Apparently life is done at a different pace with a newborn. I started working on a postpartum update to share here a couple days after Freia was born which developed as a chronological detailing of our first few days then weeks together as time and days slipped by. It slowly became evident to me as more and more time lapsed that this wasn’t going to come together the way I’d intended or with any semblance of order or readability. It was a rambling string of sleep, feed the baby, feed myself, bathe, stare in wonder, repeat – i.e. actually a pretty accurate depiction of our life.
So instead here I’ve tried to condense some highlights, thoughts and insights into brand new parenthood as briefly as possible. We do have some recipes that have been very helpful and we’ll share in future posts (we really need to get into the habit of shorter blog posts….).
Basically we’ve spent the last 3 weeks in a haze of oxytocin, fatigue, and sheer bliss as we stare amazed at this beautiful creature we created and I’ve somehow nourished from a bundle of cells into a conscious adorable being in 9 short months. What an incredible feat we women are capable of achieving! More about her later.
Photos 14 hours apart!
Our lightning quick labor and delivery adventure ended as our birth team departed just before dawn. Aaron and I just went through a hormone- and adrenaline-fueled night which powerfully and calmly brought our daughter into the world in our home under the watchful eye of a midwife. After being awake for nearly 24 hours – and having just given birth – we were wiped out and ready for bed.
Just before finally drifting off to dreamland with my new babe and husband we finally heard from my parents. They had intended to join us at the first whiff of labor but instead woke up Sunday morning to several missed calls due to unintentionally silenced phone ringers. We’d had dinner together hours earlier and I’m sure they expected something exciting was happening upon discovering the calls, but did not expect the news Aaron gave them.
Aaron answered my mom’s call at 530am, and I could hear her from my spot near him on the bed: “She had the baby!?! Don! She had the baby!” She and my dad decided to drive up to see us upon first light.
They made it to our house around 7am to find two slumbering new parents and a sleeping babe, and used what must have been all the patience they could muster to sit quietly in our living room waiting for us to stir.
Sometime mid-morning I awoke to pee (*carefully*) and gathered the new grandparents to meet the little one.
It was love at first sight, of course.
We wearily regaled them of our overnight adventure, still in a good amount of shock ourselves, and they formulated a plan to start helping us get our house back in order. Mom started on the laundry and made me some porridge with nuts, seeds, cream and butter; Aaron and my dad handled the trash, cleaning the bathtub, and draining and deflating the birth tub. I stole my first nap as the little one was passed around in the living room, photos were taken and facebook updates were posted. Phone calls and texts to friends, family, coworkers and anyone we could tell swept in and out regularly.
The breakfast my mom made was delicious as always. I ate dutifully but my appetite had not come back yet. My parents left us sometime late in the afternoon, more rested, with a cleaner house, and several more food options immediately available than when they got here in the morning. It wasn’t until around 8pm, 18 hours after giving birth that I suddenly became ravenous. Luckily dad had run out for tacos at some point so there was a precious leftover stash in the fridge. These were inhaled along with some sesame dumplings (which we always keep in our freezer for such occasions). It was a heavenly dinner, and was oddly characteristic of Houston.
We were feeling good going into our first night.
The Rest of the Days
Once we figured Freia’s 1-3 hour nursing/sleeping cycle out, Aaron and I quickly slipped into a routine of letting him sleep through the night (as breastfeeding will keep me awake anyway) so that he can be well-rested enough during the day to handle the household and take the baby for a couple hours at a time which allows me to partake in significant daytime naps between nursing sessions.
My midwife Kellie strongly recommended an immediate postpartum “lying-in” period of 5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed and 5 days around the bed. This is intended to facilitate optimal healing without too much interference from gravity on sore and stretched out perineal tissues, as well as provide some bonding time with the wee babe. I was to not get out of bed for any reason other than trips to the bathroom and for showers or the prescribed twice daily herbal baths. This all sounded great to me, so we followed her advice.
Freia and I are three days into a 15-day lying-in period strongly advised by my midwife: Five days in the bed, five days on the bed and five days around the bed. This is to promote healing and allow for maximum bonding time. After draining and returning the birth tub (yep she was born right here at the foot of the bed(!) we had room for Aaron to take some of the living room furniture into the bedroom to accommodate our visitors as they pass by. We're lucky to have a rich support system of family and friends and a career situation which allowed us to take this time, and realize that not everyone who would like to go this route is able to. I'm loving these days so far, drinking her in and getting wonderful help to maintain my horizontal status from my husband and parents. My healing to this point has been easy and startlingly rapid. There's a terribly high and unhealthy expectation in America for mother's to "bounce back" after giving birth, get back to work or hobbies or workouts. This also correlates with a troublingly high rate of postpartum depression. It's a complected issue but denying new mothers this fundamental and ancient rite of healing and bonding with her baby before returning to the folds of society certainly does not help matters. We need to do more to support new mothers and families as a culture and a society. Reasonable paid family leave would be a wonderful and over-due start. . . . #takebackpostpartum #bringbackthevillage #midwifery #forthtrimester #feedingwithlove #empoweredbirth #internationalwomensday #birthofamama #catcameo #whynothome #homebirthexperience
Friends trickled by in the first week with food and well wishes and oohs and ahhs and slight concerns we’d trick them into eating the placenta (unfounded I should add – it’s still in the freezer).
