Archives for posts with tag: Life after birth
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Photo courtesy of papaija2008 / freedigitalphotos.net

Physically, my pregnancy was easy. I felt, even at the time, that the baby was only giving me what I could handle, which, especially in the beginning, wasn’t a lot. Offered his dream job, my husband Brian had moved a five hour drive away to an idyllic rural community, while I stayed in the city, and shacked up with my sister to avoid hermitude. The time was right for a long-awaited baby, so we figured that I would figure out how to make the move when I got pregnant. Getting pregnant took only a few months, but during that time, my father in law was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he passed away the week we found out our happy news. I was able to work out a new job and a work-remotely deal, and after an initial training period moved to join Brian at the beginning of my third trimester, ready to leave the emotional strain of the last few months behind.

When I arrived, I was happily greeted by Brian’s new colleagues. But in his grief, he hadn’t managed to meet many friends over the year he had been there alone. When I moved in, working from my home office, we had a few friends, but were much more alone than I was used to. So although we had taken a full-day childbirth class in the city, we signed up for all of the classes our rural hospital offered—to get to know the staff and facilities as well as meet other new parents.

My labor was most notable for being unexpected and quick, about two weeks before my due date. When we arrived at the small rural hospital, we found that another baby had just been born, so the main labor and delivery room wasn’t available, and the staff was in a tizzy at having two babies coming at the same time. After a short, intense labor, the doctor gleefully exclaimed “it’s a girl” and put our new daughter, Laurie, on my chest. I knew, rather than felt, how much I loved her, or would.

Over the next few days, as I worked to learn how to feed Laurie and meet her needs, I also struggled to trust myself with her. I felt that my main job was to feed her, and couldn’t manage anything more. Brian became in charge of diaper changing—I was too afraid—as well as everything else. He even sat up with me at night when I fed her. Around day four, I woke up early one morning and snuggled her on my chest on the couch, realizing I hadn’t held her yet aside from nursing.

As my milk came in, she proved to be quite skilled at nursing, regaining her birth weight by the time of our follow up visit. While that meant I never had the stress of worrying about her growth, it meant that there was never enough food in the world to keep me from being hungry. I realized later how much that hunger affected me, that the shakiness I felt in that first month in particular was from constantly being hungry and not realizing it as I frantically sought to take care of Laurie, never myself. I cried every day, never trusting that she was thriving and that I would be able to provide for her. I went to her first doctor’s appointment with a list of ailments I was sure she had, and didn’t believe the doctor who told me I was wrong about everyone of them based on her healthy weight gain.

We were hours away from family, and the friends that visited were all new friends, not trusted ones I could cry to and admit my fears. And I seemed to have a bunker mentality—I didn’t want either of our families to come visit in the first few weeks, I wanted them to wait until I had my act together more. So I was alone, unsure of myself, and constantly, unconsciously hungry. I was afraid to leave the house, feeling that Laurie was a fragile flower who needed to be watched at all moments, waiting for a crisis that so luckily never came.

Brian is a teacher, and so was able to spend the first month home with us in August. Thankfully, as I really wasn’t trusting myself alone with Laurie yet. The first time I went out with her alone, a half hour drive to pick up our farm share, I was a basket case. I was nervous to be driving, nervous in case she would cry and I wouldn’t know what to do, unsure of how to deal with her and the world around me at the same time, afraid everyone would see what a poor mother I was. And so I nervously awaited the day Brian would have to go back to school and I would be trusted alone with her for hours at a time.

