My only postpartum advice
As we wrap up this series on pregnancy, birth and postpartum, I'm excited to share with you what our experience with a newborn was like, as well as my one pared-down piece of advice for new parents. If you missed our birth story, read that post here. Otherwise, read on:
It was a strange moment when, after the commotion and intensity of birth, we were left alone in the quiet hospital room with our brand new baby. Though I had a lot of prior experience with babies, I remember saying to Eric "what does a one-hour old baby even need from us??". We decided on letting him sleep until further direction from doctors was given.
We were thankful to get to go home the day after Link was born. We were nervous about taking this tiny, fragile little thing home into our exclusive care. The 1 mile drive home from the hospital was the most cautiously Eric has ever driven, and I remember turning around probably 10 times to make sure he was sleeping okay in his carseat.
Once we were home, we were ready to start our lives as parents - a totally exhausting yet very joyful endeavor.
I was not fully prepared for how physically out of commission I would be for the days and weeks following birth. I had a 2nd degree tear (which is very common), and like every woman, lost a bit of blood in the process of pushing a baby out of my body, so doing simple tasks like just getting up to go to the bathroom or to get a drink of water were extremely exhausting. I also didn't realize that after giving birth, a woman's abs are basically nonexistent, so my back was constantly sore from having to pick up the slack. Even carrying Link for a minute or two made my back hurt, and carrying him in his carseat was out of the question for a few weeks. I really had to rely on Eric and others for a while until my body healed.
Of course, on top of recovering from giving birth, we were also sleeping in increments of 2-3 hours max at night, so we were pretty tired. Additionally, it took some time to adjust to and learn how to breastfeed. For me, this was definitely not effortless. In the first few days I had some really painful blisters. With the help of a lactation consultant, our doula, and my nurse best friend, we got Link to better latch. But even once this was worked out, Link's mouth shape combined with my nipple shape weren't ideal together, so we used a nipple shield for the first few months of his life. This was slightly inconvenient but was really helpful. I was also extremely engorged for a few months and my boobs always felt full of pressure.
But weirdly enough, despite the sleeplessness, the physical recovery, and learning to breastfeed, I felt a lot of peace. I tried often to pause and remember the goodness of what I was experiencing. Every night when that tiny cry woke me up, I'd sleepily undress, feed, and change Lincoln. Then before laying him back down to sleep, I would treat myself to a few minutes of skin to skin snuggles. In my opinion, there is no other feeling in the world as sweet as those snuggles.
As I recall this season, I realize there are a lot of ways we were lucky/privileged/blessed. Eric had some paid paternity leave, I didn't have to "go back to" a job before I was ready, we had good insurance, we had ongoing access to the midwife team and lactation consultants, and we received lots of support and encouragement from family and friends. I actually knew more than 10 friends and family members who also had babies in 2019. This was extremely helpful in not feeling alone during an commonly isolating time. I was encouraged to spend lots of time on the couch, which I did. We very happily accepted help in the form of meals, apartment cleaning, errands run for us, and close friends coming over to Link while we napped. And even though I had struggled with my mental health prior to birth, I didn't have any specific postpartum depression, anxiety, or PTSD as many women do.
We moved through this sleepy and happy season day by day, and before I knew it, Link was sleeping for longer periods at a time, my body was feeling stronger, and nursing became easier. We took it one day at a time, and soon enough, I felt more like myself again, but a new and improved version of me: Mom Alex. Mom me is more confident in myself. I feel more empowered to do difficult things and to explore new challenges than I ever did pre-Lincoln.
Which leads me to my advice for new parents: When it comes to questions about your baby, rely on your gut and a trusted source, and do not turn to the internet.
During pregnancy, I had driven myself crazy Googling every little feeling and over-researching everything having to do with baby. So the day that Link was born, I told myself that to the best of my abilities, I would not go to the internet for advice. Some parent friends of ours had given us a book called Baby 411, which is written by doctors, and it has almost everything we have needed to know. When a question arises, instead of getting trapped in the rabbit hole of endless opinions that is the internet, we open up the book and find our answer, then we try to not second-guess it or try to find second or third or fourth opinions. Of course, baby's doctor is a good resource too.
Everything in this season is new and can feel overwhelming, and things can feel scary very quickly, but parents, you are capable of taking care of your baby. You are around your baby more than anyone else, and you know what is normal or not normal for them. Trust yourself and do not second guess yourself.
I truly think this decision made a huge positive impact on our postpartum experience. Though it may not be for everyone, I personally think more people should try out tuning out the internet when it comes to baby advice.
And with that, now you know basically everything there is to know about our pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and anything you liked or learned! Leave me a comment below if you have something to share.
And enjoy these squishy newborn photos.
Note: I knew I had to do these within 10 days of his birth to get the best pics, and it took all of my energy and more (I definitely over exhausted myself) to set these up. I definitely laid on the couch the whoooole rest of the day.