A Letter to My Postpartum Self
Dear Postpartum Self:
Congratulations! You did it! You endured months of vomiting, nausea, swollen feet and stretching in places you didn’t think could possibly stretch that much. You made it through the labour... All 47 hours of it... Thank God for epidurals!! And no matter what anyone says to you, Gurrrl, you look fabulous! You may not think so right now; because your stomach still looks like your 5 months pregnant, you don’t fit into any of your pre-pregnancy clothes, and quite frankly, you may never. And your vagina feels like it may fall out of you at some point. But- you just made and birthed a human. You are a f*ing Queen, a goddess, a warrior. Hell- you are Beyoncé.
And because you are all of those things, please be kind to yourself. You are going to doubt if you are doing anything right. You’re going to doubt if you are cut out to be a mother and if things are going to ever feel normal again.
And to be completely honest- no- they never will, because everything changes, but a lot changes for the better. When I think back on that postpartum period, I realize there are so many things I would have done differently. So the advice I wish I could have given to you, my postpartum self, is this:
After delivery, take all the baby diapers and of those huge, stretchy, netted underwear’s they give you at the hospital for yourself, and all the wipes, butt cream, formula, and pads in your hospital room each night before checking out. They’ll replenish it every day, and it’s one less thing for you to pick up later.
Accept all offers of help, and even when it’s not offered, ask for it. I know it’s hard. You want to be a supermom, the mama that can handle it all, but you likely can’t, and you shouldn’t have to. A lot of people are going to come over to see your new bundle of joy, but feel free to tell them that stopping by means also doing a load of laundry and dishes. Tell them it would be greatly appreciated if they would bring food that you can freeze, but also, try to stock that freezer beforehand. This is not the time for you to host. You just pushed a watermelon out of a hole the size of a pea; you are the one that needs to be looked after.
Don’t feel the need to do your makeup for these visitors either, unless you really want to. If the people visiting care that your hair is greasy, your boobs are leaky and there are circles under your eyes, then they don’t need to be there. Also, stop worrying about who sees you breastfeed. If they have an issue with seeing your baby eat, they can put a cover over their own heads.
It’s okay to skip the shower if it means getting in a quick nap or watching your favourite show uninterrupted. There is a reason why dry shampoo was invented.
Do not for the love of god take a mirror down there for at least the first 6 weeks. Just trust me on this one. Your hoo-haw will look normal again I promise, but some things cannot be unseen.
Know that no mom understands how to use that torture device they call a breast pump. Don’t worry- you’ll figure it out. Don’t feel pressure to have to choose between breastfeeding or formula feeding. You need to do what’s right for you and what’s comfortable for you, and you can always do a mix of both. Healthy babies can be exclusively breast fed, exclusively formula fed, or fed using a combination of both. If anyone tells you otherwise, tell them to shove it where the sun don’t shine.
Don’t always be the picture taker. I know it’s hard and you still might feel like you’re in a foreign body. But your kids will look back and want those pictures of you as a new mother, especially when you’re gone. Life is short, but pictures are forever. You won’t regret it, I promise. You’ll flip back and see how good you looked even with that crazy hairdo and you and your kids will always looks back together at those photos and smile.
Soak in that smell of your baby’s head. Memorize it if you can. Because when it’s gone you’ll miss it so much. Relish the moments of just sitting there and staring into your baby’s eyes for hours and knowing that you are the only one they want. But then take time for yourself away from your baby. Go on dates with your husband. Invite that friend over that always offers to babysit and go have a nap and read a book because you need those moments to yourself to keep your sanity. It doesn’t have to be all baby, all the time. It’s amazing how after you become a mom, going to the grocery store for 20 minutes can feel like a mini vacation.
Don’t try to sleep-train a newborn. Newborns don’t sleep. Wait at least until they are 3 months old. It’s okay too if the sound of your infant’s cries may grate on your nerves. You will reach crazy levels of sleep deprivation that you didn’t even know were possible. You’ll sit in bed at 3 a.m., and you’ll pray for your baby to shut its eyes so you can go to sleep. You’ll wonder if this is normal for a baby to not sleep. It is. If anyone tells you differently, sleepily hand them your baby and take a nap. And no- you cannot return the baby, but it’s okay if that crosses your mind sometimes.
You will cry over everything for the first couple weeks. If you thought pregnancy hormones were crazy, wait till you get postpartum hormones. It will all make you cry. I once cried because the corn on the cob that I was craving was taking too long to BBQ. And that’s normal. Get yourself to a doctor if the crying lasts more than a few weeks. If you find yourself crying for a month or more, it’s time to call in backup, whether that means your doctor, husband, mom, friends or all of them. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. More people than you know suffer with postpartum depression. You can get help, the darkness will disappear, and things do get better, a lot better.
Wrap your mind around doing gross things like removing a onesie covered in poop all the way up to the neck. Just throw it away at that point- don’t bother trying to get it clean. Poop and pee will get on you- just come to terms with that now, there is no avoiding it. You will be puked on, many times, and at some point you will even try to catch that puke in your hands rather than get it on your couch. At the time it will seem logical.
Speaking of poop- oh the joys of the first postpartum poop. People will only talk about how torn up your vagina gets after labour, but that baby was also pushing on your butt when it made its glorious entry into the world, and you may have been put on meds which have some great side effects, like constipation. So don’t wait until you’re close to a hemorrhoid. Ask for the stool softener at the hospital and start popping them like skittles. Eat your fiber. Drink your coffee and then make a date with that toilet, but first make sure someone is home to hold your baby. You will not regret those stool softeners, I promise.
If your gut tells you something is wrong with your baby, fight like hell until someone listens. Get a second and third opinion if you have to. Nobody knows their baby as well as a mama.
