Thursday, January 21, 2016

Invaluable Postpartum Support

After sharing so many details about my pregnancy and birth, I'm suddenly at a loss for words when it comes to discussing my first few weeks after having Aldo. But, I'll try my best to do my experience justice.

I look back at my first weeks as a mother and, besides a teeny-tiny Aldo, I just remember the heat, the haze and the pain. Our house was hot, my mind was hazy and my body hurt. I didn't get much sleep and I was very emotional. After the euphoria of the first two days, my brain went into some sort of "animal mode". I was completely and utterly changed. I can't remember a time in my life when I cried so much and so often. I was overwhelmed with my new job as a mother, the pain of breastfeeding and the lack of sleep. My tailbone changed position during the birth, so laying in bed, reclining and sitting were uncomfortable and my entire lower back hurt. And, my love for Aldo and Patrick threatened to burst my heart with every beat.

Heart Bursting!

There's now evidence that A woman's brain changes dramatically when she has a baby, and I can definitely attest to that. Now 7 months into motherhood, I'm comfortable with that change, but the sudden shift was difficult to deal with at first. Like birth, the postpartum experience is vastly different for every woman. I had a relatively easy birth, and a somewhat hard postpartum. Like I suspected during my 3rd trimester, there really was no way to prepare myself for the experience. All I could do was rely on my support system. And that's exactly what I did.

Hanging out in bed with newborn Aldo

Our very first visitor after Aldo was born was my dear friend, Aubrey. I witnessed Aubrey's beautiful home birth only two months before and planned for her to be at mine. Of course, that didn't work out, but she came as soon as she could get her baby girl and two-year-old (who, by the way, shares her birthday with Aldo) out the door the morning of his birth. She walked in our bedroom wearing her gorgeous baby, gave me a big hug, cooed over Aldo and listened with a genuine smile as I told her how awesome I did. She brought a huge thermos full of delicious smoothie and made us a big breakfast. She welcomed me to the mom club.

Next was my sister-in-law, Alyssa. She made us a healthy lunch, took our dog, Scout, out for some playtime and gave Aldo the love of a newly made Aunt. I was once a newly made Aunt, and can remember clearly the obsession I had with my first niece. I was so proud to have given that gift to Alyssa. And so grateful that my son had an Aunt in town who would cherish and spoil him for years to come. Alyssa came back many times in those first few weeks to help around the house and make sure Scout got her exercise.

Alyssa took this picture the afternoon of Aldo's birth. she made that delish salad on my bedside table.

My mom arrived the morning after Aldo was born. She stayed with us for the first two weeks. She cooked, cleaned and basically waited on me hand and foot. She took Aldo in the mornings so that Patrick and I could get some sleep. She rubbed my back as I cried in bed. She didn't think twice about my new need to be topless. This was her fifth time taking care of a daughter after a birth, and it was obvious she knew what she was doing.

Mom holding newborn Aldo

My sisters came to stay with us in the first two weeks, too. Both of my sisters have two kids. One of my sisters, Amy, had a three month old baby, so she was not so far removed from the experience, herself. My sisters helped me immensely in the weeks after Aldo's arrival. They reminded me over and over that the first two weeks were the hardest and that it would get easier. They assured me that breastfeeding would eventually turn from being painful to being joyful (they were so right). And they made me laugh. That in itself was an invaluable gift.

My sisters making me laugh as I breastfeed Aldo

By the time my in-laws came to visit, I was 4 weeks out and feeling much better. I was getting comfortable with breastfeeding and my emotions were starting to even out. My back still hurt, but I was seeing my chiropractor twice a week and that was helping. I am lucky to have very caring, loving and generous in-laws. I felt comfortable breastfeeding around them, didn't feel silly when it was obvious that my brain had turned to mush and enjoyed their thoughtful support. Aldo is their first grandchild and, like with his Aunt Alyssa, I felt proud to give them that gift. Watching them love him is such a joy.

Patrick wearing 2-week-old Aldo

Most enduring of all was the love and support of my husband, Patrick. When I watched him slip effortlessly into the role of fatherhood, I fell in love with him all over again. I fell for him harder than I ever had before. I watched him with our son and I knew to my core that I had made the smartest move in my life when I married him. The first few weeks were hard for him, too, but he was steadfast in his love and strong support. Because I had Aldo in the weeks between his grad school graduation and first post-grad job, he was home with us for the first two months. He cooked, cleaned, changed diapers and wore Aldo around in the sling. He gave me long, reassuring hugs when I cried. Watching me go through the enormous change of motherhood alarmed him at first, but he had the patience to listen to me as I tried to explain what I was going through (which, by the way, is impossible). Eventually, he grew and changed with me, and I am so grateful for that.

My entry about postpartum ended up turning into one giant, lovey-dovey Thank You note, but I think that's how it should be. Thank you so much to every member of my family and to all of my friends for giving me and our new little family so much love, support and happiness. I love you all so much!

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