Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I Had Postpartum Depression and I Didn't Know It

My first postpartum experience was awful. But I didn't know it at the time. I couldn't see how extremely difficult things were in the midst of it all, but looking back after a second postpartum experience, I really wish I would have reached out for help.

I had:

-lots of pain, took Percocet for a week+ and then Ibuprofen for almost a month

-nightly periods of sadness, like clockwork from 7-9 pm, every night for about 2 weeks

-lots of blood clots, one HUGE one that scared the crap out of me (I literally thought, this is it, I can't have children anymore; we went to the ER, I was fine)

-breastfeeding pains, and a cracked nipple that made me dread every single feeding for about 4 weeks (its seriously no fun to dread feedings, you're supposed to enjoy those!)

-sadness and anxiety (I assumed this was how it was to be a first-time mom. Everytime she cried I immediately got anxious and nervous, even if her crying was easily and predictably fixed by a feeding or being held.)

-was in a constant sleep-deprived fog (the Percocet probably didn't help, I ALWAYS felt groggy, like I couldn't snap out of it, I couldn't think straight most of the time)

-frequent headaches that would last for days

-low fever (should I be concerned? Is this normal? I had no idea)

-constant back pain (I later realized was due to unsupportive nursing bras)

-UTI (thankfully Ava's pediatrician helped me out at her 2-week check up and I didn't have to make another appointment)

-crazy hormones - a permanent kink in my hair (still have it! It's almost down to my shoulders now), a ridge in my fingernails, intense night sweats

I didn't know to ask for help from my doctor because I assumed this was just "how it was" to have a new baby. I didn't know it didn't have to be so dang hard. I remember thinking of how I never wanted to have a baby again, and it made me so sad to think about those feelings. How could I not want another baby? How did I go from wanting a baby so badly and then having a pretty perfectly happy pregnancy to this dark hole I now found myself in? I loved Ava dearly, but I was not enjoying being her mommy. The cards and congratulations began to flood in immediately after her birth, but even those didn't lift me up. If anything, it made me feel worse - "What is wrong with me? I'm trying to be happy...I think I am happy...I am supposed to be happy".

I spent a lot of time wondering how in the world everyone else who had a baby survived. How they managed to get back to their normal day to day activities. I saw friends who took their tiny babies on camping trips, road trips, and just got out and did things. Everyday things. Those things seemed so hard or impossible to me! I don't think I managed to get a dinner made until Ava was a few months old. I just couldn't get my act together. The new mommies with hair done and makeup on and a put-together outfit made me more confused. I was lucky to have brushed my teeth and put on pants for the day! And it really bothered me. I had done all this waiting to become a mother, and I was so excited to soak up and enjoy every minute, and it was not turning out to be what I thought. At all. I knew it would be hard, that my life would change permanently, but I was almost angry that it was so hard for me.

I think I just had rotten luck with my first postpartum experience. I had major abdominal surgery that was rushed to save Ava, I was a first-time mom, I had a really rough start with breastfeeding, Ava was a cat napper so I rarely got to catch up on sleep, AND I got slammed with crazy hormones and emotions - most likely postpartum depression. I think what made it hard for me to recognize that I had it was that I loved Ava, I treasured her, and I was so thankful to have her. Everything I had read suggested that if you had PPD that you wouldn't want to hold your baby, that you wouldn't even like your baby. And that was not the case with me.

I know now after my second postpartum experience that you really shouldn't feel that different after having a baby. Tired, of course, maybe a little overwhelmed, emotional - sure, but not out of it for weeks on end.

This time:

-well controlled, short-lived pain (came off of all meds by 1 week)

-one or two emotional days

-mild breastfeeding pain, resolved in 2 weeks' time (the Lactation Consultant described Liam as an "aggressive nurser")

-tired, but not in a fog

-back pain (resolved once I wore a more supportive nursing bra)

-most of all, I feel like I can function and I feel pretty normal and happy!

Liam is definitely more of a crier than Ava was as a newborn. I've been reminding myself lately, for a lot of reasons, that God never gives you more than you can handle. I suppose I was meant to have PPD the first time around so that I could really appreciate little Liam and this postpartum experience! Liam is a better sleeper but usually isn't content when he's awake unless he's being held. He cries when he's hungry and cries when he's tired...which may sound totally and completely normal to most people, but Ava never did! She never cried at night - I just heard her rustling in her crib and knew to go to her. Ava spoiled us with her amazing temperament, but the trade-off was her 20 minute naps! If God gave me Liam first, with all of his fussing, I think I truly would have gone off the deep end!

My point in sharing all of this, is that there is a postpartum depression spectrum - it might be really apparent that you have it, or you may have some symptoms but not others, and you could also just have a touch of depression. Don't be like me and assume that everything is "fine" and that your experience is "normal". If it feels hard, say something! I'm not even sure I knew how to put the words together, but saying "I don't feel right" probably would have been enough. It's pretty amazing what our bodies can do, but sometimes our minds need a little bit of help to recover, too!

