Monday, 22 August 2016

Back to work... (Postpartum Musings)

I have a little obsession with baby toes
My maternity leave ended this week... I'd been approaching this day with mixed emotions. Being able to quantify my productivity is something I appreciate, but I also love being around to cuddle with my little squish at every opportunity. It goes by so quickly. You are just starting to emerge from the fog of the first 12 weeks, and the mini one is showing a real little personality and you're back at work again. (Super Quick Didn't-Make-It-Into-The-Water, Caught by Dad Home Birth Story here.)

My belly on the second day.
So how is little Isaac? Well, he is living up to his name (Isaac means 'he laughs') - he smiles and gurgles and coos at all and sundry, although his dad seems to have been relegated to 'not-the-momma' status as of late. He is a super chunkalicious 7.5kg at 14 weeks, very different from my girls who were quite petite.

While I love my ring sling that I made (using this tutorial), because once you've got the hang of it, it's quick to set up but also functions much like a hitchhiker's towel.  Well, it is no longer comfortable and my stretchy wrap is also just holding on. I have an ABC (African Baby Carrier) somewhere in our house, but in the various 'cleanups' I just can't find it anywhere... The catch-22 is that I won't be able to sort out more boxes without a back-carrier, but I'll need to sort those boxes to find my back-carrier - we'll just have to make a plan until then. Even with all the slings and wraps and carriers, it feels like every day is 'arm day' in our house! Who needs gym?

First time in the sling.
Breastfeeding has gone well. Even third time around I experienced those moments of frustration in the middle of the night, wondering if he was getting enough milk as he got frustrated at the breast, massaging plugged ducts and putting cream on tender nipples. Oh yes, and we survived the growth spurts too! We just took it one day, even one feed at time, and my favourite advice is to never quit at your lowest point. After all that I am pleased to say that even with my usual AA cup, we have not resorted to even one drop of formula. Yayness!

My husband has been incredible as always, waiting on me hand and foot when he could and feeding me through growth spurts, and keeping the older kids fed and watered so I could concentrate on the littlest. I love that he doesn't see himself as mom's sidekick, but as a co-parent. He doesn't do me any favours in the sense that we are a team working together to get our family where we need to be. He never babysits, or looks after the kids 'for me', no, he just parents them, like I do. 'Cos we're both parents. Fancy that!

I'm also particularly grateful that I've been able to go back to work at 6 hours instead of 8 hours a day, and we have someone at home who will be looking after him. I've been expressing a small stash so he has enough while I'm at work. While my supply is adequate, expressing is something I've always struggled with - the most I've ever been able to express was one time I got 180ml from both sides with a fancy double pump, where some women can get up to 500ml from each side. I feel like it's worth it though.

Another struggle is that my milk apparently has high lipase content, so smells 'off' quite quickly after being expressed as the lipase starts digesting the lipids. It doesn't damage the milk, but sometimes baby isn't too keen on the  taste. If I scald it on the stove before I store it then it wouldn't be a problem, but scalding 60-80ml of milk at a time seems pointless, so it just means I'm going to have to be diligent about keeping track of expressing and storing so I don't have to freeze too much.

Dimpled baby sausage fingers...
almost as cute as baby toes!
I just recently took down my birth affirmation posters from around our room. I was thinking of getting "Psalms in Color" to replace them, but I honestly haven't had time to do much colouring in the last three months. Any moment in which I had both hands to myself was usually spent taking care of personal hygiene and food needs. Having said that, it was amazing how many of the affirmations were still relevant... 'The only way out is through' and 'I can do it because I are doing it' being two specific examples.

In terms of physical recuperation I was thankful that my in-laws took the girls to stay with them for five days after Isaac was born. I was able to stay in bed and cuddle with my baby without interruption, and most of all, to rest as much as possible. As I wrote before, I was intending to do as little as possible for the first while, and I really did, until I reached a point where not getting out of the house was more depressing than staying at home to rest. I did manage to watch a whole lot of Netflix documentaries which I thoroughly enjoyed!

I have enjoyed having more energy than I had during pregnancy and co-sleeping has meant that I'm feeling more rested now than I felt during pregnancy. Because I birthed on my hands and knees I was able to control the descent of his head quite well, so didn't have any tearing or even much bruising, so that has helped I'm sure! I tried some belly-binding when I did start to be up and about, and I must say it did help me to feel supported and also to not get tired so quickly.

