Several times throughout my pregnancy, I shared bump updates in the hopes of journaling and documenting the process, but more than that, I also wanted to share with first time mamas and even seasoned ones the things I have experienced or gone through in hopes of either helping or being someone to relate to if there is a mom out there finding herself in the same position. Pregnancy and birth are such extremely unique and sensitive situations and when you find yourself struggling with something that another mother is as well, it creates a bit of a safe space where you know you are not alone. My hope is to do the same thing as I share the journey following birth and everything I am experiencing beginning with my postpartum week one. I’m sure writing about some things will leave me in quite a vulnerable place sharing about them publicly, but I think it is more important that maybe even one mom can possibly be comforted knowing that someone else feels the same way. Or struggles with the same thing. Or isn’t less of a mom for doing it a different way. As mothers we all have the same goal which is to raise healthy and happy babies.
Speaking of which, I have already begun writing Brooks’ birth story which I will be sharing on the blog this week so keep an eye out for that because I can’t wait to share it with you!
I will be touching on the same things each week with these postpartum updates – everything from the changes physically, my emotional and mental health, sleep and all things baby from weight and progress, feeding as well as things I have found useful or tips I have picked up with having my fifth babe. Here goes nothing…
MY CURRENT WEIGHT:
If you have been following along here for awhile, you may know about the rough patch I had last fall and then shortly after being surprised with this pregnancy. A rather sweet surprise, but it definitely started out in a state of shock. Unfortunately, the few years previous as well as my breakdown last fall took a toll on my body and I was not in the physical state I would have liked to be in to handle a pregnancy. When we went in for our first OB appointment at 10 weeks, I weighed in at 190. And let it be known that I never once looked at the scale. I knew my body was not in a good place and I didn’t need it to become even more of a mental and negative game than it already was. So for each of our OB appointments, I told my husband to keep an eye out each time and keep the info to himself until I was ready for it after all was said and done. I guess that time is now!
At that first OB appointment, I shared with my doctor what I had recently gone through and what I was dealing with – added weight due to stress, anxiety, etc – and he calmed my worries and told me that I was not in a place where we needed to worry about weight gain over the course of my pregnancy. I loved that we were able to be on the same page about it and that was the end of the weight discussion so I could focus on just having a healthy pregnancy.
Fast forward to 32 weeks when we found out that I tested positive for gestational diabetes. Right away we began the process of dietary changes to get my numbers and levels corrected naturally. I still say that asking a pregnant woman to maintain a strict diet is one of the cruelest things ever, but I was going to do whatever it took to keep things controlled and as healthy as I could for Brooks. And due to the dietary changes beginning at week 33 all the way to our last OB appointment at 38 weeks, my weight had dropped down to 168 LBS. Everything was A-OK with Baby and my doc was not concerned in the slightest.
Weighing myself now at one week postpartum, I stand at 158 LBS. And no, prior to this pregnancy I couldn’t tell you the last time I stepped on a scale. I think it can easily get out of control when focus is on numbers, but for the sake of documenting this journey post birth, I will be maintaining a record of the physical changes. And my hope is that, even if the number never changes from where it’s at, that I can get back to a workout regimen when my OB gives me the green light to get to a point where I feel better and stronger physically and mentally. I will be sharing about my plans for this in the coming weeks!
(the picture on the left was taken on Day #3 and the picture on the right was taken on Day #7)
HOW I AM FEELING PHYSICALLY:
You will hear all of the details with Brooks’ birth story later this week, but after 24 hours of laboring, we ended up in the OR having a C-section. So this recovery process is all new to me unlike my other four deliveries which were vaginal and completely identical in process and recovery. Now, I do know pain with recovery from having more than one level four episiotomy from previous births, however, having to go through surgery and having your abdomen cut open is quite different. We were discharged from the hospital just shy of 48 hours (because I went into Mama Bear mode, demanded it and just wanted to be home with my family), and coming home and for the first 72 to 96 hours I was in an intense amount of pain. Trouble walking and even struggled with feeling like I couldn’t stand completely upright for how “tight” my incision area felt. Jarett had to help me get in and out of bed. Lifting myself from laying down to just sitting up in bed was excruciating and the pain I experienced in my back was sometimes unbearable. I am on pain medication, but it seemed to be just enough to take the edge off.
The incision area was extremely tender and my entire body from head to toe felt like it had been put through the ringer. This was mostly due to the fact that I labored for 24 hours before going into surgery and it definitely took a toll. It seemed that any little bit of physical activity made me exhausted, but I had to make sure I was moving around somewhat to keep the blood flowing in my legs. Unfortunately, due to my history with blood clots as a side effect from surgery when I was a teenager, my OB and I decided we felt better putting me on a blood thinner for the next month to make sure we don’t have any issues in that area. So yes, more injections daily when I thought I was done with medication and sticking myself with needles! Whatever it takes, right?
