception that every women who chooses to birth without an epidural is a "crunchy hippie." Sometimes people may even think they are doing it for the attention and "gold stars."  This really isn't true.  I know it's not why I chose to give birth without an epidural both times.  I've come across women from all walks of life who choose to birth this way. Successful business women, teachers, stay at home moms, athletes-  there really isn't a "type" who choose unmedicated birth.

In general, I have always tried to take minimal amounts of medicine and to do things more naturally.  Ever since I was very little, my family has called me "flower child."  Some names just stand the test of time.  I've always been drawn to natural approaches for everything- cooking, cleaning, healing. It's fascinating to me.  If I lived the rest of my life this way then I figured, why not approach childbirth this way too?  Another main reason I wanted to give birth without an epidural is because I truly believed God had designed my body to give birth and I didn't want to interfere with that process.

After I had already decided this was the route that I was going to take, I encountered a lot of people who laughed and ridiculed my decision.  Not going to lie, this was fuel to my flame.  It really made me want to do it THAT much more. I also think it made me extra proud when I did actually do it.

 

It may be surprising to some but there really are a lot of reasons why people may choose to go without the epidural. Here is a list with a variety of reasons why someone may want to have their baby pain medication free:

  1. Fear of needles.  I actually hear this one a lot.  People don't even like to get a shot so the thought of a big needle in their back is just too much.  "Because needles freak me out and a needle in my spine scares the crap out of me! Plus I figured if my mom could do it then I could too. 😉" www.heartsoulbirth.com

  2. Having an adverse reaction to the epidural the first time.   People can sometimes feel the effects of an epidural long after it is gone.  They could have issues like a spinal migraine or extended numbness or tingling.  These side effects can really impact someone's postpartum experience and may lead them to desire a birth without an epidural the next time.

  3. Research of childbirth.  Occasionally, we have a preconceived notion of what childbirth is (thanks television and movies), but then we start to look into it and it changes our tune.        "I always figured I'd just do what you do when you have a baby, and get the epidural. I started reading a little when I got pregnant, and it was primarily fear of cesarean that led me to natural childbirth. I feared if I got the epidural I wouldn't be able to feel myself push and would end up with a cesarean after all the hard work of labor. So we took a class & it made me realize there were so many other reasons I wanted a natural birth too, more than just the fear of cesarean." KeepCalmBirthOn.com
  4. Seeing other women do it.  Sometimes seeing someone we know and love do something can spark our interest and set us down a path.  "My mom always talked about her natural births as wonderful experiences so it never occurred to me I would do it any other way. She talked about birth in a way that made me have confidence in my body. I knew it would be the hardest work I'd ever do but the most rewarding." Darlingbirth.com
  5. To have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean).  This is very common.  Many women end up having a cesarean and want something different for their next birth.  They begin to research and find that a cascade of interventions could potentially be the reason for their cesarean.  This is motivation for these moms to avoid any intervention to have the vaginal birth they desire. "I chose unmedicated birth primarily because I was planning a VBAC and wanted to make sure my chances of another cesarean were as low as possible. With my second unmedicated birth (and 2nd VBAC), it was important to me that I labor and give birth in a relaxed and supportive environment with a care provider I trusted. For me, that safe place was my home."  www.nidobirth.com
  6. Feeling confident in the birth process.  Some women feel confident and empowered that their bodies were made for this so they look forward to the opportunity to see it all unfold. "I knew that this was what had been designed, so there was something wonderful and beautiful about birth. Something that medication or intervention might mask. I wanted to be a part of all that it could be." www.sheridanbirth.com

However you birth, be proud of what you've done.  Growing a human is no small feat.  Bringing them earth side takes a lot of bravery and courage too.

Hopefully this have given you some insight on why people would choose to birth this way.

 So I leave you with the question, to epidural or not to epidural? 

 

 

motherhood is not for the faint of heart

This is a guest blog from a beautiful new mom named Andi.  Andi has always been a jack of many trades and has done things that other people only talk/dream about.  She is full of life and joy.   She is real and honest.  So now, she is being real and honest about this new season of postpartum she is in.

