Thursday, December 13, 2012

The first 6 weeks postpartum: some hard realities

I wanted to post about some of the harder realities of my transition to new motherhood. This time has been filled with many wonderous moments, grant you (please don't ever mistake that!), which I hope some of my previous posts have conveyed, but there have also been a number of difficult ones. Some of our lack of preparedness is because we couldn't really imagine we were having a baby until... well... we had the baby. I "knew" that we appeared to be having a living child, but emotionally, after six consecutive losses, it was a different story. Even up to the day of the induction, it felt dangerous to presume we were taking home a baby. That may sound strange, but we've had so much loss, it just felt perilous. And so my preparations - both  physically in terms of buying necessary baby things - and psychological - were a bit on the scanty side. Whatever your loss history, having a baby is a watershed experience. Somewhat of a "You don't know until you know." And everyone's experience is different. Add to that strong cultural mores that you are "supposed" to be only thrilled and happy.

If baby is healthy, then the rest doesn't matter. Right?


Well, I'd argue that if baby is not healthy, nothing else matters, but that it is ok to have feelings about the way things go down in your labor and delivery and postpartum. And I'm going to write about it, in case it is helpful to someone else:

Physical recovery after c-section: I had no idea about what to expect, because, well, I wasn't planning on having a c-section. In fact, I was naively certain I wouldn't need one (ha! ha!) because my provider has such a low c-section rate and I was so prepared to give birth (ha again!). But a c-section was needed (more on this when I share our birth story). So in addition to the emotional adjustment to the reality I found myself in, I was also very surprised to find that the initial few weeks after a c-section leave you pretty helpless physically. Initially, I was unable to roll over and had trouble getting up from a sitting position. I couldn't lift Magpie if she was in a bassinet beside the bed, which made it tough to room-in in the hospital unless Will or someone else was there at all times. All of this was magnified by the fact that Will's paternity leave was eradicated by Hurricane Sandy, as he was called into the hospital basically as soon as I was discharged home. Magpie and I were on our own. And we were physically not ready for it.

Emotional recovery after c-section: Also rough. I was sad about the way our labor and Magpie's arrival went. It felt chaotic and scary and I missed a number of things that I had looked forward to. I remember during the c-section, right before everything went to hell in a handbasket and the anesthesia failed, hearing a baby cry after they pulled her from my belly. And I thought, literally,

What is that sound? 
Oh, it's a baby. 
Why is there a baby crying in the operating room?
And then a few moments later...puzzled...Oh - that's our baby?!

It all felt so disconnected. I don't know her Apgars, I didn't get to see the placenta or umbilical cord (which I had wanted to), I never saw Magpie until she was all nicely cleaned and wrapped and hatted maybe 10 or 15 minutes later. I had moments of disbelief days later, this crazy idea that she had not actually come from inside of me. Maybe they had a room full of babies somewhere in labor and delivery and they'd just brought her into the OR to us from another room. Ludicrous, of course.

When one of a parade of lactation consultants came to the house and suggested I strip Magpie naked to weigh her before feeding, I stripped her to her diaper. When the woman commented to take off the diaper, I almost said, "But she came like this." The idea of my daughter naked felt odd for quite a while, as I hadn't seen her naked for days after her birth.

Talking to friends later, one asked, "Did you just have the most incredible high after giving birth?" The answer is no. I felt wrecked physically and emotionally. I'd been through 36 hours of labor and a rough c-section due to the anesthesia problem. When my friend asked that, it amplified some of the losses I was already processing from having had Magpie delivered in the way that she was.

I want to say that I don't think I was entitled to some wonderous type of birth experience, or that I expected my body to "know" how to give birth (which I've read people say), or anything of the sort. Obviously my body didn't "know" how to get pregnant, stay pregnant, get un-pregnant...and the list goes on. And thankfully, with medical technology, we've been able to overcome multiple hurdles along the way. But there was still a sense of loss with the way things went. I had strongly hoped to deliver vaginally, and I hadn't expected a c-section, if needed, to be so sudden and abrupt and without any of the human side of things as it was (in a non-emergency situation). I had thought there would still be some excitement: an announcement of "Here she is!" rather than no acknowledgement the doctors had her out and then hearing her faint disconnected and disembodied cry from across the room. I certainly didn't expect to have so much pain during the operation itself. I've moved on, mostly, and Magpie is certainly incredible however she got here, but there was an emotional loss.

Hormones/Mood: All I can say is Wow. This has all straightened itself out now but those first few weeks. Oh. My. I felt like some kind of combo animal-child. So emotional that I would burst into tears talking to Will. Not always unhappy, sometimes just moved, literally, to tears, but really, really intense emotions all around. I am someone who feels things very deeply but tends to keep a good lid on it. And in addition to deep emotions, I am strongly rational, and I tend to lead with the rational (or try to). For me, immediately postpartum, that went out the window.  I was a ball o' emotion. I felt needy and shaky, and...almost primitive. It didn't last that long (a little over a week?), but it was something I did not expect and haven't experienced before.

Bonding: I had realistic expectations on this I psychologist friends warned me - you will be thrilled Magpie is here, but you will not immediately love her. And I didn't. She was exquisite and lovely, and I felt very protective of her, but I did not instantly love her or feel that I "knew" her. This has grown. I now look at her and can't help smiling. I look at her and am incredulous at her perfectness. At her presence. I feel a growing bond each day. But it wasn't instantaneous. Not by a long shot. I'm glad I'd been warned about this so I didn't beat myself up about it. I look at her now and am just suffused with affection for her. But it wasn't instantaneous.

Breastfeeding: I envisioned Magpie suckling at my breast, milk dripping down from the sides of her mouth. Her content, me content. I imagined myself rolling over to her co-sleeper at night and the two of us doing dream feeds. Ah bliss.

Well, not so much. Magpie never could latch on properly in the hospital. She she lost 13% of her birthweight while we were there and they mandated that I introduce formula using a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to stem her weight loss. Within a few days at home, my milk came in, I started a crazy pumping schedule, and was able to forego the formula and feed her breast milk through the tube.

But breastfeeding itself wasn't happening. Magpie's tongue was severely tied. We ended up having three procedures with an ENT to help free it up. She just plain couldn't get her mouth open enough or her tongue in the right position to eat. We limped along with the SNS for a while - a cumbersome tube taped to my breast, my nipples cracked and bleeding. Each feed took over an hour. It was brutal. But even with the SNS, she still couldn't get enough milk and wasn't gaining weight. She dropped 20 percentile points on the growth chart. I grew increasingly despairing. Finally, we introduced the Haberman feeder, a bottle made for babies with feeding issues. It's been a life saver.

But now Magpie isn't so interested in the breast. And I am fighting recurrent blocked ducts and repeated bouts of mastitis. We are still working on it. I haven't given up, but for now it's an exclusive pumping relationship. And although I am incredibly grateful to be able to provide milk for her from my body, it is not at all what I imagined...

Isolation: I am a person who loves being alone. So when I thought about my maternity leave, I looked forward to it. I did not imagine feeling so cut off from others, almost as though I am under house arrest. Some of this, no doubt, is due to the fact that my family lives across the country. But the other part is that I am really stuck in a way I hadn't anticipated. It is hard to get out - especially as an exclusive pumper (for now, at least) with our relentless every two hour feeding schedule followed by pumping. Magpie takes about an hour to eat, and then my pumping takes a good 30-40 minutes (long, I know). And then with a diaper change and some burping, it is time to eat again. The heavy hospital grade pump is not transportable. And while it is wonderful and has made giving her breast milk possible, the hospital pump means that I have to be home every three hours minimum to pump during the day.

Fatigue: This one is a no-brainer, I suppose. And it was not unexpected. I am tired. Bone tired. I knew I would be. What I didn't realize is that I would be so bad at sleep deprivation. You hear people say all the time: sleep when the baby sleeps. Well, when Magpie is sleeping, yours truly is usually pumping. There's no sleeping here. And then at night, same drill, feeding followed by pumping. There is some sleep then, but very interrupted. Something like 1 or 2 hours of sleep followed by usually about 2 hours of is not enough sleep for a geriatric mom like myself. So still trying to come up with a better plan for this, or a better way to handle this. Not sure how long it will be until it gets a bit better, because with the pumping I'm not seeing how I could sleep through the night, even if Magpie did. And right now, I wake her to feed over night a few times because her weight gain has been so problematic. But hopefully would be so nice.

