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Postpartum: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Having survived my first day alone with a 3 year old and a newborn, I am–if not settling into–at least, accepting my new normal. 

Here are some highlights from my first two weeks:

Husband:  Aside from being the best birth partner on the planet, Scott played host to our visitors, cleaned house, had special daddy/daughter dates with Norah, brought me 156 million cups of Mother’s Milk Tea, made delicious breakfasts, and was the all-around hero of the story.

Family:  My family is incredible.  They have fed me, cleaned my house, and picked up strange items I needed at obscure places (my mom went all over Greenville searching for myrrh, no-sugar added coconut water, and vegetarian capsules).  And check out the wonderful cloth wipes my mother-in-law sewed.  Yes, she embroidered “Cedar” on them.  I bet I have the only personalized bum wipes in town. 

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Friends:  I knew my friends were wonderful but wow!  First, this food chain idea is the best.postpartum.gift. EVER.  Period.  We’ve been supplied with a delicious meal every night–beginning with mom bringing our traditional Sunday feast over after the birth.  I’ve had friends drive 45 minutes to an hour to bring a meal!  It has blown me away.  And Cassandra drove from the far side of the world to give me a day-after acupuncture treatment!  Spoiled.  Utterly spoiled.  And Scott keeps saying, “Wow, you have great friends!”  Yes.  Yes, I do.

Placenta:  When Carey heard I had more bleeding than expected, she swooped into action to arrange for my placenta to be encapsulated by our friend Crystal.  I had wanted to do this but felt I would be too busy with my “galactagogue plan” to take time to do it myself.  The placenta is rich in nutrients, vitamins, and hormones that can assist the body in recovering.  And many people believe that it can prevent or lessen the effects of postpartum depression.  In some studies, it has shown an 86% success rate in increasing milk supply.  So bring on the placenta. 

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Diapers:  Having never cloth diapered a newborn (we started late with Norah), I have been pleasantly surprised at how smoothly that has gone.  She hasn’t worn any disposables.  I was worried the meconium would stain.  It didn’t.  I had two grassy green stains (from the chlorophyll supplement I’m taking) that disappeared after I put the dipes in the sun for a few hours.  Magic.   

Breastfeeding:  This one is a day-by-day.  I had breast reduction surgery 12 years ago.  There have been days I supplement an ounce or so with donated breastmilk based on signs from Cedar and her weight.  I’m using a syringe and feeding her with it while she is latched and actively nursing.  I prefer this method to the SNS.  I weigh her almost daily with the same scale we used at birth.  I definitely have more milk than I did with Norah.  It takes two weeks for domperidone to reach maximum effectiveness so I’m hopeful my supply will continue to increase.  I increased my domperidone dosage from 90mg/day to 120mg/day this week.  Unfortunately, the domperidone causes horrible headaches and the only thing that helps is a cup of coffee.  Do I give my child caffeine so that I can continue to make milk?  Yep.  I’ve been reading that the headaches fade with time.  So we’re still in a wait-and-see place.  But I’m hopeful.  And regardless, I know I’ve done everything I could.  I feel really positive. 

Babywearing:  Hoorah for wearing babies!  Cedar loves being worn.  So far, the Maya ring sling and the Moby wrap have been her favorites.  I didn’t expect to use the ring sling much since I prefer wraps.  I would have gotten a prettier sling.  I’m disappointed that she doesn’t like the My BabyNest.  But that is why I have so many products–she might like it next week…

In other news, I’ve been pooped on 4 times and peed on 3 times.  I’ve realized I need more nursing tanks.  I spend most of my day nursing.  I’m writing this blog entry with a sleeping baby snuggled to my chest in a Moby wrap.  I love it.

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Birth Story Part Two: Places Everybody

Where was I?  Oh yes, utterly deflated.  Late Saturday night, we went to Publix to buy groceries.  I had clipped all the coupons already so I had to go.  Right, coupon moms?   Then I stayed up too late.  And went to sleep listening to a Hypnobabies script.  During the night, I felt pressure waves come and go but ignored them.  At 6am, I thought I might time a couple–10 minutes apart.  No big deal then.  I listened to another script.  Around 7:45, Scott brought a warm rice sock and turned on some Fleet Foxes.  What a nice way to wake.