My salvation came a week before that, in an e-mail. The message came from the father of the baby born the same morning as Laurie. We had met that couple at a few pre-natal education classes, and had liked them, and had chatted with them a bit while we were all in the hospital together. His message said that his wife Sue was looking for new mom friends, would I be up for a walk. As I got to know her, I realized she was a still obviously dealing with the crisis of new motherhood but also up for the challenge, and seemed to be functional. She suggested we go for a walk with our girls. At that point, in week four, it had not occurred to me yet that it would be ok to take Laurie out for a walk by myself. Literally just getting out of the house and into the fresh air cleared my head, but I hadn’t realized it was ok to do that until she gave me permission. And not only was Sue dealing capably with the same issues I was, but she also had a four year old daughter. She gave me the confidence that it was ok to leave our home and interact with civilization again, and that it was ok to feel stressed without letting it overcome everything—after all, she was doing it with another child! I came to view her both as a friend that I enjoyed spending time with and a trusted resource that had already gotten one wonderfully charming daughter to preschool, so must know what she was doing.

We began trying to get together as often as we could, generally about once a week. Listening to how she had the same struggles, I gained confidence in myself, realized how much of my anxiety was caused by my constant hunger, and began living outside of my own head. I reached out to another new mom to go for a walk, hoping to pay the favor forward that Sue had done for me. At that point, I realized Laurie and I were going to make it. Which isn’t to say I haven’t still obsessed, worried and cried needlessly, but the totally enveloping fear had subsided. My lesson was that it really does take a village, or at least someone else to share powerful emotions with. As other friends have had their first babies, I have told them in plain language how rough the first weeks can be, that it’s ok to cry anytime, make sure to eat enough and try to take some care of themselves, and have friends on call for when things get dire, including me.

We have now, a year and half later, moved yet again. I love Laurie more than I could have imagined in those first dark days, as every day she becomes more of a person, more herself and farther away from baby. Her belly laugh chases clouds away, and even her new toddler tantrums are still charming. As I contemplate a sibling for Laurie, I am actively building a network of mom friends that I hope to be able to count on if I need help again, and offering my help to them. Writing this renews my commitment to give myself permission to struggle without despairing, to forgive myself for when I do despair, and to forge a community to help me through the crisis. New motherhood is scary enough, no one should ever go through it alone.

I thought the weight of my 6lb 12oz daughter could have crushed my chest. Literally, I felt the weight of the world was now on me. This tiny human with her entire world in my hands, and I wasn’t interested or up to the challenge. I changed my mind about being a mommy but it was too late. I was tired and just wanted to sleep.

They told me I would be in love her the instant I saw her and that simply wasn’t the case. I loved her but I didn’t feel the bond.

The next few weeks were filled with terror, tears and loneliness. Had my mother not been there to help me I’m really not sure how I would have even gotten out of bed. I couldn’t eat, and I certainly wasn’t sleeping.  I lay in my bed crying and cold for days. I felt despaired. I felt I had lost my husband. For so many years it had been us.  Now this little baby had thrown my world upside down.

The pressure on my chest didn’t seem to lift even when I wasn’t holding her. It seemed to be there 24/7 and I couldn’t breathe.

Mommy friends would ask to meet her but I couldn’t be seen by them. I felt alone and ashamed. After all, what kind of mother feels this way about their infant daughter? She was helpless and needy and crying. Everyone said it would get better someday. And it did.

She became my world, my sweet loving little angel that I thank God for everyday.

3 years later I got up the courage to have another baby. This time When they placed him on my chest I was elated. I DID love him and I COULD do this!

24 short hours passed and the depression hit like a ton of bricks. It came fast and furious.
How could I handle two children?? Bella needs me so Tom will have to take are of the baby. I don’t have time for him, I would think.

Once again I couldn’t eat or sleep and spent my days crying. Holding Bella in my arms rocking her like a baby.

I found myself at the doctors office after 2 weeks of this. As the doctor wrote my prescription for Valium she placed her hand on my knee. I looked at her through my red swollen eyes and she said “Are you going to be alone with the baby? Is there someone who can watch him for you?”
I knew then that she felt I might harm my child and I will never forget that moment. I felt like a monster.

Slowly time began to heal my anxiety. I slept a little more, ate a little more and life moved forward. With the help of Zoloft, Valium, a postpartum therapist and loving family unit eventually I pulled out of my very lonely dark place.

