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Dear Andrea,

You don’t know me, but you know my parents.  All I know about you is that my parents are fond of you.  You work at a coffee shop that my parents frequent.  Your baby girl was born yesterday…Congratulations!

My mom was anxiously awaiting the news of your girl’s birth just like she was waiting for news of my baby boy’s birth just 12 weeks ago.  Last evening, mom shared with me that you went into labor at 2 AM and that you started pushing at 6:30 PM.  After 2 hours of pushing, mom was waiting for imminent news!  After 3 hours of pushing, she shared that you needed a c-section.

I want to write you because your story struck a very familiar chord with me.  I want to put this on my blog because I know I’m actually writing to a lot more women than just you!

My baby will be 3 months old in one week…which means I’m almost 3 months removed from all the very raw emotions surrounding my baby’s birth.  I’m nearly 3 months into my physical healing.  I can tell you that three months out is a really good place to be!

I don’t know you, Andrea.  I don’t know anything of your hopes and dreams for your baby’s birth.  I don’t pretend to know what you are feeling right now.  I only know how I felt at the time of my baby’s birth.

Then, I was disappointed that I couldn’t push my baby out on my own– after ~19 hours of labor with ~4 1/2 hours of pushing.  I needed help via an episiotomy, which made me feel like a failure.  I didn’t have a c-section like you did, but it’s only because I’d labored so long at a birth center first.  My midwife literally gave it all she had before she transferred me to the hospital.  Had I been in the hospital to start with, I would have had a c-section for certain.

At the time, I thought to myself, “Thank God it’s over and he’s out and I didn’t have a c-section!”  At the time, I thought that a c-section was the worst case scenario.  But why?  A scar?  Painful healing?  Healing that takes longer than a vaginal birth?

Hmm…

My healing from childbirth has made me re-think all of that.  Is a c-section really “so” bad?  I don’t know.  But I can tell you that healing from my vaginal birth has included 1) a scar, 2) painful healing and 3) a long time frame for healing– exactly those things that I feared with a c-section.

Sure, I don’t have an abdominal scar.  But I still have a belly that shows that I’ve carried a baby.  As I lose the fat underneath my skin, the skin is still looser than it was before.  It may tighten up over time, but I suspect that it won’t ever be like it was before I had my baby.  And I’ve decided that’s okay!  I wouldn’t trade my baby for my pre-pregnancy belly.

Second, my healing process has been very painful!  It’s taken a LONG time to simply feel normal again.  Seriously, it’s just been in the past week that I’ve felt significantly better.  The pressure in my perineum when I walk and shop and carry my baby and move his carseat with him in it is so much less.

My point is:  no matter what kind of birth you have, it may take a long time to feel good again.  My intention is not to scare you but to reassure you.  I caused myself undue stress by assuming that I would heal a lot quicker than I did.  I thought 6 weeks would be the very longest it would take me to feel good again.  Oh, NO!  Not even close.  I sincerely hope you heal faster than I have, but if you don’t, please don’t worry!  Give yourself time.  The waiting really really sucks, but it will happen!  Make patience your best friend.

When I was in the midst of physically feeling really, really bad, week after week after week, I had a lot of time to think about all the “what ifs”:

  • What if I’d had a c-section?  Would I have had less pain?  Would I have healed faster?  Is that possible?
  • What if I’d started out in the hospital to begin with?  Would my baby have needed the NICU if I hadn’t pushed for those extra hours? (**See note.)
  • What if my baby didn’t go to the NICU?  Would I have been successful with breastfeeding?
  • What if I’d had an epidural instead of doing it unmedicated?  Would I have been less physically spent when he was finally born?  Would I have been able to feel elation when he came out instead of feeling dazed and traumatized?
  • What if I’d been able to birth my baby vaginally without an episiotomy cut?  How much different  would I feel?
  • What if I hadn’t taken castor oil to induce me at 41 weeks + 2 days?  Would I have gone into labor on my own before 42 weeks anyway?  Would I have had an easier labor?  Would it have changed the outcome?

What if, what if, what if?  Why do we do that to ourselves?  Yep– if I’d had a c-section, you can bet that I’d be playing the same “what if” game from that perspective.  It’s insane!!

What points am I trying to make?  What advice do I want to give?

When we’re pregnant, it’s only natural that we want the perfect birth experience.  When that happens it’s great!  I’m sooo happy for those lucky ladies!  But if it didn’t happen for you, then try to be gentle with yourself.   It’s not your fault.  You did the best you could.  Give yourself the time to grieve for the birth experience that you wanted but didn’t get.  Give yourself a lot of time.  Time does heal.  Know that the post-partum hormonal crash makes every sad feeling feel so much worse.

