First 6 weeks postpartum (round 2)

So it’s been a pretty low-key, non-exciting post Christmas week around here. R has been working nights and Ryland and Bobby have both had little Christmas colds, plus it’s been about 20 degrees every day, so we’ve mostly been hanging out in Ashland at my parents house or cuddling at home with a movie on.

Since I didn’t have any exciting things to share about our week, I thought I’d look back at the last 6 weeks since Bobby was born (sentimental side note: I cannot believe it’s already been 6 weeks!!). I had my postpartum OB checkup yesterday and I’m officially cleared for well, life. And so it seems like a fitting time to look back on the last month and a half with a newborn. This time around has been very different for many different reasons.

1. Physical recovery. As a whole, MUCH better this time around. My labor was so much easier (no forceps, 30 min of pushing versus FIVE HOURS) that I physically felt pretty good almost immediately. With Ryland I remember almost a solid two weeks where everything just hurt. The soreness was real and massive. Not to get too over share-y (although really isn’t that the point of a blog), but last time peeing hurt, for weeks. That little squeeze bottle of warm water they show you to use at the hospital became a cherished friend. Let’s just say that forceps and 5 hours of pushing do considerably more damage than the relative breeze of labor I had this go round. So that was great. Plus I think having a toddler waiting for you at home also sort of forces a faster physical recovery. You’re needed immediately when you walk in the door, to hug and carry and do all that mom stuff. Toddlers don’t give a hoot that you just pushed a baby out. They just want mom back in action. And luckily this time I was able to do that pretty seamlessly. However…

2. After pains. Why did no one warn me about these??! Granted I’m a nurse. I took an OB course. And yet I did not even remotely anticipate these. With Ryland I did not get these AT ALL. I had cramping, especially with nursing, but these were not “cramping”. These were full blown mini contractions, with the same pattern of rising and falling pain that makes you want to squeeze the nearest object until your knuckles turn white, only without an epidural. And apparently it’s very common to not have them with baby #1 but to have them with later babies. But you guys, when they first started to kick in for real (about 12 hours after Bobby arrived), I seriously wondered if there was another baby about to come out. I called the nurse because I was so concerned. I did not anticipate that level of acute pain and it freaked me out. It got so bad that I actually ended up near tears asking for Percocet (I hate that I felt “embarrassed” to ask for this medicine when I was hurting so bad that I couldn’t even speak through the pain and had to breathe through the after pains just like contractions, labor and post partum stuff HURTS and it sucks that culturally there’s this idea that women shouldn’t take any medicine for any of this and suffering=being a good mom, but more on that in another post). The Percocet helped a lot, but these after pains continued for a few days, and were especially excruciating with nursing (which is actually a biological necessity, nursing causes these contractions which tighten and shrink the uterus and thus reduce the risk of hemorrhage, pretty cool that breastfeeding does that in addition to all if it’s other awesome benefits). But it did mean the first few nights were pretty rough when the baby cluster fed and the contractions got much worse during feeds. Basically if you have a second baby prepare yourself for these because I was not prepared at all.

3. Milk “coming in.” I won’t get into too much detail other than to say this was the only other thing that was physically harder this time around. It hurt last time. I remember that well. But this time it was like my boobs were literally going to explode. I felt embarrassed because of how weirdly enormous and square shaped (yes this is a real thing boobs do with engorgement, being a mom is a non stop dignity parade) they were for a couple of days. And every time Ryland tried to climb in my lap or accidentally whack me with an elbow or knee I had to prevent myself from screaming out a rush of expletives that would make a sailor blush. I had to take the max doses of Tylenol and Advil round the clock and even those didn’t touch the pain too much. It sucked. But at least ended after a few days.

4. Breastfeeding has been easier in general. The good news is that after the early fun with engorgement, the whole process of breastfeeding has been easier. I think it might be partly because it’s just been about a year since I stopped breastfeeding Ryland so it’s all pretty fresh in my memory. Maybe Bobby is just a more efficient feeder. But he feeds both faster and less often than Ryland did (which was pretty much continuously the first few months). It also just feels like less of a mental stressor than last time. I think with your first, breastfeeding can feel so monumentally overwhelming in the beginning because you’re looking down what feels like an endless tunnel of 2-3 hour nursing blocks. It feels like your entire life is devoted to nursing and you’ll never be able to do anything that takes longer than 90 minutes ever again. It gets hard to imagine life without breastfeeding. It’s also such enormous PRESSURE that first time, the feeling that you are solely responsible for keeping a human alive and that if you leave your baby and he gets hungry and won’t take a bottle you’re a bad mother and letting your baby starve. I know that’s irrational but that’s how it felt, and sometimes the weight of that pressure can really mess with a first time mom’s mind. And this time around there’s some of that of course (mom guilt is always there), but it’s much less present. I know how quickly the first 6 months go, or even the first year, how soon Bobby will be eating solids and taking bottles instead of nursing, how I’ll miss breastfeeding when we stop. It makes me appreciate it all more now, soak it in a little more, the coziness and snuggles, the excuse to eat a lot (breastfeeding hunger is so much more intense than pregnancy hunger), the quiet of a nursing session when I’m out in public and need to sneak away. Last time I was so caught up in counting how far apart breastfeeding sessions were. I was so desperate to see them stretch out, to be able to tell the pediatrician she was eating every 3 hours instead of 2. It felt like that would mean getting closer to getting my life back. And this time I’m just not stressed about that. This period of life will end. And quickly. And as my currently screaming toddler so often reminds me, I will miss this sweet, lovely, squishy phase SO desperately. So even though breastfeeding can still be really hard and time consuming and exhausting, I’m not going to wish it away, even a little bit.