My beautiful angels are now 5 and 1 and I am the happiest mother I could ever dream to be. They are the most wonderful joys of my life. People ask me all the time if I’m going to have another baby, and I tell them the truth. I tell them about my postpartum depression because no one really talks about it. I tell them I won’t have another baby because I don’t believe my family can go though that pain again, I know I can’t.

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I thank God everyday for those 2 little blessings and now when I feel their warm little bodies against mine I know I’m right where I should be. Home.

I became a reluctant mother five years ago this month. I was never someone who wanted children and when my husband and I first got together, neither did he. After living together for four years, about when he turned 35, something shifted for him. He began to want to have children. To really want children. This posed a serious issue for our marriage, by far the most serious we’ve ever faced.

We argued, we fought and I cried many tears. I absolutely could not envision myself as a mother. I am very close to my own mother and I had a very happy childhood so it’s not as if I had a negative view of mothers in general. It just was not something I saw fitting into my already very full life.

Needless to say, I eventually changed my mind. I love my husband very much and I’ve known since the first time I met him that we could build a very happy and fulfilling life together. I could not imagine my life without him and I came to the conclusion that our marriage was not going to withstand a life without children. So, very slowly, I changed my mind.

And of course, I became pregnant almost immediately. I was completely in shock. Even though I was having unprotected sex, I just assumed it would take a long time. My mother had a terrible time getting pregnant with me and I somehow imagined that my hesitance to become a mother would play into my biology. Nope.

Physically, my pregnancy was simple and straightforward. I was never sick. I am a runner and I continued to run until I was about 5 months pregnant, then I hiked and did yoga. I was tired, like every pregnant woman, but all that clean living gave me glowing skin, thick, shiny hair and a radiance that I always thought was a myth about pregnant women. However, I really hated being pregnant. I didn’t really feel like I could say that, not in such strong words, because at 30 I was surrounded by friends trying desperately to get pregnant without success. And since I felt so good physically, it seemed petty to complain about being sad all the time.

Looking back, I think it was much more than just “being sad.” I think I was clinically depressed. I had never heard the term prenatal depression. My midwife, who was wonderful in all ways, kept telling me that it normal to feel blue or listless when pregnant but I was not fully sharing the extent of my misery with her or anyone else. It was a grueling, day in day out, feeling of hopelessness and emptiness. And, it was completely out of character for me. I’ve always been full of energy and life. I’ve always been the one who wants to do more, do it again, do it better. Until I got pregnant.

My husband was very supportive and I know it was a long year for him too. We joked about my overwhelming sadness when we could and he just let me be sad, without trying to cajole me into feeling things I was not feeling. I lived with a weight and a level of fear and paranoia I have never known. I felt unsafe all the time. I felt like someone, usually the strange man I would encounter while hiking, was going to attack me at any moment. The fear and anxiety took away all my pleasures in life, namely being outside alone, and left me feeling like a mere shell of the person I had been just months earlier.

Still, the baby grew and I grew and I just counted the days until I would be longer be pregnant. I knew, even then, that I would be an OK mother if I could just get to the other side of the darkness that engulfed me. And as if the universe just wanted to twist that knife a little more, I went 15 days past my due date before I went into labor.

I had my daughter at home at 12:30pm on January 16, 2009 on the coldest day of that winter. It was -25 when the second midwife showed up around 2am. I labored hard from about 2am until 6am when I started pushing. And, as if a physical manifestation of my reluctance to be a mom, I pushed for six hours. Yep. Six whole hours. I could actually see her head for about 4 of those hours but I could not make any progress. It was beyond maddening and it was exhausting. At the time, I kept refusing to think what I could not help but think…that the birth was slow because I was reluctant. That it was my fault.

Once she was finally born, I learned that the umbilical cord was wrapped many times around her neck and that it was preventing her from coming out. In fact, the cord tore on the inside once she finally did emerge and it was then that I understood why it felt like a part of my insides were being slowly torn apart. They were.