So these are some of the tougher parts of new parenthood. Some expected, some not as much. Some of these things may seem trivial, and they are. I would go through anything to be able to parent Ms. Magpie. No questions even asked. But I wanted to be honest about the tough parts in addition to all the joys. In case it is helpful to someone else heading down the same paths.


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  1. Oh sweetie--I'm sorry it's been so hard. For what it's worth, I think almost everything really does just keep getting easier/better. Though the sleep thing? Yeah, that just plain sucks for a while. (sorry!)

    Was bummed not to see you last weekend, maybe we can get together over Christmas-time?

  2. Exactly on the sleep thing. I was also really bad at it. I look back at my blog posts and can't believe how coherent they sound when I was obviously in a fog.

    I love your very honest post and just know that it does get better each and every day (and sometimes there's two steps back).

  3. Usually a lurker (a long-time one though) and I just wanted to say that I am so glad you posted this. I am about to hopefully deliver my own little girl and I am finding it hard already to balance the expectations of others with the reality. So, thanks. I have a feeling this is a post I will come back to again and again.

  4. Never commented before... long time reader. Not sure if this would work for you but thought I would share. Also an exclusive pumper here (my son is now 9 months). I usually feed him and pump at the same time. Saves some time. Getting more difficult now that he is mobile and done before me, but worked really well for us in the beginning. Also, after he gained enough weight and we stopped having to wake him at night, I also stopped pumping at night. I have usually mirrored his eating schedule with my pumping even after going back to work. Thought I would share if it is of any benefit to you.

  5. Oh Mo, I'm sorry you've had such a rough road in new motherhood. I'm just over a year ahead of you, and I PROMISE: it gets better. Easier. You'll get more sleep. I promise. My motto back then was: one foot in front of the other, just one single step at a time. One feeding. One pumping. One errand.

    I had an unexpected c section too, and I have that same feeling of "did this child really come out of me?" I still have it. She is a clone of her father so I really don't feel like there's any of me in there - which is fine because obviously I love him, and her - but it almost catches me off guard when I remember that my genes are in there somewhere. I was laid down on a table, and then suddenly there was a baby. There's a disconnect in my brain somewhere about that. I know she's his, but I don't know she's mine. And, I didn't love her immediately either. I was overwhelmingly grateful to God for a baby, but it took me a month or so to start loving her. I went away for the weekend around two months and did not cry. Leaving her for that long now is excruciating.

    Breastfeeding - have you thought of buying or borrowing a portable pump? I have the Medela pump in style tote which is hospital grade (and, IMHO, excellent). If you borrow one, you just get new tubing and sucker-things. You can travel with it; it's lightweight, and there's even a car adapter. Yes, I pumped while driving on occasion. Efficiency!

    Isolation - again, just hang on. It will get better. Magpie will sleep. She'll go longer stretches without needing to eat. I promise. You're in the trenches now but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    One other trick. You didn't say how much you're pumping, but you could try fenugreek to increase your milk supply. It's inexpensive, without side effects (except that you'll smell like maple syrup, which can cover up that new-mother-covered-in-poo-and-spitup-haven't-showered-in-days perfume) and incredibly effective. I took two pills four times daily and my supply shot up within three days. I did this three times over the course of our breastfeeding journey. Maybe if you aren't pumping that much now, you could try it to see if it helps. If you can get more out of each pumping session, maybe you could drop a middle of the night pumping session which would help you get that coveted sleep :)

    Hang in there. Soon you'll be looking back on her newborn days, still exhausted but not bone tired, and actually having showered and eaten properly, wondering how she grew up so fast. It's tough to do but treasure this time. And take video. They change so fast. Siiiiigh.

    Off to get my big sixteen-month old up for the day. Hugs.

  6. Not sure if you already considered and rejected this option...but what about purchasing a decent "consumer" grade pump such as the Medela Freestyle? That way you have the option of leaving the house with M and finding a quiet spot or room to pump. My layperson's view is that if you only use the consumer grade pump infrequently, that would not have a great impact on your pumping output.

  7. Hey, Mo. I'm sorry it's been so rough.

    I could have written much of what you did (well, other than the tongue-tied, hurricane part of it, which I know is no small thing!)

    I never pumped at night but still woke to feed every 2 hrs for both kids for a very long time (LG took night bottles through age 2...and Tiny Boy still has many many many nights we feed every 1.5 hrs). That is, I hear you, it's brutal, do what you can to protect sleep. If you can even drop one pumping session (or would you consider supplementing with bottles of formula?) and let Will take her at night, do it. I don't think I know how to sleep anymore, really.

    Anyway...I appreciate hearing this part of your journey.

  8. I'm a mom who EP's too. It was not what I expected to happen but it's worked for both my kids now. There is a great Facebook group with info and people to talk to. E-mailme if you're interested. Have you tried lethicin for plugged ducts?

  9. I second the comments about renting/buying/borrowing a portable pump. I used the Pump in style with the car adapter for when I needed to leave the house and it really helped with the feelings of isolation.
    Also, I never tried the fenugreek (though I have friends who have and who swear by it) but I had oatmeal all day (including cookies!) and it helped keep my supply up.
    For the pumping while feeding Magpie aspect, they make wonderful hands free pumping bras, but I just bought a good full coverage sports bra and cut small holes right over the nipples. Slip the cones in the bra, connect to pump and the bra holds it in place! Voila!
    Also, one of the pumping chores which just wore me down was having to wash and sterilize everything between pumping sessions. A dear friend shared her tip with me and it was a life saver. After each pumping session, I would put the cones and tubing into a big gallon freezer bag and stick it in the freezer. That will prevent bacteria from growing in the drops of milk left behind. When I needed to pump each time it took just a minute to grab the bag from the freezer and reconnect the components. I would wash and sterilize them once a day, generally after the last pump before bed.

  10. I agree with Brookes4boys-- a portable pump (I had the freestyle) and a really good hands free bra saved me SAVED ME. And I confess, I fridged the parts between pumps and only sterilized once a day. OR get many sets of parts and then sterilize once a day.

    I want to thank you, sincerely, for this wonderful honest post. I think there are so many nested losses, even when we win the biggest prize (BABY!) and it is hard to talk about them. I so appreciate you sharing. I think I will never quite get over the fact that my body could not birth that baby the way I wanted, and that my body could not nurse that baby the way I wanted-- both made me feel more broken and insufficient and bad bad bad. time marches and there are a lot of distractions but I have to say, I do have a residual ache, sometimes acute, about how things unfolded for us. I wish it had been different (like so much of the journey!) but am also so so grateful. Grief and gratitude. Yeah, I get it.

  11. Hi Mo
    My heart breaks for you. It's tough to admit that things are not as rosy as you'd hoped. I admire your honesty.
    For what it's worth, I used both the hospital grade pump (medela) and later switched to medals freestyle and did not notice any difference in pump strength or the amount of milk I was able to pump. I've heard great things about mother love nipple cream (see their amazing amazon reviews).
    I'll say it again, baby nurse! (Though I suppose you are over the worst now)

  12. Hi Mo: I'm so sorry to hear your birth memory wasn't what you envisioned. I know a lot of people will say that all is okay because you have a healthy baby, but then they are really dismissing your right to have a birth you feel proud about or have positive feelings about. The reality is that YOU CAN GRIEVE your birth. Really, you can and you shouldn't feel ashamed to do so. I'd encourage you to seek out a local chapter of ICAN, who supports and shares Cesarean birth stories and VBAC mamas.

    I'm also sorry to hear about the tongue tie. It's a really tricky problem to diagnose and treat correctly. BUT! There is a great blog post out there by one of my favorite natural mama bloggers about re-introducting the breast when you're both ready. She may not ever get enough milk for nutrition, but that doesn't mean she can't do it for comfort. Here's the link to that post:

    We call these first few weeks Baby Bootcamp for a reason and that's because it's SO hard. No one ever tells you how hard it is doe they?