My last piece of advice for you is to realize that you don’t suck as a mother. In fact, you are doing a fantastic job! You are keeping a human being alive that couldn’t last more than 10 minutes by itself. None of the baby books will prepare you for what you are going to go through, but here’s the thing- no first- time mom on this earth knew what they were doing right away! You will make it up as you go along, and everything will work itself out. So when mothering gets you down, just remember that.
Or- do what I do, and just keep whispering to yourself, ‘I am Beyoncé, I am Beyoncé.’
Birthing your First Postpartum Poop
When you’re pregnant, your doctor or midwife will warn you about possibly getting hemorrhoids from the extra weight you gain, or about getting constipated from those lovely pregnancy hormones. Then once your contractions start, you worry about emptying your bowels in front of a room full of strangers as you push that baby out. Maybe you were lucky enough to avoid all of the above, and your little peanut has finally arrived.
The worst of is over, right? Wrong- because here comes the first postpartum poop, and nobody will tell you about that nightmare. Why? I’m assuming it’s because most women don’t want to discuss their bowel movements with girlfriends while sitting around having drinks. But guess what, friends? We are talking about it today, because I think it’s something that every woman who has a baby NEEDS to know about. It’s seriously a necessity of life.
I’m here to tell you your first postpartum poop is going to be really shitty.
You probably expected to be fairly sore in your lady bits after having a baby, but what you may not have realized is that the little watermelon you pushed out was also busy bearing down and pushing on your intestinal tract. And your body’s way of protecting itself was by getting extremely swollen, everywhere down there, even back there in the bottom end of your business. So while your first postpartum poop is never going to be the best poop of your life, I’m here to tell you that based on your plan of action, you can take that unpleasantness from a ‘Holy Mother of Pearl is there another baby coming out’ moment to only a slight wince.
Unfortunately for me, I did not have friends like me that were willing to talk me through the second most painful day of my life (labour still comes in first place). So, after 47 hours of pushing a baby out, I was actually feeling pretty good (probably because the meds hadn’t quite worn off yet).
I was able to walk around; my hair and skin still had that lovely pregnancy glow and breastfeeding was going relatively okay. It then dawned on me that I hadn’t gone #2 in four days. I thought that was a bit troubling, but peeing had gone all right even though I had torn a bit, so my bum should be fine, I thought. So I brushed it off and figured it would just happen when it needed to happen.
Then as the day went on, I felt the rumblings down below. So, I calmly handed my baby over to my husband and said, ‘I’ll be right back,’ thinking I would only be a few minutes. As I sat down on my golden thrown, blissfully thinking about my new baby, I began to push and immediately broke out into a cold sweat.
The pain was unreal. It was at this moment that I began to think to myself ‘Oh dear lord, there were twins in there and they left one behind.’
The same mechanism that keeps you from pooping yourself randomly is also the one that makes you strain and push, and after four days of no doodoo, my poop had turned as hard a brick. I strained a little bit more and blood started to spout out. So, I did what any rational human would do. I screamed for my husband to come into the bathroom and after he ran in, obviously concerned, considering I won’t even pee with the bathroom door open, I said in a slightly panicked voice: “Babe, you need to call an ambulance, they left another baby in there.”
After my husband finished laughing, he handed me the phone, and while still perched on my porcelain hell, I called my midwives in tears. They calmly told me I was constipated and probably had internal hemorrhoids, which are very common after labour.
Did you even know that there are two kinds of hemorrhoids?
Yup. There are external ones, which are the ones most people are familiar with- the bulging, sometimes painful, sometimes itchy, piles. But there are also internal ones too. You can’t see them and sometimes can’t even feel them, until you go to use the bathroom and then the reddest blood you’ve ever seen comes out of your bumhole and after pushing for what seems like hours, you may only produce a pebble.
Some hospitals suggest that you do a #2 before you’re allowed to leave, and I say, if you can, please take them up on this. Because if you have problems, they can help you!
I will admit that after that fiasco, I swore to myself that I would never have another baby again. But lo and behold, just two years later, there I was pushing out baby #2.
But- on round two- I got smarter! I was prepared for the dreaded postpartum poo, and I hope that as a result of reading this, you will have a plan of action like I did going into the second delivery. You better believe that as soon as I was done counting all my second baby’s fingers and toes, I was flagging down my midwife for a stool softener and laxative cocktail.
So, my advice to you, friends, is immediately after the baby is born, get that magical stool softening cocktail. Do that, and drink tons of water and eat your fiber. Don’t wait until two days later- not even hours later- take all the necessary poo precautions immediately, so that you never have to end up like I did the first time.
The Trials and Tribulations of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding. It’s completely natural and something our body is meant to just know how to do, right? Raise your hand if you felt like that statement is a load of crap. Pretty sure 90% of the mamas reading this right now are raising their hands. There’s a reason that nipple cream is a multi -million-dollar industry, and it isn’t because woman feel like moisturizing their nipples for fun.
When I was pregnant, I used to dream about what it would be like to nurse my baby. It was going to be the most amazing bonding experience. We would gaze into each other’s eyes while she fed, and then she would slowly drift off into a milk-induced coma. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like that at all.
The morning that I went into labour, I realized that I was petrified for the actual getting the baby out part. As my contractions began to speed up and last longer, I kept trying to convince my husband that it wasn’t time yet, but as they continued to get closer and closer together and my husband slowly began to go into panic mode, I realized that tightly crossing my legs and avoiding the hospital wasn’t going to keep that baby in there no matter how hard I tried. Clearly this baby girl was on her way out, and there was no stopping it.
We got to the hospital around 10 p.m. and she was born by 1 a.m. My usual doctor wasn’t on call that day, so I ended up with a doctor I didn’t know, and let’s just say she seemed like she had seen it all, and maybe wasn’t the most compassionate. I really think she had me start pushing before I was fully ready, which resulted in third-degree tears. This usually means surgery, but she decided she could get me stitched up right on that table, and when it was time to stitch me up, I wasn’t frozen. I honestly don’t know what was worse- labour or those stitches. Just thinking about it makes my vagina sweat.
