Postpartum: The Highlights

the postpartum post


I kept postponing this post… for a lot of reasons.  But it’s time now.  Before I forget too much.

Thinking back…
After the baby…

As a new mom– as a totally fresh, still bleeding new mom– the first thing I did when I finally got a moment to myself was cry.  It wasn’t a single, picturesque little tear down my cheek, but rather a shuddering, (though stifled) heaving sob.

It was my first night back from the hospital. My mom had come over to help me. She offered to hold the baby as I showered/got ready for sleep, so I handed her my little bundle and limped to my room. The lights were off, like all the other thoughts in my mind, as I slid onto my bed and lay prone on my stomach for the first time in over 5 months. I had imagined this moment: I used to like sleeping on my stomach, so I imagined the comfort I’d feel at being able to again lay on my tummy. But, alas, what comfort? I just felt bloated and full. Why wouldn’t I? I was still bloated and full. Then, as if on cue, the baby began to cry.

I remember rolling onto my side, wondering if I should rush hobble outside. She cried as she had cried the past two nights at the hospital. A helpless little cry that was as cute as it was forlorn. She was hungry, or cold, or lonely, or wet. And I’d tried to feed her and comfort her, but nothing seemed to work. And in that dark room, as I listened to her crying through my closed door, I cried too.

I cried because I was tired. I cried because I was overwhelmed. I cried because I didn’t know if I could help that little baby I’d so rashly brought into the world.

I didn’t go outside. Instead, I quietly cried in my bed. I cried as I undressed. And I cried in the shower.

Then I went outside and held her and she was perfect and fine.

I’ve cried a lot these past seven months. Sure, a lot of it had to do with my fluctuating hormones, but the pregnancy hormones didn’t make me crazy– they just made me more honest. They made me too tired to fake it. If I was sad, I cried. If I was angry, I cried. If I was happy, I cried. And in a lot of ways, it felt really good to cry with nothing to hide.

And, with time, of course, things got easier. Until I found myself crying less. Until I found myself laughing more. Laughing at Aria’s new discoveries, her developing habits and personality, her noises and smiles and laughs and screams. (And yes, I even laugh at her (fake) cry.)

But there’s so much more to “postpartum recovery” than crying less.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to talk about the physical recovery. I remember just shrugging and saying “it’s okay” or “it’s getting there” when people asked how I was doing. And I knew they cared and that they would do what they could to help, but I just couldn’t bring myself to explain how I really felt. There’s just too much.

The immediate trauma of birth is astounding. Having lived through it once (with the marvel if modern medicine), I can see why so many women have died and still die from it.

Mine was an “uncomplicated” vaginal delivery. A long labor, yes, but no major issues. I pushed for two hours and she was born healthy and pink.

But pushing for two hours left me with two second degree tears, some undisclosed number of stitches (I didn’t ask), and hemmroids.

My god. The hemmroids. Even just thinking about them makes my bum hurt. I’ve had hemmroids before but these postpartum hemmroids were like nothing I had experienced or could have even imagined. I felt like my bottom was falling out. Pooping was terrifying. Any degree of pushing felt like I was passing glass. GLASS. But, at the same time, I felt like I had no control– when I had to go, I had to go.

And oh the blood. I didn’t see the blood I shed during delivery. (Though K did and he doesn’t like to talk about it.) But all the blood after was… difficult to manage. I bled pretty heavily for about 8 weeks (and lightly for a other 5). But an ultrasound confirmed that there was no remnant tissue so it was “okay.” Just incredibly annoying. Much like the inability to sit for any prolonged period of time. (Open wounds on and around your bum = severely unpleasant sitting experience.)

Breastfeeding was a different kind of challenge. I was not prepared for the pain of breastfeeding. Yes, I knew it would hurt (thank you YouTube and all the Mommy bloggers), but just how much it hurts can never really be conveyed. I would describe it as sandpaper rubbing against your nipple. Nonstop. Sandpaper.

After about three days I wanted to give up so I tried pumping. The milk came out pink due to all the blood mixed in with it. Apparently that’s fine– some mommy blood along with breastmilk won’t harm baby, but it’s damn painful for mommy. Literally, blood and sweat to feed my child.

