Postpartum Life

The weeks after baby’s birth are beautiful and totally brutal. There is the incredible joy of the new arrival. There are so many quiet moments caught up in watching this little life. Watching his little fists swat around in a robotic dance makes me laugh. One day soon he will see his hands and look at them in amazement. Another milestone arrived and on to the next.

At two and a half weeks, he sleeps for a couple hours at a time. Every day or so, he does a four stretch. Sometimes this is at night, sometimes it’s not. His face, completely relaxed, lips smushed in a pout is a heart wrencher but also puts me into a full sprint towards the nearest couch or bed. Total joy and totally tired.

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He eats well, something to be thankful for. I am happy when he is full and peaceful, but I do not wake up gleeful at 4 am when it is time to feed again. I don’t want to change his diaper although I am glad it is wet or dirty. I don’t want to uncover my own warm body to fetch him from his bed and fill him up, but I do. It is a gift for me to get to do so and my gift to him. Once we are cuddled up together and I halt his cries, then I remember the simple joy of our togetherness. Although not when he wakes up again 30 minutes later with an unknown complaint, cries of gas or needed comfort or more hunger.

I find myself considerably more patient with those in my life who wear diapers than those who speak in full sentences. I am almost as easily offended as I am tired. I have eaten so many sweets my teeth feel like they’re rotting.

I spend an unreasonable amount of time on the internet during our endless nursing sessions. The first weeks after birth are a tough time to be on social media so much and yet it is hard to avoid when you are desperately trying to stay awake at all hours of the day and night. I look at photos of friends and strangers adventuring across the world, across town, across their neighborhood. At once I am both jealous and totally content. I would love to be galavanting through another country or exploring a trail or cooking a divinely fancy meal.

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This meal will mostly sound like, “Taco! Haines taco! Haines bite!”

But I would also like to be here, just where I am, watching one baby sleep, knowing the other is also resting and will come home soon to blabber on about his day which I may or may not understand. “Haines paint. Elmo music! Mason (insert something unintelligible).” My home is warm in contrast to this rainy, chilly day. I’m sitting at a table I helped my husband make. In every direction I see photos of our family, art that tells the story of our lives.

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Cousin love

There is also a pile of laundry and a vase of flowers that need to be thrown out. I should have wiped the table before sitting down. There are remnants of Haines’ breakfast sticking my sweater to the wood. My breasts are sore and quite possibly leaking. My clothes don’t fit. I am almost always aware of my stitches and the discomfort that increases when I walk or stand for long periods.

Parenting is complicated. It is being thankful and a bit wistful all at the same time as you move between phases of life: childless to parent, baby to toddler, one child to two. But it is undoubtedly the best thing to happen to me. There’s no place I’d rather be.

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Birth Story: The Arrival of Austin McGovern

I told myself all sorts of comforting lies while I was waiting for baby #2 to arrive.

He would be early. 

My labor would go more quickly with a second baby. 

I would be better prepared to handle the pain and discomfort of labor. 

Nope. As his due date approached everyone I saw reminded me he could arrive at any time and asked for an update on any signs he may make an appearance. There were none. Each day was a regular day. I wasn’t having any contractions, just the expected soreness of a woman carrying 40 extra pounds in her middle.

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Although I was tempted, I didn’t try to encourage the baby’s arrival. I took walks every day but didn’t chow down on jalapeños or drink castor oil, etc. I thought about it but I read a few articles that discussed how “natural induction methods” would only cause contractions not labor (oh, hell no). Most importantly though, I just wanted to give this baby the space to take his time.

Yes, I complained about waiting. Yes, I was getting frustrated and increasingly short with people who inquired about him. It felt like the ultimate game in patience, which is very dramatic of me as I went into labor only two days after the due date.

We were hoping for a punctual baby on October 26th but on October 29th just after we put Haines down for his nap, I had my first contraction. Tyler was trying to get me out of the house for a mental health break but I found myself frozen in pain in our kitchen. I went to bed instead.

With Haines my contractions slowly increased in frequency and intensity. This time they  started with a higher intensity and were irregular for hours. Contractions are jerks. Because of my previous history (tested GBS negative but Haines developed sepsis at 2 weeks old) our midwife encouraged us to go ahead and come in so I could get antibiotics in plenty of time. My midwife practice seemed as traumatized as we were by that experience.

Laboring at home is definitely my preference. Last time I felt much more able to handle the pain, channel my thoughts, be distracted, etc. At the hospital I was just watching the clock. An hour has passed, where were we now? Any progression? It felt like torture BUT the anxiety of not knowing when to leave for the hospital for antibiotics had also weighed heavily on us. I barely got to the hospital in time to deliver Haines and Tyler was especially worried about a repeat.