But, this is a postpartum blog and here’s my postpartum story. It all got better. Almost immediately. My spirits lifted and I kid you not, within hours of giving birth, I felt great! Sure, I had the issues that every new mom has. I was tired. I was learning all sorts of new things. I was getting to know my daughter and how she sometimes cried for no reason at all. But, the crushing sadness of pregnancy was completely gone. I was overjoyed to have my life back.

My journey into parenthood has been remarkably easy and smooth ever since. My daughter is strong and healthy and was an “easy” baby, compared to some. My husband and I settled into our new roles as parents and we are probably happier than we’ve ever been. I have seen no glimpses of that darkness and since we don’t plan to have another baby (No, really this time. He got a vasectomy) I hope to never encounter depression like that again.

There’s a lot of pressure to be a happy pregnant woman, especially when everything about the pregnancy seem right. We were happily married. We owned a house. We had good jobs and lots of support from our friends and families. I was healthy and the baby was healthy. But, I now believe that prenatal depression is a very real thing. Had I known, I may have reached out for help. I may have been more honest about the extent of my misery and the depths of my pain. I may have found relief, through medication or therapy or something. But instead, like so many people who battle depression, I just
suffered through it.

My daughter will turn five in just a few weeks and I love being her mother. When she is older, I will talk to her about how depression can come upon you, even when you are not expecting it, and that it’s OK to talk about it and ask for help. Then, I will hug her and think how lucky I am to have had the experience I did and to have emerged on the other side.

                                                                      mabel sledding

The Inconvenient Truth about Postpartum Life

1. The physical, mental and emotional challenges
Obviously, labor took a lot out of me. And the sudden and complete lack of sleep on top of that hasn’t made recovery any easier. Add to that the physical challenges – painful stitches healing (tip: witch hazel pads, seriously), shrinking uterus pains (although I love the fact that I’m already back in my pre-preg jeans – go breastfeeding!) and most unexpectedly – lochia. Loads and loads of lochia. Lochia that lasts for weeks, no matter that some claim it clears up in days (tip: Buy big packs of depends-level pads, trust me). Mentally, I’ve had to adapt to a complete shift of priorities from ME to SOMEONE ELSE. It doesn’t matter what I would like to be doing at any given moment – James wears the pants now. Actually, having a moment to blog is blowing my mind right now. I’ve definitely also had my share of “holy shit” moments of complete emotional wreckage, and not a whole lot of forthcoming touchy-feely support at home (husbands…yaknowwhatI’msayin’?). It’s been a lot to handle in one short month.

2. The no-sleep thing is really no joke
This is one truth I was pseudo-prepared for, if only because I was dreading how completely useless I get when I don’t get enough sleep at night (and have always found it near-impossible to nap during the day). While newborns do sleep most of the time, it is in weird, random spurts that don’t necessarily line up with when you would like to also sleep. I know, I know – “sleep when the baby sleeps.” But when baby James sleeps and I am starving, I’m going to take the opportunity to make myself something to eat. Or do the necessary daily load of laundry (cloth diapers!). Or let the dog out. Or make a phone call, send an email or write a blog post, so I feel somewhat connected to the outside world.  Or pee. I do occasionally manage a power nap, but for the most part, I’ve just had to adapt to weird, random spurts of sleep, especially at night. I’ve been doing a lot better with the lack of sleep than I thought I would (although I do still fantasize about a 7-hour stretch)…and it feels nice to actually have a REASON to be tired, not just exhausted because I’m pregnant.

I find that what works best for me is to do my super-productive stuff first thing in the day, and then take it really easy the rest of the day (possibly with a single power-nap at some point). Streaming seasons of TV shows on Netflix has been a godsend. Lately, Butch (who normally stays up later than me) has been hanging out with James downstairs during the first round of nighttime sleeping (aka, “the times between feedings”). That way I can sleep undisturbed for 2-3 hours upstairs without keeping one ear open for his cries. We plan on introducing the bottle this weekend, so the plan is for Butch to take care of that first nighttime feeding as well, which will possibly give me 4-5 undisturbed hours of sleep – heavenly!

