Life After Birth: Prepping for Postpartum, Kid 1 vs Kid 2

Life After Birth: Prepping for Postpartum, Kid 1 vs Kid 2

As told by Kayla:

We’re about two weeks out from welcoming our second baby, and I’ve noticed there’s a big difference in the way we’re preparing for her, compared to our first. 

Sure, there’s a lot that’s the same — pre-washing the clothes, blankets, bibs, etc.; setting up the swing; setting up a pack & play in our room; setting up changing stations; stockpiling diapers. There are small things about this process that are different – we washed everything in Tide Free & Clear instead of Dreft because our first had a reaction to fragrances and so everything had to be rewashed when she was a newborn. This time, we’re just starting with free & clear or sensitive everything – soaps, detergents, lotions… you name it, if it comes in an unscented variety, that’s the one we have. 

But the biggest difference is the way we’re prepping to make my life easier after kid 2. When you’re having your first, almost all of your focus is on getting ready for baby. At least, it was for me. I made loose plans for myself postpartum – mainly about how long I’d stay home from work and whether or not I’d be willing to respond to emails. 

But this time? This time I’ve spent more time setting myself up for a better postpartum.

How? 

Coming to Terms With Reality

Well, the first way is by embracing the reality of birthing a child. You’re going to bleed. A lot. It’s not a normal period. It doesn’t go away in 5 or 6 days, and your normal pads aren’t going to do the trick. You can’t wipe for a while after having a baby. At least, I couldn’t, not with the stitches from my tear. So a priority for this go-round was creating my bathroom baskets – each basket (one for each bathroom) has adult diapers (I found hospital-provided mesh underwear to be super uncomfortable, so I’m actually bringing some to the hospital too), the thickest, biggest pads I could find, equally large, but thinner pads, Dermoplast, Frieda Mom’s new witch hazel vag pads, and their peri-bottle. Overkill? Nope. Nothing worse than sitting down and then realizing you don’t have your peri-bottle. Or that you don’t have the right size pad you need. 

Knowing My Boundaries

During our birth class (with Bergen & Julie – you’re the best!), my husband and I both drew our ideal birth and then shared the vision. We both drew us, surrounded by our immediate family – parents and siblings (I also drew our dog, but ya know, hospitals frown on that). And, that’s what we ended up with. We were surrounded by family for the birth, and then after the birth, while we were still in the hospital, we had lots of visitors come and see us and meet our daughter. But then, while I was home alone with a newborn on maternity leave, I was alone, a lot. Which was not good for my mental health. 

So this time, we’re limiting hospital visitors to parents and siblings. We really loved that aspect, but we’re asking everyone else to wait to visit until we’re home. I had a delayed bonding with my first daughter because in the hospital, I was either trying to get her to latch or sleeping between visitors. I got very little snuggle time. This time, we’ll be doing plenty of snuggling just for snuggling’s sake. I also need adult interaction. I need people to pop by and say hi and sit with me for a few minutes and remind me that there is a world outside of diapers and sleep and bottles. So we hope our friends and family will visit throughout maternity leave. 

Getting Rid of Clutter

My hospital bag for kid 1… I actually don’t think you can call it a hospital bag.. Because we had three? I am an over-packer by nature. You name it, I had it. Cards for my husband, a bluetooth speaker, snacks, drinks, a boppy, multiple outfits, diapers, wipes, blankets, a robe, toiletries…and I’m sure I’m forgetting things.This time, I’ve fit everything (including my preferred pump and pump parts) into one bag. The essentials. The hospital will provide diapers and wipes and pillows. I know I won’t feel like changing outfits a bunch. I don’t need to pack shoes because I’m going to wear shoes TO the hospital – I don’t need multiple pairs. I’m using hospital towels because I don’t need to bring home dirty laundry.

Focusing on Outside Time

Now, kid 1 was a November baby, so a good chunk of my maternity leave was over winter, which intimidated me. She’s too little to bring outside! But let’s be real- most of November and early December is totally fine for a properly dressed baby. Even late December and January is good as long as you dress your baby appropriately. But, I had PPA that went undiagnosed for a while, and that told me outside wasn’t safe. Kid 2 is going to be an August baby, and I’m better able to identify PPA thoughts vs valid concerns. So, this go-round, I’m going to prioritize spending at least 30 mins outside every day it’s not raining. Because, frankly, it’s good for the soul. And I think it may help prevent a backslide into PPA hell. 