 

I sit here writing this next to my snoozing little one, who is just the essence of perfection. You know what else she is the essence of? Terror.

Let me explain.

I spent the majority of my life genuinely believing I would never get married or have kids. Not that I thought I didn’t deserve them, I just never wanted those things. Further, you know the endless kids v. puppies battle? Well I was/am a puppies-for-the-win kind of girl, hands down. Puppies are easily cuter than babies at all times, and if you were walking down the street with your stroller and your dog I would go out of my way to come and pet the puppy and never mention your baby. Sorry about that.

But then the Lord did some redeemin’ in my life… and here I am a new mother.

And it is easily the most painful thing I’ve ever done.

My little girl is the most beautiful little girl in the history of the world. She’s absolutely perfect.

 

The problem is that she’s sooooo liittttle. I’ve somehow been convinced that she’s too little to survive. Every squeak, cough, and grunt sends my heart racing- and not in the good way. I lay awake at night, panicked that she’s going to somehow just stop breathing, especially now that she has discovered the art of spitting up.

I check on her relentlessly, especially now that my husband has banished her to our closet (after I had my first real breakdown from exhaustion, he stepped in to help get her on a better sleeping and eating schedule- clearly, he’s the strong one in this relationship) (thank GOD).

When I was pregnant I was honestly convinced that out of the two of us- my husband and I- I would be the disciplinarian. I had watched children before, even worked at a daycare with itty bitties, and crying babies had never really bothered me. I had always been able to do the thing in spite of the crying.

When this little girl cries, I feel a physical pain. A PHYSICAL PAIN. It actually hurts me to hear her cry. When her lip quivers, or she starts to frown I panic, thinking she’s in some terrible pain and there’s nothing I can do about it.

We discovered that she has a small tongue tie and a pretty significant upper lip tie, and I sobbed for nearly 3 hours thinking that she was in pain every time I nursed her. When I found out they may have to clip the ties, I sobbed for nearly a day. I apparently ate something that upset her tummy a few nights ago, and she refused to nurse while crying hysterically. I joined her, obviously. Turns out it was less her tummy and more that she just hadn’t had a good long nap that day and was overly tired. Didn’t matter. I thought I couldn’t take care of her, and basically lost my mind.

                       me, obvs

                       me, obvs

 

When The husband stepped in to help me set a better schedule for her- for both her heath and my own- I cried then, too, thinking she was too young not to nurse every time she asked for it. When he encouraged me to let her cry a little bit before I ran to her rescue, I cried some more, thinking she would feel abandoned by me.

There’s this insane feeling of helplessness that I feel every time I think she’s in any pain at all- physical or emotional. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. And it’s certainly more intense than anything I’ve felt. Add to that the nutso schedule you keep with a newborn- feeding every 2-3 hours, 24 hours a day, changing diapers constantly, and just hoping you’re doing enough to keep everyone alive… it’s simply overwhelming. Include the pain of postpartum recovery and the pain of nursing a child with a lip/tongue tie, and you’ve got a formula for a few breakdowns.

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart.

I wish someone had shared with me how hard it was to love someone so desperately.

I wish someone had told me how painful love can really feel. I wish someone had prepared me a little more.

But the one thing I know is that she is totally, completely, absolutely worth the pain. When she cries, I cry. When she hurts, I hurt. And I’m on board with that for the long haul.

I’ll grow stronger as I grow used to the pain of loving her. I’ll grow stronger as I see her through sickness and health. I’ll grow stronger as I watch her grow into a strong, independent, well-adjusted adult. For that’s who we’re raising after all, isn’t it?

And for now, I’ll just learn to be okay with the pain, knowing that loving her is worth every single moment we get- whether it’s challenging or not.

because just look at her

Preparation

When I asked moms to describe how they felt about their postpartum experience, the words above are what they used to describe it.  Not exactly the fairytale picture that everyone paints motherhood to be but it is reality for a lot of women.

When I asked moms to describe how they felt about their postpartum experience, the words above are what they used to describe it.  Not exactly the fairytale picture that everyone paints motherhood to be but it is reality for a lot of women.

When I asked moms who had been well informed and prepared for their postpartum how they felt they gave the answers in the picture below.  Drastic difference, right? 