Anyhow- I was so excited to finally meet my perfect little pink bundle, but I felt like I had been beat up down there and I was beyond emotional. I couldn’t believe we had had a human, and now it was time to take her home.
We were finally allowed to go home, and three days later- after no sleep, my milk came in and I was a wreck from all of the hormonal changes. I felt like I was off my rocker, and my nipples were already sore and cracked from three days of constantly trying to get her to latch and to stimulate milk production. But I was determined to make this work.
One of the things I think I regret the most was not accepting more help. I felt anxious about anybody touching her, and I couldn’t believe how hard getting a proper latch was. My doctors and nurses told me how to take care of my stitches to make sure there wasn’t any infection, but there were no additional tips on products I could use to help soothe the pain down there or on my cracked nipples, and no one told me you could ask to see a lactation consultant at the hospital.
My nurse only told me that when it came to breastfeeding, practice makes perfect. I won’t repeat what I said back to her.
It took me nearly 3 weeks to get comfortable with breastfeeding, and another 9 months for my perineum to fully heal.
Please ask for help in the early days if you need it.
Some things I realized over the next few months that I hope will help other moms with breastfeeding are:
1. It can hurt. Even when you’ve mastered the latch, there can still sometimes be a little pinching pain as your milk lets down.
2. Put the nipple cream on before you even start nursing. The nipples are extremely sensitive and if you keep it moisturized before, during and after, you’re a lot less likely to get cracked nipples.
3. The same thoughts will go through every mom’s head. Is the baby getting enough? Too little? Too much? Too much foremilk? Too much hindmilk? Should I supplement with formula? What if the baby likes the formula better? What do I do if the baby won’t latch and doesn’t like formula? Is that a plugged duct? Do I have mastisis? The next article discusses these common breastfeeding issues and concerns; but this point is just to let you know- all that worrying you’re doing? It’s completely Normal.
4. Just call me Bessie the Dairy Cow. Sometimes it will seem like your baby wants to nurse 24/7 and yes, it will make you feel like a human milk machine. It’s okay to love and hate it at the same time.
5. You might resent the fact that your husband doesn’t have a set of boobs. I mean what are his nipples for anyways? Useless...
6. Nursing covers can often seem like a scam when your baby won’t feed under one. Remember when you’re breastfeeding your baby that your baby is eating, just like every other human being does to stay alive, so if your baby won’t feed under a cover you just whip that boob out, and you ignore anyone who gives you side-eye.
7. You might pump for hours only to end up with 2 ounces. And you’ll feel defeated. If this keeps happening, try a bigger size of the breast shields.
8. You can get Mommy’s wrist/tendonitis in your wrist and hand from breastfeeding. Yup, just another thing to worry about. If this happens, it just means you need to switch up the positions you’ve been breastfeeding in every other feed. You can also buy a wrap for your hand to take off the pressure.
9. Try different positions to feed your baby. There is the football hold; on the pillow, the cradle, side- lying etc. There is no wrong way; just whatever works for you and your little babe. With my first, she would only feed in the football hold, whereas my second baby fed in any position.
10. It’s okay to decide that breastfeeding is not for you. If breastfeeding is not working out, then it’s okay to decide to go with formula. A fed baby is best, and your sanity is important too. Just remember whichever way you decide to go, you’re doing great, mama.
24 Tips for New Dads
Hey new Dads! Congratulations on your little bundle of joy! I know things seem really crazy around the house lately- you’ve likely gone from sleeping to not sleeping, from relative independence to having a little 8-pound demanding mini-boss dictating your every move, and your partner may be experiencing a constant whirlwind of emotions from her hormones. I thought I would try to help you out by offering some advice on what you can do to make this new transition in your life go a bit smoother. These tips will go a long way to making you an even better partner and father than you already are.
1. Be more hands-on than Mom even expects you to be. I know this seems like a given, but new dads often feel a bit left out of the equation when it comes to new parenthood. But there are so many things you can be doing, whether Mom is breast or formula- feeding. Hold the baby any chance you can get, like after feeds. Get in there and do the burping. Grab spit-up cloths and help clean Mom off if baby has left a nice post-feed deposit somewhere on her back or shoulder. Try and make sure that everything your partner needs for the baby is available at the drop of a hat. Do the diaper changes. Better yet- do the diaper changes without being asked. Trust me- your partner will appreciate all of these things.
2. Make all of the food, and take over all cleaning and laundry. And I mean ALL. At least for the first 6 weeks. I know you might be working full time, but your partner is not only recovering physically from labour, but also responsible for the feeding, bathing and diapering of a 24/7 needs-machine, so the last thing she has on her mind is to make food for the rest of the household. If you don’t help out with the cooking and cleaning, mothers tend to end up cooking and cleaning while their babies are taking naps throughout the day, and those are the times she should also be taking a nap. Those first 6 weeks will be a short time in your life, but it will make all the difference if you take over the domestic duties and all Mom needs to focus on is healing, bonding with her new baby, and producing milk.
3. Stock up on groceries and snacks. It’s going to be hard for your partner to even think about eating in those first few weeks. And if she is breastfeeding, she’ll be starving all the time. So make sure to pick up lots of healthy and easily-accessible snacks, (think healthy granola bars, cut-up fruit and vegetables, pita and hummus, etc.). If your partner is able to grab things quickly and snack on them, she is more likely to be able to feel nourished, produce enough milk, sleep better, have less mood swings (no hangry wife moments) and heal faster.
4. Order in your partner’s favourite foods.
Everyone gets sick of eating home-cooked food all of the time, so set up a day that you’ll bring home something that is one of your partner’s favourite dishes. Your wife will love it- trust me- and you won’t have to cook that night.
