For those who have enjoyed following along with my motherhood journey, I wanted to share how it’s going since becoming a family of 4 :)
Because of how hard I found the evenings and nights with Jo’s postpartum, I decided I couldn’t do that again and things had to be different. So this postpartum I’m taking an SSRI, I’ve been going to a bible study weekly since Ella was 9 days old (I’ve only made 2 of the 4 meetings but we’re gonna call that a win for the postpartum season haha), I signed up for MommaStrong (more on this later), Jo is in a childcare program 2 days/week to give me some structure to my weeks, and I intentionally google a whole lot less lol (I have my intuition, mom friends, family, and our pediatrician to ask questions to).
With Jo I just couldn’t shake the idea that I was doing something wrong and if I just knew xyz then she would sleep better, not cry so much, and I wouldn’t find early motherhood so hard. But now, this postpartum I rarely feel like I’m doing anything wrong and it’s been awesome. That doesn’t mean I don’t get overwhelmed, since motherhood can be exhausting, but I don’t get nearly as overwhelmed with the feelings that come along with the thought of I’m not capable.
I saw someone on Instagram say they wish their newborn’s first week of life would last forever and I laughed so hard because nothing sounds like more of a nightmare to me! Thank God that’s not how he designed this to work. I think there are some mom’s who really do enjoy the newborn time, but I remain firmly in the camp of, “keep growing up little baby!” I don’t wish time would move slower or they would stay x age forever. I think time moves at a fine pace haha.
Through Jojo, God equipped me for anything a baby could throw at me. I’ve felt very validated this last month in the fact that our sweet Jo was a miserable baby. It’s hard to know what are innate differences between the girls and what are differences in me and how I’m doing things, but overall I feel Ella is way more predictable than Jo was, but perhaps a lot of that is because I know more of what to expect from a newborn so am more able to predict baby behavior?
I do know that instead of crying through the witching hours from 7pm-11pm Ella just sleeps (Jo screamed), at 6 weeks old Ella already has done several 4 hour sleep stretches (which took months to consistently happen with Jo), and Ella will ride in the car awake and content (whereas if Jo was awake in the car during her first 8 months of life…she was, more likely than not, screaming). With Jojo I would dread the nighttime each and every day for 5 months and that really took a toll on me. With Ella I don’t feel like that because she sleeps so much more. I also feel like I know how to comfort Ella, whereas with Jo I didn’t feel that way much and that will really plummets a new mom’s/dad’s confidence.
With Jo I was so hellbent on doing things the “right” way (or what I perceived as the “right” way) and all that accomplished was making us miserable for a year. I’m way more relaxed with Ella and, depending on my sanity level and what I can handle, Ella does a mixture of sleeping in her crib (sometimes being laid down when drowsy, but awake and other times after she’s been fed to sleep), swing, or co-sleeping in a bed with me. With Jo I was so fixated on her sleeping in her crib or bassinet that I drove myself to my breaking point nightly. I know that’s what’s recommended, but that often doesn’t work for us. For Ella I just got her this vibrating pad that we put in her crib (it shuts off after an hour), it worked great last night and I’m hoping will be a way for us to more consistently have her sleep in her crib.
Andrew and I are watching Game of Thrones so I constantly joke that right now my “nights are dark and full of terrors.” It’s hard to become semi-nocturnal. While I’m less scared of the nights with Ella than I was with Jo, I don’t think sleep deprivation will ever be easy. Some nights are hard…like last night when it took me 2 hours to get Ella to sleep and eventually I decided I’d let her do her first stretch of sleep of the night in her swing (which isn’t my first choice for her sleep at night).
The nights are hard, but they feel less terrifying this time around. I was telling Andrew a few nights ago how insane of a sacrifice I feel motherhood calls one to and how humbling and draining it is to realize how much patience and intentionality is needed and he jokingly said, “just remember who you are (paused for dramatic effect)…a margarita drinking machine.” Lol.
My healing after my second birth.
Healing after this birth has been a breeze. A couple hours after I pushed Ella out I realized I didn’t have any swollen/painful/”flu of the vagina” feeling and then I was like, “oh yeah, you got an epidural. Wait until that wears off.” But then the pain never came! I imagine pushing time -slamming a baby against your cervix for 90 minutes vs. baby sliding out in under 3 minutes- makes a ton of difference in how swollen and painful you are.