When I arrived at the hospital I was only 3 cm which is basically… nothing. My contractions were only 10-12 minutes a part and manageable pain wise. The hardest part was how nauseous I felt. My midwife encouraged me to eat (a pleasant surprise!) but I stuck to ginger ale and ice.

After several hours of laboring at the hospital and only progressing to 5 cm my midwife broke my water in an effort to speed things up. In case you were wondering, that is a very unpleasant experience. My midwife felt sure this would do the trick but two hours later I was not quite 7 cm and completely worn out. The contractions felt brutal. The idea of an epidural had previously terrified me but I was ready for some help.

Honestly I had been so proud of myself for having a natural birth with Haines, I really wanted to do it again. It was solely a pride/vanity issue. Now? Now I know that epidurals can be the best thing ever. It kicked in quickly and my contractions all but melted away. My midwife gave me pitocin while I took a nap and I woke up a couple hours later ready to roll. She came in to check me and found the baby’s head coming her way!

I was completely taken off guard that it was time to push but we got started immediately. In 3 contractions, Austin McGovern joined the world!

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When Haines was first placed on my chest, I felt terrified. I was overwhelmed by giving birth. I was overwhelmed by having a baby. The joy of his arrival was completely overshadowed by the incredible change that had just taken place in my world. When Austin was placed on my chest, it felt like everything. I don’t know how to describe the way the room came to life, the total joyous tears and chaos as everyone celebrated his arrival.

And instead of feeling like Austin was a stranger, I knew him. He was mine, he was ours. He was here.

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D(ue)-Day is Coming!

Our baby is due on Friday. Friday. As in this week. Like today is Tuesday. We could be a family of four by the end of the week. We could be a family of four by the end of the day. Or it could be a couple weeks from now. Let’s hope not. I’ve got my fingers crossed for an October baby. If we go into November I’ll most certainly cry.

As if I’m not crying now. I’m pregnant. I cry a lot.

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I also find humor in how ridiculous my belly is. 

At this point in my pregnancy with Haines I was so worn out. I felt like I was missing out on all my favorite things. I couldn’t walk for very long without wearing out which felt so disappointing. The pain I felt in what is now my “under belly” (when pregnant there are multiple dimensions to your belly) and hips was constant.

With this little dude, I feel so much more positive. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I’m still prone to feeling overwhelmed and crying in the bathtub. Yes, my body hurts. BUT I’m not missing out on my favorite things. Over the past two years, my favorite things have adjusted. The person I most want to see each day (sorry, Tyler) just wants to hold hands and walk aggravatingly slowly. He wants to sit on the floor and read books. Sometimes he wants to pretend to sleep on the floor. That I can do. I’m a pro at pretending to sleep on the floor.

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He does like to sit on my lap though, which is extremely difficult. 

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Fun on the floor!

I still don’t love being pregnant. Feeling the baby move can be just as painful as it is beautiful. I want to eat things without feeling guilty that I haven’t provided another person with enough adequate nutrition. I prefer walking down the hallway without someone commenting on my waddle. And my waddle is pretty pronounced. When I think I’m walking normal, I’m most likely to be called out for waddling.

When I was pregnant with Haines I also obsessed over what labor would be like. This is totally reasonable, although not helpful. For weeks (months?) I couldn’t stop thinking about childbirth. I read The Birth Partner cover to cover (which I recommend) and practiced my breathing from yoga.

Luckily, this time I’ve only started thinking about childbirth in the last couple weeks although it’s still not helpful. Now my thoughts are more like traumatic flashbacks. I am not someone who found childbirth empowering. If you’re pregnant, I hope you do. I thought it was real hard and overwhelming. Mother Nature has removed many of the details of Haines’ birth from my memory and I only sort of remember what happened. I know the chronological order and I know how I felt but I can’t remember feeling it. It’s rather disorienting.

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This lady has no idea what she’s in for!

But here we are at 39 weeks and 4 days ready to go! My hospital bag is packed, the grandmothers are ready to help with Haines and I’m about to start eating jalapeños by the fistful if this little dude doesn’t show soon.

What I’ll Do Differently With Baby #2

When I was pregnant with Haines I pretended I was flexible on baby things but in reality I had my heart set on doing things a certain way. If you asked me if I was planning to breastfeed, I would say “Yes, if I can” but mentally I was screaming “I’ll be devastated if I can’t.” Now that we’re less than 3 weeks from welcoming baby #2, I’ve been thinking about the things I want to do differently and hope to do again.

This time I plan to…

Communicate more // I struggle very hard with communicating my needs. When pregnant and postpartum I struggle even with identifying my needs. These last few weeks I’ve felt at times I was struggle with all my many intense mama emotions, but when asked what I needed, I had no answer. It’s hard not to anticipate my hormones preparing to go out of whack and just how intense I will be feeling in the coming weeks. I’m not sure how I’m going to improve in this area but I am going to try to be proactive as much as possible with sharing all my craziness  so even if I can’t identify what I need, maybe someone else can!