    I'm thankful to people like you who are keeping it real and honest. New parents need to know this stuff so they don't feel isolated and like they're the only ones in the world who are going through it! So thank you!

  13. I could have written every word of this -- the traumatic birth, the disconnect, the feeding issues, the exclusive pumping. The benefit I had was that my little guy slept 3-4 hours at night so I wasn't quite so tired. It does get better. He finally learned to nurse after 8-9 weeks, but only after lots of tears and screaming on both our parts. I did want to say, though (even though I couldn't take my own advice, so take it with a big grain of salt): it's okay to stop pumping. She will be happy and healthy on formula or donated breast milk.

  14. I offer no advice, as I know you to be a smart and educated woman who probably can find all the information needed to make good choices.

    Just wanted to say that I experienced many of the same emotions with the birth of my twin boys in January and can relate. It does get better.

  15. Dear, many fertile myrtles experience the same thing you did, regarding the bonding, operation, hormonal tsunami, everything on your list. But to have gone through the many losses and have to deal with tongue tie... Low blow, universe. Very low.
    I know how raw the feeling is to feed your baby with your milk. But when the pumping is taking so much time, you have to step back a bit and think what you would tell your best friend were she in your place. You would tell her to supplement with formula. Your baby needs a healthy and rested mummy. And sleeping for 2-3 hours will make a world of difference. Don't punish yourself, it is hard enough being a new mum.

  16. I'm in tears reading this. Like Elizabeth, I could have written it myself. We waited 8 years and had 6 losses before our wonderful wee donor egg baby arrived. It took 3 days of induction, a forceps delivery resulting in tearing and prolapse, we had HUGE breastfeeding issues, total disconnect ( which I feared might be due to him being DE - but weren't), post-natal anxiety, 5 months of colic etc. I wondered what on earth I'd been thinking of all these years wanting a baby - what had I done - I'd ruined my life! And I had no idea that this was actually "normal" - I thought I was the world's worst mum. A parade of visitors telling me that "I must be SO happy" (it felt like an order at times - you MUST be happy) really didn't help. In the end, I burst into tears on my sister who told me that I was not going mad and it was all within the bounds of normal. Almost 2 years on, I still feel a little upset, angry, sad about the birth/post-natal experience, and I still don't get enough sleep, but I am HOPELESSLY in love with my son and am certain he is the very best thing that has ever happened to me. Life is harder than it was in some ways, but it's also fuller and more fun. I also find that the years of losses come back to me and I feel a huge sense of luck and appreciation for where I am now. As my sister kept telling me - it DOES get better!

  17. Oh - and a really good tip from my health visitor on the feeding/pumping thing if your supply isn't brilliant: don't be tempted to skip the 3ish in the morning feed/pump - that's when your prolactin levels are at their highest and pumping or feeding in the early hours if your milk is low really helps to build your supply generally. Definitely worked for me.

  18. I'm sure you know this but your baby would be all right with formula. You need to take care of yourself. Your pumping schedule seems unsustainable. Please don't let the militant BF sources make you think you have to keep that up, use fenugreek, etched. You have gone above and beyond to give her milk and you need rest. Baby needs a healthy mama.

  19. Lurker here popping in! I'm just a wee bit older than you but my youngest "baby" is now 19. I had all 3 of my kids via c-section and I too remember the drug induced fog I was in during their deliveries. With my 3rd baby I recall looking at my husband and asking "is he out yet?", my husband said "yes, you just saw and kissed his cheek" one point I thought I saw "the light" and was dying.

    Anyway, 19 years after my last c-section I love that scar! I rub my hand over it, it reminds me that I did have babies...those stubbly faced young men who tower over me came out of that scar and I'm actually glad I had them that way!

  20. Hi Mo,

    I have been following ur blog for a while now. I recently had a baby about 5 months ago and struggled with infertility for 4 years. I get very similar to what you are describing as well. Trust me when I say it gets easier.

    I also recommend using the Medela pump. It is very easy an I'm using it as I type this. I would also get one of the hands free bras that u put the pump shields in and it will free u up to do other things. I also bought a hand pump that I could take with me. It took my son 8 weeks to have a good latch. Until that time we used a nipple shield. I would maybe try it each day to try to get her used to it.

  21. For what it's worth I just want to say that it's ok to not breast feed. I know I just needed to hear that with my kids. She will be perfectly fine whether you breast feed or not. It's just important that you take care of yourself and try to enjoy this time, because they grow up way too quickly. I have 3 children. My oldest is 6 and is amazing...not just because I think so, but all his teachers think so as well. He's in the top of his class, incredible in sports and very healthy. He's in kindergarten and at a 2nd grade level. He was breast fed for, yes, not more than a week. My daughter is 3 and is following the same path as her brother and was also breast fed a grand total of one week. Finally, I just had my third child and I went the longest with her...just over a :)

    It's more important that you are healthy and emotionally sane if you ask my humble opinion. I'm sure I'm going to get women disagreeing with me, but now days formula is so close to breast milk and honestly I think it's just as important, if not more important, what you feed them the rest of their lives. She needs nutrition and formula can give her everything to do well. Just my 2 cents :) I give you so many accolades for doing as much as you have already done. You clearly love her and are doing an amazing job. Just try to be less hard on yourself and just breath :)

    By the way my husband has an MBA from Stanford and I have an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy and yes we were both formula fed ;)

  22. as usual, not many things in life measure up to or meet what the expectations are! some exceed them, and some make you wonder what you were ever thinking of getting into things!

    you are doing great- and this is all a phase... one day, it will not feel so difficult- but it works both ways, as well, as the nice easy things also come and go, so make sure you fully take advantage of them!

    thank you for being honest- there is no reason for women/new moms to have these ridiculous rosy-fairy tale-unicorn ideas about what it is to be a parent. its hard sometimes! messy! stinky! exhausting... but it is worth it. its ok to talk about in a truthful way...

    love you mo!

  23. I remember feeling very strange when we brought our first son home from the hospital: I couldn't believe they were letting us, completely unexperienced parents, just leave with this baby as if we were competent and would know what to do with him. During the early weeks, I had a recurring feeling that eventually "someone" would show up to return the baby back to where he belonged. It took awhile to form those bonds and realize he came from me and he was mine forever. He's 20 today. And like your Magpie, he was not a good nurser for many different reasons. We tried everything and somehow it all worked out and he thrived. Expectations are rarely realized in these kinds of situations where there are so many variables, many of which you can't fathom until you've actually done it. Don't beat yourself up; this is a process and you, and Magpie, will do just fine!

  24. I've been a reader/lurker for quite some time, but this will be my first comment. I am SO glad you wrote this post!! I too had a very hard time adjusting to motherhood after having my daughter. She was my 5th pregnancy, so we had been through a lot to have her, and after she arrived, I didn't even like her. I handled the sleep deprivation VERY poorly, as did my husband, my daughter had reflux, I had milk supply issues and she was three weeks early and had feeding issues. A recipe for disaster. But, as everyone already told you, it does indeed get better (everyone says that, but I didn't believe them) and your daughter will be the light of your life. Everyone always talks about the bliss of having a baby and I felt like a horrible person that I did not love every minute with my miracle baby. Thanks for putting your feelings out there...I can tell you there are lots of others, including myself, that feel the same way.....

  25. I'm so sorry that parts of this have been so hard. And I feel that I could have written many many parts of this myself (recovery from c-section, exclusive pumping, isolation, exhaustion at advanced maternal age).

    This is the hardest hardest thing you will physically and emotionally ever do, and no amount of prep (even if you HAD believed there would be a Magpie breathing in her crib) would have had you ready for this. I think you are pretty much near the end of the very very hard part -- we found that by 8 weeks things really did get into a routine. Or maybe there was less new and terrifying, so it seemed easier. Either way, it will get easier and you will recover emotionally and physically, and whatever you are doing now that doesn't seem perfect will ultimately fade into memory.

    I am happy to talk to you about any of this and give suggestions on what I did to get out of the house (exclusive pumping makes it so hard), and I'm in NYC, so I might have a couple of resources to direct you to. Or I can just bring you a cup of (somewhat vile) mother's milk tea or some decaf coffee, just so you can see another adult human. If you are interested, just post on my blog with how I can contact you if you are interested.

