Updated: Mar 23
This is my postpartum story continued after we left the hospital for both of my kiddos. To read the beginning of my story, see posts Expect the Unexpected: Labor and Delivery and Postpartum Unplugged Part 1: The Hospital.
Eli's postpartum story is stressful. Max's story is joyful. I want to share these experiences, so they may help someone who does not know what to expect after they have a baby. Maybe this will better prepare a new mom for the unexpected postpartum blues, and hopefully, help to recognize it, and realize things will get better, and to seek help if you need it.
With Eli, I was dreading going home. I was afraid to. I wanted to stay with the nurses who were helpful and knew what to do, and could help me take care of this new little human. But we did go home. I cried the whole ride home. I was scared of the traffic, I was scared of the highway. I just cried and imagined all the horrific car accidents we could be in with a tiny baby in the car. This is a slice of postpartum "baby blues." I don't think I had severe postpartum depression, but I want to share my experience with expecting moms, so you may be better prepared for unexpected changes in your personality, mood, and emotions.
I was not myself for 2 months. I had crying fits like the one I had on the ride home for the first four weeks Eli was home. I didn't have a reason. I would just burst into tears, and cry for a long time each day, a few times a day. I'd just tell my husband that I couldn't help it, and we would have to wait for it to pass.
Caring for a newborn was very stressful. I think many factors were going on at the same time that added to this stress. One, Eli's birth was very long and stressful and tough on my body and I believe tough on him too. He cried a lot when he was a baby. People call it colic. Maybe that's what it was. But he would cry starting at 8:00 pm and not stop until 2:00 am. We tried everything, nursing, walking, rocking, shushing, changing. Nothing worked. And some nights he would be totally fine and not cry at all. We'd think maybe we did something right, or maybe he's grown out of it, but no, he would be back at it the next night. This went on until he was 6 months old. I think he was in pain, but this may be normal baby stuff, either way, I want to let you know, this is the kind of thing you may come across when you are home with your little one. A common cause for crying like this can also be due to discomfort from digestion, gas, pooping. We would bicycle his legs, burp him, rub his back, rub his tummy, but he continued to cry during this stage.
I was also obsessed with keeping track of everything: what time he nursed, on which breast, for how long, did he have a wet diaper, or a dirty diaper, when did he fall asleep, how long did he sleep, when did he wake up, how long has it been since his last feeding.
Part of this was due to having to keep track of this information while in the hospital for the nurses. In my postpartum mind, I thought I had to continue to keep track of all this information.
You do get asked about this information at your first doctor appointment for your two week check up, but after that, you do not need to keep up with this crazy amount of information. But I did make myself crazy, and kept track of all of this information for 2 months.
Before I had a baby, I was very modest. Immediately after I had Eli, I had no modesty, and was not aware of it. It was too hard for me to take the time to get dressed. I only wore underwear, a giant maxi pad, a nursing bra with breast pads, and a robe. I did not care if anyone saw me like this, or with my breast out while I was feeding him. The only reason I got dressed when people came over to visit was I vaguely remembered the idea that maybe it would make them uncomfortable if I was not dressed, but I did not care.
Thankfully, I did dress myself on these occasions. But when it was my family, my mom, my sister, my dad, I did not. It was easier. I was having a hard time. I did not have time to take a shower. I did not have time to prepare a meal. I did not have time to cook, do dishes, do laundry.
My husband seemed to be going through a bit of postpartum as well. He could not stop cleaning. He cleaned manically. He would not sleep, he would clean. He was never satisfied with the state of the house, he thought it was too dirty for our new baby. He would stay up till 2 am cleaning.
We were not a healthy pair at this time. It makes me sad to write about it now, but I want any moms who read this to know that this kind of change in behavior is a possibility. And I know other moms have been through worse, but I can only share what we experienced, and hope it sheds some light on what goes on, and helps moms better prepare themselves for possible symptoms.
We did get better. We slowly started to take time for ourselves, and take better care of ourselves, which led us to be better able to manage taking care of our baby.
So, remember that nipple shield I was given at the hospital. Well, I essentially trained my baby to only be able to nurse with that thing on my nipple. Babies are creatures of habit as it turns out. I had to wean him off of using the nipple shield, and get him use to nursing without it. It was not an enjoyable experience. It took weeks.
I had many postpartum complications, skip the next couple of paragraphs if you don't want the details. I ended up getting a uterine infection that came with feverishness and resulted in a prescription for antibiotics. After taking antibiotics, I developed a yeast infection in my nipples. Antibiotics kill both the good and the bad antibodies, and this allowed yeast to thrive and have a party and make my nipples extremely painful while nursing. I had to apply an ointment to my nipples that had to be cleaned off before breastfeeding and then reapplied after, which is not fun.
Then, I also had granulation tissue that was painful where my episiotomy had healed. This had to be cut off and cauterized with no local anesthetic. Wha? I don't know if they just thought I was tough, because I had a baby, or this is the norm, but anytime I have something minor done at the dentist, they numb half my mouth, but this, nope? I don't know, maybe my obgyn office was gangster, who knows. But I for sure felt one hundred percent better after that thing was removed from my body.
Now for the scary part. I did not like my husband after I had Eli. I just didn't. That was a sad truth. I didn't have a reason, I had a different personality after Eli was born. I was not interested in him and was not happy.
I love my husband, he is my moon and stars, but I could not reason with myself on this point after I had our baby. He's loving, caring, compassionate, takes care of me, makes me laugh, is beautiful, loves our babies, makes me swoon, but I was not having anything to do with him postpartum.