Nope– I’ll never know if changing one or more variables in my labor and delivery experience would have turned my traumatic experience into a satisfying one.  With every passing month, I’m letting go of the what ifs.  I’m getting closer and closer to…acceptance.

Yep– now that I’ve had my own “less-than-ideal childbirth and failed breastfeeding” experiences, I realize that my thinking on this topic is no longer “black and white” like it used to be.

Before, it was a little too easy to assume that a hospital birth would be bad and a birth center birth would be good…an epidural would be bad, and an unmedicated birth would be good…a c-section would be bad, and a vaginal birth would be good…formula feeding would be bad and breastfeeding would be good…etc, etc.

Now I know that there’s plenty of good and bad in all of it.  A lot of things are out of our control, anyway.

Andrea– congratulations again!  Enjoy your new baby girl.  Rest when you can (easier said than done, I know!)  Recover.  Accept help whenever you can.  Do what’s best for you and your baby.  These next few weeks will probably be difficult, but you’ll get through it.  The learning curve can be rough, but pretty soon you and your baby will have a “flow.”  Enjoy each phase of your newborn’s development.  It’s true that they grow so fast!  I’m starting to have a lot of fun with my almost 3 month old.

Sincerely,

Elisa

(P.S.: I’m still a brand new mom!)

————————————–

(**Note that my baby was never in any distress while I was pushing.  I do not fault my midwife in any way whatsoever.  I support her and all of her decision making surrounding my labor.  And, during my 6 week post-partum check-up we actually had this same “what if” conversation.)

Click here to read my baby’s birth story.

Click here to read my attempts at breastfeeding.

 

September 18, 2014 - Bend, OR - 8 Weeks Post-Partum

September 18, 2014 – Bend, OR – 8 Weeks Post-Partum

It’s now been 10 weeks since my baby Todd was born.  I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot so I might as well put it down in writing.  This blog has become a place for me to journal, it seems!

Before I found out I was pregnant, my weight was 99 pounds.  After much discipline with diet and exercise, I’d achieved this all time low of body weight and body fat.  That sounds bad, right?  I promise I’m not anorexic!  I’m also not disordered in my eating at all.  My diet was simply nutritionally rock solid (plant-powered NSNG).  And, I was exercising for a balance of upper body/core strength and cardio conditioning.

I’ve always been an “exerciser,” never missing more than a day or 2 a week.  Eric and I were avid mountain bikers every weekend in non-ski season.  We’re avid skiers every weekend during winter.  I did yoga, pilates, swimming, road biking, walking and running.  I’m the type of person who gets depressed when I can’t work out.  My body needs to be moving!

Just before I got pregnant, I wasn’t trying to lose more weight.  I was very happy with my appearance.  In fact, I had come to the realization that- for the first time in my life- I was no longer striving for a goal.  I was there!  What next?

Next…I got pregnant!

During my first trimester, I got desperately hungry.  I also felt incredible fatigue.  There was no way I could exercise.  I started gaining weight steadily.  I didn’t fight it.  I gave my body what it needed at the time.  My legs and butt store fat the easiest, so I quickly outgrew my pants.  I bought bigger ones at the thrift store and I outgrew those too.  Finally, I started wearing only dresses that I couldn’t outgrow!

Throughout my pregnancy, I used hunger as my guide.  I ate the same healthy foods that I ate before, but I did indulge in a fair amount of junk food, especially early on.  After 20 weeks, I cut back significantly.  I gained just under ~1 pound per week throughout my pregnancy.  Once I got my energy back (late first trimester), I still didn’t exercise as much as I wanted to because I was working so much.  I was saving money for my maternity leave.

My highest weight (at week 37) was 132.8 pounds, which means I gained about 34 pounds total.  I lost a few pounds after week 37 because my belly just couldn’t fit much food in there.  It was also summer and I was craving mostly fresh fruit.

When I was pregnant, I assumed that my stored body fat would fuel my milk production.  I planned to focus on breast feeding rather than quickly losing the pregnancy pounds.  After Todd was born, I ate generously to maximize my milk supply.

As it turned out, breast feeding didn’t work out for us.  Todd’s been exclusively formula-fed since his 4th week (See “My Bottle Baby” for more details.)  Although I was heartbroken about my breast feeding failure, it was a freedom to start eating just for myself.  I was no longer eating for two.  I could start focusing on losing the extra pounds and inflating my flabby muscles.