I did end up with PUPPP rash inside of the stretch marks on my belly during the last couple days of pregnancy and the rash remained for about a week after birth…and, man, that was itchy.
After Jo’s birth I bled moderate to heavily for 2+ months and with Ella’s I pretty much completely stopped bleeding in less than a week! AMAZING. I remember one particularly rough night with Jojo when I was crying on the bathroom floor around 1 month postpartum because I was still bleeding so much, incredibly sleep deprived, leaking milk down my shirt, smelling of spit-up, didn’t know how to make Jo stop crying, and crying to Andrew that, “I can’t do this! How do all moms do this?!!” But with Ella I feel like I know what to expect and I’m confident that I can handle it even though it’s still challenging. This postpartum my nervous system feels far less taxed, I’m sure the reasons for why are multifaceted, but a big one has to be the decrease in crying. I remember most of the times when driving with Jo she’d scream and scream and I’d think I shouldn’t be driving right now since it had me feeling so fried/frazzled/insane.
Postpartum feeling physically demanding.
Postpartum feels very physically demanding to me. Carrying around a 10# weight constantly while being sleep deprived leads to my neck feeling like it’s destroyed and constantly has a crick in it, which over the last 2 weeks led to some pretty intense headaches. There’s this big push that new moms should rest (which I agree with), but I also feel like I need very specifically geared stretches/strengthening exercises to make sure my body heals well and isn’t injured further during activities of daily mom life (i.e. lugging around a toddler, heaving carseats into vehicles and pretending you’re a bear as you crawl around on your hands and knees with your first born on your back lol). I went to my chiropractor on Monday, she specializes in pregnancy/postpartum, and she spent almost an hour with me massaging and adjusting and gave me some strengthening/stretching movements to do. And after a recent midwife appointment I decided to go ahead and get a referral for a pelvic floor specialist based on some things my midwife tested/said.
Additionally, at the recommendation of a client and several friends, I signed up for Momma Strong (it’s $5/month), which is great for caring for and strengthening the pelvic floor after birth. I wish I would’ve known it existed after Jo’s birth because it would’ve helped give me confidence that I was repairing my body, rather than feeling lost at 6 weeks when my OB said I was cleared to move more again and I was like, “now what?” Momma Strong does a good job of emphasizing that there is plenty of time for more intense movement. Be patient. It’s not worth it or necessary to overdo it and she advises you to take care of your pelvic floor first. Her instructions are geared to moms, with recommendations that if someone overhead they’d be like, “what the heck are you doing?” She’ll say things like, “okay, now you’re gonna do this with your peehole and then rocket it up” or “pretend you’re trying to get a tan on your nipples.” In a healthy and healed way, my pelvic floor feels like a trampoline after I do the videos. There is also zero mention that you should be trying to get your pre-pregnancy body back. The creator struggled with PPD/PPA. The farther she got away from birth, the more her mental health deteriorated. I find she has a healthy perspective on what postpartum looks and feels like and I really appreciate that. She has an emphasis on safe, non-strenuous exercise until your body is capable and strong enough to handle anything more.
After Jo’s birth I wouldn’t have been ready for even the most basic of the Momma Strong videos until 2 months postpartum (so much bleeding), but after Ella’s birth I could start the super gentle intro one once a week at 3 weeks postpartum without any bleeding or pain. Every birth is different.
The year after Jo was born was easily our hardest year of marriage thus far. It was a rough adjustment for us. I feel like we’re able to support each other way better this time. Before Ella came I told Andrew a good litmus test for him for if he’s helping enough will be to make sure he’s doing more than he was before Ella was born. And he has been. With each kid I think both parent’s capacity has to expand to make the family run smoothly. Andrew’s been way more proactive with helping with the girls and I’ve been less controlling/I-want-to-do-everything-myself-until-I-have-a-massive-breakdown.