5. I refuse to google sleep or ready a single sleep book. Oh this was such a trap last time and such a mind f^#k. The HOURS of my life I wasted googling sleep. The stress and anxiety of comparing Ryland’s sleep habits to the babies of the internet. I drove myself insane with worry about sleep, how and when and where. About half this blog was devoted to sleep those first 6 months (go back and read the post titles and you’ll see), But at the end of all of that, after so much time googling and reading and feeling bad, we did what worked and felt right. With Ryland we co-slept and then sleep trained. She’s been sleeping through the night in her crib since about 6 months and still sleeps awesome 98%of the time. With Bobby so far we’ve done pretty much the same as we did with Ryland only with much less hand wringing and guilt. And I’ll probably sleep train him again when the time feels right. Or not. Well do what feels right and works for him as a unique baby with a unique personality. We’ll do what works for the family getting the most sleep as possible. And that’s pretty much that my friends.

6. I realize how “easy” newborns are. Granted newborns are not all the same. And Bobby is much easier than Ryland. He’s in general less fussy and more mellow. But it’s hard now to picture life with one newborn for how hard it felt back then. And it was hard. I’m not trying to minimize the experience of first time moms because I remember how much I resented that when I had Ryland, the knowing winks of parents with more than one kid, saying just wait until you have two to know hard. But here’s the thing. They were totally right. Toddlers are in so many ways harder than newborns. My alone time with Bobby now feels like I might as well not have any kids to take care of. I can lie with him in bed and watch The Crown and eat food without anyone grabbing it out of my hands. He pretty much just sleeps, eats or briefly stares around the room on his mat for his “playtime.” The waking to eat at night thing is hard but otherwise he’s kind of like a house plant who needs very frequent watering. Ryland only the other hand needs near constant attention and is loud and destructive and gets bored and whines and tantrums and is HEAVY and has giant poops and yells when she doesn’t get her way. She is HARD, like need a glass of wine at 3 kind of hard. But the reason first babies feel so hard and why I won’t minimize that is because that is by far the bigger life change
, going from no kids to 1. That’s huge. That’s life shifting hard. It rearranges all of your priorities and routines. So yes, having 2 is harder, newborns are easier. That’s all true. But I still think that the transition the second time around is much, much easier because its not that enormous existential life shift.

7. It’s less of a big deal to other people. The first time you have a kid you get flooded with visitors and meals and it’s a big deal. Second time, eh, not so much. And that’s absolutely fine and I get it because I do the same thing with people I know who’ve had multiple children. It’s just not as exciting that you’ve procreated when you’ve already done it once before.

8. There’s much less downtime. This one is kind of obvious but I still realize I really should have enjoyed my time with Ryland as a newborn a little more. I just remember lazy, endless days of sitting with her in the Boppy, watching Netflix or real housewive marathons. I could eat and drink while I nursed her. I always had snacks and water nearby. I could shower while she slept in the rock n play. Life was good.

This time is a little different. Especially when rob is at work, I typically nurse whenever Ryland is briefly occupied with food or a tv show and have to rush to stop when she inevitably gets in trouble or demands something else. Peppa Pig is on more than Bravo. I can’t have a snack or water near me unless Ryland is napping because she will try to steal/stick her hand in both of them.

I have many times had to nurse while chasing after Ryland around the house. I still shower but this time I am on high alert for the sounds of Ryland attacking her brother.

There are no leisurely days of nursing and snuggling and tv watching. We are on the move and on the go and living in chaos.

So if you’re reading this and only have one infant or are about to have your first, please, appreciate that time!!

9. I worry less. Again obvious. But things are much less terrifying . Honestly you just don’t have the time to worry. The newborn is kind of the afterthought in the house (sorry Bobby) because you’re spending so much time and energy dealing with the toddler!

10. You don’t count down/up the day/weeks. I kind of touched on this with the breastfeeding thing, but I remember with Ryland wanting time to speed up, wanting her to get bigger, to get to the next milestone or month. I was always looking forward. With Bobby I’m really trying to just live in the moment, savor every second of every day, and not wish time away at all. Because again I know now how fast it goes, how quickly this newborn phase ends. I want to live in every moment fully, as much as possible, even with the chaos and mountains of diapers and lack of sleep. Because these days are just so imperfectly perfect, so messily beautiful. These days are everything and they go so fast.

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