This isn't a long blog post full of tips and tricks or anything like that.  It's just a short little message to hopefully help you understand that preparing for postpartum makes a DRASTIC difference and I promise you it is worth it.  Find classes, support groups, build your mom tribe, seek wise counsel from moms who have walked before you.  You are a strong, capable mother, but we were never meant to do this alone.  We were designed for community.  Please take advantage of the amazing opportunities to build community that are all around you if you just look or ask somewhere for resources to find them.

This isn't a long blog post full of tips and tricks or anything like that.  It's just a short little message to hopefully help you understand that preparing for postpartum makes a DRASTIC difference and I promise you it is worth it.  Find classes, support groups, build your mom tribe, seek wise counsel from moms who have walked before you.  You are a strong, capable mother, but we were never meant to do this alone.  We were designed for community.  Please take advantage of the amazing opportunities to build community that are all around you if you just look or ask somewhere for resources to find them.

Why don't we care about postpartum?

You announce your pregnancy and all the congratulations and well wishes come flying your way.  As they should.  It's a really exciting thing and people are really happy for you.  I mean who doesn't love news of a squishy new baby to love?

People love to share their pregnancy and birth stories and you listen.  Everyone has their opinions on these topics and loves to let them be known.  The stories usually stop there when you are pregnant.  Sometimes people will go into the early newborns days and the cute little things their baby did but not much more.  Occasionally you will get opinions on favorite bottles, pacifiers, car seat, or things of that nature. (Everyone has completely different preferences anyway.)

It's no wonder that we don't care about postpartum.   No one gives us the example that we should care, but I'm here to tell you... you should care.

I wish someone would have sat down and told me how things were really going to change. Some things changed for the absolute best and some were exceptionally hard changes that I wasn't expecting.

I reached out to some other moms and here is a little list of things they were not prepared for when it came to postpartum.

  1. That you will out eat an entire high school football team..... (Andrea)

    • Your appetite will become like something you've never imagined.  You only thought you were hungry when you were pregnant.

  2. That you'll be sore in places other than your perineum. I read all these things about what to expect about bleeding and clots, milk etc but I was absolutely shocked when I finished and felt like I'd had one of the most intense workouts of my life!

    • All the more reason to rest, rest, rest.  Your body needs to recover in so many different areas.

  3. That breastfeeding most likely won't just come naturally. Well not for me at least.

    • With both of my kids, we had some serious breastfeeding issues.  Neither one of them would latch for the first 2 weeks.  Some kids are born and latch perfectly.  Be prepared with resources if breastfeeding troubles arise.

  4. That you might not like your husband. At all. Even a little bit. Because hormones are weird.

    • Becoming parents for the first or fifth time is such a huge transition plus you are in the throws of a hormone hurricane.  Sometimes our spouses may get the brunt of all of that.  Odds are they are trying their best and we can fight to choose to give each other grace in a season of learning and growing.

  5. Postpartum chills. With all five of my babies, several days after birth, but sometime in the first week.  I would get violent, shiver inducing chills that would only subside after being wrapped in several blankets for a while. It was not linked to being cold even. I don't know if it is a common experience, but it was quite unpleasant. (Erin)

    • Chills then turn to sweats then sweats turn into chills.  Hormones take a little while to calm down and play some crazy tricks while they are doing it.

  6. That sweats/pjs, no-make-up, fewer showers, constant snacking, and daily naps are a perfectly acceptable, and even preferable, way to live the first month or so! Mom, baby, and dad will all be the better for it if the nesting-in period is truly devoted to nesting.

    • Our culture wants to rush us back to "normal" life but don't do it.  Slow down. Soak it in and take care of you. Because you matter.  Yes you. You matter enough to take the proper time and care to recover.

  7. The amount of love you will feel for your child can almost feel overwhelming at times.  You may love the second, third, fourth, etc. children differently and that is okay.

    • People said that it was a great sense of love but I truly think that no one could have prepared me.  I don't think anyone can prepare anyone.  I think that one just comes with experience.  However, I love my daughter differently.  Do I love her as much as my son? Sure.  But the way I feel love for her and the way I feel love for my son is just different.  It's hard to explain and put into words but it's just different.  I really think that is perfectly okay and not a bad thing at all.