3. The  baby will get upset over NOTHING, and you must try EVERYTHING to make him happy
With James, usually it’s the indignity of being changed or wanting to feed for the millionth time (I swear, it has been one continuous growth-spurt since birth), but there are times when he’s having a meltdown for who knows what reason. If baby James is upset, I first try the boob, for either feeding or comfort (more on breastfeeding in a minute), and that usually works. But sometimes there’s no solution besides running the gauntlet of “maybe THIS will work” hijinks – check the diaper, up on the shoulder for a burp or for a narrated tour around the room, try some exercises for gas, sing a lullaby (acoustic versions of rock n roll hits), take a ride in the swing, make a variety of random noises and try a variety of random dance moves/bounces…etc, etc.

This applies to sleeping in the sense that, if James suddenly refuses to settle down in the crib that he was perfectly fine with a week ago, I must humor him and let him sleep curled up on my chest. This of course results in a lack of restful sleep for me…but HE’S happy so who am I to argue? I know this “in-arms” time is fleeting, so I’m trying to enjoy it, even when it’s inconvenient.

4. Breastfeeding has been a lot more challenging, but so much more rewarding, than expected
I went to the breastfeeding class. I did the research. I watched videos and read articles online. The first feeding immediately after birth was magical, despite James being born with a tongue-tie (which was fixed the next day). Outwardly, his subsequent latches looked perfect, even according to the hospital nurses, but feeding from then on was painful. And over the next week, as my nipples became cracked and sore, the pain got worse. Something was not right, but it was hard to place, since outwardly it still looked good. I started by assuming that James just couldn’t seem to open his mouth wide enough to latch in a pain-free way…unless he was wailing with impatience, and I obviously didn’t want to wait to reach that point every time. I scoured the internet, which naturally resulted in worse-case-scenario self-diagnosis: Thrush. Mastitis. Posterior tongue-tie. The word on the breastfeeding message boards were that it shouldn’t hurt at ALL, if done correctly, from day one (yeah, right!).

Luckily, a good friend is the head of the local La Leche League, and was kind enough to take my incessant phone calls, answering every question, helping me put aside the worse-case-concerns, and most importantly, offering encouragement. After 2 solid weeks of pain, I was very close to throwing in the towel and just pumping…or even going to formula. But I stubbornly persisted, eventually finding tips and links via Kelly Mom that resulted in a pain-free latch (tip: “feed” your boob to baby like a hamburger. A boob-burger). Now the biggest challenges with feeding is James’ instant impatience, habit of straining out an intense poop while feeding (while twisting around on my nipple!), gassy-ness (possibly due to a strong-letdown – we have “burping breaks” during feeding that seem to help) and the fact that he’s a HUGE baby, so I’ve had to create my own way of holding him that is not very text-book. But no more pain! I’m so glad I stuck it out, since breastfeeding is a very special way for us to bond and be close.

I do think I could have benefited (and perhaps have experienced less pain) from a little more private time right after the birth to get the breastfeeding down (along with all the other “new-parent” tasks)…which brings me to my next point.

5. Other people are, understandably, majorly interested in the baby…
…in meeting the baby, holding the baby…and that’s great! Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave room for a lot of concern for the new mom. I know myself, and the level of space I need, so I did insist that the first out-of-state visitors stampeding towards our door at least not STAY with us. In hindsight, I should have also insisted that we get at least a week (possibly 2) before visitors parked in my living room for 12 hour stretches. However, since all of our extended family lives out-of-state, I’m sure it would have been considered selfish for me to put off these visits. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the excitement surrounding the birth, and how anxious everyone was to meet the little guy…but I should have given myself the gift of a quiet, stress-free time to figure things out. I deserved that. And from now on, I’ll be putting the needs of my little family first, regardless of outside opinion.

And for anyone offended by the bluntness of #5, please reference this perfect list from Offbeat Families of some simple courtesies new-baby visitors can follow.