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At 9am, it was like someone flipped a switch.  I was making breakfast when the pressure waves went from 10 minutes apart to a very serious 3 minutes apart.  The energy changed and I told Scott I was having a baby today.  I managed to eat my eggs and toast while standing and rocking.  Again, I noticed how much I was thinking like a doula.  What position should I take?  Should Scott sift me?  What about belly-lifting?  Do I need to do the rotisserie?  Argh, the voice in my head!

Then, without thinking, with the next pressure wave, I began reciting T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”  Yes, a poem about a balding man’s mid-life crisis.  Yes, that is the focal point I chose folks.  Not a nice Psalm.  Not a beautiful song.  Not even a poet like Neruda or Rilke.  I could recite to line 22 (“curled once about the house, and fell asleep”) before the wave ended.  I did not feel pain just an intense squeezing sensation.

IMG_8648At 10:35am, Scott wrote in the birth log that I said a horrible curse word.  Friends–brace yourself.  At the end of a pressure wave during which I forgot the words to my poem, I said “Dad-gum.”  Time to get into the birth tub.  Ah, the birth tub.  Bliss.  I could drape over the sides and flip my Hypnobabies light switch to “off.”

Using hypnosis, I totally kicked transition’s butt.  Oh yeah.  Smiling and relaxing, this birth was a piece of cake.  Until at 1pm, I swore again.  Scott notes that I said “Yowzers.”  (Ahem, Kelley are you reading?  I will never pick on you again).

I should interject that Cedar was sounding beautiful.  She was actively involved and had a great heart rate the whole time.  Never gave us a worry.

I began feeling a little pushy.  I was really looking forward to pushing.  My firstborn, Norah, was so easy-breezy to push (although her 32 hour labor was challenging).  I pushed Norah out in 20-something minutes with barely a sound.  Ah, but Cedar.  My first tentative push with Cedar told me something was different.  And I began to fear.  Fear+birth=pain.  What was I afraid of?   Well the doula brain was happy to rush back into high gear and tell me.  I was afraid of a posterior baby.  A nuchal hand.  Tearing.  Having to transport for suturing.  Shut up, thinking brain!

Scott got into the tub at 1:20 and I tried pushing a few times while standing up.  Then squatting.  Both were overwhelming in sensation.  I birthed Norah while squatting and I was barely aware of her descent.  In fact, she took all of us by surprise when she tumbled out in between contractions.  Cedar.  Oh Cedar.  First to present was the bag of waters–yep, still intact.  I felt it with my hand and it was so hard.  Until it broke–nice gush of clear fluid.  Then, I felt Cedar descending like a freight train.  I was on my knees but moved to a knee-crouch kind of position.  Really, I think I was crouched because I was contemplating jumping out of the tub and just running away.  Scott applied counterpressure to my perineum.  I put pressure on my front and around the head.  Wow, the sensations were incredible.  And not incredible like orgasmic birth incredible.  Nope, none of that.  Scott said something later about feeling the energy and power of my uterus.  He said birth should be an olympic sport because of that powerful muscle.

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Cedar was born at 2:18.  Scott caught her and brought her to the surface.  She was not posterior.  No nuchal hand.  And I did not tear.  On my chest, I rubbed her and snuggled her.  She looked so healthy.  And she was.  I didn’t want to look to see if she was a girl or boy.  That took some time.

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After the placenta came, Scott clamped and cut the cord.  No one noted the time but I know Cedar was already nursing by then.  We got out of the tub.  I drank some OJ.  We examined Cedar (heart rate, respiration, temp, etc).  Unfortunately, my bleeding was a bit heavy and my uterus was not clamping down as well as it could have.  So I got a shot of pitocin, took some herbs, and had lots of “fun” fundal massage to get my uterus to contract.

Cedar weighed in at 8lbs 10oz and was 21 inches long.

Then we all went to bed.  And I pretty much stayed there for 5 days.  Snuggling and nursing and being visited by lovely family and friends.  The great Cassandra even came the next day to give me an acupuncture treatment!  And sweet midwives-to-be Carey and Crystal picked up my placenta the next day and encapsulated it for me.  I also discovered how wonderful coconut water is for restoring electrolytes.  More about amazing placentas and postpartum time later.

Fini.