  8.   That postpartum depression is more than just depression. (Andrea)

    • If you've read any of my other blogs you know all about my story and how I learned the hard way how true this is.  Postpartum depression is really perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and covers a broad spectrum.  You don't have to walk this alone.  If you feel off at all, just reach out. People love you and care and there is help to be had.

This list could go on forever I'm sure because everyone's experiences are a little bit different.  I hope that these perspectives from some moms who have been there can help you prepare and care a little bit more about your postpartum experiences.

Reach out to a mom friend you know and trust to have an honest and open dialogue with you.  Sit down have coffee and REAL conversation.  Living in community is the best way to make this postpartum and parenting thing the best that it can be.

Overcoming Fear

Monsters under the bed.  Failing a test.  Boyfriend breaking up with you. Being alone.  Not being successful enough.

Each and every stage in our lives has some element of fear in it, starting from when we are very small and going even until our final days.  Some fears may be kind of silly like how I had a legitimate phobia of mustard for a while (the texture- the smell- creeped me out) but other fears can be crippling to us in our daily lives.  Fear is a really strong force and we have to work to not let it overtake us each and every day.

A lot of times women struggle with fear throughout their pregnancy and birth.  It's hard not to when everyone wants to share their birth horror stories and talk about the pain, the weird things your body does, and oh so much more.  For every person who has a horror story, someone else has a story of triumph and victory, a story of blessings and joy, a person who saw pain with a purpose instead of just pain.

Fear can really hold you back in labor.

I remember when I was in labor saying at one point, "I'm scared." And I was,  scared of the pain, the idea of having a daughter, the fact that things would be different, and that anxiety and depression would steal this second postpartum too.  

I literally was trying to stop pushing even though my body was wanting to push because of all the fear I had carried into my birth.  I knew that I had done all the right things to try to prepare for a better postpartum this time.  I knew that God is in the redemption business.  Fear was still present and trying to rear its ugly head to win the battle.

My midwife reminded me that God gives us promises of peace and fear had no place there.  She was absolutely right.  Fear is a mighty beast to fight though, but I truly believe it is worth it to fight and choose peace and have it win over fear.

Peace has won this time for me.  After my midwife's reminder, I felt peace.  I took that peace and I have fought every single day to hold on to it.  My daughter is almost 3 and 1/2 months old now.  I haven't had any panic attacks and haven't felt depressed at all. 

I love this quote from Christine Caine.  "She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts but because she continued on despite them."  That's the truth.  We are not failures because of our fears.  We can push through them and it makes us a little bit stronger of a person each and every day.

I'm a very practical person so I want to talk about some practical ways to work on dealing with fears so that you don't bring them into your birth space with you.

1)  Journaling- Sometimes it can be helpful to just write and see what comes out.  It can help you process in a different kind of way than just thinking it through in your head.

2) Talking them out with someone you trust-  We can get so emotionally charged with our feelings and fears so talking them out with someone you trust can help.  They can potentially bring new light to your situation

3)  Pinpointing what exactly your fear is and where it stems from-  So many times, a fear has been a part of our lives for so long we may not even know where it really stems from.  Sitting down and pinpointing what exactly it is that is holding you back is such a huge starting point in moving forward.  You may think you are scared of the pain of birth when really you are scared you would be inadequate as a mother.  Those different fears needs different paths to overcome them.

4) Scripture and Meditation-  Finding a quiet time and place to either read scripture or meditate can really help give you clarity of mind which can help you be better prepared for conquering your fears.

5) Music-  Music speaks to people on so many levels.  Sometimes a certain song can really help you find strength and healing.

6)  Set up reminders for yourself- In my daughter's nursery,  I had a friend create some art pieces for me.  They say, " Love life.  Choose peace.  Give grace."  I really put them in there for me.  To remind me that those are the things I have to do daily.  When I'm having a hard day and she's fighting sleeping and I'm feeling frustrated I look up and see those then I remember it is worth it.  So put sticky notes in your car, set an alarm on your phone, have your spouse text you, whatever you need to do to remember that you are strong enough.