6. I am a lot better at this than I thought I was going to be
I love kids, especially my friend’s kids. But before now, I had little to no hands-on experience with newborns. I had never even changed a diaper! And while there are still plenty of moments (or days) of complete teary-eyed despair at how incompetent I feel, they are becoming fewer and farther between. Instincts really do kick in and it is possible to get into a groove, even with a 1 month-old who barely has a feeding schedule at this point. As the weeks go by, I’m sure this confidence in my own abilities will grow. And when those difficult days happen, I need to just take a deep breath and look into this little face:

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It’s worth it.

To read more from Corinne, please visit her blog A Green(ish) Life.

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My baby girl was completely unplanned. I was finishing my 5th semester of college when I found out I was expecting. Thankfully, 6 weeks later, my husband and I got married (over winter break from school) and two weeks after that I returned to school 3-1/2 months pregnant. I was due during summer break, which meant I could return to school without taking time off. It sounded like a better idea before I gave birth. On July 28th, 2012 after 27 awful hours in labor with various complications, I gave birth to my baby girl, Ruby-Mae.

Due to all the complications Ruby had to spend nearly two weeks in the NICU. By the time I brought her home I had just two weeks until my senior year in college began. I cried my first day back, it was awful! I couldn’t focus and all I wanted to do was be home with her, but I knew how important it was for me to finish school. Thankfully my mother in law quit her job to stay with Ruby (what a blessing!) and that made it easier. After a few weeks I was in full swing but it was absolutely exhausting, I never slept, and since I was nursing I would pump overnight, and in the mornings and evenings breastfeed her. Let’s not forget that I had to make dinner for my husband and make sure everything else was taken care of. It was just plain awful!

Two months later, still in school I found a job and added that to my already crazy life, I cried almost every night because I was exhausted and simply wanted to be home with her, but that wasn’t possible at the moment. Nor did I have any time for myself. Though it was the most difficult time of my life, I’m glad I did it because I graduated in May, and since then I’ve been working part time and enjoying quality time with my daughter! I didn’t miss a thing. It was all worth it! My husband was super supportive and helped me as much as he could. It only made our relationship stronger.
For all the moms out there who want to return to school or work, I say do it! It’s possible, you find the strength from somewhere and you do it!  AND it doesn’t make you a “bad” mom which was something I learned to grasp.

c sabianmaggy

© sabianmaggy

This post is one I have been thinking about writing for a few days. I quite honestly don’t know where to start. After giving birth, your body changes. Fast. Drastically. In a big way. It’s overwhelming. It’s scary. It’s depressing.

After I gave birth to Nick, Hubs went right back to work. He wasn’t going to take any parental leave. I could handle two kids on my own. It couldn’t be that different from having just Alex. I was wrong. Within a month Hubs was home with us. I couldn’t do it. (It takes a lot to admit this) Anytime the kids cried, I had anxiety attacks. If only one of them cried, no problem. But put them together and I shut down. Hubs came home one day to find the three of us sitting on the floor in the playroom crying. He’d noticed that there was something off with me since I had the baby, he just wasn’t sure what. He went on parental the next morning to give me the support I obviously needed at home, and sent me into my Dr to talk about what was happening. The Dr diagnosed me with mild postpartum depression and moderate postpartum anxiety. Hubs and I did some research, we talked, and we coped with it. I started taking birth control to help regulate my hormones. I started going out once a week to interact with people. I had an amazing photographer take boudoir photos of me (amazingly it helped. A lot. I started feeling better. Then we decided we wanted another baby.

When we made the decision to have a third baby, I was excited. I couldn’t wait. Things were going so great with our family, but I felt like something was missing in our lives. Once we made the decision we wanted another baby, we knew that we needed to talk about what we could do differently this time around to make the postpartum period easier. We talked for a long time about the circumstances around Nick’s birth. We realized we had a lot of negative people in our lives. I decided I needed to get those people out of my life. So I did. Anytime someone was super negative about our situation (for example, criticizing our choice to have a third baby) I removed them from my Facebook. I got my friends list down from over 200 people to 70 people. We were excited to be expecting Zoey and my pregnancy progressed.