Planning to Pump

I spent a good amount of time prepping to direct nurse with kid 1. It didn’t work out, and I ended up being an exclusive pumper. This go-round, I’m choosing to be an EP’er from the start. I decided I don’t need the stress I associate with trying to DN, and while I know that it can be different with each kid, I also know, in my bones, it’s the best way to take care of ME during post-partum. I can split night feedings with my husband. I can drop her off with daycare and know she’ll take a bottle fine. I know myself well enough now to know I need that freedom. And, this time around, I made it easier on myself. I splurged and bought a pumping-specific bag that can also double as a work/diaper bag. Because lugging 3 makeshift bags around was awful. I splurged on a tiny Spectra S9 portable pump, and a fanny pack to hold it in. 

I know there’s some stuff here I just wouldn’t have known as a first time mom. There’s some other stuff I realized after kid 1, but wasn’t ready to put in place. This time, I’m feeling more confident about what I need and what I want. And it’s not selfish of me to name these needs and wants and set boundaries to protect them or spend money on myself to make my life easier. 

When you birth a child, you’re also birthing a new version of yourself – as a mother, and you need love and support in this new phase too. Please ask for it. Please name specifically what you need, and tell people specifically how they can help you. People want to be helpful, but are often worried about crossing social lines. Tell them what you need. And if you don’t know, say that too. Sometimes it’s just as simple as not being alone. The newborn days are magical, but also really hard. And I’ve found they’re better when you call on your village to help. 

Sending love to all the mamas-to-be, the new mamas, the veteran mamas. You’re all doing a great job.  


Find Kayla’s exclusive pumping Milk Story HERE

More about the Life after Birth Project HERE


Photo: Bergen Howlett

Community Birth Story | Apollo Walker

Community Birth Story | Apollo Walker

As told by Jessica:

On Thursday, March 1, a winter windstorm carrying 70 mph gusts ripped through Maryland. Stephen and I snuggled up with our two sweet pups, admiring the full moon outside our window, as we watched 10 Cloverfield Lane on Amazon Prime.

Stephen was getting over the tail-end of a cold, and slept in the guest bedroom so as not to wake me with his fits of coughing. I went to bed at 11pm. As I lay on my side, I felt my baby dance around in my belly as I drifted off to sleep. At 12:20am on Friday, March 2, at exactly 39 weeks, I woke in a near-panic, and shot out of bed. I was saturated. I ran to the bathroom, and in a haze, realized my water had broke. The feeling was so incredibly surreal, and dreamlike. I immediately ran to wake Stephen, and let him know what was going on. He jumped out of bed just about as quickly as I did. We luckily lined our brand new mattress with plastic two days prior. We also purchased Depends for my postpartum recovery. These were monumental to have on the drive to the hospital. Once my water broke, it did not stop. 

We called the midwives, and spoke with Kelly, who was on call at the time. She let us know that we’d need to make our way to the hospital. She urged us to arrive within two hours of our phone call. Had I not tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS), I would have been able to sleep in my own bed, and labor in the comfort of my home. We hadn’t finished packing our hospital bags, so we did this in a bit of a frenzy. I stood in my walk-in closet, tossing various items into my bag. My voice trembled as I called my dad to let him know we’d be heading to the hospital, and asked that he check in on our two pups when he could. My emotions were all over the place; excited, nervous, scared of the unknown. The dogs were confused as to what was going on, and uncertain why we were leaving them in the middle of the night, in the midst of a very wild windstorm. After hanging up with my dad, I called our doula, Kaylah. I alerted her of the situation, and let her know we would be heading to the hospital. We agreed to check in with her once we arrived and chatted with Kelly. 

We drove quickly down 270 to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, as the wind pounded vigorously against our Honda. We arrived at the hospital about 2am. We checked in at Labor & Delivery, and began the triage process. The nurses immediately hooked my swollen belly up to the monitors, and Kelly came to speak with us. They confirmed that my water had indeed broke, and that I would be admitted into the hospital. We were going to have this baby! Contractions began on our drive to the hospital, however, these contractions would become a million times more intense and gut-wrenching over the next several hours. The nurses moved us to our room in Labor & Delivery, where we would spend the next 30 hours or so. Note: this labor was nearly 33 hours from the time my water broke until the time my son was born. 

Kelly encouraged Stephen and I to get some rest. I knew I desperately needed to sleep. We had heard all along that labor is a marathon, to which I had been training for, both physically and mentally. I didn’t sleep a wink, though. The anxiety alone kept me awake, as well as the check-ins from my midwife and nurse, and the low beeping and humming of the monitors. Stephen, however, was able to sleep throughout our duration in the hospital. Kudos to him. 

