Becoming Mother

A book and a blog for first-time mothers

Tag: postpartum thyroiditis

Days 8-13 Pictures: Recovery and Establishing Routines

But first… Baby pictures.

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Day 7: One week old

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Day 7: Umbilical stump, just about to fall off

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Day 8: Buckeye

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Day 7: That face… It’s just a giant eraser to the pain of childbirth.

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Day 9: Awaiting visitors

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Day 9: Milk drunk

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Day 12: Happy Valentine’s Day

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Day 12: Sibling Bonding

The Incredible Shrinking Uterus

Is it just me, or is the uterus a fascinating organ?

Right now, mine is in the process of shrinking from the size of a watermelon to the size of an orange.

Day 8

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Day 9

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Day 10

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Not sure why I look bigger on Day 10 than on Day 9…

Day 11

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Day 12

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Day 13

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Compared to Day 3

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If you’re wondering just how much work a woman’s body has to do to return to its pre-pregnancy condition, the Alpha Parent’s Postpartum Recovery Timeline is a good reference.

Notes on Recovery

Last Friday and Saturday night, Doug took the night feedings and I was able to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Seven whole hours both nights.

Yeah.

Now, of course, my body continued to wake up every hour, but I forced myself to go back to sleep. And I succeeded.

With just those two nights of normal sleep, I noticed that my energy during the day doubled. But getting those hours of sleep post-birth is really, really difficult. And if you’re breastfeeding, it’s pretty impossible this early on in the postpartum period, unless you’re one of those blessed women whose milk supply comes in early and strong and you can pump ahead so someone else can do night feedings.

In any case, my recovery for this birth has been much quicker, I think, for a few reasons.

First, I stopped nursing pretty early on. For those of you who are new to this blog, I suffered a postpartum hemorrhage with this birth and have a history of breastfeeding problems and postpartum thyroiditis. All of which worked against my ability to breastfeed this time as well.

And secondly…

Recovery: Tearing vs. No Tearing

Yeah. I gave birth to a baby that was a whole pound heavier this time–without the second-degree tear that I had last time.

What was the difference?

A midwife who did perineal massage during my pushing phase.

Yeah.

Sure, I was still swollen after all was said and done. But there is a world of difference between the pain of being swollen and the pain of being stitched back together.

When you’re swollen, the 800 mg of Motrin mostly numbs the pain. And you can (mostly) sit comfortably. When you’ve got stitches, the last thing you want to do is sit upright. And when you’re trying to nurse, the last thing you want to take away is your ability to sit upright. With my daughter, sitting (no matter how much I propped myself this way or that) hurt like hell. Nevertheless, I nursed. And nursed and nursed. Mostly in the same, single position that was at least bearable. But over time, it was agonizing.

So I’ll take swollen over stitches any day.

So, thanks, midwife.

Recovering from Postpartum Hemorrhage

As I mentioned in previous posts, I was extremely weak from Day 4 to Day 8. The most I could handle was getting out of bed to eat and shower before lying back down again. My body was working overtime to replenish all the lost blood from delivery. I am so thankful for my mother, who watched Henry during the day so I could just eat and sleep. And my amazing friends, Ryan (a.k.a. Bear) and Cate, who brought us dinner two nights in a row. I gobbled up chile verde carnitas and roasted chicken like it was my business. God, that was good.

The good news is that this week is markedly different.

On Day 10, with the help of my mother, I was able to get myself and my two kids to church for our first Sunday back since the birth. Since Doug did the night feedings, I got seven hours of sleep the night before. Thus, I was even able to drive! Woot. And bonus, this baby slept in the Moby wrap for nearly the whole time (save feeding time). Miracle of miracles.

On Day 11, I was able to go for a 23-minute walk. By myself.

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You know what feels amazing? Walking without a 41-week-pregnant belly.

A-maz-ing.

On Day 12, I cooked my own eggs and made my own coffee.

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Small victories.

Other Changes That I’ve Noticed

  • I am jiggly. Nothing to be done about that.
  • I’ve lost about 15 pounds so far. 30 pounds to go.
  • When I stand on one leg, I no longer feel like I’m going to fall through my hips.
  • I have successfully trained myself to sleep in small chunks around the clock. I sleep about 3-4 hours at night, 1 hour between 1 and 3 p.m., and 1 hour between 7 and 9 p.m.
  • When I do lie down to sleep, I can actually reach a deep sleep every time now. Before, I would lie there and agonize that my mind wouldn’t spin down. I was on high alert to all the new sounds of my baby. But now that I’ve acquired this new language of sounds, my mind is letting go when I need to sleep and allowing me to sleep more soundly. Now, when I wake up from these bursts of sleep, I have a feeling of restoration. That is worth its weight in gold.
  •  I’ve decreased to two doses of 800 mg Motrin per day, instead of three doses.
  • My face has finally lost its super-puffiness. My thighs and legs, not so much yet.
  • My lower back doesn’t seize up in spasms if I sit the wrong way. This happened a lot during the first three days post-birth.
  • My night-time leg cramps are starting to go away.