5. Help her out in limiting visitation times. We know your baby is the cutest and everyone wants to see and smell him/her, and although your wife might love all of the attention, she is also probably feeling pretty tired and shouldn’t feel like she needs to host anyone. She might feel rude telling people these things or enforcing these things once guests arrive, so let people know that when they come, the visits should be 15 minutes or shorter. Or whatever works for you and your wife, but back her up, and come up with pleasant ways to tell your guests to get out of there.
6. Take the other kids out of the house to keep noise levels down. If you have another child, he/she is bound to feel a little jealous of the attention the new baby is getting. Take the other child(ren) out of the house, to the playground or swimming, or wherever suits you to have some Daddy time. It’ll make your firstborn(s) feel really special that they get special outings with just Daddy, and it’ll also allow quiet time for Mom and the new baby.
7. Pick the baby up for all the feedings and give her to your partner. Even if your partner had a pretty easy labour, she will still be pretty tender down there in her lady bits, which means reaching over to grab her baby from the bassinet before every feed can be quite painful. Add in a traumatic birth or C-section, and you should be doing all of the heavy lifting with the new baby.
8. Put the baby down for naps when possible to increase bonding. Your baby will often fall asleep on their mother if nursing, but take that chance to say to your partner, “I’ll hold the baby while they sleep so you can grab a shower or a nap, or go sit to have a meal uninterrupted.” Plus, you’ll bond more with your baby and get those coveted lovely baby snuggles in.
9. Make a point to tell your partner that you notice how hard she is working. Your partner will feel really proud of herself if you remember to tell her that you notice how hard she is working. Telling them that you want them to take the time to rest because they are recovering, making milk, and sleep-deprived will make them feel seen and acknowledged. It might be just be a small compliment from you, or an acknowledgement about how hard you notice your partner is working, but it will make her feel so appreciated.
10. Do research on the baby blues, postpartum depression (PPD), postpartum anxiety (PPA) and how to help. Most dads do research on how to take care of their new babies, but they should also be informing themselves on what is happening to their partner’s mind and body too. If your wife gets any of these conditions, she is most likely going to feel extremely alone and ashamed about it, even though it is out of her control. My husband was the first one to notice that my baby blues were turning into PPD, and because he had looked into it, he sat me down and told me we were going to get me help and get me feeling better as soon as possible. It immediately made me feel better. Your wife may also not even realize that she is experiencing PPD or PPA, so by informing yourself on the symptoms, you’ll also be showing that her that you care for her mental wellbeing.
11. Take more time off than you think you need. If you can take two weeks off work- do it. If you can take a month off, do it! With a newborn in the family, it’s not like you’re likely to be using that vacation time for an actual vacation anytime soon anyhow. And you’ll never get back this time with your newborn. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to stay at home and bond as a family, and your wife will love the added help.
12. Get your partner a treat. Even a card saying how great they are doing as a new mom will make her feel great. My husband bought me a mini book about 100 reasons why he loved me after we had our second, and to this day I would prefer that over diamonds. It made me feel so special to know that he thought I was doing a great job as a new mom.
13. Take lots of pictures of mom and baby in those first few weeks. She’s going to think she looks terrible those first few weeks, but she’ll appreciate it later. She’ll also love those moments of the baby later on that she wasn’t able to catch with her own phone.
14. Take over the thank-you cards without being asked. If she wants to send thank you cards for everything like the baby shower and all the food people have dropped off, just do it for her. She will really appreciate it, and you will look like an all-star husband!
15. Reach out to her close friends and family and organize times for them to drop off and help when you’re not around. Even if it’s just holding the baby while she takes a quick shower or nap. New moms never feel like they can ask for help, even when offered, so if you organize it for her, it’ll make her feel really loved. Just make sure to tell her when they are coming so she’s not caught off guard and she can leave the door open for them.
16. Run a bath for her to relax in. It’s crazy how much a new mom will neglect her own hygiene in those first few weeks because she honestly doesn’t even feel like she can put the baby down, or is just too tired to even take a shower. If you run that bath for her with a few candles lit, put her favorite treat on the side of the tub, and take that baby out of her arms, I can guarantee your wife will cry with joy.
17. Watch the baby so the mom can go for a quick walk and get fresh air. Mamas can get a little stir- crazy after having a baby, especially if they were a social person or worked full-time before the baby. Your partner might feel like she hasn’t had a proper conversation with an adult in weeks, so a quick walk around the neighbourhood, or going to grab a coffee down the street will rejuvenate her.
18. Be understanding if your wife is not ready to have sex after she’s been cleared to do so by her doctor. Let her know that when she’s ready, you’ll be gentle and you’ll go slow. Let her know that you’ll wait until it’s the right time for her. If she stops in the middle of the first time after birth, and says she’s not ready, cuddle up to her and let her know that’s okay too.
19. Tell that new mom that you love her new body. She’s going to feel pretty insecure because her body will have changed, so let her know that you love all those lovely lady curves and that you are so impressed with how her body made this little baby, got through labour, and is now nourishing her baby if she’s breastfeeding. It’s been 2 years since I gave birth and I still haven’t been able to get rid of all the baby weight, but my husband is constantly telling me how sexy it is that I have more hips and booty, and it honestly makes me love those parts of my body even more.
20. Tell her how beautiful and sexy she is as a new mom. She is not going to feel like she is, so tell her over and over and over again.
21. Tell her how much seeing her as a new mom has made you fall in love with her even more. She’s going to doubt if she is making the right decisions constantly, and by telling her she’s doing a great job, and that you love her even more now as a mom will make her heart so full!
22. Respect her wishes for space if she is feeling ‘touched out’. Some moms, especially moms with multiple children, will be constantly touched all day long, with a baby feeding off of them and toddlers crawling on them throughout the day. It can sometimes get pretty overwhelming; so if she doesn’t want to be touched when you get home from work, don’t take it personally. Tell her it’s okay, and when she’s ready for a hug that you’ll be there with open arms.