  26. Oh, I so remember being there. No one is truly prepared for how birthing and caring for a newborn turns your life upside down in both wondrous and scary ways. I tell every expecting and new mom I know that it's okay not to feel all rainbows and sunshine. It doesn't mean you're ungrateful or a bad mom - it just means you're normal. The good news is that it does get easier. I know that when you're in the midst of it, it feels like this is your life forever (OMGWhatHaveIDone?), but it's not the case.

    I know after trying for so long to get pregnant I felt like I had no right to talk about how totally HARD having a newborn was - and how down I felt a lot of the time. Now I know that the vast majority of new moms have the same experience. Why no one talks about it, I'm not sure. Maybe if they/we did, it would help prepare us a bit for what was to come and not make us feel like monsters for not being over the moon every second with our new angel.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing the crazy hard days of new motherhood. You are doing a great job, and what you're going through is the absolute norm. Promise. Also, I have NO idea if you've felt this way, but I know that I suffered from mild PPD and waited for months and months to address it. If that is the case for you, please don't hesitate to talk to your doctor. Mom's health is just as important as baby's. I'm due in May with my second and this time I'm going to be prepared with my prescription so I can start those puppies at birth :)

    Hopefully I didn't overshare. It's just an important issue to me and I'm always glad to see new moms put it all out there as you have. Enjoy your beautiful Magpie, Mama!

  27. are so right on. I am so grateful for my beautiful son but the first few months kinda SUCKED. Breastfeeding--- didn't happened, didn't latch on so I pumped for 6 months, not at all fun. Wild hormones--not fun and lastly SLEEP DEPRAVATION.... Omg this really did me in and to add insult to injury people (friends and co-workers) were pretty unsympathetic about it--oh yeah what did you exspect? Hang in there it does get much much better by 6 months.

  28. Omg I am such an idiot. By "baby nurse," I meant "hire a baby nurse." It was not a command to nurse baby. I know it's not within everyone's reach but after seeing Bethany Frankl's life made so much easier with one, I decided it was a brilliant idea for those who can afford it.

  29. Wow. This really instantly takes me back. Especially the section about your isolation-- it took me 4 weeks to figure out how to leave the house on my own with the baby, and even then I wasn't confident for another few weeks in my ability to handle everything away from our homebase. But my suggestion is to just do it, even if only for a half-hour. I would go for a walk to Prospect Park (a bit tougher in this cold December than last year's mild November, admittedly). Or right after a feeding and a changing, I would head to a quiet, deserted coffee shop with a book and sit and read for an hour. Being outside and around people made me feel human and capable and was crucial to regaining my sanity so my husband didn't get weepy 5pm phone calls from me begging him to come home.

    I was EBFing and only pumping once in a while at night, but still found the feeding schedule grueling. I remember having to leave Thanksgiving dinner twice to nurse him last year and crying during one of them, because I was so tired and sore and just wanted to be downstairs with my family. But it all began to improve around 8 weeks-- he dropped one nighttime feeding, started sleeping in slightly longer stretches. And then at 12 weeks a little easier again, and at 6 months, much much easier (I slept for 6 hours in a row for the first time at 6 months).

    Which is to say: there's a pretty rough growth-spurt at 6 weeks and it's very exhausting. But you are almost through the worst of the sleep deprivation. Hang in there.

    (It sounds like you're more than hanging in, it sounds like you are thriving. But I know how it can feel very much like you're not doing well at all when you're in the thick of it.)

  30. I could have written this post myself - wait I think I did when I was a new mom! Although not as concise and organized as you are - I was a mess on my blog too :)

    I remember my c-section (which was scheduled, mind you, but I don't think you are ever really prepared) mostly for how nauseous I was right after she was born, and really I didn't even want to see her for fear of throwing up on her. My DH took pics, and those have become my memories in a way. Not exactly the kumbaya birth experience.

    And I think of those first 7-8 weeks as lock-down. You are on total house arrest, lock-down mode. It is primal. Until you begin to get those 4-5 hour sleep stretches (and you will, I promise) it is all a blur of feeding, pumping, laundry, and diapers. I too had an emotional roller-coaster, frankly it scared the beejeezus out of me. Right around 5 weeks I think. Whew, it was scary.

    All this to say, you are describing a totally normal caring-for-a-newborn experience. The details of it may vary from person to person, but it is totally normal to have the ups and downs like you've had. I'm suspicious of those who say it was all sunshine and roses and bonding. Being a new mom is a tough job (heck, being an old new mom is even worse if you ask me!) but also the most rewarding.

    And yes, it does get better. Sleep will come, and it can make everything suddenly right. Hang in, Mo. You are doing great.

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  32. Thank you for being so honest in sharing your journey from the beginning until now. I'm hoping things get a little easier for you. You deserve a break. :)

    Also, what you wrote about "feeling deeply but keeping a good lid on it" really struck a chord with me. I think I do the same.

  33. Just have to say, been there. Done that. You are not alone. And bonding? I've decided that's a process that takes time. I hope things ease up for you soon. Take care!

  34. The transition is very hard. You are doing well,even if it is not what you imagined. Not sure if you have heard of these but my friend had to exclusivly pump, which she did for over a year. Here is what she used and loved. It can make short work of it and you can blog or read while you are pumping.

  35. I'm so sorry things have been so hard! :( I know you really want to breastfeed and it's a super admirable goal, but if you decide to supplement some formula don't be too hard on yourself. After everything you've endured I just want for you to be rested enough to be able to soak up Magpie. This time flies so quickly (with quadruplets it was like a big blur) that I wish I could have slowed it down or slept a little so my memories would be sharper, you know? I'm in no way trying to discourage breastfeeding -- and you know best for your baby and for you, but I don't think you should feel guilty if you do decide to supplement some to have more time to rest or to get out with your baby girl.

  36. Thanks for the honest emotions! I felt many of the same ones even though I did have a vaginal was still preterm and I didn't get to do any bonding and was in the OR just in case and ending up needing a D&C for the placenta.

    I didn't know about the bonding thing beforehand but just assumed it was because my baby was in the NICU that I didn't really feel like "mom." I knew he was mine...I just didn't feel it right away. Now, 9 weeks later with his interaction, it's a much different story.

    EPing is HARD! Especially if you are breast or bottle feeding yourself. (My sister does both - I just EP for now.) No one really understands what it's like to be tied to the pump. I take my hospital grade Medela Symphony with me to my mom's house. It takes batteries too, but I haven't tried that yet.

    Good luck figuring out the feedings and hopefully getting some sleep!

  37. I should have mentioned that I am pumping as I am typing these comments : )

  38. I hear you.

    I too had a 36 hour induced labor that ended in a C-section (thankfully it wasn't an emergency and I didn't have anesthesia problems- Lordy!). The recovery was hard. I was in pain for weeks and wasn't myself until about week 7.

    I too was alone shortly after being discharged and wasn't physically ready. I think it prolonged my recovery and definitely upped my pain since I was doing way more than I should because I had to.

    My second C-section this past summer was much easier to recover from as I was only in active labor for 7 hours.

    Now I tell women- don't plan to be alone for the first 2 weeks.

    As for the other stuff- the way you describe bonding with Magpie is exactly how I felt with my first. It took me time. It wasn't until she started smiling and I felt like I was taking care of a little being instead of a little bag of poop and spit-up that I really connected with her.

    I'm glad you are processing and moving on from the difficult C-section. I know far too many women who cling to the bad experience- never letting go, only letting it cloud the good and the happy that should/could be there.

    I was disappointed both times that I needed a section, but I shook it off and do my best not to dwell. Both were medically necessary, and the alternative is to horrendous to consider.

    The breastfeeding stuff stinks. I was lucky not to have trouble in the department. I know you are knowledgable and rational, but I'm going to say this even though you know it: Formula is an option.

    Another thing to consider- supplementing isn't the end of the world. If you pump when you can (even if your supply diminishes) and she still gets some breast milk great. If the pumping/feeding schedule is keeping you from being rested and present and happy- there is are a range of alternatives.