GBS positive test results aren’t without implication to the labor process. First, vaginal checks are limited, if done at all, as they can increase risk of infection. Second, every four hours, antibiotics are administered so that baby does not contract GBS. If contracted, this can cause extreme sickness, and even death. Third, it’s important to deliver the baby within 24 hours of the water breaking (again, to limit risk of infection). So, every four hours, precisely, I was administered antibiotics intravenously. Mind you, I hadn’t had antibiotics in six years. 

As I lay in my hospital bed, experiencing mild contractions, I alerted my employer that baby was coming. I sent a few emails, and once early morning rolled around, I sent a text to my immediate family that we’d been admitted to the hospital and baby was on his way. Kelly came by bright and early and she let us know if I wasn’t progressing enough on my own by noon, she’d like to administer Cytotec or pitocin to help move things along. I had been texting with Kaylah, and we agreed she should arrive by noon to help us with this decision. I had planned for a natural, vaginal birth. I didn’t want any medications (other than the antibiotic), so I was disappointed when Kelly brought up the induction discussion. 

Kelly encouraged me to get up, get ready as I normally would (do my hair, makeup, etc.), and eat a protein-rich breakfast. Stephen left around 8am or so to trek to the local Whole Foods. He brought me the most glorious breakfast; fried plantains, sausage, bacon, Kite Hill yogurt. I’d eat like a queen for the entire duration of our hospital stay, thanks to Stephen’s constant trips to Whole Foods. We walked the halls of the hospital to try to amp up my contractions.

Kaylah arrived at noon, and we began discussing our options. Cytotec is a drug used to treat stomach ulcers, however, is also used to soften the cervix and induce contractions. We opted to try Cytotec. I took the medication orally around 4pm, and contractions became stronger and stronger. I continued to contract, progressing with intensity over the next few hours. Kelly alerted us that her shift would end at 7pm, at which point Tara would takeover. I really connected with Tara throughout my prenatal visits, so I was ecstatic that she’d be the one to deliver our baby. 

Contractions became more and more intense, nearly unbearable. Stephen and Kaylah took turns applying heat and counter pressure to my back, and Kaylah guided me through various positional changes to ease the pain. Kelly’s shift ended, and she was pleased to see labor was progressing. At 7pm, I became the patient to a rockstar medical team. Tara came to greet me, as well as our amazing nurse, N. N was a young muslim woman; she was attentive, compassionate, smart, and overall, an incredible nurse. 

Over the next two and a half hours, contractions became excruciatingly painful. I was trying desperately to ride each wave; one at a time. Kaylah turned off the bright fluorescent hospital lights and placed flameless candles and string lights about my room, and bathroom. This was calming and helped to increase oxytocin levels. By this point, we had boycotted our own musical preferences and opted for Kaylah’s relaxing and mellow playlist. There were moments where I questioned why I ever got pregnant in the first place; moments where I truly thought I might die. Moments where the only place I was comfortable was straddling the backside of the toilet. 

The windstorm progressed; the hospital lost power. The lights flickered, as the generator kicked on. Snow slowly fell outside. The moon was full and bright. Nature was working with me to birth my child. 

Around 9:30pm, I was in so much pain, I was certain I was fully dilated and ready to birth this baby. We finally decided it was time to do a vaginal check. Tara had me lay back in bed, and determined that I was 2cm dilated. Defeat overcame me as I broke into tears. I had been working for nearly 24 hours; I hadn’t slept in 48 hours. I was exhausted. I couldn’t go on. At this point, Tara, Kaylah, Stephen, and N decided an epidural was in my best interest. Throughout childbirth education, and birth planning, I had chosen to avoid the epidural. However, my doula’s words that an epidural is neither good nor bad, but simply a tool, stuck with me. I agreed that it was time to use this tool. 

Around 10:30pm, the anesthesiologist came to administer the epidural. Stephen had stepped out, however, my rockstar team was with me. I sat up in bed, facing Tara, N and Kaylah. N gently wiped the tears from my eyes with a tissue, Tara and Kaylah gripped me tight. As the anesthesiologist asked me not to move, I began contracting. At this point, the pain from the contraction was worse than the needle entering my spine. Once the epidural was administered, my team had me laying in bed, hooked up intravenously. Relief slowly set in, and the lower half of my body went limp. In addition to the epidural, Tara began administering pitocin. The epidural caused me to have the shakes; I was shaking and shivering uncontrollably, and though uncomfortable, I was assured this was normal. 