I was producing enough milk to feed Aria so breastfeeding became a mental challenge: Take a breath, let her latch, grit my teeth though the initial shock of pain, then try to relax. It only hurt in the beginning and only for the first three weeks (so they promised), so I decided to keep at it. Then, like magic, at about three weeks postpartum, it stopped hurting. 🙂 #victory

But breastfeeding is hard, even beyond the literal physical pain of it. It’s exhausting. It feels like all my energy, and fluids, are getting sucked out. When she starts eating, I suddenly become extremely thirsty. On days I forget to drink enough water, I’m so dehydrated I can barely function. In fact although I’m still breastfeeding, it’s led to severe dry skin. K looked at my face the other day and frowned. “You look diseased,” he said, concerned. I shrugged, “I guess I am. It’s eczema, exacerbated by the breastfeeding.” (It looks really bad. I’ve taken some photos, but I’m not ready to share yet.)

Breastfeeding is hard. It gets easier, but it’s never just easy.

I guess that’s what being a parent is like: It gets easier, but it’s never just easy.

There are better days, there are worse days. There are days I cry in the dark, careful not to wake my baby; and there are days I laugh with her and kiss her till she squeals. There are days I want to quit; there are days I don’t want to imagine a life without her.

Honestly, there’s a lot I’m not quite ready to talk about– about the real physical recovery and mental struggle of being a new mom, and I might write about that later.  But, sometimes it’s okay to let yourself forget some things.  Sometimes, it’s better to just remember the highlights.  Life moves too fast to linger on the past.  Sometimes.


My Labor & Delivery Story

Well, I suppose this won’t be much of a story.  I’m still sore and very tired, thus not really up for composing any kind of compelling narrative.  But I wanted to get this down before I forget everything…..




The Start:
I believe my labor began at about 9pm Sunday, October 1.  Or at least that’s when I noticed contractions coming in at fairly even intervals (about 20 min apart).  I let K know, texted my mom, and then went to bed because I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do.

The contractions weren’t too bad, but they did wake me every 20 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 12 minutes.  By about 2am, the contractions were about 10 minutes apart and much stronger.  I crawled out of bed and sat on my yoga birthing ball, which (surprisingly) helped A LOT.  I breathed through my contractions from about 2am to 7am when I woke up K.  The contractions were about 8 minutes apart then.  I was very tired, and a little bit scared.


The Hospital, part 1:
We had a 9am appointment for a NST/AFI test (my fluid levels had been low for a few days– actually, we’d been to the hospital every day since Thursday… so this was really our fourth trip to the hospital in as many days). But we called to see if I should go to the testing center or to Labor and Delivery (L&D).  The nurse said to go to L&D so that’s where we went.

At L&D we learned that my cervix was just 1cm dilated and my contractions were coming in steadily at 7 min apart.  Good progress, definitely early labor, but definitely not ready to be admitted.  Fluid levels were okay and baby’s heart beat was strong.  Thus, all I could do was go home, labor some more, come back when it gets worse.


Well, yeah, worse.  It really wasn’t THAT bad… at that time.

Before we left, they offered me a shot of morphine — to “take the edge off.”  But K and I googled the side effects of morphine in labor and freaked out and I FOOLISHLY said “it’s okay, I’ll try to labor through it without the morphine.”  LOL. NEWBIE MISTAKE.  Sure, the contractions weren’t that bad at that time, but they were about to get A LOT worse.


Laboring at Home:
To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember this part very clearly.  My mom came by at some point and cooked a bit and just waited for me.  It was nice to have her to talk to.  K was exhausted and took a nap.

I do remember that at about 2pm, the contractions got really bad.  I couldn’t sit through them anymore so I stood, leaning against one of our barstools.  Somehow, leaning and lifting my weight off of my feet helped.  I remember telling myself that each contraction only lasts about a minute.  And I remember that once I shut my eyes and braced through the pain, the minute actually went by fairly quickly.  It was bearable — well, no, it wasn’t, but I had to bear it, and I did, thus it was bearable.  It wasn’t like I could just press a cancel button.  Though I think I fantasized about that at one point.

Then it got even worse.

What does “worse” mean 15 hours into labor?