We have a great church community that brought us meals, and of the meals I cooked to freeze, we used the last one when he was ten weeks old. That was a win for sure. And, we somehow manage to fit three kids in our 5-seater car safely, although the first time I had all of them in there I was quite nervous... Precious cargo indeed!

He slept through his first visit
to the beach
Our cloth nappy stash seems to be holding up well. I loved having the newborn nappies for those early days, but he outgrew them quicker than I expected! We have moved onto his OSFM (one-size-fits-most) nappies, many of which I used with his older sister. We only just used up the disposables I got at my baby shower. Yay for budget babies!

I did get intensely lonely at times while on maternity leave, so I got involved in a moms group that meets once a week, and also met with some other moms on an ad hoc basis, some I had known before and others I had never met previously. In some ways I am sad that I won't be seeing them every week, as it feels like we were just getting over the small-talk period of a friendship, but with some we have arranged to meet up again, so I'm looking forward to building those new friendships.

One thing I discovered in the last two weeks which I'm sure will help, is something called 'Adventure Clubs' (On Android here)- it's a South African app you can download which shows you 'adventures' in your area, based on your GPS position. You can also sign up to lead adventures. It's been a lovely way to find relatively cheap things to do with my girls during their school holidays, along with other moms.

Taking advantage of the moms and tots parking!
About the girls, they just adore their little brother, and I haven't experienced any huge signs of jealousy with them. The younger of the girls especially loves hugging and kissing her baby brother, and it is beautiful to see how they are so loving towards him, gushing about how adorable he is and how they just love him so much. Long may it last!

Fortunately hubby has been able to take them to school in the mornings, so I have had that time to be with baby, but with the new school term starting again this week, I've had to be up for work too. Afternoon school runs are a challenge with different finishing times and various extramural activities, and in typical third child fashion, Isaac gets dragged / worn along to everything, from school plays to ballet concert photo shoots, sports days and many and various birthday parties.

The beginnings of that gummy grin.
As much as you try to be kind to yourself, life doesn't go on hold when you've had a baby, and while I've been on maternity leave, we've been dealing with some serious family health struggles, relational conflict situations, organizing kids' birthday parties along with unexpected financial setbacks - aren't they always unexpected though? - and another little person in the mix does seem to eat into one's capacity. I feel simultaneously less capable and more capable all at once.

He is a pretty easy baby, and even then, 
One getting teeth and the other losing them...
I must admit I'd forgotten how time consuming these little ones are. Having had a horribly colicky baby and a reasonably easy baby, I feel like they take similar amounts of time and effort physically, but the time spent on an easier baby seems less fraught while the more challenging baby seems to take more emotional energy. But that's just me. It could also be that my brain has blotted some parts of those early days with baby #1 out as some way of ensuring I would actually consider having another one...

I've given up eating dairy products with this little one as he started showing signs of colic / reflux. (I already eat a totally wheat-free diet) and it made a significant difference, as it did with my second child. I just wish I'd known with my first baby that dairy protein (specifically casein) can pass through breastmilk and cause colic and reflux, and even eczema. I think life would have been a bit easier way back then!
Drinking coffee on my own while Isaac has his trial with his carer.
I even wore a dress that I couldn't possibly breastfeed in.
Like coffee, bittersweet.

So after all that, even though I think I've had a well-supported, well-planned postpartum period, having done this three times now I can say for certain that those first few months after giving birth are always intense... From aching joy to biting loneliness, from the heights of pure delight to feeling utterly overwhelmed. 

It's amazing how you can feel full to beyond bursting point and echoingly empty and depleted within split seconds of each other. I'm not sure there are any emotions you don't experience in that first while. 

And so begins that long process of separation, from utter dependence to adamant independence. From that moment of the severing of the umbilical cord we're preparing them for a big wide world. The messy and fierce and squishy and rocky path of nudging them towards that independence that breaks our mother hearts even while we know that this was the point all along... 

What was your postpartum experience like?
Is there anything you would do differently if you were to have another child?

Anything you'd like to know about what to expect in the postpartum period?

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