Luckily, towards the end of this first week, I got some of my energy back and have felt more and more like myself with each day which has given me hope that recovery won’t be as miserable as I thought it would be. Those first few days had me worried. Bleeding hasn’t completely stopped and the cramping is still there, but as you can see from the mirror selfies above, my body is slowly working to get back to normal and I have seen a big difference in my belly and the size decrease. And while my kids do ask when my tummy will be flat again, I smile and let them know that it doesn’t matter because the fact that my tummy has housed and kept five cubs safe and sound is plenty enough for me.
HOW I AM FEELING MENTALLY:
This is a tough one. For the most part, I am doing pretty well. I have only had a few instances of tears and a rush of emotions as I try and navigate giving all five children what they need right now along with still handling life and responsibilities with Jarett. I do feel like my anxiety is a bit out of control which is something that my doctor and I will be discussing at my two week follow up appointment. I know it’s always better to get ahead of things instead of waiting for a breakdown and after already experiencing postpartum depression after having our Miss Blake, I know better than to brush it off as just “hormones”. Not to mention, I was not back to 100% after last year’s breakdown.
Just as an example of the things that have me paying close attention to a possible issue with anxiety… I find myself waking every 20 to 30 minutes in a panic checking to see if Brooks is still breathing. What also hasn’t helped is the worry of a possible blood clot. Any bit of pain in my leg and I lay there wondering if I should rush to the hospital or try and calm myself down first and rationally decide if it’s even an issue. And anyone who has had a near death scare with something like blood clots can probably relate to this. It can constantly have you worried and wondering.
The first two days at home were harder than I thought it would be. Having all of the kids together and off of school for one day for Columbus Day had me overwhelmed with all of the questions, the helping, the loving and the request to hold Brooks. I know it was being tired and worn out, but I tried my hardest to not let the guilt creep in that I was a bad mom for feeling a bit smothered by everyone. Towards the end of this first week, I am feeling better and a big part of that is making sure I am getting out when I feel up to it. Right now, it’s nothing more than doctor’s appointments and school drop off in the morning and a few minutes at the park with Jarett and Blair so she can enjoy some time out of the house as well. It’s just enough to let the sunshine and fresh air do their thing to try and keep away the baby blues and to feel as human as I can. And even the littlest things like taking a shower and putting on a touch of makeup. Any little bit helps even if I do lay down for a nap right after pushing myself to do those simple things.
HOW THE FAMILY IS ADJUSTING:
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew the kids would be excited and that we wouldn’t be dealing with any jealousy issues, but I wasn’t sure how intense it would be. And as I mentioned above, those first few days were definitely intense. Especially when we had to slip right back into school and bedtime routines – that stuff doesn’t pause while you recover from having a baby! And not to mention, the evenings are when Jarett is out working so it has felt overwhelming at times.
I knew leaving the hospital and due to the amount of pain I was in and everything I had just been through that my patience would be limited. However, I also didn’t want the kids to associate this exciting time for our family with a possible “angry mommy”. So I kept it in check when they were around, breathed calmly through all four of them talking at me, asking me things, asking to hold Brooks along with their usual shenanigans and then once everyone was in bed for the night, I would shed a few tears and vent to my mother (who was such a huge blessing as she stayed with me for several evenings to help with Brooks while I was a single mom during Jarett’s work hours and physically unable to do much).
I also wasn’t prepared for Major to be so completely possessive and territorial of the baby which added another element of stress. Those first 3 days, he followed me and Brooks like a shadow, tried to get to him every time he cried and paced nervously when we did anything with him. It was a major worry, but luckily after a few days and getting used to Brooks’ presence and scent, he has calmed down is back to normal as well as giving me and Brooks space throughout the day and especially in the evenings when Dad is away.
With all of that and after everyone settled into having a new baby in the house after the first couple days, I have to say how wonderful it is to have so many built in helpers. The kids are willing to get me anything I need as well as lend extra hands to hold Brooks when I can’t. It truly has been an amazing experience to watch them welcome a new sibling and love on him as much as they do. Despite feeling overwhelmed in the beginning and wondering if I could even do this “mother to five” thing, I have to say now that I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our house is so full at the moment with all the best stuff.
I promised myself that I would be documenting this journey and sharing it in complete transparency. My hope that in sharing about how I handle feeding, I might be able to make a few fellow moms out there who have experienced the same thing feel at ease in their approach to nurturing their little ones.
So the truth? I hate breastfeeding. I went into the birth of our oldest son back when I was 21 years old with the idea that we would breastfeed because I thought that’s just what you do if you can. I had also heard my mom speak about her experience with it and how wonderful she found it. So you can imagine my state of shock when it wasn’t like that for me. No one told me it could go the other way! Between the nurse grabbing my breast out of my hospital gown to try and get Tanner to latch and begin feeding without so much as a warning, to experiencing the most uncomfortable pain, I went home with a new baby saying that I will pump and bottle feed, but I did not want to breastfeed. Little did I know that my milk supply would not be sufficient to go more than two weeks.