Let's bust down these walls us moms hide behind to pretend like everything is great and fine just for the sake of making it look like we have our s#*& together! That's not real! Becoming a mother for the first time (and the second time!) is seriously the hardest thing I've ever done! God made women multi-taskers for a reason - we'd never be able to raise babies otherwise! I think it is way more important for us to all support each other and reach out to say "how are you really doing" instead of trying to compete. We all want validation that we are not the only ones going through this madness! We all love our babies. We love our families. We love to feel accepted and cared for and prayed for.

So join me!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Liam's First Month!

I am so excited to be doing monthly baby updates again!!!

And I can't believe it's already been a whole month with our Liam!

Apparently Liam had big goals for his first few weeks of life.

He outgrew size newborn diapers at one week old...because he kept peeing out of them!

He loves to be held on our chests and is pretty good at holding his head up already! He loves to look around!

At 2 weeks, 6 days old, Liam rolled from tummy to back multiple times! He's an overachiever!

We had his 2-week appointment when he was 3 weeks old. He weighed in at 9 pounds, 10 ounces, meaning that he gained almost 2 pounds in 2 weeks!!! The doctor was pretty impressed!

Just last night he found his thumb to suck and he's trying to socially smile!

I'm already packing up newborn clothes! It's happening too fast!

On one hand, I don't want him to change so quickly. Butttt, even though I'm not as hormonal this time and I feel like I can relax and enjoy him more, I'm already looking forward to the upcoming days of more sleep at night. And of course I'm looking forward to all the milestones and things he will learn! I was telling Chris the other night - just think: in 5 months he will be eating food! It's going to fly by!

For the most part, Liam has been eating every 2 hours at night. Soooo I'm basically getting multiple 1-hour naps at night. And I'm really starting to feel it! I get to the end of the day and my body is just done, aching to lay down and pass out!

My recovery continues to be going pretty well! My incision looks good, my tummy continues to shrink, breastfeeding is going well (so great, actually! Very thankful!), and I can feel more muscle strength in my belly coming back. I can't full out cough yet, but I can sneeze without fear now! I have to remind myself to take it easy when I roll over in bed or go to get up because it's becoming more and more effortless to do! I drove Liam to his doctor's appointment and then later that day I drove to Target with my sister, and my belly was sore! Baby steps are important! I look forward to feeling better and better with each week that goes by. I imagine I'll be feeling pretty close to "normal" in the next couple weeks!

Big sister is doing pretty well too. She's handled all the changes and the revolving door of people at our house better than I could have imagined! She's had her moments, but overall she's loving being a big sister, I think! She asks for Liam all the time and wants to sit with him when he's on the floor. She loves to rub her cheek against his head, and literally anytime he makes a noise, Ava yells "OHHHHHHHH BAYBEEEEEE!!!!!" It's pretty funny!

We have finally cycled through all of our visitors. The help was so greatly appreciated - I really don't think we could have managed without help! So now me and the babies plan to work towards a daily routine! I am working with Liam to take crib naps during the day, although its hard to get him to sleep without Ava being loud and disrupting him while I try to get him to sleep. Liam had his first night in his room the other night, and it went the same as it's been with him in our room, so it's been a success so far!

The learning curve is getting steep for managing two under two at home alone.  Liam is becoming more needy and is working his way out of the "constantly drowsy" newborn weeks. He is headed into his 4 week growth spurt AND his first developmental leap, so he's pretty fussy in the evening hours. During the day sometimes all he wants is to be held when he's awake. It makes it tricky to do anything else when my hands are full! Earlier this week I had my first taste of the challenge of managing two kids at a busy time of day. It was time for Ava's lunch and then nap and I wasn't able to get Liam to sleep beforehand. He was not happy anywhere I put him - the swing, his playmat, the rock and play...so sadly Liam had to take a turn to wait until I was done with Ava. He was so mad by the time I could get back to him. It was very hard. It's so hard to ask either of them to wait!! I taught Ava a new phrase to "help" Liam when he has to wait: "Don't cry!" She says it pretty clearly, too! It just so happened that Chris came home from work for a bit as I had just picked up a screaming Liam. Little baby passed out literally as soon as I picked him up. The surprise of Chris coming home and Liam's reaction to me picking him up was just so overwhelming and I started crying. Chris had the perfect words for me: "It's ok. You're doing a great job. Not every day is going to be like this." It was just what I needed to hear! He kept an eye on Liam and Ava napped, giving me a much needed break: I took a nap!! 

All you can really do in the newborn phase is repeat the phrase: this phase won't last forever! There will be great days, and then there will be terrible days, and then there are days that are a combination of the two. So far the hardest parts of the day are first thing in the morning when we all have a long list of needs, and dinnertime (this is where freezer meals come in for now!). But for right now, we are watching lots of cartoons and hanging out on the couch when we can! My goal is to complete one task or chore each day, and then if I can do more than that I feel super accomplished! It's hard to get the right combination of resting and getting up and moving around. Too much of either one is no good! Some days I don't get to sit much at all - I just bounce back and forth between what the two kids need from me.