23. Feed that baby any chance you can get. Some dads may feel useless because they can’t feed the baby if the mom is exclusively breastfeeding, but if your partner pumps or supplements with formula, offer to be the one to give the baby the bottle. By doing that, you’ll be giving your wife and baby so much support. It’ll help you bond with your baby and give your wife a little break.
24. When in doubt make a call. If you have any doubts about what you’re doing right (or wrong) as a new Dad and a supportive partner- call your wife’s mother, or best friend. You might think you’re doing an A+ job and that you’ve got all your bases covered- but her closest confidantes will know the real scoop. Give one of them a call and see if there’s an area where you could get more bonus points. Everything you can do to make your wife’s life better will make your life better too.
New moms- If you’re the ones reading this, feel free to stop reading now and hand this to your man.
To the new fathers, good luck, and you’re welcome.
Two Under Two
Life with a newborn can feel like a never-ending loop of exhaustion, diaper changes, and middle-of-the- night feedings. One of the hardest times of your life is that first year with your first baby-that is, at least until you pop out baby number two and baby number one becomes a toddler. Looking back now, I realize the first year of babyhood was a blissful dream compared to parenting a newborn and a no-nonsense, strong- willed toddler at the same time. Here are a few things that I learned:
1. Newborns are quieter that you realize. Sure, newborns cry... sometimes a lot. And while their cries at the time may grate you to the core of your very sleep-deprived soul, I’m sorry to say it can get even worse. It slowly goes from crying to screaming, to arguing and to whining... whining about everything. From which coloured spoon they want to eat their breakfast with, or only wanting to wear that one dress that is currently in the laundry. You will look back longingly on the days when your baby would cry for a few minutes (unless of course you have a colicky baby, then my heart really goes out to you) and you could quickly stuff a boob in their mouth and they happily drifted right back into a milk induced-coma. Savour those quiet moments of being stuck on the couch for hours because you’re too afraid to wake up your baby by moving them, because your future will be much, much louder.
2. Babies sleep more than you think. Yes, newborn baby sleep is actually the worst. They don’t know night from day, so sometimes they sleep all day while you are trying to accomplish other tasks (like simple body hygiene) and then they decide to pull an all-nighter... 5 weeks in a row. I remember those first few months when people stopped by to visit and the first words out of their mouths were “Wow... you look tired.” (Thanks, Sherlock!) The bags under my eyes were a shade I didn’t even know could exist naturally on my own face. But then came toddler sleep, and also newborn sleep, at the same time. By the time I got my newborn to sleep, my toddler would be up, yelling “MOM! I need to go to the potty again,” causing my newborn to wake up and vice versa. Babies may not sleep through the night in the first few weeks, but they still sleep a lot. Fast forward a few years and that toddler may decide that napping is a thing of the past. So while newborn sleep isn’t exactly the best, sleep training a toddler and a newborn at the same time will literally drive you crazy!
3. You can leave the house pretty easily. When I use to try to leave the house back in the newborn days, I would pack the diaper bag with anything and everything I thought we needed (seriously we could have survived a natural disaster for weeks with how much I used to bring,). There were times I almost turned back, because I thought the act of just leaving the house was going to be impossible. But now that I think about it, my daughter usually just fell asleep in the stroller as long as she had her soother and maybe needed to be fed only once. Now, even though I pack a lot less for them, the actual task of getting them both dressed, fed and then chasing and barking at them to get their shoes on is a lot more stressful. I usually start about 2 hours before I have to actually leave the house. When I finally find myself out in public, one of my kids is usually kicking the other in the stroller; one is screaming bloody murder, and I’m heading for the door before I’ve even finished running one errand.
4. Newborns needs are pretty basic. Sure, at the beginning you’re doing a lot of guessing. Are they gassy? Tired? Hungry? Do they need a cuddle? But in the end, you can usually run through the checklist of things and find out what they need fairly quickly. Pretty much your entire job is to just keep that baby alive! Then comes toddlerhood. Now not only do you have to cover all of their basic needs, but it will usually be met with a tantrum or, on the other side of the spectrum, you’ll just be ignored.
5. Clean house days are done. In the early days you’ll end up doing a lot of laundry because of the constant spit ups and blowouts. But other than that, babies can’t really make messes. Insert a toddler. Toddlers will take out every single one of their toys looking for a certain one, only to then forget that toy so that they can steal the toy their sibling is playing with. You’ll constantly find areas in your house that are sticky, and you won’t want to know why or what that stickiness is. They’ll throw their food around just because they think it’s funny. No matter how hard you try to keep your floors clean there will always be a light sprinkling of crumbs in odd places. This is why wine exists.
6. Newborns stay in one spot. First-time parents are always trying to get their child to hit all the milestones as quickly as possible, from rolling over, to crawling, to walking. Just leave them be. Be careful what you wish for, because once they start doing these things, that’s when they decide to start getting themselves into trouble. I remember sitting my daughter on the floor with a few toys and being able to cook an entire meal uninterrupted. Once she began moving, a meal that would normally only take me 20 minutes to make turned into an hour-long adventure. Now with a toddler and a baby, I literally need eyes in the back of my head to make sure that she isn’t teaching the youngest how to head dive off the couch. Savour those immobile babies, because it won’t last long.
7. You don’t have to worry about all of the fighting.
When I had one child, I used to worry about her getting bored, and was constantly trying to think of sensory games she could be doing all the time. She was 3 months old... she couldn’t do anything. So all I could think about was “I can’t wait until she has a sibling that she can play with and keep her entertained. They’re going to be best friends.” Fast-forward 3.5 years, and my day is spent trying to physically remove my children from each other because their favourite ‘game’ is to squish each other the hardest, which quickly turns into tears. At least with two, the onus isn’t on you solely to entertain them.
