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

How to Write a Birth Story Timeline

How to Write a Birth Story Timeline

We talk about the important of writing and telling birth stories here at TRC on the reg. They help inform our culture of the breathtakingly wide range of normal birth, they help us process and place this life-changing event into the larger context of our lives and they help us introduce our offspring and our newly-minted parental identities to our Village. But I never said it was easy.

I know there’s a lot going on in those early days of parenting and the details of birth fade surprisingly quickly so use this tool to help jog your memory back to those moments; the good, the bad, the triumphant, the dark, the grueling, the beautiful, and the joyful ones.

This list just gets you started so take it and run with it because this is your story, baby.

Birth Story Timeline Prompts

PREGNANCY

  • What was my pregnancy like? 
  • What were the joys?
  • What were the challenges?
  • How did my body change?
  • What was I concerned about?
  • How did I prepare for labor, birth, and postpartum?
  • What did I learn about myself?

EARLY LABOR

  • What was the time between the end of pregnancy and the beginning of pregnancy like for me?
  • How long did this stage last?
  • Where was I and what was I doing  when labor started?
  • What did those first moments feel like?
  • How did I cope with early labor?
  • What was it like to tell my partner?
  • What was it like to call my provider/ doula?
  • How did I feel as we moved to our birth location? 
  • What was the car ride and transition like?
  • If induced, what was it like to make that decision? How did the process start?
  • What was triage like?

ACTIVE LABOR

  • How long did this stage last?
  • Who was in attendance? When did the members of my birth team join me?
  • What did the contractions feel like?
  • What positions did I use most?
  • What mental or emotional techniques helped the most?
  • What physical coping skills helped the most (breathing, vocalizations, movements)?
  • What tools did I use (TENS, birth ball, tub, shower)?
  • What coping tools didn’t work this time?
  • What were cervical checks like? How did it feel mentally or emotionally?
  • Was progress deemed quick or slow and how did that label feel?
  • Did we use any medication or tools to change my labor pattern?
  • What was the most physically intense part of labor?
  • What was the most mentally or emotionally intense part of labor?
  • What kind of pain management did I use and what was the decision like? What was the process like? Were there any side effects?
  • What were the other symptoms of labor (vomiting or nausea, back pain, shaking)?
  • How did my team encourage me?
  • When did I feel most connected to my baby or partner?
  • What did I eat or drink?
  • When did I rest?
  • What did I wear?
  • Was there music playing or ambient sounds?
  • Did we have oils diffusing or other scents?
  • What was the hardest decision I made?
  • How did my baby cope with labor?

PUSHING AND DELIVERY

  • How long did this stage last?
  • How did pushing start?
  • What did pushing feel like?
  • What was going through my head as I pushed?
  • What position(s) did I push in? Birth in?
  • Who was present for delivery?
  • How did my birth team encourage me?
  • Did we have any interventions during pushing (oxygen, episiotomy, vacuum)?

CESAREAN BIRTH 

  • What was it like to make the decision for a cesarean birth?
  • How did it feel emotionally or mentally?
  • What was I thinking as I prepared for surgery?
  • What was the atmosphere in the OR?
  • Who was present for delivery?
  • How did my birth team encourage me?
  • How long this stage last?

IMMEDIATE POSTPARTUM

  • What time was birth?
  • What was it like to meet my baby for the first time?
  • What was my partner’s reaction?
  • What was the first thing I said after birth or to my baby?
  • Who cut the baby’s cord?
  • What did my baby look like? Sound like? Smell like? Feel like? What was any skin-to-skin time like?
  • Did the baby need any help breathing?
  • Did we have any other complications?
  • What was it like to birth the placenta? What did it look like?
  • Did I need any repairs and what was that like?
  • What was it like to feed the baby for the first time?
  • What was the first thing I ate after birth?
  • Who were our first visitors?

Those who want to share with a wider audience are invited to submit stories to our Community Birth Stories Project.


This post is part of our Birth Stories series:

How to Debrief Your Birth | How to Write Your Birth Story


Photo: BergenHowlett.com

How to Write Your Birth Story

How to Write Your Birth Story

In a culture as widely devoid of postpartum ritual like we are here in the United States writing and sharing our birth stories begins to fill that gap of how we introduce our children and our new identities to our Village. Not only is our culture desperately in need of hearing and celebrating a wide range of normal human birth, but telling our stories is helpful for processing this single vivid experience that changes our lives forever.

Have you ever wanted to write your birth story but felt stuck or overwhelmed? Use this guide to break it down into manageable steps.

How to Write Your Birth Story

1. Do it as soon as you can. I know, there’s a lot going on as brand new parents but the details fade surprisingly quickly. That said, it’s never too late to get started. Partners, too, should take the time to write out the story from their perspective, but try not to corroborate stories at this stage.

2. Get in the headspace. Quiet moments are hard to come by when you have a newborn but eliminate distractions while you do this. If it feels safe to return to the birthroom in your memory you can let your senses help by cranking your labor playlist, sniffing the oil you had diffusing, and have a calming cup of tea nearby. Be prepared to feel strong or conflicted emotions and be gentle with yourself.

3. Write down as much as you can as quickly as you can. This is a rough draft so don’t worry about the storytelling, or getting the timeline and details perfect, just get the bulk of the story down onto paper. Focus on the big moments and how you felt. Dictating to someone or a talk-to-text app is a great way to get it out hands-free. DON’T judge. This is important. Let the story come as it will and try not to judge actions or feelings along the way just get it out. Write about the good, bad, ugly, beautiful, scary, triumphant, grueling, dark, powerful and the joyful parts. Take as much time as you need between this step and the next.

4. Enlist other perspectives. Yours is the most important story and you do not need to include the input of others. But asking your partner, your provider, your doula, your birth photographer or others for their viewpoint can lend missing context to your own experiences especially when it comes to nailing down blank spots in your timeline. Phone calls, text messages, your contraction timer and photo timestamps can help, too. You might also consider asking for your medical records. Add any details you want to your notes but keep in mind that you are not required to change your truth based on anyone else’s perspective.

TIP: Consider asking a member of your birth team ahead of time to write down the times of important moments during labor as long as it doesn’t distract them from supporting you.

5. Reflect. Spend time thinking about how you felt during all the key parts of labor, about the birth in the context of your pregnancy, the immediate postpartum, your relationship with your partner and your experience as a parent. Where were the highs and lows? Use our Birth Debrief to guide you through reflecting on your birth. Again, don’t judge and be so very gentle with yourself.

6. Collect and edit. Now bring it all together. Start with a timeline of events, use our Birth Timeline Prompts to help jog your memory. Take all of the details you’ve gleaned so far and edit, clarify, and piece it all together. Add as much or as little detail as you want. This step can take as long as you need.

7. Share, but only if you want. As much as our culture needs real, normal birth education no one is owed the story of your baby’s arrival and your birth into parenthood, so share only as you desire and feel safe doing so. Ultimately, this story is for you and your benefit.

Those who do want to share with a wider audience are invited to submit stories to our Community Birth Stories Project.


This post is part of our Birth Stories series:

How to Debrief Your Birth | Birth Story Timeline Prompts


Photo: BergenHowlett.com