With each of our babies after that, I went into it knowing I would pump as long as I could, but I was never able to stay in the game long. Nor did I have the capacity to handle it. My pregnancies are hard enough between being sick, two of them involving blood thinners and additional monitoring to this one and the complications of gestational diabetes, that by the time I am done and Baby is here I need to feel like me as quickly as possible. The idea of being attached to Baby in the way that breastfeeding requires made me want to break down in tears. And then the guilt of feeling like that used to make me break down in tears. It’s a truly vicious cycle. Fast forward to this birth and knowing my mental and emotional state with everything we had dealt with in the pregnancy as well as before? I made the decision to not even add it to my plate.
So much love, support and admiration for the women that totally excel in this area. I have just come to terms with the fact that I don’t and it has nothing to do with me being less of a mother. I know I am a good mother. I know I bond extremely well with my babies in other ways. And I know that ‘FED IS BEST’ and my kids need a happy and stable mom instead of one who is breaking down from stress. It’s truly helpful to know that Dad is able to be up in the middle of the night as well for feedings and the stress doesn’t just fall on me. Most of all, I was incredibly surprised and relieved at the lack of guilt I have felt this time around. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I already have four incredibly healthy kids who were raised on formula. Four perfectly healthy, happy, intelligent and normal kids who don’t even deal with food allergies for crying out loud.
And maybe it’s because I am older now or maybe because the hospital staff knew this was my fifth baby, but not a single nurse or doctor batted an eye when I told them I would be formula feeding Brooks. In fact, they were so helpful in educating me on how to suppress my milk supply so I didn’t have to deal with too much pain when it came in. I remember not knowing how to handle that situation with my first and I woke up in the middle of the night and my breasts went from a size A to a D overnight and I was so engorged that I could not lift my arms above my head. All I could do was cry because the pain was so intense while Jarett did his best to comfort me.
So first off, for any fellow mothers who have felt like this and cringe at the idea of anyone knowing why you don’t breastfeed for fear of backlash… just know you are not alone. Do what is best for you and Baby and forget the rest.
And second, for any mom who is interested in knowing how to handle their milk coming in when they are not planning on breastfeeding, make sure to wear a sports bra that is supportive but not too tight. This will help restrict your milk supply without causing clogged ducts also known as mastitis. For the pain, use ice or gel packs to reduce inflammation. I also will freeze cabbage leaves and put them right in my sports bra, however, they do warm up from body heat very quickly so they don’t have as long of an effect as ice or gel packs.
Lastly, and now that I have breezed through the controversy and drama, we are bottle feeding Brooks using Enfamil and he is doing so well. No stomach issues or reflux as of now and we are at about 3 fluid ounces every 3 to 5 hours depending on his sleep.
We are all about co-sleeping in our home. I would never begin to tell fellow moms what way is better or promote anything un-safe. However, we have found that co-sleeping keeps our newborns calm and comfortable being close to me and each of our babies have begun sleeping through the night at one month old. Now, that is not to say that it will be that way this time because nothing is a guarantee and each baby is different, but knowing that newborns are used to being close and feeling/hearing a heartbeat I absolutely love the bonding that comes from this for each of my babes. And no, we have never had an issue with any of our kiddos making the switch to their own bed when it is time.
As for daytime sleep and naps, I will put Brooks in his crib if I am handling other things while he catches some Z’s or I will lay him in the SwaddleMe so I can move him downstairs or wherever I am. Other than that he and I are still connected at the hip and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Right now, Brooks is up twice a night for feeding, a diaper change, a good burp and a soft rock back to sleep or time to lay in bed and stare at each other. What can I say? He is definitely my kid and runs nocturnally!
Brooks had his first checkup following the hospital last week and he is doing extremely well. He was born at 7 lbs, 13 ounces and weighed in at the doctor’s at 7 lbs, 6 ounces. He did lose a bit of weight in the hospital, but he has increased weight since then so we were happy to hear that. He also was born at 20 inches long and has already increased that by a 1/2 inch. Way to go, Baby!
We were thrilled in the hospital when his blood sugar levels were exactly where they needed to be and he also passed his jaundice screening as well as his hearing screening. We will be back for his 2 week check up next week as well as another blood test, but I think our little guy is a champ and doing quite well!
ADVICE FOR FELLOW MOTHERS ABOUT TO EMBARK ON WEEK ONE:
Be patient with yourself. Listen to your body and go slow. Trust your motherly instincts – they may be new, but I promise you, they are natural, powerful and will never steer you wrong. Work through what works best for you and Baby and own it. Don’t apologize for it. Ask for help when you need it. This includes if you are starting to feel overly emotional or depressed. Talk with your doctor to get ahead of anything. Enjoy and soak up all the moments you can because it goes fast. Do little things to boost your spirits and ensure that you are feeling a bit like yourself when you can.
I will continue with a weekly update on the journey (future ones won’t be as lengthy now that I have shared a lot of back story and details), but I hope you fellow moms out there find this somewhat helpful! Feel free to leave comments or questions below or even share about your own postpartum journey. I would love to connect with you!