My parents came by every day to help out with whatever we needed while enjoying granddaughter snuggles. My mom stayed overnight the first Thursday so Aaron could play a late night show and not leave me alone for too long. He needed some out-of-the-house time, so we were all glad it worked out. Earlier that night we sent him out for a couple grocery provisions – milk, yogurt, bananas. He came back with these items and four six-packs of Guinness (“They were on sale for $6!”). While the sale is legit, something about the new father’s first foray into the world after four days being in the house with a new baby resulting in a six pack in each hand and under each arm was hilarious to us.
The second week, Aaron’s parents and three sisters all made their way to Houston from as far as Maine and London. It was wonderful getting to have everyone together so early on to meet this special new person. They were also all instantly in love.
Freia was certainly on the small side when born (as predicted), but has been making up for it with zealous eating and commendable gaining. Her weights so far:
- Birth: 5lbs 12 oz
- 28 hours: 5lbs 6 oz
- One week: 6lbs 3oz
- Two weeks: 7lbs 1/2oz
At her first followup the midwife noticed a touch of jaundice in her face and torso and prescribed sunshine, 3-5 minutes on her front and back in direct light outside and/or just some time mostly undressed near a sunny window for some indirect exposure. This worked wonderfully and our baby pinked up in a couple days. By her one week checkup it was totally gone.
Freia’s passed all of her exams by the midwife with flying colors, and she saw a pediatrician at 2 weeks who was impressed with her strength and stamped her as healthy as a horse.
She’s been a wonderfully easy baby so far. She’s a natural nurseling, displays clear cues when she needs something from us – which almost every time falls into needing to eat, needing to be changed, needing to be held and rocked to sleep. These problems have been pretty simple to address, and we’re savoring these days of quick-fix parenting.
Isn’t she lovely?
Aaron and I planned on co-sleeping, and after 20 nights of trial and error, are settling into a system with her in the Moses basket perched just off the bed next to me for most of the night. Other sleep iterations including an in-bed co-sleeper, on my chest or next to me after side-lying nursing sessions.
After reading up on breastfeeding in several pregnancy books, and having plowed through The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding months earlier I was either well prepared or had anticipated it being more difficult for me. Freia has what was immediately identified as a “big mouth” (thanks papa!) which maybe helped us with what was from the get-go a good strong latch and a great start.
Our breastfeeding relationship wasn’t completely without early issues; I needed a bit of self-correcting after experiencing some significant pain on my right side. I tried a slight adjustment in positioning as suggested by the literature which made an astounding difference the very first time we tried it. Since then we’ve gotten to know each other’s bodies quite well and I rarely have to make an adjustment or reposition Freia when she latches on. There is still a slight pinch at first latch on occasion, but that dissipates quickly and melts into oxytocin bliss.
Which can I say is not talked about enough? The first few days our nursing sessions would not just result in “happy bonding feelings” but actually left me feeling almost high as this feel-good hormone surged though me. It’s leveled out as the weeks have passed, but wow! What a feeling!
As unabashed new parents, we’re constantly impressed by what we see as her precociousness, her little smiles, wide eyed stares and goofy faces. In short, totally in love. All the sleepless nights and minor hangups in lifestyle are definitely worth it.
My recovery so far has been astonishingly easy and comfortable. I can probably thank a number of factors for this including a healthy pregnancy, an uncomplicated delivery, a good support system and sticking with the lying-in guidelines.
Kellie came by on Monday morning for a 24(ish) hour follow-up visit. My uterus had shrunken down about 4 finger-breadths below my belly button and we found a two finger wide diastasis recti (separation of abdominal muscles). The treatment for the separation was a modified plank exercise I could do with every trip to the bathroom. By her one-week follow-up it was already half the size.
The two small tears and one “skidmark” Freia left me with after the birth were not worthy of stitches; and save for just barely noticing them during trips to the bathroom, they’ve given me no grief. I’m so glad we opted out of stitching as that surely would have made it worse! I had some all-over soreness the first couple days which considering the fact that my body pushed out a human was not a surprise, but this was mild enough that I didn’t consider taking any pain meds for it. My stomach has been feeling floppy and jelly-like and sort of like my organs may fall out if I lean too far forward. This is because the abdominal muscles which usually do a decent job of keeping everything in place had been stretched out beyond the point of much functionality. This was probably the strangest postpartum experience. It’s a weird feeling, but not painful or uncomfortable so completely tolerable.
My bleeding basically stopped on day 5; enough that at the one week follow up I’d stopped bothering to wear panty liners. Kellie told me this was likly because I was resting so dutifully and that when I started getting up and about I’d notice it coming back. She was pretty spot on there. It never fully returned as a flow, but if I have a very active morning (meaning walking into and around the living room) it will return for a couple hours in the afternoon. Once I noticed this predictable pattern, this was easy to accommodate and tolerate.
Almost immediately after birth it seemed the two biggest physical complaints I had during pregnancy – pelvic bone pain and swollen ankles were 100% gone. Now, almost three weeks later, all that’s left is to fit into my pants again….
Soon, I tell myself. Soon.