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.


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 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


How to Debrief Your Birth

How to Debrief Your Birth

When I was pregnant with my eldest all I could think about was the moment when I was going to meet my baby for the very first time. The daisy-chain of days leading up to that moment were in sharp focus in my imagination while the weeks and months after that glorious moment were little more than a hazy blur. I had carefully planned my steps leading to birth, but it turns out that I didn’t know how to walk away from it.

One of the things I’m passionate about as a doula and childbirth educator is not only to help families prepare for birth, to climb that brutal and beautiful mountain along side them, but to walk with them down the other side into life after birth, too, because birth is only the beginning, baby.

Just as you would debrief after completing a project or an event, new parents need a safe way to process this massive occasion in their lives. With most postpartum care in the US currently limited to just one or two check-ins with your provider we wanted to create a tool to help guide families through the process.

This tool is not designed to change your perspective of your birth, necessarily, but to help place it in the larger context of your life and psyche. While it can be a helpful guide for beginning to write your birth story it’s less about creating a narrative or storyline, and more about embracing our feelings about the day our children were born, even when those feelings aren’t very pretty.

Give yourself a chunk of quiet, uninterrupted alone time to do this exercise. Expect to feel complicated or conflicting emotions, so go slow and be extra gentle with yourself. Use this tool to process a recent birth, to begin writing your birth story or to reflect on previous births in preparation of a pending one.

Birth Debrief Reflections

  • What was my pregnancy like? What were the joys and challenges?
  • How was labor different than I was expecting?
  • Is there anything I wish I could have done differently?
  • What was the most physically challenging part of labor?
  • What was the most mentally or emotionally challenging part of labor?
  • What coping tools worked best for me?
  • What coping tools didn’t work for me this time?
  • What was the hardest decision we made?
  • When did I feel most connected to my partner or baby?
  • How did my birth team support me well?
  • Where did I not get enough support?
  • What is one thing I wish I would have said to my birth team?
  • When did I feel powerful?
  • When was I proud of myself?
  • One funny moment was …
  • What was it like to meet my baby for the first time?
  • How was it different than I imagined?
  • What is one thing I know now that I wish I knew before labor?
  • What was the immediate postpartum like?
  • How was I supported well?
  • Where did I not get enough support?
  • What did I learn about myself?
  • In what ways did this experience change my relationship with my partner?
  • Is there anything I would choose to do differently if there is a next time?

We didn’t forget papas and partners, who need to process their birth experiences, too, especially when our culture gives them so little encouragement to do so.

This post is part of our Birth Stories series:

How to Debrief Your Birth | Birth Story Timeline Prompt | Community Birth Stories Project