8. That newborn smell. Seriously, if they could bottle that smell up and sell it, I would buy it. That new baby smell on the top of their heads is intoxicating and sadly not very long-lasting. Once your baby turns into a toddler, you will be greeted by the stale aroma of farts, burps and stinky feet.
Good luck, 2nd time mamas. Don’t worry- the good by far outweighs the bad! Sandwiched between each of those crazy days of parenting a baby and a toddler at the same time were some of the best days of my life. As a parent, the good and bad days will come in waves. As much as my toddler can be a little jerk sometimes, when she crawls into my lap and holds my face with both chubby little hands and whispers “Mama I love you so much”, I’m reminded to as to why it’s all worth it.
Dealing with Postpartum Depression- it will get better
Things were different with my first baby.
I remember coming home from the hospital feeling like I was on Cloud 9. Everyone that came to visit commented on how great I looked and how adorable the baby was. They brought food, they helped out around the house and they checked in. I couldn’t believe how much love we were surrounded by. Breastfeeding was tricky for only the first couple of days, but my midwives/lactation consultants, were lifesavers.
My mom and husband took a month off of work and were there every day. Friends dropped by for weeks and held the baby while I napped and showered. My baby even ended up sleeping through the night by three months. My healing went pretty smoothly and I felt back to normal within four weeks.
I had never felt a love like the love I felt for my new baby. I honestly couldn’t think of a better time in my entire life.
So when I got pregnant with baby number two, I expected it to be the same.
My pregnancies with both babies had been horrendous. I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum with both and had been hospitalized numerous times to get IV drips for dehydration. But I assumed after all of that was over and I had baby number two in my arms, it would all go back to the blissfulness I felt with baby #1.
After I gave birth and they handed me baby #2, I felt that same rush of adoration, that same feeling of unconditional love.
So, when I got home from the hospital and the doorbell barely rang, and no one brought food, and I could barely walk after the 36-hour labour, I didn’t know what to think.
On the third day home, my basement flooded at about the same time that my milk came in. I remember sitting there with my boobs hanging out, trying to get my new baby to latch and simultaneously trying to feed my toddler with the other arm, while she was throwing a temper tantrum.
I felt so alone.
My husband was there, and he was amazing, but he was busy dealing with the flood. My dad came over to help with the basement and he said “Hey hun, how are you feeling?” and I burst into tears- full on, body- writhing sobs that I couldn’t explain. But I figured ‘This is normal, this is the baby blues, right?’
I remember the immense pain in my vagina and bum for up to nine weeks post-delivery, to the point that it hurt to sit or walk. The idea of going to the bathroom filled me with dread. And now my toddler had finally realized this baby wasn’t going anywhere and the jealousy had set in. My perfect child, who had never had a temper tantrum in her life, settled into the terrible two’s and now I had to take care of a crying baby and a screaming toddler.
My mother couldn’t take off that much time this time, just a few days, and my friends didn’t come over to give me time to myself because they all thought, ‘Oh she’s done this before, she knows what she’s doing.’ The few people that did come were only there to see the baby, and nobody asked me if I was doing okay.
There were so many tears.
But then those tears just kept coming. Every day, about everything. I turned into a blurry, teary-eyed, incoherent mess. What was happening to me? I remember looking up the symptoms, scouring the blogs, the message boards and seeing it over and over again. Woman who had the same feelings, the same thoughts, the same stories.
Postpartum Depression (PPD). ‘But there’s no way I could have that!’ I thought to myself.
I had that same unconditional feeling of love for my new baby as I did with the first. I couldn’t believe I had two perfect little beings in my life.
But then there was the sadness, the anger, the anxiety and the feeling of needing to escape. How could this be? I had always believed that women who got PPD were ones that suffered from depression before having babies. They were the ones that didn’t love their babies. The ones that thought about suicide. I didn’t have any of those thoughts. But there was just so much darkness and it was becoming overwhelming.
I remember desperately wanting social interaction. I was once the social butterfly of my group of friends.
But I would make plans, get ready to go, and realize that none of my clothes fit me properly anymore, my hair was falling out from the postpartum hormones, and the bags under my eyes from sleep deprivation couldn’t even be hidden with makeup.
The anxiety would hit me hard and fierce. I had nothing to even talk about with my friends except about babies and none of them had kids. I was going to be the boring one. I would quickly make up an excuse about the baby so I could cancel and loop myself back into the cycle of loneliness.
I watched my friends, excelling in their careers, travelling to exotic locations, looking cute in the newest fashions.
And here I was nursing, sleep training, and squashing food. I felt bitter and resentful.
‘What was wrong with me?’ I thought. I chose this life. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to have two kids. So why did I want to hide under my blankets and feel the need to escape and never come out all at once?
And so, I kept reading over those symptoms repeatedly because it can be hard to differentiate between PPD and the baby blues. They share so many similar symptoms. Mood swings, crying spells, sadness, insomnia, and irritability. But the baby blues are short term; they gradually decrease, and they usually only last a couple of weeks and then go away on there own.
But PPD had many more symptoms: feeling worthless, hopeless, experiencing feelings of guilt, difficulty bonding with your baby, losing interest in things you used to enjoy, withdrawing from others, trouble concentrating, loss or gain of appetite, insomnia or sleeping too much, overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy, fear that you’re not a good mother. It can even turn into Postpartum Psychosis, where you develop severe anxiety and panic attacks, and have thoughts of harming your baby, and/or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
In fact, when you Google PPD, the first thing you’ll see is that it is very common: more than 3 million U.S. cases per year. The Canadian rate has been estimated that anywhere from 6% to 15% of mothers experience PPD. And those are just the cases that have been reported or diagnosed properly. I suspect that the true numbers are much higher. You don’t have to experience all the above symptoms to have PPD. If you experience any of these symptoms for two weeks or more, reach out. Get help. You deserve help.