Thankfully, this feeling faded, but it was probably 2 months after our son was born, before I was in love with my husband again. I am grateful for him always, but he felt me pull back too. He thought we were over. So, once I recovered, I told him, I'll always come back, but I don't know what will happen when we have another baby, but I'll come back, hang in there with me. This was some scary stuff. I'm glad I recovered, but please prepare yourself for the strangeness that may happen postpartum.
Night sweats, after Eli, I would have hot flashes or night sweats where I would be drenched in sweat and then shivering. This went on for a few weeks after he was born.
One more experience, common to all new moms, breast engorgement. This was painful and occurred a few days after birth. The milk supply came in during this time, and my breasts looked like a butt sitting on my chest. It was painful. After a couple of days, they settled down to the new normal size and were no longer painful.
I need to mention an oversight on my part, I had not purchased any nursing bras or nursing tops ahead of time. This was not a good idea. I could not go shopping after just having a baby. My lovely sister, who is always offering to help, received a tearful phone call from me pleading for her to help me find nursing bras and tops. She went shopping for me, and brought bags of things to try on at home. I am forever grateful for this, and all her many acts of kindness. Thank you.
It took me 6 weeks to feel physically more or less myself. This was due to all the complications I mentioned.
And of course there is just pain. Pain from giving birth.
I also had to go back to work after having Eli. It was my first year as a teacher and I had a little over 5 weeks off before I had to return full time to teaching for the last six weeks of the year. With this looming ahead, I had to start pumping two weeks after Eli was born to build up a milk supply to leave with Eli while I was at work.
It takes time and energy and of course milk to pump. This was yet another thing that was added to a stressful situation.
That covers the basics of my postpartum experiences with Eli. Now, onto a happier tale with Max.
Here we go. So, with Max, we did a lot of things differently as I mentioned in my two previous posts Expect the Unexpected and Postpartum Part 1, which all contributed to a happier and healthier postpartum experience.
So, we left the hospital and I was itching to get home. We went to go pick up Eli from the grandparents' and then headed home. We did not even get out of the car to pick up Eli. My husband went inside and got him. My parents and brother came out and peeked in the car at me and Max and then we were rolling down the road. I mention this, because, as you will learn, it is a hassle to get a newborn in and out of a car seat, and then content, fed, diapered again, before you get going down the road. So, when they are so young, you will want to be as quick and efficient with your time as possible when it comes to car rides. I wanted to get us all home, fed, and settled.
Once we got home, it was bliss. I was happy to be in my own home, with my own bed, my own food, it just felt good. I knew what to expect, so I was not surprised when my breasts became engorged or I had pain from contractions as my uterus continued to shrink down. Other than these two symptoms, I felt pretty good. Sore and tender, but I felt like myself. I didn't have baby blues, no tears, just my normal self rolling around in my head. It felt great, and was a big relief. Of course I had the longest period of my lifetime again, but normal, nothing crazy.
We got to see Max and Eli interact, and teach Eli how to be gentle with his brother. I got to nap when Max napped, and Eli and Bobby would go out to the park or the store to spend time together and give me a break.
We got home from the hospital on a Friday afternoon, and I knew our families were ready to meet our little guy. So, we planned for them to come on Sunday afternoon. My parents came around 1:00 pm and then Bobby's family came an hour later, and my parents left when they arrived to give them time with Max and Eli. I excused myself sometime during the second visit to nurse Max, they stayed maybe a couple of hours, and then we were done for the day.
This visitation really felt like a success and probably helped with my mood too. We had everyone over in one block of time, and then we were done and could continue caring for each other. We didn't prepare a meal, or feel like we needed to host our families, and I think this makes a big difference. There simply isn't time to prioritize precious time toward this type of activity, meaning I didn't need to spend my day cooking, I needed to focus on myself and Max. So, my advice is to not do any of the normal hosting activities you did for visitors before you had baby. This is a post baby world, and you do not have time to make food for a dozen people, or clean your house from top to bottom, or any of that nonsense. Just feed yourself, get a shower, take a nap, repeat.
While my husband was off work, we continued a routine of me taking care of Max, napping when Max slept, and him taking care of Eli and spending time outside the house with Eli. We had frozen dinners we had prepared ahead of time to reheat, and we also ate our fair share of frozen pizzas. It was bliss. I literally focused on three things: eating, sleeping, and bathing. Each day I would focus on these things, and I would let my husband handle the rest or left it undone: dishes, laundry, cleaning, cooking. And I think this really helped. I recovered quickly and felt like my normal self.
Max was and still is a calm baby. His personality was really there from the start. Eli is my high energy, observant, stubborn, sharp, clever child. So far, Max is calm, thoughtful, content, and easy going. I don't know if him being my second child has a lot to do with how much easier it was to care for him, or because his personality and well being is much more content this go round, probably both.
Of course, since this is our second experience, we were much more confident as parents and did not get stressed when Max was fussy, crying, or not sleeping. We were able to figure out what he needed and sooth him accordingly. Max also has been a naturally good sleeper. He slept up to 5 hours immediately, sometimes shorter 3-4 hours. He started sleeping through the night on his own by 2 months old. I had to train Eli to sleep through the night at 6 months old (see post Sleep Problems: My Best Advice).
So, this less stressful environment: with more sleep, better self care, less visitors; greatly contributed to a much improved postpartum experience. I decided to become a stay at home mom when Eli was around 6 months old, after staying home with him during summer break from teaching. When I returned to school, I felt empty and no longer felt the joy of teaching. I missed my little guy, he was my home. So, with Max, I did not have the stress of preparing to return to work or needing to create a stash of frozen milk. One less stressful thing taken out of the experience.
I hope these past few posts have given you a little bit of perspective on how the postpartum experience can go. You're not alone. You got this Momma.
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