Well, I started shaking.  I don’t know why I started shaking.  One of the nurses later explained it was likely in part the pain, and in part my fluctuating hormones.  But damn, those contractions hurt.  I remember leaning onto the stool, shaking uncontrollably as I tried to breathe through my contractions.  Then, at some point, my mom had had enough and told me it was time to go to the hospital.  I hesitated because I didn’t want to just get sent back home again.  But I had a few more contractions and decided I needed help.  At the very least, I’d go to the hospital, ask for that shot of morphine, and then come back home.

“K! Let’s go. I need to go to the hospital.”

He hustled awake and we were back in the truck driving to the hospital.


The Hospital, part 2:
Again, the beginning part of this phase is a bit blurry.  I remember we parked and then I got out of the car and started walking towards the elevator.  Then I had a contraction and had to stop moving.  It was about 4pm and a nurse going home noticed us.  She asked if I was alright or if I’d need a wheelchair.  I waited for the contraction to pass and then said I’ll try to walk– honestly, I didn’t want to sit.  Sitting made my back hurt and made me feel more helpless, but maybe I should have accepted a wheelchair.  Regardless, I kept walking, clutching onto K (likely cutting off any circulation to his hands).

We were about 20 feet from L&D when I suddenly had another contraction.  It wasn’t any different from the others but, for reasons still unknown to me, I started crying.  I felt my eyes prickle and my face got hot, and all of a sudden I was sobbing.  Like great big heaving sobs as I shook my head trying to say “I don’t know why I’m crying. I’m okay. I’m okay.” (Obviously, I wasn’t “okay.” But I also wasn’t really thinking straight. Obviously.)  (Also, my poor mother, I think I really freaked her out.)

Standing there, crying, I felt a bit like a fool.  Weak, somehow.  Embarrassed.

In retrospect, I know I shouldn’t have felt foolish or embarrassed at all.  I was in labor.  That’s a big deal.  But, at the time, I felt like I’d failed something, somehow.  (I’m sure there’s a whole essay I can write on those feelings, but now is not the time…)

I did get over my irrational sense of shame fairly quickly because the nurses were so great.  They got me into a triage room, made sure I felt calm and safe, and quickly got some morphine ready for me.  Throughout my whole stay at the hospital, the nurses were really SO SO SO amazing.  They were attentive, competent, kind, patient, responsive… I’m running out of adjectives, but I hope you get the picture.  I felt really good in their care.

Anyway, I got a shot of morphine on my butt 🙂 (my first butt shot).  And settled into my bed waiting to hear from the doctor.  Then, as if on cue, my water broke.

It felt a little bit like a fart.  It was a soft pop somewhere down below and then I felt the water running through me.  It felt like a lot of water, but when I looked at the “puddle” later, it really wasn’t that much.  It also felt like victory– FINALLY!  My water broke!  I get to stay at the hospital!  My labor is getting somewhere!  Soon it’ll all be over!  YASSS!

Lol… noob.  I had no idea…


After the Flood:
We moved into our room.  (At our hospital, we labor and deliver in the same private room.  It’s really nice and convenient.  We were also really blessed in that we got a really big room with windows and a clear view outside.)

I labored and labored some more until a nurse came in at about 9pm and asked me about my pain. Maybe the morphine was helping a lot and my pain was just getting worse, but I didn’t think the morphine was doing anything.  So I was offered Fentanyl.  I learned my lesson with the morphine and enthusiastically accepted the kind offer of more narcotics.




So good.

It started working almost instantly and I actually fell asleep.  I felt no pain– I could feel the contractions in a sense but I felt NO PAIN.



Such wonder.

Sadly, it only lasted about an hour, but it was such a sweet hour. I felt like a new person after that hour of sleep. I felt like “I can do this!”

When the nurse returned, she said I could get another dose of Fentanyl or start an epidural.  I didn’t want a catheter just yet so I asked “Please, ma’am, I want some more.”  She kindly obliged.  Angel.  Such an angel.

I also took a tiny magic pill to help my cervix dilate.

At this point, my recollection of events begins to blur together.  Maybe it was the fatigue, maybe it was all the drugs I was on.  But, as you can see by my summary here, I started getting a little loopy 🙂

Anyway, the second dose of Fentanyl lasted just shy of an hour, but when the nurse came back, my cervix had dilated to 6cm.  This was great news!  Not only would I not need Pitocin, but I could get my epidural and just chill.