    (Note: since I've been back to work, I cannot pump enough to keep my baby fed while I'm away. I pump what I can and then supplement with formula. Bonus- we no longer need to shove that Poly-visol down his throat, since the formula has all that good stuff already).

    Fatigue is a big time problem. What I did was just give the baby to my husband in the morning on the weekends and say, "Do not wake me for any reason!" Being totally off-duty let me really sleep and rest. If you skip the occasional pumping session, you're milk won't instantly dry up.

    Overall, I'm so happy for you! How awesome that you have to deal with pumping, and not sleeping, and postpartum recovery?!

  39. All your expectations go out the window when you have kids. It's like the saying "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." I did not suffer the great losses that you did, and some of the things you mentioned happened to me with my first. The first night he was home from the hospital and cried in the middle of the night, I rolled over to my then husband, woke him up, and told him there was a baby crying. He said "That's your baby." Oh! Yes, it is! Breastfeeding? This was 25 years ago and my son's tongue was attached. They didn't do the surgery until the baby was older back then. Three days after my son was born, my father's sister died. I was extremely close to her. My sisters and I had to clean out her house and make funeral plans. I had to identify the body because everyone else was at church when my aunt died. Four days after the baby was born, I woke up to find that my german shepard was gone. My ex mother-in-law let herself in the house, took the dog, and tied him to the dog pound's pole before it opened. My then husband did not want the dog back. That caused wars. My then husband was also one week shy of graduating from fire training school to become a firefighter and decided that it would be a fine time to start drinking like a fish. In the matter of a week, I had a newborn baby, a drunk husband, an aunt who passed away, and a missing dog. I had no idea which thing I was crying over. Baby #2 came along. I almost died having her. Baby #3 was a calm situation. When he was six, I went through divorce. I tried my hardest to keep my dream home in the happy little neighborhood but lost that six years later. My advice to you is this. Throw the breast pump out the window, give the baby formula, don't analyze anything or wonder why things aren't going as planned, and just enjoy the baby. This time of her life is over in a blink of an eye. Relax and enjoy it. Throw all your expectations out the window with the breast pump. Just cherish this time with a newborn and forget everything else. A relaxed and well rested mother is more important than breast milk. My formula fed daughter just graduated Magna Cum Laude and has an excellent job. I was a grandmother in my forties and I always wonder where the time went. It goes by fast. Just go with the flow and enjoy life.

  40. Longtime reader, occasional commenter wanting to echo everyone's sentiments: it can be so, so, so hard--especially with the weight of years of infertility-fueled expectations piled on top of your experiences.

    For me, the bf difficulties trumped everything: like you, I felt I had a traumatic birth experience; like you, I didn't feel the connection I expected to feel (especially given the connections I felt I had to my previous miscarriages); perhaps unlike you, I expected breastfeeding to make up for everything. When it proved to be at first impossible and then (month after month after month) just difficult, it felt like a kick in the jaw. My only advice is to be so, so, so gentle with yourself...the things that matter now (although they matter SO MUCH now) fade into nearly indistinguishable pinpricks of memory as the years go by, and--although this sounds silly addressed to you--you should consider talking with someone about your experiences. I think my birth experience left me with a bit of PTSD. I'm not lastingly damaged from it or anything, but that first year and a half could have been so much easier to bear had I talked to someone about the breadth, depth, and complexity of my feelings.

    Hang in there: every woman out here is cheering for you.

  41. Amen to all of this. While I did not have some of the specific issues you did - I had a lot of the sentiments. And it was a lot harder than I expected. I also never imagined what it would be like to care for a baby...let alone twins. All I thought about was staying pregnant long enough to deliver healthy twins. I never really imagined life after delivery. Just wanted to say - hang in there - it all gets better. Way way better! Do what you have to do to make the experience pleasant for both of you.

  42. I wish things were going smoother and easier. Hang in there, mama! It WILL get better! You are doing awesome.

  43. I completely agree with so much of what you've written here. In fact, I actually got angry with some of my mom friends, the ones who had had c-sections, for not being more forthcoming. I asked detailed questions, but apparently not the right ones or they were so far beyond their memories of their c-sections that they had no recollection. I will admit, I was pissed and felt misled by my mom friends.

    Even though I know what to expect this time (and I have always known my chldren would be born via c-section so I have no emotional connection to a vaginal birth or loss), I am still (and maybe moreso) worried. I KNOW how hard those first days and weeks can be. I KNOW how out of my mind with conflicting emotions I was. I am afraid of how this will upset our family of 3 apple cart.

    But, I also know how hard breastfeeding is, I know it will take several days for my milk to come in, I know I will need help, I know I will be in pain (and how hard it is to get out of a non-hospital bed) and I know my feelings will be a jumbled mess. I worry about bonding with this baby conceived through donated embryos in a way that I maybe didn't with my OE son.

    All this to say the unbridled truth of how hard it is is necessary and freeing. There is so much pressure for this magical experience and, while the magic is that there is a live baby at all, almost nothing else comes at once.

    I can tell you that we turned a corner at 6 weeks, I exclusively pumped (and it worked great for me), and that I MADE myself get out once every day and that made a HUGE difference to not only my outlook and connection to society at large, but to me feeling like my son's mother. There is something about engaging with others about your child that just helps make it more real and more normal feeling, especially for a first time mom.

    You are not alone and nothing you've shared here is an anamoly even it came as a surprise to you.

    One day at a time, mama. One day at a time.

  44. I always wondered how evolution or "whomever" came up with a plan that left women at their weakest when they need strength and endurance the most. I always desperately wanted someone to come and take care of ME, and I never got that. No sympathy from DH whose mother popped out ten kids like they were kittens. I went into a serious PPD after the first baby, back before anybody knew such a thing existed. Lucky you to have this avenue to vent, at least. Whenever I tried to explain my feelings, other women looked at me as if I was insane. Maybe I was, for awhile. I'll bet you have or will help some other new moms with your honesty. Thank you on their behalf.

  45. I am sorry that there have been so many bumps in the road. I had some of the same feelings you do when it came to having an unexpected C-section. Mine was an emergency, I didn't know what was going on, and they put me under, so my husband was not able to be in the room with me. I was scared and disappointed. My son is 8 and when I think about it, it still makes me sad to know that I missed so much of the first few hours of his life. I also had a terrible time with recovery. I never walked around or anything while in the hospital, so it was a good 2 weeks before I could do much of anything.
    Hang in there! We are all thinking of you guys, cheering for you, and over the top happy for you.

  46. I never quite understood the unwritten rule that says...if you went thru IF/ART etc to get your are not allowed to feel all the same things the non-IF community does after the baby is born. Yes..there is a ton of joy...tons of it just radiating from you as you sit and hold your baby and look at all the perfection that she is...BUT....newborns are HARD! C-sections are PAINFUL, emotions are RAW and dammit....breast feeding may be the most natural thing in the world...but is sure doesn't come naturally to everyone! I hate the mommy wars where they scrutinize your every move...geeze people...just love your baby, feed your baby...keep your baby alive...and get sleep...however you can!

    by the time we finally got pregnant after a lot of treatment cycles and a couple losses...I had totally given up any emotional attachment to the birth process. I didn't give a damn how the baby got out...I just wanted him happy and healthy. 30+ weeks when he was in a breech position and did not move over the next several weeks...I knew we would have a c-section. I was lucky there was no emergency following hours of painful labor...but it was still a little scary. We got through it though and then came the feeding took us a good while to work those out too...but my life saver was a breast shield with a stiffer nipple than my own.

    I also did not feel that immediate connection when he was born. He looked nothing like I expected him to and I was in a fog from the meds and the seriously took a good couple months to really establish that overwhelming, suffocating love for him. So ...believe me...that part is very normal from what I hear. However, with my 2nd was instantaneous. And yes...each day is kind of a Rinse and Repeat cycle of the previous day in these early months. I think you will find that by 4 months....things really normalize. Both of my babies were different...and even though the 2nd was a much better eater and easier newborn is still very isolating and repetitive at these young ages. Hang in are a great mama doing a great job!