Throughout my pregnancy, there were a few ‘episodes’ when I would have anxiety attacks, but overall I was controlling it well and I was optimistic that things were going to be better. I was over it. It went away. Turns out depression and anxiety don’t really just ‘go away’ they are always there. In the background. Watching. Waiting. For the opportunity to present itself. When I had Zoey, I felt great. The delivery was easy compared to the boys, my recovery was fast. But my body. It was so so so so so different. Even more different then when I had the boys. The stretch marks. The saggy-ness. It was depressing. I know that it won’t look like this forever, rationally. But my rational self is on a shelf that I can’t reach right now. Leaving me very irrational. Leaving me feeling anxious about things I shouldn’t feel anxious about. I know I don’t need to worry about what my body looks like. Stretch marks and saggy-ness is to be expecting after having a baby, especially after having 3 back to back babies. I mean, I’ve already lost 30 lbs. I am doing good for having just had Zoey 3 weeks ago.

My body isn’t the only thing causing me anxiety. There are other things too. Things that, rationally, I don’t need to be anxious about. But I can’t control it. At all. It consumes me. So it’s all I can think about. But I don’t doubt my parenting. I know I am a good Momma. I doubt how great of a wife I am being lately. I doubt a lot of things about myself. But never my role as a Mother. That’s gotta be an improvement right?

I am going to see the Dr later this week. I know there is something wrong and that I need help. Hubs and I have talked about it. And now I have made it even more real by writing it here. The reason I wanted to write this, is because after I had Nick and was going through this originally, I felt alone. Anxiety and depression seem to be taboo topics to talk about. They shouldn’t be. They are real. And the people who feel them are real too. And we all deserve to be listened to. I don’t feel so alone now, I have found a support system. And that helps. A lot.

Read more from Lynn at her blog: Momma Needs Coffee

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When I first heard about Life After Birth I was immediately interested. I read Nina’s breathtaking, honest and beautiful story and was touched. I remember thinking, “Wow, she looks so strong and happy though”. It made me really think about women, or maybe just me, but the need to make everyone else think that eveything is ok. Yes, I just had a baby and my life is amazing and awesome, but my life has also forever changed. Sometimes things are not ok.

I knew I wanted to contribute to this project but I wasn’t really quite sure what I wanted to say. I didn’t really think I had a postpartum story. Everyone that was a part of my life during the 9 months of my pregnancy knows that I hated every minute of it. I was tired. I cried all the time. My moods swung faster then a kid on a swing set. I snapped at co workers, friends, and my poor husband. At the end I felt huge and often told my husband I felt frumpy. I took naps at work under my desk on a yoga mat after lunch because I just didn’t have the energy to stay awake for the second half of the day. I was uncomfortable and hot (thank you super hot June and July!). But then, July 25, 2010, after a batch of kidney stones and a weekend in the hospital, my beautiful baby Tyler was born. He couldn’t be more perfect and I couldn’t have been more happy.

I spent another two days in the hospital and then went home with my husband, our new son and my mom. I had fully prepared myself. I prepared to cry alot for no reason. I prepared to freak out and wonder, “what the hell have I done?”. I prepared for breastfeeding to be the worst experience of my life and to hate every minute of it, but to deal with it because I knew that’s what was best for my son (in my opinion). I was prepared to watch for signs of depression and then not let it get too bad. Maybe it’s because I work in the mental health field and so I’m used to seeing the new moms come in for help, or maybe it’s because everyone drills it into your head that you might be depressed after having the baby, and its ok. Days went by, my husband went back to work, my mom went home and Ty and I figured out our little routine. I had a home health nurse come in weekly to check in on us and make sure we were ok. Everytime he came, it was always the same, “we are great, things are going so well, I’m really happy”. Breadfeeding was amazing and I loved every minute of it. I wasn’t crying too much over little things and I loved being a mom. All the things I had worried about never happened. So when Nina asked for stories for her project I didn’t really feel like I had one to tell. My life was good… and then it hit me this morning. I typically get upat 3:30am to run, I spend from 4-530 or so running 5 days a week before work. This morning I dragged my butt out of bed, feeling tired but knowing that I wanted to go to the gym. I got there, ran 2 miles and decided to go home. I just wasn’t feeling it. My head wasn’t in the run. So I went home and tried to get some more sleep which I was unsuccessful at. I laid there in bed thinking about Nina and this post and my running when it finally hit me, I realized what has plaqued me even to this day since Tyler was born.