I think it’s so important (and I’m definitely not the best about this) to be as clear as possible with what my expectations are so I don’t end up resentful. I take the night shift, since we’re nursing and if I get exceptionally poor sleep I can typically take a nap the next day. But if I need help I ask for help. Recently at 4am I was done and told Andrew I needed help and he completely took over. He took Ella, shut the door behind him, got Ella back to sleep and let me sleep until 730am when I needed to take Jo to preschool (it’s not on his way to work). And he’d made Jo’s lunch and put both carseats in my car and he was ready to take Jo to school if I didn’t wake up in time. Some days I need a power-up in the form of Andrew completely taking everything over and getting us back to baseline. With the second kid, it’s been nice to have Andrew more confident in his dad skills.
I think one of the hardest parts of motherhood is being patient. Having patience with your children, patience with yourself as you learn to be a mom, patience with your husband as he learns to be a dad, and patience with letting your body heal and look different than it ever has.
How’s Jojo doing with Ella?
I feel like for the first month I was constantly running defense for Ella. Jo does pretty well if given a task – “give Ella a kiss.”, “can you show me Ella’s toes?”, “put that sticker of Ella’s belly”, “can you show me how to gently rock Ella?” – but left to her own devices she gets rough, she’s doing a bit better now. I don’t think she grasps that Ella is fragile, which is to be expected. I was texting a mom friend about this and she said, “toddlers are not subtle or gentle creatures.” It cracked me up because that’s so true.
Jo has watched more TV in the last month than in her entire life. One mom friend joked this is the only way to prevent your older kid from ending up jumping off a bookshelf, etc. while you feed baby. Jo will come over and body slam Ella and me/poke Ella in the eye/etc., so I need something that will occupy her for that time and TV works.
My best friend and I were talking about postpartum and she said right after birth she will have a lot of patience for her body looking different, but the farther she gets away from birth the less patience she has for her postpartum body. This has been my experience too. Initially it feels awesome to not be pregnant anymore and be able to move more easily, but then around 4 weeks postpartum I started feeling a bit blah in my body and I think that’s to be expected. How are you supposed to know how to feel at home in a body size/shape you’ve never been in before? It takes a bit. I really love reader Michelle’s comment on postpartum where she said, “I feel like postpartum gets a bad rap, but I really loved it. It’s an amazing time. I slept better with a newborn than I did at the end of pregnancy, I was surrounded by people I loved, and I found it fascinating watching my body return to “normal” function rather than “grow a baby”. Certainly my body looks and feels different than it did before, but birth is such a transformational experience I think it’s fitting to not look exactly the same.” I think the idea of watching your body transform and settle with awe and wonder and patience is such a great perspective to encourage your brain into.
I do have quite a few stretch marks on my belly now. Good thing I decided in this post that I’d love to have a lot of stretch marks to remember pregnancy by lol…my skin delivered on that! Most of the time I think they’re beautiful and a reminder of growing a baby, but they’ve taken some getting used to and I’ve thought some about what this means for me and two piece swim suits. Will wearing a 2 piece draw unnecessary attention to my body? Maybe. Is it only okay to have stretch marks on your belly if you have a certain level of musculature on your stomach? No, I don’t agree with that. Would wearing a one piece allow me to think about my body less and engage in whatever activity we are doing at the time? Maybe. Likely depends on who I’m with. So I’ve been thinking about it. All I know is that I will take care of my body and that doesn’t guarantee thinness or a stretch mark free body. Right now that means strengthening my pelvic floor and getting as much sleep as I possibly can during these newborn hazy months.
Another long post. I’ve been writing several longer posts recently and when looking at the blog analytics I saw that the average read time for a recent longer post was 7 1/2 minutes. I thought that was so cool that in the age of all this instant information the majority of you spent 7 1/2 minutes reading one post, which seems like a longtime in our current world. Y’all are great. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Any motherhood thoughts from you? Overall I found the transition from 0 to 1 kid FAR more difficult than the transition from 1 to 2 kids. What about you? And why do you think that was for you? So many factors are at play, but I think another contributing factor for me was that I worked 50 hours+ each week before Jo was born and having to adjust to working far less and redefining what a productive day looks like was hard and took time to accept. I can see why being given, let’s use a euphemism lol, an expressive child helped me focus my energy where it needed to be focused.