  47. Amen. Mo I so totally & completely get this, I kind of feel like you are writing about my experience (though mine was a vaginal birth that resulted in me in an OR & anesthesia failing) It's been 2.5 years and I still have moments of WTF?!? When you have a birth experience that completely knocks you on your a$s, have problems bfing and then end up home alone with a 1 week old it can make you feel like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. I get it, I empathise and hope that with time the raw-ness of it all fades. Keep on going mama, you can do this! ; )

  48. I commented once before, and although we don't know each other, I just wanted to lend some additional support. I feel that I could have written much of your story - I also had an emergency c-section w/ anesthesia problems, couldn't BF, and couldn't handle more isolation (I had been on bed rest my whole 3rd trimester). I sought out a therapist who specialized in postpartum issues around 8 weeks because I knew I wasn't okay. I'm so glad you are posting and reaching out. And yes, sometimes it gets better with time, but also sometimes it doesn't. Do what you need to do to take care of you and process this experience because the rest DOES matter. Also, I may have shared this last time, so if I did, please forgive me, but, was a lifeline resource when I found myself an unready bottle-feeding mama. I know you have community, and that we don't know each other, but I am happy to connect if you would like some additional outside support. Take care.

  49. I'm late in reading many have commented on what I would have said, but as a mom who exclusively pumped for 7 months, I would recommend 2 pumps and MULTIPLE parts. It sucks. Hopefully you and Magpie are more in sync with each other. Sending you hugs and good thoughts...feel free to email me if you have any questions.


  50. I can relate to a lot of what's in this post, Mo. The C-section recovery was a lot worse than I expected too - I was so frustrated with how helpless I was to do anything for myself. I'm only now starting to feel like myself again, 9 weeks later. And breast-feeding is definitely a lot of work. My twins are doing it well, but feeding two is a round the clock job.

    If I might make a suggestion - hire some help for a few days once in a while. It's a wonderful way to give yourself some rest and actually enjoy your child because you aren't in a sleep-deprived fog. I've hired a ridiculous amount of help with the twins, mainly because my parents and husband harangued me to death about it. My husband knew he was going to be working non-stop and therefore I'd be all alone with the twins all day/night - plus he desperately wanted to get some sleep when he was home so he could function at work. I felt guilty about it (and still do) but I realize that having help has probably saved my health and sanity in these early days.

    I have plenty of recommendations for you about what type of help to hire if you want - and some things NOT to do. But I think it's worth the investment to make sure you get the rest and nutrition you need. Breastfeeding also requires a good diet and rest - something I'm guessing you're not getting enough of.

    Anyhow, so happy for you and Will. Oh, and I also recommend buying the Medela Pump in Style - it's awesome, no need for hospital grade and it's portable!

  51. Oh, I hear you. I have been exclusively pumping for over 9 months now (J nursed maybe a dozen times, total, and i finally gave it up due to massive oversupply and recurrent mastitis) and those first couple of months, figuring out how to get out of the house around the pumping schedule was brutal. I am amazed to have made it this far- but things did start to get easier when I got the portable pump, when I decided that if people could nurse in public, I damned well could pump in a car or a bathroom (and hand express if need be), and that any trip out was a victory. Remember, Ms. Magpie will also be able to go longer between feedings and diaper blowouts in just a couple of weeks now, and coordinating your schedules to actually be able to leave the house will get much easier.

    Cheering you on through all of it.

  52. How did I miss this post all day? So much I want to say, and not too coherent at this point of the evening. I'll write more tomorrow, but of course you didn't know it would be this difficult. First, you have had a particularly hard time, and second, the first few weeks are just so insane, that no one can prepare you. It will feel like sheer bliss the first time she sleeps four straight hours. The sleep deprivation suuuuuuuucks! There's a reason they use it to torture prisoners.

    I've said it before, I'll say it again. You. Are. A. Rockstar!

    More tomorrow. Are you around Sunday? We love you and want to see the baybeeee! xoxo

  53. Thank you so much for this very honest post. As others have said, it will get better, and please be gentle and patient with yourself. It's okay to mourn and grieve that things didn't go as planned. Also, as others said, maybe getting some help to come in would be a huge help to you. Pumping exclusively is tough so just do the best you can, and if you decide to drop it, both you and Magpie will be fine. Things will get better!! Heather

  54. Mo-I haven't read the other comments so forgive me if I am repeating what others have said. I had twins about 13 months ago and faced some of your same problems. my son was tongue tied and even after he was snipped, breastfeeding was still tough. It would take an hour plus to feed the babies and then I had to pump. And, of course, with twins, they never slept at the same time so it was a joke to think I was going to get any sleep. I spent a lot ofd time with lactation consultants and worrying that I wasn't doing right by the twins. You know what worked in the end? Giving myself a break. For the first 3 months, the kids were primarily breast fed with bottle supplementing. However, I was only able ot do that because my mom lived with me for the firs t10 weeks. By 6 months, they were exclusively bottle fed. I was pretty religious about my pumping schedule but i ended up giving up more than one pump in the middle of the night after about a month. I just needed more sleep. The compromise was that my kids were only about 83% breast milk-fed and 17% formula. Not what 5 envisioned but it ended up being the right choice for me. Good luck as you are figuring it all out.

  55. Like many of the previous posters, I can relate to much of what you are going through. During our birth classes, I didn't even pay attention to the C-section stuff. Not necessary, since *I* would be giving birth vaginally. Well, 24+ hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing later, the baby had to be evicted via C-section. Recovery from that ordeal was brutal. And we moved 2,000 miles away from our friends and family only months before, so we had absolutely no support until my parents could manage to get out to Seattle. For the first three weeks, I couldn't contain my emotions. I would sob uncontrollably at the dinner table for no discernible reason. Breastfeeding was BRUTAL. I used an SNS, and eventually by breastfeeding and additional pumping (to stimulate supply) and tons of Fenugreek and a nipple shield (that thing SAVED our nursing relationship), we finally worked through it. I was DETERMINED to do it because I felt like my body had failed so much already (infertility, C-section) that it had damn well better step up for this. Not a fair or reasonable expectation, but it did work out in my case. I would say it took 4 months until I was mostly comfortable with breastfeeding, and 7 months until I was almost entirely comfortable, and somewhere between 9-12 months I started to actually enjoy it. The sleep deprivation was brutal. You know it will be hard, but you don't REALLY understand HOW hard until you literally don't get more than an hour of sleep at a time for weeks. My oldest son didn't sleep through the night until 14 months. You lose ability to think coherently, form sentences... you feel like a shell of a person. And as far as bonding goes, it took me a long time to get there too. I couldn't wait to get back to work after giving birth, honestly. And when he was a couple of months old, my friend (also a mom) called me and said, "Isn't it so blissful and wonderful having a newborn at home?" And I wanted to sob because it WASN'T. But when he was around 4 months old, I really felt that close connection with him as my son, and I didn't want to be away from him for one minute. I quite my job and have been a SAHM for over 4 years now, and I have never felt more fulfilled. Today he has a very healthy attachment to me -- perhaps that's why kids don't really develop long-term memory until they are at least 3. Mother nature is giving us a bit of a pass during the steep learning curve that is motherhood. My assvice is to grieve the loss of your vag birth, but recognize that it's only the first thing on a list of millions that won't go as you intend as a parent. You will move on and it will hurt less (physically and emotionally). When you are up to it, get out of the house. I went to my local LLL meetings, where I learned about an incredible co-op preschool that started with mommy-and-me classes, and it was a lifesaver. Anyway, sorry for the ramble -- I just wanted you to know that you aren't alone.

  56. I hear you, Mo.

    About the isolation, and the fatigue, and the awesome birth experience that never happened.

    I had crazy bleeding too, and it was crazy....sample my first few posts after Figlia's birth.

    Prioritize. That's my assvice.

  57. Oh Mo, it is so so hard at first, but the good news is that 6 weeks is exactly the time when the tide starts turning. Your Magpie will start smiling soon if she hasn't already which makes it sooo much more tolerable. The crazy-making hormones will start calming down now.