The Beginning of Routines

From the pregnant woman’s perspective, I have to tell you, there are not many advantages to going all the way to 41 1/2 weeks.

Except…

Your baby comes out more developed.

Which means they can take in more milk in one feeding once their stomachs fill out.

Which means they sleep for longer intervals earlier on.

By the time he was one week old, Henry was regularly eating 3 ounces in each feeding and sleeping for 3-4 hour stretches. With our daughter, it took us three or four weeks to get to this point. (Granted, we’re not dealing (yet) with issues of colic or reflux or other horrible conditions that keep babies awake all hours of the day. My hat is off to you parents who regularly deal with these kinds of pains.)

We have about one or two night feedings right now. And that is totally doable.

And finally, I got this fortune in my fortune cookie over the weekend. I read it when I was in that warm haze of sleep deprivation.

I had to laugh.

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Breastfeeding: It’s Complicated

That’s how I would summarize my previous experience with breastfeeding.

Before having my first child, I envisioned myself being one of those women who breastfed throughout maternity leave, dutifully pumped at work, and kept up the routine as long as I could. That’s how I always pictured that first year with my daughter. Nursing and pumping. As long as possible.

But my body had other ideas.

Although I’ve always been a strong believer in the power and wisdom of my own body, breastfeeding was truly not in the cards for me. We could talk about what it felt like to have postpartum thyroiditis. We could talk about my boobs, my nipples, how often we nursed, how her latch was, and the interventions that we tried.

But I’m kind of over that.

I’m kind of done explaining and justifying my experiences, anticipating all the nay-sayers who would just write off my truth as “one more woman who didn’t try hard enough.”

Yeah. Done with that.

Let me just say that, to me, breastfeeding was like trying to pull a dry, fraying end of a piece of thread through the tiniest of needles. Over and over again.

I could only nurse in Just This Way. And even then, I missed the needle over and over again. Only a tiny amount ever making it through the needle.

And then finding out that, hey, I didn’t even have a full spool of thread to work with.

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***

So here we are, just weeks away from the reality of breastfeeding another child. Wondering if this time will be just as awful as the last time. Hoping that this time, I’ll at least be spared the insomnia (courtesy of postpartum thyroiditis) that came with nursing our first child.

Maybe this time, I’ll be able to sleep between feedings.

Maybe this time, I’ll make at least 50% of what the baby needs, rather than 20%. 

Maybe this time, I’ll be able to make it three weeks instead of twelve days.

Maybe these seem like low standards, but they are monumental to me. I don’t have high expectations for what nursing will be like this time. I don’t plan on committing to a die-hard schedule that will increase my milk production at the cost of my own physical and mental health.

The truth is, for me, breastfeeding was much, much harder than childbirth.

And I gave birth with no drugs.

With childbirth, my body seemed to know the procedure. My hips cooperated. My uterus contracted and my baby responded well. I pushed like a pro. My blood loss was typical. And my body succeeded in making the slow journey back to its pre-pregnancy condition.

But with breastfeeding, my body couldn’t get the procedure right. It kept trying to drop into the process, only to be stopped by barrier after barrier after barrier.

Finally, I was forced to accept the fact that–despite everyone who assured me that I could breastfeed if I worked hard enough–I simply could not.

***

So this time, the internal dialogue will focus more on my own self-care.

 I’ll do this as long as I’m healthy.

I need to sleep at least 5 hours a day. At the very least.

If the baby is still hungry, I’ll consider formula.

If I’m not producing more than 1/2 ounce in a pumping session, I should consider whether or not I want to stick with breastfeeding.

If I stop breastfeeding, the baby will be fine. I will be fine. And if people judge me for it, I know they have no idea what I’ve been through. 

There was a time in my life when I would have thought that even thinking these thoughts would ultimately lead to me exclusively formula feeding, which–according to strong breastfeeding advocates–was the unhealthiest decision I could make for my newborn.

I thought that.

And I was all about the healthiest decision for my newborn.

But I did not factor my own health into my decision-making.

I thought that what I needed was not as important as what my baby needed. And while new mothers definitely experience a certain amount of humbling and re-prioritizing, it should never be at the detriment of her own health.

Yeah, you feel shitty in the newborn period. You’re sore and exhausted and overwhelmed. But there’s a difference between feeling shitty and feeling like you’re clinging to the edge of life.

Sleeping 1-3 hours per day because you’re nursing or pumping will do that to you.

So if you’re reading this and you’re feeling like a failure for not breastfeeding your child, let me be the first to tell you a simple truth: You are a good mom because of who you are. Not because of anything that you do.

These decisions about feeding, diapering, and sleeping don’t have “winning” sides.

Just love your child. And your child will love you.

It’s that simple.

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