These are just a few ideas and hopefully some of them may work for you.  You are NOT a slave to your fears.  Remember that.  You deserve a life (and birth and postpartum) full of peace and joy.  I hope you fight for those things and have peace win in your life today.

Pregnancy After Postpartum Depression

This is a blog I have been wanting to write for a long time.  I wanted to wait until we made the news of my pregnancy public before I wrote it though.

We decided we were ready for another baby, but then very quickly fear began to take over.  We decided,  "let's just wait another 6 months and revisit the idea then."  Well, too late.  I was apparently already pregnant.  I knew it the moment it happened, but I stayed in complete denial until the day I took a pregnancy test.  I took the test and instead of joy, there were hysteria.  I was crying so hard I could barely breathe.  Believe me, it wasn't from joy.  I was terrified.  All I could think of was how hard postpartum was for me with my son.  I could feel the depression.  I could feel the anxiety all flooding back.  Overwhelmed was an understatement.  As if all those feelings weren't enough, guilt began to creep in.  How could I feel such sorrow and heartache about a positive pregnancy test when so many women cry and pray for this?  I had a lot of very loud, very aggressive voices screaming my head.

Emotions are fierce and strong.  They can also be so misleading.  We cannot let our emotions win.   We are in control of our emotions, not the other way around.  I had to take a lot of time to process, and I talked to some other friends who had experienced surprise pregnancies.  I feel like there is a lot of stigma around not being on cloud 9 because you're pregnant but i'm here today to say it's really okay.  If we don't work through our emotions then we are never going to be able to move past them.  They are part of our story, but they are not the dictators of our final destination. I think that is something any woman who has had a perinatal mood disorder needs to know.

I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety for 15 months.  That's not a short amount of time.  It took a toll on every aspect of my life.  I think it's normal and okay that those fears from my first postpartum popped up as soon as I found out there would be a new baby with its own new postpartum.  There's one big difference now though. I know so much more. I'm not going to let the depression catch me by surprise.  I'm going to start now to prepare for a better postpartum.

Here are some ways I'm going to do that:

  1. Plan on having my placenta encapsulated.- So many women swear by this.  They say that they can feel such a difference when they take their placenta pills.  There is several fantastic placenta encapsulation services out there now.  Do your research and find the right one for you.
  2. Process who had a positive impact last time and who had a negative one.-This is a big one for me.  There were several different people who were a part of my overall experience last time.  Some of which really did help but others who really only brought stress.  I don't want to sound like a jerk but this time the people who brought stress won't be invited.  It had such a negative impact on me.  I was already completely overwhelmed with my new baby and all the breastfeeding issues we were having.  People who spoke negatively of what I was trying to do or disregarded my wishes for my baby are not people who I can have around me this time when I am trying to protect my postpartum.  Boundaries are important.
  3. Have a list of postpartum resources ready.- I was too overwhelmed last time to even look up counselors, much less find ones who really understood postpartum.  This time I have that ready as well as lists of supplements and oils that can help too.
  4. Attend a postpartum support group now.- I attended a group as soon as I found out I was pregnant.  I was welcomed with open arms.  It didn't matter to a single person there that I wasn't currently struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety.  I had been there just like they were currently there in their struggle.  Motherhood is a tribe.  It has to be, it's too hard to do this solo.
  5. Realize God has my postpartum in His hands.-  My faith is a big part of my life.  I trust that God is a God who redeems and restores.  He can absolutely do that with my postpartum.  When I try to stay in control then things are overwhelming and more than I can handle.  When I trust God is in control, then I know He promises that His strength is strongest in weakness which will get me through all of it.

I do not have this all figured out, I promise.  Some days fear wins,  and it wins big.  So I shake that day off, go to sleep, wake up, and try again.  I fight for peace and joy.  I hope over time that it will get easier for me, but even if it doesn't it is still worth the fight.  I was not created to live a life in fear and depression and neither were you.  Life is meant to be full of joy.  Try to take joy in even the smallest things.  Sometimes it's just the starting point you need to head towards a better postpartum.