    Exclusive pumping (which I did for almost all of the 6.5 months) can be all-consuming, though if you can bottle feed her while also pumping that will give you a chance to sleep when she sleeps. Also, if you feel like your supply is good (which mine absolutely was not, but hopefully yours is) then I would suggest occasionally skipping one pumping session in favor of sleep while Will or someone else takes a shift with Magpie. You could get something like 6 hours of consecutive sleep, which will make you a new woman.

    The next time you go to the pediatrician, ask for her Apgars; they should have the birth report in the file by now.

    Day by day it will get easier. You are doing an amazing job, really really, even if it doesn't feel like it. You are doing amazing.

  58. I am a lurker too. I exclusively pumped for my son for 28 months. I took a medication called Domperidone to help with the milk supply. It did wonders and I was able to pump in 15 minutes and get more sleep. Be sure to use a hands free pumping bra. Also, if you have a Medela that will at least get you out to pump when you need to leave the house. Pumping alone is a chore, but once you get the hang of the system it gets easier with time. Hang in there!

  59. Hugs momma. It is rough even without difficulties that you have had and it is tough but will get easier.

    I wanted to comment on the disconnect after birth. After 3 early miscarriages I got pregnant with twins and I remember when they were born, while it wasn't emergency (just cervix issues and wasn't dilating) but I did have issues with anesthesia and I ended up being put under completely for the c-section. I remember right before passing out hoping that I didn't die during the c-section. I woke up in recovery in a alot of pain. When I finally got to hold and meet one of my daughters it felt like somebody handed me somebody else's baby. She didn't feel like mine, there was no connection and when I look back at those pictures you can see it in my face.

    It took a while for the bitterness about my birth to go away. The disconnect. I didn't realize how much it effected me but it did. My girls are nearly 4 now and it is a faded memory and doesn't bother me but it probably wasn't during that first year that I was ok with how the birth turned out.

    If you are still struggling with it, time will heal, but it will just take that, Time!

    Hugs. You are doing awesome even if it doesn't seem like it now!

  60. I could have written this post, though the details would have been different because we all experience those first 6 weeks in our own way. I had been completely unprepared for how difficult the newborn months would be, and like you, it all hit pretty hard. I expected to be sleepless but happy, and instead, I was sad about the birth, frustrated with breastfeeding, short-tempered, and emotionally strung-out.

    So I'm writing to just say that I, like so many of your commenters, totally get it. And it gets better--much better--as your hormones regulate and the baby gets older. No advice to offer at all. Just keep going. One day at a time. And keep speaking the truth. We need more women to be honest about how sucky those first few months are for most of us! I'm sure what you've written will help others in your circumstances!

  61. Hi there, Mo!

    I really relate to your feelings on the c-section and I just wanted to tell you that I feel, to this day, like I didn't give birth to my son. One minute, he was in my belly, and the next, he was being held above me. When people ask about when I gave birth, I say that I don't feel like I did - that I feel like my doctor gave birth to my son for me. He's 18 months old and I still feel this way. I'm OK with it now, but it took me a long time to come to grips with this.

    Breastfeeding is HARD. That's all I'll say about that!

  62. I totally appreciate your honesty and truth. The fact that it is hard doesn't take anything away from how grateful you are to have started a family finally. I have many friends who have revealed similar problems, situations, etc to me. I have had some friends who found the isolation terrible, others who didn't get any sleep, and my mom herself had a bitch of a time breast feeding. You are totally valid and not alone!

    So glad you are falling in love with more as time progresses :)

    i don't think anyone is ever prepared for all the challenges parenthood brings. and having faced infertility doesn't make these challenges less hard.

  63. What a lovely honest post.

    Oh how I can relate!!! I'm pretty sure I had PPD. And then of course I felt horribly guilty for it. I felt guilty because my milk never came in. I felt guilty because I couldn't bond immediately with my girls, and actually jealous of whomever was with the one that I wasn't with - like they were stealing her from me!!! This all lasted a good 8 weeks or longer...

    I had this vision of how my birth would go and although I know a c section was possible, my girls were head down from 20 weeks on so I kind if had my heart on natural. 18 hours of labor and an emergency c section, it was an hour before I got to see one baby, and the next DAY when I got to see the other, they were bottle fed without my concent and given a pacifier too. It was ridiculous.

    Clearly I should have gone to counseling, but when?

    I'm sorry. I just kind of dumped my story on you...

    But 2 1/2 years later it is so fun! Hard, but unimaginably amazing.

    I know it will be for you too.

  64. I'm all for breastfeeding, didn't have what I consider a smooth ride to start with, but sounds 'easy' in comparison to you with exclusively pumping. I'm 38 and while I stopped breastfeeding about a year ago, I just wanted to throw it out there that I need my sleep more than I used to also, and, it is okay to use formula. I know you want to do what is best for Magpie, but you have to do what is best for you too. I went crazy pumping when I went back to work when my first ds was 7 months old - it is not much fun to do it day in day out (nor as many times a day as you have to)..

  65. Thanks for writing about all this stuff, love your honesty. Re the pumping, every situation is different of course but wanted to let you know I pumped exclusively for a couple months and then was able to Transition back to breastfeeding (still pumping some). Also at some point I went to pumping only once during the night and that helped a lot with sleep. So great you are making such an effort with the's not easy but I am so glad I put in all the hard work it required of me...

  66. Okay, back to comment more. I am so glad you wrote this. I think it's important to get it out for yourself, and for other women to read. But, honestly, even if your read a ton of posts like this before Magpie's arrival, it wouldn't have prepared you. Newborns are simply overwhelming. The sleep deprivation is brutal. And, yes, the isolation is hard.

    As I said before, you had a particularly hard labor and delivery. Whenever I think about the anesthesia failing during your c-section, my brain freaks out a little and goes "la la la, don't go there!" I just can't imagine. Of course your recovery will be harder after that. I was lucky to have a pretty easy labor and c-section, so recovery wasn't bad. Recovery from the foot surgery 4 weeks later was MUCH harder. Emotionally, yeah, I was all over the place. The hardest part of that for me was having to rely on family members who were just not empathetic. Well, you know about my screwy family.

    Re the pumping, you are a champ! I hated pumping so much! I agree with the suggestion to check out Fearless Formula Feeder. I have a. Guest post I want to submit that's brewing in my head. I'm a big fan of combo feeding, but if I had to exclusively pump, I think I might have let it go by this point. Magpie's already gotten the most benefit from your breast milk. My personal philosophy is do what it takes to enjoy your baby. If that means combo feeding or switching to formula so you can get more sleep and so you're not in pain, that's okay. Cracked nipples, clogged ducts, and mastitis are all so painful. It's okay to take that into account when making your decisions. If nothing gets done because Magpie naps best lying on top of you, that's okay. Just inhale that sweet baby smell and rest. Seriously consider your happiness in these decisions, because a happy mama means a happy baby. Really! This continues to be true now with my toddler. If outsourcing something will ease things for you so you can enjoy your stunning little girl more, then do it. Pay someone to do laundry or walk Moxie. Get a baby nurse for a few nights. Or whatever.

    Re bonding, that will, of course, keep growing. The smiles will grab your heart like nothing before. And the laughter! I totally remember the first time Sunshine laughed. It just gets better and better. These days I'm loving the way she expresses her affection for me. Physically and verbally. It rocks! And yet, it's also still easier to soak it in when I'm not exhausted and/or in pain.

    I guess what I'm mainly saying, and what others have said, is--don't forget to put your oxygen mask on first.

    Yup, the isolation is hard. And a fair thing to take into consideration when deciding whether to cut back or quit pumping. And let's make plans, so I can meet your beautiful daughter. Maybe we can get out to the cafe at the food store in your hood.

    Yikes! This got long! xo

  67. Thanks for posting this Mo. I was spared the Hurricane Sandy and c-section but my birth story was not pretty either. It wasn't anything like I had dreamt about. The first 12 weeks were nothing that I had imagined or was even prepared for - it came out of left field. I'.clue because I too was too afraid to do some prior research into what to expect after baby due to prior losses and the whole ordeal to get LN10 here (fellow CCRMer too). But thanks for posting this. You are not alone. I felt the same way. People ask how I enjoyed maternity leave or at the time - and don't get me wrong I did feel surreal and at times euphoria - but mostly it was an out of body experience and no doubt thanks to the previous 4 years of hell. There was alot of anger, tears, guilt, frustration and just plain naivety. But to add Hurricane Sandy on top of it all would have been unbearable. So sorry Mo. I am glad you posted and glad you got this off your mind. I hope the post was cathartic for you and you can now move on. Give magpie a snuggle for me! Hugs.