I remember still trying to bury it deep inside and then my husband sat me down and asked me “Do you think maybe you have PPD?” It was a relief, after trying to hide it even from myself for months, for someone to tell me that they noticed the change in me.
This wasn’t me. Something was different. And my husband supported me in every way that he could, whether it was just listening to me or telling me I was doing a wonderful job as a mother. It was what I needed; it was him that drove me to the doctor where I said those words for the first time out loud.
“I think I have PPD.”
Even just saying those words out loud made me realize something was happening to me beyond my control. This was not my fault, and I immediately felt a small weight being lifted off my shoulders. It took a while. There were still a lot of moments of wanting to escape, but with the support of my amazing husband, the darkness slowly began to fade.
I sadly didn’t find that my doctor helped me get past my PPD, she gave me a card of someone I could talk to, but there wasn’t any follow up. I found that I really needed to search to find resources that could help. I researched how other moms had used physical activity like postpartum yoga and meditation to slowly get back to feeling like themselves again or temporarily using anti-depressants.
It’s been about a year since I felt the grips of PPD release their hold on me. I look at my son and daughter now, and hear their happy laughs, see their curly black mops of hair, and look at their chubby hands that always reach for me and can’t believe that I ever thought about running away.
What I needed was compassion for myself. Becoming a mother is the craziest transition you will ever have to make. Your life is forever changed and there is no way to prepare yourself for it. The postpartum period is the hardest period a woman will ever have to go through.
There is a stigma attached to PPD, that if you have it, you don’t love your children, or you think abut hurting them or yourself, but from what I experienced, that is not the case. When I share this story with other moms, the one thing I am most surprised with is the admission that they went through the same thing. Some of them tell me their stories and it is the first time they’ve ever uttered those words out loud because they felt ashamed at the time.
You can hear the relief in their voice at finally being able to talk about it, and how proud they are that they were able to get through it. This is not something women should be ashamed of. You’re not alone. This is something that affects women because of their hormones. It is out of our control.
But there is help. Please go to your doctor, fill that prescription, get that counselling and talk about how you’re feeling. Ask your friends how they are doing after having a baby and listen; really listen. There is light at the end of the tunnel; you just might need some help reaching it.
New Mama Bod Drama
You finally did it- you pushed that baby out! Your baby has stopped cramping your organ space for nine months without even the decency of paying rent. You’ve got room to breathe, no baby limbs jabbing at your ribs from the inside. You can finally have sushi, Brie, wine and coffee again! Life is good... oh but wait- looks like your ex-tenant decided to leave a few unwanted things behind.
That weird belly flap. It’s been some time since my baby has vacated the premises, but there it still is. Sure, I didn’t exactly have a six-pack before, but now my midsection is a hot mess. Now every time I wear jeans, yeah, the ones I had to buy two sizes up, I have to tuck that little belly flap in like a shirt. Sure, I’ve got some stretch marks too, some in really weird spots, but at least those will fade over time. But you- little flap of skin- you don’t seem to be moving out anytime soon. So now I’ve spent a small fortune on a plethora of Spanx in my underwear drawer in an array of colours; just to suck you in a little bit. No matter how hard I try to exercise you away, there you sit, looking at me, laughing at me, taunting me.
Did you ever hear that stupid article about how ‘Dad- bods’ are the new ‘in’ thing? According to Urban dictionary, a Dad-bod is ‘a male body type that is best described as softly round. It’s built upon the theory that once a man has found a mate and fathered a child, he doesn’t need to worry about maintaining a sculpted physique.’
According to a study done by Yale University, (yup, you read that right, Yale has done a study on this) dad bods are more attractive to women. What about Mom-bod’s? When will they have their time!? Come on Yale, where is the next study that shows that my softly rounded belly is the new bikini body we’re all aiming for? #Softmombodgoals. Let’s get this trending!
Come on, fashion world. I want some flattering clothes to come into style that don’t hug my every curve that I’d like to keep hidden, but without looking like I’m wearing a tent. We can’t all look like Kim K after having a baby.
Speaking of celebs, I’m damn tired of hearing about how they ‘got their bodies back’ 2.5 hours after giving birth. It makes us normal moms wonder what we’re doing wrong.
I’ll tell you what we’re doing wrong- we aren’t millionaires with a nutritionist, personal trainer, home gym, personal chef, plastic surgeon or makeup and hair team at our beck and call. Sure, I get it, some moms bounce back quickly. Some are working obviously harder than I am to get back into their pre- pregnancy jeans. But just once, I would like to see a picture of a celeb- greasy-haired, no makeup on, belly flapping in the wind, falling asleep as she breastfeeds her kids. Is that too much to ask?
As much as I hate that post-baby flap of skin, I am also super amazed with the things my body did and can do.
I am amazed at the fact that I use to tear up at the thought of a paper cut and now I can say that I have been through 40+ hours of labour. Twice.
I am amazed that I survived 9 months of vomiting up to 20+ times a day (I had hyperemesis gravidarum, aka extreme morning sickness) and was still able to carry two healthy babies into the world while working full time.
I am amazed at how my body could handle sleep deprivation. I remember partying in my early 20’s and being able to sleep in the next day until noon. And I still thought the next morning hangover was torture. Nope. Nothing compares to getting up multiple times through the night and still having to wake up before 6 a.m. to start your day.
I am amazed at how long I can hold a baby and squirming toddler at the same time and fight through the ache in my arms.
I am amazed at how crazy my reflexes have gotten when catching my toddler in the midst of a nosedive off a couch, or how I’ve become an Olympic sprinter when one of my babies tries to run away in a parking lot.
And so these are the truths about my post-baby body, it may not be perfect, but it has done and can do a hell of a lot. There’s no going back, so why waste time feeling bad about it?
But seriously moms lets get that hashtag trending.