The Epidural:
I confess I was a little bit afraid of the epidural.  In part due to the potential side effects, also just the idea of a giant needle in my spine.

WELL, silly me.  It was totally painless.  Or, maybe about as painful as the flu shot.

It was a system where I can administer myself more “epidural” by pressing a button, but I was careful not to press it too much.  But it was still very effective and I got some much needed sleep until I woke up to the nurse frantically trying to turn me right then left then right then left.


The Disappearing Heartbeat:
I would say that the hardest part of my labor was the laboring at home.  Physical pain is one thing, but psychological uncertainty, which leads to anxiety, is even worse (in my opinion).  When I was at home, I didn’t know if the labor was progressing as it “should” or if something was wrong and stalling.  That uncertainty stressed me out and compounded any physical discomfort I was experiencing.  Once I was at the hospital and hooked up to all the monitors, I relaxed a bit.  Weird, I know.  But I really don’t mind the machines as long as they give me useful information (which they did).

For the most part, my stay at the hospital was uneventful– it was a healthy, safe labor and birth… except for one part– sometime in the early, dark hours of October 3, the baby’s heartbeat started dropping dramatically.  It went from a 140bpm average down to 80– and kept dropping.

I was a little too out of it to fully process what was going on, but K was awake.  As the nurses worked to try and find/stabilize the baby’s heartbeat, I looked over and saw K pacing back and forth, craning his neck trying to see what was going on.  (Tools went in, blood came out, the machine beeped and didn’t beep… it was probably pretty freaky.)  I didn’t know enough to be afraid, but I was a little worried.  In such a situation, what can you do but pray, right?

It ended up being fine.  Apparently, the baby didn’t like me rolling onto my side, or changing my position at all, so I was stuck on my back for the rest of the labor.  In addition, as a result of the fluctuating heartbeat, we had a small team of pediatricians when I finally delivered just to make sure the baby was 100% okay (spoiler: she was perfectly 100% okay).


Push, Push, Push:
By noon, my contractions were 3 minutes apart and I was ready to push.  I remember debating whether or not I should push my epidural button a few times just to “get ready.”  I could move both of my legs and feel the labor in my back so I knew it was wearing off, but I didn’t want to be so numb that I couldn’t feel how I was pushing.  Ah, choices.  I pushed the button three times. :3

I started pushing with just one nurse and K holding up my legs.  There’s a learning curve to pushing in labor, but I figured it out quickly enough, I think.  And no, it’s not really like trying to take a poop.

I remember feeling each contraction starting up and getting ready to push.  A small part of me was worried about tearing, another tiny part was worried about me pooping, most of me just wanted to get it all over with.

The pushing really wasn’t that bad.  Tiring yes, but pushing through each contraction felt really good.

I pushed for almost exactly 2 hours and then she came out.  I remember the final push… I could feel her head moving down and I was worried that if I stopped pushing too soon, her face would get squashed and she’d get a flat nose– weird thing to think, huh?  hehehe… but she came out in all her twisty, slimy glory and I finally relaxed.

Or, actually, I think I may have blacked out for just a moment.  I remember groaning, really loudly, when she came out; I remember seeing the doctor pull her up; I think I saw a flash of K’s face looking mildly confused as he leaned in to cut the cord; and then I felt her all slimy on my belly.  But it was all flashes, and I can’t remember the connecting pieces.

I guess that’s okay.

I was pretty tired.

But I do remember the doctor calling out the time.  It was 2:19pm, October 3, 2017.



gender disappointment?

No, not really. But a little bit, yeah.

About a month ago, we learned that we will be having a girl.  It came as a bit of a surprise because I’d thought — I’d felt so sure — that I was carrying a boy.  But no, regardless of whatever symptoms I’d been having or how low or how high I’d been carrying, the little human in my belly is a girl.

She is developing well and I pray every day that she will grow to be strong and healthy, beautiful and smart, kind and loving.  And I’m so grateful that I am having at least one girl.  However, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a small part of me that is a little bit sad that she is a she.  Because, having lived as one for over 30 years, it’s hard being a girl.