  68. OH and the sleep deprivation - wow. Totally underestimated the power of sleep deprivation. It made the whole experience a thousand times worse. But it does get better - I PROMISE. But it was freakin' hard.

  69. Mo - everything in your post is so understandable and normal. Hang in there, because it will get better.
    I pumped after every feed for about 3 months with K, then pumped every 2 hours in the OR at work (while my patient was sleeping) and after every feed for the next month or so. I quickly gave up on the SNS because K would latch even worst with it on and it irritated my nipple. I moved on to fingerfeeding her while I pumped with my Medela Freestyle. That thing was awesome - I had the basic bravado nursing bras and could hook up the Medela setup to my bra flap hooks to pump handsfree. I'd pump in the OR, in the car on the way to work, on the plane heading off on vacation, in the washroom or back hallway at a medical conference. My biggest problem was that my right breast had next to no letdown, so I'd end up having to do breast compressions while pumping to help get the milk out. That alone made a big difference in my output. At least if I fed K while pumping (I also pumped 30-40min at a time), I had about 1.5 hours left after that before starting all over again.
    At 4 months after DH had taken over when I went back to work, he started bottle feeding her, and after that, there was no getting her back on the breast because she'd get so frustrated with my slow flow and lack of letdown. I swapped to EPing for good, which was easier scheduling-wise. I did miss the BF bonding, and I still continued to get up twice a night to pump and feed her for a while while we worked on weight gain. Snipping her tongue tie twice didn't make too much of a difference.
    I'd say definitely get a portable pump so you can get out of the house. Everyone told me to give it a rest and just supplement with formula, but I couldn't bring myself to do that with DH's terrible atopic dermatitis history. It all worked out ok in the end, but I nearly killed myself with the crazy pumping. I was also on fenugreek, blessed thistle, and max dose domperidone to bump up my supply. And I made and ate a lot of lactation cookies and ate tons of oatmeal. I don't know if I could manage to do all that again.
    All the joys of pumping etc are in my blog, probably from about Jun 2010 onwards. At around 9 months, I think I cut back to one pump a night and it made a huge difference to my quality of life. Then I slowly cut back on my daytime pumps. We also added in solids with our ped's blessing at 4 months, and never looked back.
    Keep us posted, so that we can all continue to cheer you on. Hugs.

  70. My assvice is to repeat what others said about a baby nurse (or trusted friend) to come at least one night so you can sleep. Skip pumping that one night and just sleep. Everything else will feel much more manageable after a good night sleep.

  71. I am still mad that they took Will's paternity leave from him, after he donated his time during an emergency. Unbelievable.

    This stuff is *hard*. I had a horrible time the first seven months of my son's life, until he finally slept through the night.

    I didn't feel attached to him at all, and I was angry at my husband all the time.

    As everyone else has said, you're doing an amazing job, and things will get easier, slowly but surely.

  72. I had a very similar experience with the pumping (and the resulting increased lack of sleep, mastitis, etc). I tried for as long as I could, but when I finally threw in the towel, 10 weeks in, it was as if a veil had lifted. And honestly I think I became a better, more present mother to my little girl.

    All sorts of well-meaning people told me my daughter would be sick all the time if she didn't have breast milk for a year. Um, she got sick ONE time her first year. So I have zero regrets.

  73. major thanks for your post. It makes me realize I am not alone in all that I'm still trying to process.

    During my c-section, when I heard the baby cry I thought it was a cat. Yeah, such a beautiful experience...not!

    And my tree trunk legs? You know, the ones filled with fluid from the iv's and epidural etc - that was really attractive, not!

    I'm 4 months and still have pangs of isolation. My little kidlet is now smiling and laughing and that makes everything wonderful but there are still times that are dark.

  74. Thank you for your honesty. I did not give birth to my children (I adopted them) but I can relate to the bonding and fatigue you write about. Although I felt protection for my youngest daughter it took me a long time to bond with her. Three years on and I am still fatigued, but aren't all parents with young kids?!

  75. Mo. I am glad you shared the truth. You didnt get the fantasy you signed up for. I think the reality is a fucking heartbreaker for us after we sacrifice so much to get there. I can appreciate everything you say.

    You are riddled with hormones. It is like the joke of infertility continues - you have arrived, but oh NO, there is still remnants of buillshit to deal with.

    Love to you. Been there and it sucks.

  76. I think most of us have regrets and felt things that were unexpected during and after the birth of our babies. Alongside the wonderfulness comes that shadow.

    For me having a c section was also a regret but with triplets I had no option. I know I will never have any other kids (3is enough!) so that is my experience of childbirth done.

    My babies were hospitalised for a few months after birth which meant the start was just plain weird. I had to ask permission to hold them. I bonded with two but felt less attached with the third - he didn't seem to need me as much. That changed over time and now I am utterly in love with all 3.

    The loneliness and isolation is still here for me 9 months down the line and I struggle with it to be honest. Do get out and about as much as you can. X

  77. Mo,

    Do you live anywhere near Soho or the 92nd Street Y? Soho Parenting has a wonderful group called the New Mother's Circle that helps with post-partum adjustment and camaraderie (you can bring Magpie) and the 92nd Street Y and most hospitals have new mom's and breastfeeding support groups. I knew many moms who would go to the BF hours just for the support and community, even if they were pumping. These can all help with the isolation you are experiencing.

    Also, I know this has been already said, but happy mom, happy baby. I had difficulty BF my daughter and finally ended up supplementing with formula about 50% of the time. You know what, it was so much better! I was able to bond better as a relaxed, less tired mom. This isn;t to say you shouldn't try, but the schedule you've set up for yourself doesn't seem sustainable long term.

    Good luck with all of this - it does get better!

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  80. Having a new baby is tough and, when everything isn't absolutely perfect, it can be almost impossible. I'm glad you know enough to recognize the good moments through the hard ones.

  81. That was me above. I don't know why it sent it through as anonymous.

    So glad that Magpie is here and healthy.

  82. Long time lurker here...... just want to say THANK YOU for sharin this because it's what all first time mothers need to hear! AllI heard about when I was pregnant was about how the minute your baby is born it's this amazing love at first sight out experience..... and la, la, love fest from that point on. I never wanted anything more in my life than I wanted a baby so when she came..... and I didn't feel that overwheming love, I felt like something was wrong. How did I really feel? Scared sh*tless. After they cleaned her up they told me "oh, she is ready to try feeding, handed me the baby, and then the nurse just WALKED AWAY. I had no idea what to do - it was as iff everything I'd read in the baby books and just been sucked right out of my brain along with my baby. I put her on my breast, and she sucked, so I thought we were good. Um, no. She was sucking just on the tip, which after the second or third feeding let to horrible pain and bleeding. like you, I had to pump for six weeks until she was finally able to latch on and I was healed. Don't get me wrong - I LOVED her - I mean I couldn't even get over the fact that she was real. But at the same time, I wasn't this euphoric, floating on the clouds mother. I was EXHAUSTED, compltely unsure of myself, EXHAUSTED, frightened and did I mention EXHAUSTED woman. My daughter is now seven and she is my absolute best friend in the world, there is no one on the planet I'd rather spend time with than her. Once I finally was able to admit to others how I felt after her birth- surprise! so many others felt the same way but NO ONE WANTED TO ADMIT IT AT THE TIME!!! Why?? Giving birth - whether vaginally or via c-section is scary, exhausting and overwheming. I had a friend in labor for 48 hours and she pushed for three of those, she said she was so tired after the baby was finally born that she didn't even want to look at her, she just wanted to sleep, but felt tremendous pressure to have the baby room-in, and do all those new mother things you are "supposed" to do. I think Hollywood (and babyventer!) do a real injustice to mothers sometimes, and it's so refreshing to read a post like yours that is so much more realistic than all these euphoria birth stories you hear!!

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