The A-Z of losing your ZZZ’s
There is no mom on this earth that gets through the baby and toddler stage without losing some sleep. Even if they sleep train early, there is still always the newborn stage where they don’t know night from day, teething, and transitions from a crib to a big kid bed that will disrupt the sleep flow.
When you’re sleep deprived, you may be able to function on a basic level—feed the baby, change diapers, get a few chores done— but you’re not exactly living your best life. Mistakes will be made because your life revolves around someone else now. You are currently riding the first month postpartum roller coaster. Your hormones will have you so crazy that one minute you will be basking in the heavenly smell of your newborn, and the next you will be crying into your cold coffee. When moms are extremely sleep deprived they tend to do a few bizarre things:
1. Language/perception mess-ups. In the early days of motherhood, I began switching the words in all of my sentences. I told my husband “My next car really needs Seated Heats and tonight we should have Lack of Ram for dinner.” I would try to turn on the TV while breastfeeding on the couch and become instantly frustrated that the remote control wasn’t working; because it wasn’t the remote in my hand, it was my iPhone.
2. Coffee-related mess-ups. You will pour the ground coffee beans where the water should go or make it perfectly, only to walk away without turning the coffee machine on at all. There was mornings I warmed my coffee up in the microwave so many times that I eventually forgot it was there. Seven times to heat it back up to not even take a single sip.
3. General clothing mess-ups. You may leave the house in two different shoes, with your shirt inside out or realize that you’ve made it to the grocery store in your pyjamas. And you’ll look down at your two different shoes, and you won’t care.
4. Generally forgetful mess-ups. You’ll walk upstairs multiple times to retrieve something only to completely forget why you went upstairs in the first place or be in the middle of telling your husband a story of your day only to realize in the middle that you’ve completely lost your train of thought. The words “Now what was I talking about again...” will be become quite familiar. The other day I completely forgot what my kid’s birthday was while talking to a stranger so I made one up.
6. Name mess-ups. You’ll call your husband by your kids’ names. You’ll call your kids by their siblings’ names. Or you will forget the name of the person you’re currently talking to. They call it mommy brain for a reason. It’s a thing.
7. Your sleep will be forever different. I would love to tell you that the lack of shut-eye only lasts for a few years, but then I would be lying to you, my friend.
Once you’ve had a baby, even while you’re asleep, you’ll spend the rest of your nights with one ear on alert for sudden cries or coughs, and in later years, the squeak of a window as your child tries to sneak out. This will last until your children are paying their own mortgage. Somehow your husbands will magically sleep through it all.
Lets talk about sex, baby...
So you did it. You made a human for 9 long months, and let’s face it. At times it sucked, but then you got this adorable squished-looking bundle of cuteness out of it. It was definitely worth it. You then survived the 6-week postpartum phase of crazy hormones, the engorged and leaky boobs and the postpartum poop. And now it’s time to see your doctor so they can make sure things are starting to get back to normal down there.
After squeezing that little human out, it’s pretty much a guarantee that sex is the very last thing on your mind. I mean something huge just came out of there and wreaked havoc on your nether regions; there’s no way you now want to put something back up it.
So once you’re at your doctor, with your legs up in the most vulnerable position you can be in, and they clear you for sex, there will be a few things that will cross your mind.
First- Is this doctor insane? I haven’t even figured out how to fit in showering on a daily basis into my life and they expect me to be intimate with someone?
Just breathe; it’s going to be okay. It has to be okay, right? People make multiple babies; so obviously women do end up having sex again!
Sex is supposed to be fun. I certainly enjoyed it pre- baby. In fact, I enjoyed it a lot. I got this!
Here are a few things you’ll need to know to mentally prepare yourself for the big night.
1. It’s not going to feel great. Like not even a little bit. Sure, there are those unicorn moms that have great sex the first time after, but for most, it’s going to suck. You may even cry. Everything down there has changed, and it may take a few dozen times before you learn how to navigate this new terrain. Later on down the road, it may even feel better than before you had a baby. I can assure you that eventually it did for me. So for that first time, down a glass of wine or three, grab that lube and go slow.
2. Speaking of lube, you’re going to need a lot of it. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Use it liberally. Even if you’ve never used lube in your entire life, trust me, you’ll need it now. Those lovely postpartum hormones do a lot of things to your body and one of them is to make you drier than the Sahara dessert. So get that Costco-sized lube. Trust me. You’ll thank me when it’s over.
3. You might pee or bleed. Your body has now become a leaky mess, from bleeding for almost six weeks to milk flying across the room as you let down. Well I’m sorry to say; down there may be no better. So if you are lucky enough to orgasm in the early days of having sex after a baby, a little pee may come out as well. You may also be extremely tight down there, especially if you had an episiotomy and the dryness doesn’t help (thank god you bought that economy- sized lube amiright?!), so you may also bleed. I suggest putting a towel underneath you, just in case.
4. Don’t get adventurous. This is not the night to let your freak flag fly. Missionary is your best bet. And go slow. Your usual favourite positions are probably not the ones you’ll want to be trying out that first time.
5. You’ll probably get interrupted. That little burrito you pushed out doesn’t care if you’re in the midst of knockin’ boots. When he or she wants to be fed or changed, he or she wants it now. Be prepared for multiple interruptions.
6. You might squirt your partner in the face with breast milk. Yup. Sometimes your milk may let down mid hanky-panky. I suggest wearing a bra with nursing pads, or just warn your partner beforehand.
7. It’s okay to stop and try again another time. You may start going at it and halfway through think of just throwing in the towel. You’ll think ‘who really needs sex, right?’ The Pope seems to be doing just fine! You have the rest of your life to get it on with your significant other, so if you are truly uncomfortable, in pain or just not ready, let your partner know how you’re feeling. If they’re a great partner, they’ll understand.
But do try again when you’re ready. Sex is an important part of a relationship, and you deserve to feel like a woman again, not just a mama. I promise it gets better, and eventually even gets good again.