The food part has been easy.  At home I have no temptation whatsoever to eat junk.  I’m back to my old NSNG (No Sugar No Grains) way of eating.  I’m not eating much because I’m so sedentary right now.

The exercising part has been the struggle!  I’m not doing much yet.  My pain was significant for the first 4 weeks.  (And I was exhausted!)  I started doing some light abdominal and upper body resistance work and short walks at week 5.

way overdid the walking during week 6 (up hills pushing the stroller 4 days in a row):  BIG mistake.  For week 7, I limited my exercise to yoga (twice) and a couple gentle walks.  Week 8 in Bend, OR I did a few more slow, level walks.  Last week (9) I did yoga once.  This week (10) I’ve done a little light abdominal and upper body resistance work.  Since I’m home with Todd, some days I get out of the house and some days I don’t.

My physical healing from childbirth is taking so much longer than I ever expected it would.  Superficially, my episiotomy incision seems to be healed, but perhaps I have some deep sutures that have not fully absorbed.  My scar tissue feels thickened.  Internally, I’m still swollen.  Sorry for the TMI!  (I’d like to think that I’m not alone in my experience.)

What I feel from all this is an uncomfortable pressure in my perineum.  I can tolerate household activities like standing up to cook, but I still feel moderately impaired when I walk any distance, including during basic shopping activities (especially when moving baby and car seat in/out of the car and loading/unloading the stroller.)

I have been exercising my patience!

I took a post-partum belly pic at week one.  (Trust me, the frontal view does not show the degree of pooch that was there.  And, pictures don’t show the mushiness!)

8/28/14 - 1 Week Post Partum - 118.8 lbs

8/28/14 – 1 Week Post Partum – 118.8 lbs

I’d planned to take regular “progress” pics, but it just didn’t happen.  It didn’t make sense to take pics of progress that wasn’t happening.  I won’t make real progress until I can exercise properly.

I took this belly pic this week.  The pooch is still there.  My skin is loose and my abs are weak.

10/31/14 - 10 Weeks Post-Partum

10/31/14 – 10 Weeks Post-Partum

I’ve had to re-evaluate my goals.  Whereas my old goal was to get my old body back ASAP (!!), my new goal is to just feel “normal” again.  It’s not about how “perfect” my body looks, it’s about how my body functions.

“ASAP” just aint happenin’!  I’m settling for “maybe eventually.”  Last week my weight was 113.2 pounds, which is still 14 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight.

Is my goal to be back under 100 pounds? I don’t think so. My body has been forever changed by having a baby.  My short term goal is to get back in the ~105 pound range.  Mostly, I’d like to fit into my old pants.  My biggest pants are just now starting to get baggy.

Priorities?  Now I have a baby to take care of.  Duh, right?!  That’s made it a lot easier to be patient with my healing and my body.  My concept of time is different.  The days go by so fast because I can spend hours feeding, sitting and playing with Todd.  When I do get up, it’s to cook, do household stuff…and take a shower!

For the first time in my life, I’m letting myself enjoy this slower pace.  My full time job right now is simply taking care of Todd and taking care of myself.  I don’t need to be more “productive” than that.  This is the time for me to take a break from my go-go-go lifestyle.

Honestly, who I am trying to impress anyway, when I strive for ripped abs, lean legs and a firm butt?  I look more than fine according to most!  When I take Todd visiting, friends always comment that I don’t even look like I was pregnant.  “You’re so skinny!” they say.  I doubt that Eric really cares all that much, either.  Obviously, I’m only trying to impress myself.

Bottom line:  I’m giving myself a break…which is very different from just “letting myself go.”  Like I said, my eating is back to baseline.  Without doing much exercise, I suppose I’ll find out what can be done with diet alone!

Pretty soon I’ll get a lot more disciplined with exercising.  I know I will, because it’s just the way I am.  I’ll do what I can, when I can, as I continue to heal.  And, I’m really looking forward to ski season.  We’ll take Todd to the lodge and take turns making turns!  By next spring/summer, we plan to pack him along on hikes.

The post-partum period is definitely the “4th trimester.”  Trimesters are 13 weeks!  Just like all of them (especially the 3rd!), the fourth one can’t be rushed.  I surrender…

And I’m happy!

October 27, 2014

October 27, 2014

October 31, 2014

October 31, 2014

 

"There are those who are appalled because I am so vocal about injustice, yet I am equally appalled by their silence." Lujene Clark

“Every time you purchase animal products you pay assassins to murder sentient beings for you.”

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