And no, I don’t mean the physical aspects of a monthly period or wearing bras or even pregnancy– though I am also a little bit sad she’ll one day have to go through all of this.   (But it’s weird because I also pray that she will one day be able to experience all of this with a partner as wonderful as her father).

No, I mean that it’s hard being a girl in this world.  Much harder, I think, than it is to be a boy.

And it’s not that I’m afraid that she will fall short in any way — far from it, I have every faith and confidence that she will excel in all things that she will put her mind to; that she will flourish and BE A BOSS.  However!  However… I am afraid that it will be unfairly difficult.

It makes me sad to think that she will work hard to be the best candidate for a role, but her work and competence (frankly, her excellence) will be dismissed and she will be criticized as being “overprepared.”

It makes me sad to think that she will have to push harder than her less competent male counterparts for an equal spot at the table– and more likely than not, still be pushed back out with a false narrative to tarry her work when others fail to deliver their end.

It makes me sad to think that despite her brilliance, she will be interrupted and belittled by ignorant, insecure men and even other women who fail to see past the biases built into their lives.

It breaks my heart that she will be objectified, victimized, and undervalued again and again and again.  And that she will have to stand alone to remind herself that THEY are the ones that are wrong.

I fear for her.  I fear for her healthcare.  I fear for her safety.  I fear for her voice and identity and gifts.

It should be a beautiful thing– to be a girl.  To be a girl who will grow up to be a woman who will be a mother and a role model and a source of strength for an entire family.  But, so often, it’s just … really hard.

So am I disappointed?

Not with her.  No, never with her.  But certainly with the world we’ve given her.


the scorpion and the frog

One of my favorite fables is that of the scorpion and the frog.  Here it is, as I would retell it:

One hot, sunny day, a scorpion stood at the edge of a river.  He watched the water moving swiftly past him, stopping him from crossing.  And though the sun grew hotter, the water never slowed.  Seeing no way across, the scorpion turned to leave when, suddenly, he spotted a small, green frog swimming in the water.

“Ho! Good frog!” the scorpion called, “Would you be so kind as to carry me across?”

The frog paused, considering the scorpion.  “No,” he finally said. 

“But why?  Surely it would cost you nothing, for you can easily cross both land and water,” the scorpion reasoned.

“Because you will sting me,” the frog explained.  “And then I will die.”

“Ah,” said the scorpion, understanding the frog’s hesitation. “Normally, such may be the case.  However, I would not bite you here.  For if I bit you, we would both drown and die.”

Again the frog paused, considering the scorpion.  “True,” he conceded.  He glanced up at the sun.  “It is very hot?  Have you been waiting long at the river’s edge?”

“Very long.  And I only wish to cross and be on my way,” the scorpion honestly explained.

Feeling pity for the scorpion, the frog slowly approached the bank.  “Very well.  I shall carry you across.”

Delighted, the scorpion crawled onto the frog’s back.  “Thank you, my friend!” he cheerfully exclaimed.

And so the frog swam into the river, carrying the scorpion on his back.  But mid-stream, the frog felt a sting.  And as his arms and legs grew numb, paralysis slowly seeping down his limbs, he knew he’d been betrayed. 

Fast water rushed past his shoulders and neck. And as he struggled to draw breath, he turned one final time to find the scorpion crouched nervously on his back.  “But, why?” he gasped.

As the scorpion woefully watched the rising water around him, he turned to face the dying frog.  “Because it is my nature,” he whispered.

babymoon in Italy

babymoon in Italy

I’m not a traveler.  I’m a home-body.  A couch potato.  Introvert.  Recluse… the list goes on.  But my K… oh, my K… he’s a traveler.  He loves adventure.  He loves the outdoors.  He loves seeing new things, meeting new people, experiencing all that the world has to offer.  It’s a good thing.  But exhausting for a potato like myself.

Well, we haven’t had a proper vacation in a long time.  We’ve had little weekend trips, but no real adventure-vacations in a long time… or was it ever?  We couldn’t even have a honeymoon due to my work.  And then when I quit, K took an iOS bootcamp.  When he finished, I started working again.  All that to say, no vacay for us as a couple.