While I was fully prepared to be a mental head case after birth, I was not prepared for what being pregnant and having a baby would do to my body. I’ve been lucky enough in my life to be a small women (5′ 5″ 125-130 depending on how much ice cream ive had). I’ve never battled weight issues and always been prefectly content with my body. I had no problems laying on the beach in a bikini in the summer or running in shorts and a sports bra. Growing up in the theater I’d even change in front of a crowd of people back stage with no problems. I ate what I wanted and felt blessed to have a good metabolism. I knew my body was changing during pregnancy but I really expected it to go back to its normal self after Ty was born. Hello reality check… wrong! I gained 50 pounds while pregnant topping out the sale at 180. After having Ty and all the water weight etc was lost I was still sitting there 30 pounds heavier then when I started. Hmmmm. I still felt frumpy and hello hips and stretch marks, where did you come from? These are not qualities I was exactly excited to share with the world when I went to the beach, or out for a run. These were the things that didn’t just go away magically after Ty was born. For a long time I just dealt with it. I never said anything to anyone. When you’re a fairly small women, telling people that you feel fat or don’t like how your body looks, you don’t often get positive or sympathetic feedback. Its typically something like “you’re so tiny, stop complaining”. Yes, they were right, I am small but I’m also different now. My body is different now and it feels really weird. For this reason I just chose to keep my thoughts to myself. I almost felt bad for thinking so negatively of my new body. When people took pictures of me I tried to suck in my stomach as best as I could because I felt like I still looked like I was 3 months pregnant, 12 months after I delivered. I joked about it with friends, but I still wore maternity tank tops and shirts for a long time. I dressed frumpy because I felt frumpy. This was (and still is) so weird to me because I’ve never felt this way about my body. I’ve always been comfortable and now my body has changed and it’s not going to ever be the same one I had before I got pregnant. It really took me a good 2 years to finally come to terms with this. To talk about it with my best friends and to be honest that I didn’t like what I looked like for the first time in my life.

I really had no idea that running is something that would be so beneficial to me in so many ways, it ended up being a huge blessing in disguise.  I didn’t get into running until shortly before I got pregnant (Infact, the day after my first half marathon I found out I was pregnant). I stopped running entirely when I got pregnant and took it back up again after I had Ty. It was my “me” time. It provided me clarity and time with my own thoughts. I’ve never have and still don’t run to loose weight, I run because I love it and I love the freedom it brings to me. However, as I started to get more serious about it, I started running more. I went from running 20 miles a week to 50 miles a week. I started running marathons and ultramarathons because I loved to push myself. Run faster then I did last time or further then I ever had before. Personal success that made me feel good. The more I ran, the more the pounds I shed and before I knew it, I was back to pre baby weight. I wanted to scream outloud, I felt so great. It took me a solid year and a half to get there, but I did it. I’m sure it would have come sooner if I had put down the ice cream and french fries… but hell no. I felt like I was starting to get control back over my body. Since then, I’ve maintained the same 127lbs but I’m losing inches and I’m starting to feel better about who I am and what this new body of mine looks like. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I now have hips that aren’t going anywhere. I still have that little baby gut with stretch marks and putting on a bikini still freaks me out a bit, but I’m getting there. Like I said, these were feelings I’ve never had before and I didn’t really expect them to hit me like they did.