Have formula on hand // Yes, I want to breastfeed again. Yes, I would love to exclusively breastfeed for the first 12 months. But with two babies and work and life and sanity I plan to have a can of formula on hand. Supplementing with formula may allow me to breastfeed for longer. Knowing that Haines could be a healthy, happy formula-fed baby means knowing that I don’t need that pressure on myself.

Let’s be honest, I’m mainly into breastfeeding because it’s free anyways. I hope to start pumping fairly early, like week 2 as I did with Haines and will be slightly more aware of freezer stash this time around. I really like the freedom of being able to leave the baby with even if just for a short while and not worry about any feeding.

Try to get out of the house more // When I was on maternity leave with Haines, I always intended to get out of the house every day but it didn’t often happen. When it did, I felt infinitely better. I’m hoping as I will come into this maternity leave knowing how to survive baby outings, I will brave them more frequently. My tendency to isolate myself is a habit I have to break!

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Ask for help //  It is incredibly hard to ask for help. For the last three years I’ve been pregnant, a new mom or pregnant with a toddler and I haven’t felt very able to help others. Mentally and physically I’m out of whack and working with limited resources and it’s made me hesitant to reach out to anyone when I need a hand as I feel like I can’t repay it. I’m trying to get over that.

It’s hard to remember that this time is temporary and I have the potential to be a genuine, contributing member of society and my friendships again!

What I’ll do again (hopefully)…

Sleep train // We weren’t super intense about sleep training baby Haines but we started a few things early on and have stuck with it. Haines had a bed time routine pretty early on. I don’t want to make anyone jealous but it involves my beautiful singing voice. Now Haines tries to sing along with me which makes my heart explode. (He also stops singing mid-song to say, “Haines sing. Mama sing.”) Between 6 and 7 months we did a long weekend of cry it out. Cry it out blows but Haines has been sleeping through the night ever since. Hell yes.

Cloth diapers // I would really like to make it 12 months with baby #2 in cloth diapers. We’ll start the first couple weeks in disposables but then hopefully switch to a diaper service after that. Haines was in cloth about 90% of the time for his first 15 months. I’d love to do all cloth all the time but I do feel like using cloth at least some of the time helps minimize our environmental impact.

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Make our baby food // Haines rarely ate store bought baby food when he was little. He pretty quickly transitioned out of purees regardless. This new little dude will obviously dictate what he’s into but making our own food wasn’t that hard and saved us money. I just got to be honest, I just liked making it.

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Baby’s first lasagna

Worry way more than necessary // Although I’m hopeful I’ll be way less stressed out as a second-time mom, I know I’ll still be a nervous nelly. Once we get through the first few weeks and I no longer have to be concerned about sepsis, that will be a big help. Still, every runny nose and cough are hard to be cool about when they come from such a tiny being.

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Less than 3 weeks to go!

 

 

 

So Long Summer!

I basically blinked and found September was almost over. It will be Tyler’s birthday in only 3 days, which typically signals the start of fall for me.

August and September were challenging months personally but also marked with wonderful times.

Family:

Tyler’s father, brother and my future sister-in-law came to visit in August for a beach weekend. It was great to have the time together, although the highlight was watching Haines interact with everyone and learn to love the beach!

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My mom moved to town! Unfortunately she only got to spend one night in her new house before we evacuated for Hurricane Florence but her house is still whole as are all of us. I have never lived in the same town as either of my parents as an adult and I’m excited for this new adventure!

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Step 1: Convince your mom to move to Wilmington. Step 2: Let her spend one night in her home before evacuating. 

Haines:

Baby boy has freaking blossomed over the past month or so. Today we played “night night” for probably 30 minutes. This is a great game where I laid down and got tucked in with a blanket and Elmo over and over again. It wasn’t my idea! I hope we get to play it again.

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Regardless Haines is talking and singing nonstop. He is imitating everything we say and do- a very scary prospect- between total fits of rage. We have entered the time of tantrums, which I am not pumped about but recognize as a necessary evil in his growing up. One day they’ll stop. Just like one day he’ll go to college, right?

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Baby #2:

Baby boy is growing away! I had actually lost a little bit of weight in early September, only to gain 11 pounds in the last two weeks. 11 pounds!!

Apparently we only have 5 weeks left until his arrival (assuming he’s as punctual as his brother) which completely freaks me out but I also spent WAY too long looking at baby Haines photos today which made me very glad we’re doing this again.

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On the flip side, our community of Wilmington, NC is deeply suffering right now from Hurricane Florence. There is so much destruction but our house survived intact, as did my mom’s. We have a lot of yard clean up to do but that is a small price to pay. We are incredibly lucky. Flooding and downed trees have devastated homes and our neighboring communities. It is hard to believe this is our town.