We took 2 weeks off and went to Italy.  Specifically, we stopped by Rome, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and Venice.  It was lovely (even though I was grumpy 30% of the time and suffered a minor meltdown– likely due to pregnancy hormones).  All in all, I think the highlight of the trip was just spending time with my K.  Sappy, right?  Yes, but really– I like him a lot.  He’s wonderful even when I’m crazy.  I married well 🙂

About the header image:
This is Florence.  Its beautiful there.  And that Duomo is really really beautiful.  I picked this image to lead this post because 1) Florence was my favorite, and 2) so much of my view this trip was of K holding up that GoPro.

I hated that GoPro for about 3 days.  All I wanted was to hold hands with my husband and walk down the streets like any other normal touristing couple.  But no.  He was filming.  WHY?  WHY???  Well, because he liked it; and because he wanted to remember it.  And every night, he’d upload the clips and begin editing them.  It took hours.  But he liked it… I think.  And looking at the videos now, I’m both impressed and grateful.

See?  I married well 🙂

We both have awful memories… so we do what we can to preserve it.  I write.  He takes photos and videos.

Here are a few highlights from the trip, as recorded by K:

my memory’s such a fickle thing

my memory’s such a fickle thing

Tomorrow, I’ll be 16 weeks pregnant.  What is that?  Roughly 4 months?

It sounds like that’s a long while to have been pregnant.  And yet, it feels like no time has passed at all.

We didn’t plan for this baby.  To be honest, I wanted it; but I didn’t think I was ready.  I was six months into a new job.  And about three months clinically depressed.  With those conditions, it isn’t the best kind of planning to jump in and make a baby.  And yet, we did.  Mostly by accident.  Entirely by grace.

Sometimes when I stop to think about what it all means–what the future might bring and how I might fail, I get a little scared.  But I’m thankful.  Immensely and indescribably thankful.  And I’m happy.  Happier than I’ve been in more years than I can remember.  It’s probably just the hormones.  Still, I want to remember all of it.

But, I’ve got a terrible memory.  It’s a good thing, in a lot of ways.  I don’t really hold grudges and I never get hung up on “bad” things from the past.  But, obviously, I often forget a lot of the good things I want to remember.  Maybe that’s why I like writing.  I like writing– memories, ideas, stories; bits of life; bits of fiction.  But I haven’t been writing.  I get tired these days.  Tired and sleepy… and congested with terrible headaches.  So I haven’t been writing.  But I ought to.

I’ve already forgotten a lot from the past 16 weeks.  As short or as long as it’s been.  I’ve forgotten what it felt like to come home after work and sink into the sofa unable to move because I was so tired and nauseous.  I forgot what it felt like after eating anything at all– hormonal indigestion turning all my food into lead.  I forgot waking up to new pimples every morning wondering if I’ll ever see my skin again.  I forgot the gagging and retching that ripped up from my gut every morning, and afternoon, and evening.

But I remember remembering.  If that makes sense.  I remember with my brain that it really didn’t feel good.  And I remember worrying that I wasn’t eating enough, and staring at my prenatal vitamin wondering if I’d be able to keep it down long enough for it’s magic percentages of vitamins and minerals to get to the baby.  And I remember rolling over, away from the small puddle of my own spit on the blanket I was using as a pillow on the couch, thinking only, “Nerugh, too tired. Must sleep more.”  And I remember waking up, sweating and shaking, struggling to hear through the ringing in my brain as my vision cleared and I waved at the attendant helping me, “No. No ambulance, please. I’m fine. I’m fine.” –I’d just fainted in public; apparently my blood pressure and blood sugar had tanked.  Yes, I remember remembering.

But it’s so strange that I don’t remember what it all felt like.  And there’s a small part of my brain that whispers, “It wasn’t so bad. You could do it again. You feel fine now.”  And I really do feel fine now.  Or fine(r).  I did take a four hour nap today.  And my stomach feels like bloated ball of dough that was kneaded for too long and left to dry in the sun.  But, I can eat… a lot.  And I’m neither constantly dizzy nor nauseous.  And even my skin’s clearing up.  Sort of.  I’m enjoying my pregnancy.  I’ve enjoyed my pregnancy.  All 16 weeks.

And so I’m writing.  To remember later, when I’ve forgotten.