I've been pretty emotional this past week for a variety of reasons, and I've realized my parenting techniques have to be tweaked a bit for Ava. It's been an adjustment for me to go from having Ava as the center of my world, to having to "scoot her over" to make room for Liam. It's been hard for me to not be as involved with her as I would like. The mom guilt for the ungodly amount of screen time she is getting right now really got to me for awhile until I realized there's no other way I could manage and it's just not that big of a deal right now. I try really, really hard to include Ava in everything involving Liam and to not make her feel like she's not as important as the new baby. But it's sooo frustrating to have her go up to Liam in his swing and wake him up or to be yelling and throwing a fit when I've just gotten Liam to sleep. She is my shadow. She follows me everywhere. Which before wasn't really an issue except that sometimes I just wanted some space, but now it sometimes interferes with what Liam needs from me. So I'm learning to deal! 

I'm excited to see how much more Liam can do a month from now, and what else I've learned about being a mommy of two! Keep your fingers crossed for me!!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A SAHM of 2!

I am surviving the first few days at home by myself with my babies!

A part of me was apprehensive about this new change, but I think that's because I was imagining the worst: both kids crying at the same time and me running around like a chicken with it's head cut off. But it's not been that way at all! The first day I was a bit overwhelmed and so happy when Chris came home. I think all the activity just plain wore me out! I use a step stool to help Ava get in and out of her crib. I change her and dress her on the floor and I just suck it up and lift her into her chair at our bar-height table. Probably the most frustrating part is when Ava wants to run away from me and I have to chase her down - she is definitely faster than me right now! I am healing so well; I stopped taking all pain pills by about 1 week after surgery. Pretty impressive! It feels so good to be able to sleep on my side...although full breasts kind of get in the way, haha! About 35 pounds have just fallen off, and I think the weight loss from here on out will be a lot slower. My belly is not as puffy now, just me and my empty pooch, haha! I can finally see my incision without using a mirror! I think I might end up with the infamous "c-section belly flap", but we will see how my belly continues to shrink over these next several weeks. I got 2 stretch marks on my belly this time, but they actually make me smile when I see them. They're like nature's tattoos! I grew my baby boy, and I'm thrilled he's here, and I'll think of my time carrying him whenever I see them in the mirror!

Liam is a pretty laid back baby! He sure is noisy, though! He does lots of grunting, especially when he's eating, or when he's trying to wake up or transition in his sleep. It makes it hard for me to determine if he is actually awake and I should feed him, or let him try to keep sleeping! Especially at night when Chris and I are trying to sleep and he's grunting away - the easy thing would be to just get up and feed him instead of listening to 15 minutes of noisemaking and thinking about what to do. When he is truly hungry/awake, he will work up to a singular, open-mouth cry. I'm thinking that's his sign! We are still in the stage of getting to know him, so each day I learn more and more!

Ava has adjusted wonderfully! So far she's not displayed any jealousy. Maybe in the first day or two, but those few days were an adjustment for us all! I try to let her be apart of as many things with Liam as I can. She sits with us while I nurse him on the couch and she watches very intently. I tell her that is how I fed her when she was a tiny baby. She touches his head, his arm, his toes, and leans in so her head touches him. All while quietly observing. It's pretty sweet! She likes when he is in his play gym so she can sit or lay with him. Today she patted the mat and wanted him to lay down with her! She likes to watch when I change him and she will give Liam a diaper. She'll cover him up with a blanket if I ask her and she brings him toys when he is in the swing. Chris and I have both noticed that Ava seems to have regressed a bit with her talking - she now resorts to saying "mmm" for words she used to say. It could be because she's just gotten lazy since we understand what she wants now, or she's trying to be like noisy brother! So we have to prompt her a lot to "use your words".

We are preparing his room for some crib naps! I've already got that feeling that I'm ready for daytime activities to happen in his room - diaper changes and nursing. Right now EVERYTHING is in our bedroom. I feel like I'm constantly dragging things from his room to ours - lotion, diapers, wipes, blankets, extra clothes (he pees on everything) - and it's driving me a little nuts! We currently have 5 wipe containers across the house...FIVE!!! Clearly structure is something I can't get away from, even if I want to! Mommy and daddy like their own space, too! I'm a little cautious to have him in his room overnight because he has had 2 massive spit-ups in his short little life already, and both have been shortly after he fell asleep. So laying him flat on his back might be something we hold off on for nighttime until his little tummy matures a bit.

We have one more visitor coming early next week, so after that, we are going to start the transition to the crib! We got Ava used to her crib from the very beginning and it was effortless with her. I don't think we will have many problems - he seems to be a pretty go-with-the-flow guy!

Fingers crossed things continue to go well!!