If you are interested in providing support to those in southeastern North Carolina, Nourish NC, Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and the Red Cross are good options.

 

 

Preparing for Childbirth: What I Know Now

Facing childbirth the second time around is a very different experience. While every pregnancy and every birth is unique I do have an idea of what to expect this time. Perhaps in contradiction, I not only know that I am capable of getting through this, I also am more open to medical intervention. I am more trusting in my midwife practice to guide me either way and I trust more in my own ability to make decisions in the moment, something I was very unsure of before.

I became pretty overwhelmed emotionally as we got closer to our due date with Haines. Like 100% totally terrified. Although I was constantly reassured that my body was built for this, I still maintain that being totally terrified is a legit way to feel. That shit’s no joke and you have no idea which way it could go. There’s only so much you can control as well. Once you become pregnant, you’re no longer in control. There’s this tiny little being announcing its needs, subtly or loudly, and they can sometimes conflict with your own.

It’s great to have a plan. It’s great to have an idea of what you’re hoping for or what your limits are but the best you can do is build your toolbox.

Prenatal yoga// I’ve talked about this in detail before. I’m a big fan of prenatal yoga. I feel like it taught me patience, calm in the face of chaos and the ability to breath through discomfort. It also gave me physical strength and flexibility in preparation for the physical act of labor.

Hydration// All medical professionals tell you to drink up when you’re pregnant. It gets old, but it can prevent preterm labor. Put your big girl/mama undies on and drink more. Infuse it, flavor it, do what it takes.

Get physical// My exercise regularity has really dropped off but I’m still trying to get moving as much as possible. My work offers fitness classes Monday through Friday and I try to make it to at least two. I spend most of class making modifications, which pisses me off, but I’m going to try to keep going. I constantly have to remind myself to prioritize exercise over work or just life as I know it made me more physically ready for labor and helped in my recovery previously. Can’t stop, won’t stop, right? (Until I can’t take it and then I’ll be taking a lot of tiny walks.)

Read up, but don’t go crazy// I’ve known moms on both ends of the “I google everything” spectrum. One of my coworkers purposely read nothing around labor. She felt like more knowledge was going to be too terrifying. Most other women I know read obsessively about it. I purposely have kept away from the Internet (I mean, as much as I can- I’m only human!) as too much information feels dangerous but I did read The Birth Partner which I found helpful for pain management tips. I also forced Tyler to read it.

Go with the flow// Mentally prepare yourself for a drastic change in plans. As in all things with a baby, there are only things you can impact. There is nothing you can control. You can’t control another person right? It feels like you should be able to as they’re living inside you but no way, no how. During labor with Haines I tried eating (nope), taking a bath (nope), using a warm sock filled with rice on my back (nope), walking (not really) to help me manage the pain but none of my prepared activities worked with how I felt. I sat in the recliner with my eyes closed and Tyler held my hand. I couldn’t tolerate anything else.

Get support// I think one of the most important things you can control (for the most part) is who your support/medical team is. You can choose a doctor or midwife who you feel comfortable with and who agrees with your general philosophy on medicine. You can also add in a doula to advocate for you and coach you through the process. It’s expensive but for many it’s a great additional member to your team.

We opted not to do a doula as Tyler wanted our experience to be more intimate. I was on the fence about it as Tyler’s been known to be super queasy/light-headed with blood, etc. In the end, we were fine. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The most important thing I told Tyler was that I was never to be left alone once I started laboring. Mission accomplished.

Remember the end goal// There are only two things that really matter in the end. It’s that you and baby are healthy. Sometimes that means going against what we had hoped for our birth plans. It can mean incredibly difficult situations, but as long as you and baby come out okay everything else will work itself out. Try not to get too wrapped up in the rest.

32 Weeks

What a whirlwind year. All of the sudden I’m 32 weeks pregnant today, 8 weeks (hopefully) left until we’re a family of 4. Where did the time go?

This pregnancy has been so much easier in a sense as I haven’t had time to focus on it. Every hour of the day seems accounted for. It’s only stolen moments that I can think about baby boy #2. Whenever he kicks or somersaults or hiccups I am reminded of his quiet presence, waiting to make his debut. My belly is so large that I imagine it’s hard to believe I don’t spend all my time conscious of him but as must be common with younger children, the anticipation is more subdued, more of a bear hug than a champagne toast.

I worry he’ll think he was less desired, less welcomed, less celebrated than his older brother but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. To know his brother only increases our excitement. Now we know what love can feel like and to know that is to understand the world is absolutely limitless. That we will love him perhaps more easily because our hearts have already been opened.

This year has been full of challenges. Some have felt well beyond my ability to handle them, but we are still here, still standing, still reaching out to the universe asking for more.

So, the countdown begins baby boy! See you soon!