Shortly after the epidural, I started to feel very strange. Before I could even report the feeling, N was already in my room, administering epinephrine. The epidural caused my blood pressure to drop very low. After two doses of epinephrine, I started to feel a bit better. N repositioned me every hour so as to get this baby in optimal position. Left side, right side, left side, right side, back. In between the position changes, I finally dozed in and out of sleep. Kaylah slept in the waiting room. Stephen slept on the cushions by the windows. 

This process continued throughout the night. Baby wasn’t reacting well to the pitocin, however, with some positional changes, and oxygen, I was assured that he was just fine. Kaylah texted around 5:45am. I let her know that I had dozed off, and gotten some rest. Stephen was still asleep. She came to my bedside to check in, and then went to grab some coffee and coconut water. In these quiet moments, I spoke softly to my pregnant belly. Let’s work together, little man. I need your help. 

Tara came in about 7:20am and did another vaginal check. This time, I was fully dilated. I texted Kaylah the awesome news, and she received my message as she was in the elevator on her way back to my room.

Tara advised that I relax for a couple of hours, as she wanted me to have the urge to push this baby out on my own. At this point, I was laying on my back, propped upright. My belly became increasingly more uncomfortable. I called my nurse, and finally, around 8:30am I asked for Tara to come see me. I couldn’t stand the discomfort any longer, so Tara suggested that we try a couple of “practice pushes.” As Tara suited up, she walked me through the process of pushing. Legs back, chin to chest, deep breath, push for 10 seconds. 

On my first push, Tara exclaimed that we weren’t practicing. She could see this baby boy’s head, and this baby was coming. I opted not to use a mirror, as I felt in tune with my body, and didn’t think it was necessary. In retrospect, it would have been pretty amazing to see the birth of my son. In the beginning, Tara was telling me when to push, however, after the second or third push, my instincts kicked in, and my body knew exactly when and how to birth this baby. Baby and I were working together. I told Tara when I was ready, and this process continued. Push, push, push. Tara exclaimed that he had a head full of dark hair. Stephen and Kaylah encouraged and cheered me on, each of them on either side of me, supporting my legs. I continued to listen to my body, and this baby’s head was out. He began crying as soon as his head emerged. More pushes and his little body slipped out from mine. 

This tiny little human that Stephen and I created was placed on my belly as he made his welcome into this world. He was tiny, and perfect, and he was finally here. Giving birth was a magical, miraculous, and nearly hallucinogenic experience. Apollo Walker Gulliford came into this world at 8:59am on March 3, 2018. In that very instant, my whole universe changed. My heart grew, exponentially. My soul was connected with his. His tiny hands grasped my finger, and I had never felt more complete. 


Stephen kissed me on the forehead as Tara and our nurse toweled off Apollo. After several moments of awe, and after the cord had stopped pulsing entirely, Stephen cut the umbilical cord. I could now have a better view of my son. His skin was perfectly pink, his hair was dark and wavy (which would later change), and I was amazed by how much he resembled me. Wide-eyed and alert, he locked eyes with me and my heart melted a bit deeper. This was the little man who I’d gotten to know so well for the last 39 weeks, moving and grooving in my belly. I looked at this beautiful new human, and felt such profound gratitude. Thank you for choosing us, sweet boy. I love you more than I’ll ever know how to express. 

(images 1, 2 credit to the Gulliford Family; 3 credit BergenHowlett.com)
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Life After Birth | Liesel + Zeke

Life After Birth | Liesel + Zeke

As told by Liesel: Nursing Zeke was transformational. I found strength in myself and support in others and a bond shared with this wonderful kid. Our journey was amazing and perfect for us. I could take away his sadness, his hurt, his frustration, his hunger, and be his total comfort. I had no idea the impact it would have on me. I am amazed by myself! Before I had a baby, I thought nursing was strictly nutrition for the offspring. I had no concept of the love and bonding that also grows with each session. I was not around any nursing mothers growing up and my first real encounter with a nursing relationship was 8 years ago. That mama made it look easy! It was not easy! Blood and lots and lots of tears were shed from both of us. Did you know that a baby could re-form nipples by nursing? Guess what? They can. Really painful reformation, that’s what it is. From exclusive pumping to an SNS to just the nipple shield to my plain raw nipples we did it and kept on doing it through 22 weeks of pregnancy. Every time I would make a change I would give myself three more weeks. Magically, around the 4th month everything clicked, for both of us. A three-year journey is far more than I ever imagined. I’ll miss his little hands rubbing mine, his milk drunk sleepiness, the nipple filled grin he would flash, and the most adorable way he used to sign and make a funny noise when he asked for milk. I know our nursing journey together is over but we have so many adventures ahead and I can’t wait!

 

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Images by Bergen Howlett | Photography for Two Rivers Childbirth