Well it’s been many months since a blogpost since we’ve been stuck in place because of the pandemic (compounded by pregnancy…I probably would have been fine traveling a bit further in my second trimester but hubs was very cautious). Pregnancy is officially over, and little Miss S joined us a few weeks ago! I figure since this blog was originally started as a lifestyle/financial independence blog, I should do an update on useful things I learned in the last 10ish months (both in case I forget, and in case the REAL DEAL details would be helpful for any aspiring moms out there!). Details on pregnancy, my birth story, and postpartum supplies are below.
Thoughts on pregnancy
- On loving (or not) the pregnancy: I’m at the stage in my life that Instagram acquaintances have started having babies (hubs and I are still very young for our social circle comprised of non religious, highly educated Northeastern folks…..a few people even asked hubs if baby was planned when we announced I was pregnant! Guess they’ve never met me and my neurotic planning self…hah). On social media, people seem to LOVE their pregnancies, and are super excited to meet their newest addition and post so many precious photos of them cradling their baby bumps. Good for them! I personally was lucky enough to have a very easy pregnancy – there were maybe 2 weeks in my first trimester where I could only eat carbs and was very tired, but that was it. It helped that we were in New Hampshire in the mountains with friends visiting throughout most of my first trimester, so the fresh air and hikes helped a lot. But after that first trimester, I literally couldn’t tell I was pregnant minus the fact that I was slowly getting larger and slower. Even by 2 days before delivery, I still didn’t “feel pregnant”. This was great on one hand, since I mostly felt like myself, but on the other hand I felt like I was missing something – it seemed like people either have terrible pregnancies or wonderful, glowing pregnancies. I had neither. To be quite honest the whole thing just felt like an annoying inconvenience – I didn’t feel bad at all, but I also didn’t enjoy being pregnant. I certainly felt no bond to my belly, and seeing the ultrasounds of baby S didn’t make it feel more real. The one noteworthy thing: I gained a few stretch marks in my last two weeks of pregnancy. You could barely tell because they were under my bump. Last week I was rubbing lotion into the stretch marks, which you can see much more clearly now that my bump is mostly gone. I had my only moment of nostalgia during the entire pregnancy – not that I miss being pregnant, but I was just pregnant for SO LONG that it felt like the end of an era.
- On body size: Never comment on a woman’s baby bump unless she invites it!! Because of the above, I hated questions about my baby bump. After some reflection I think this is because I was so proud of having lost so much weight the year leading up to my pregnancy (which I undertook in preparation to try to become pregnant, since I have PCOS and was told my fertility would be impacted. Weight loss helped tremendously). It was wild seeing all my hard work being wiped away slowly. I never was sad about it since I knew my body was growing and sustaining another human being, but I also wasn’t exactly proud of my growing body. I ended up carrying “small” (9 month pregnant me looked maybe 5 months pregnant), but even comments about being small could send women who have medical issues or past miscarriages into a spiral. Comments about a pregnant lady’s appearance should focus on how healthy and great she looks, not the size of her bump or body!
- Mental Health: There were a few weeks after we returned from New Hampshire where I was probably depressed. Having a baby was well-planned out, so I was happy our plans came to fruition, but there was one problem…I really didn’t like being pregnant, and I wouldn’t have time to get a dog after the baby arrived. Sounds stupid, but the dog part was non-negotiable in my vision of my life – I thought I could deal with not having one especially since society places so much more importance on human children. I was wrong. After a few weeks of me not being interested in really anything, especially as the days got shorter and colder, hubs convinced me to make the plunge to get the puppy we were eyeing for a while. Both the internet and people around us said it would be a terrible idea to a) get a dog and b) especially get a dog while pregnant. I’m not sure why I listened to them for a while, but I’m glad I ended up not. Getting Panda was the single best thing that happened during the pandemic and during my pregnancy. I still hold a grudge against the (mostly older) people who commented “A DOG? HOW ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE CARE OF A DOG?” (referencing our travel schedule. No comment on how we were going to take care of a human kid though) and those who said “GOOD LUCK, YOUR LIFE IS GOING TO BE SO MUCH MORE CHAOTIC.” Actually it was quite fun training the puppy, and besides a few dog toys being strewn around the house my life has become a lot more predictable rather than more chaotic. Having Panda also forced me to be active throughout my entire pregnancy – I was lucky enough to have enough energy to do as much as I could with him the entire time – and greatly improved my mental health. Even now after human baby has arrived, Panda is still my number 1 son, and he has not gone to the backburner at all. Also he was good practice for sleepless nights during those first few weeks as a puppy 🙂 All this to say, pregnancy can take a huge mental toll, even when it was as easy as mine was. Take any form of therapy that helps!
Labor & Delivery – BIRTH STORY! (I was always so curious about others’ unfiltered birth stories, so here’s mine)
I had a feeling that baby would be late (maybe a combination of carrying small and not really feeling pregnant at 39 weeks). I went in for my 39 week checkup, and ended up getting induced since I couldn’t monitor baby’s movements (on the tracking monitors she was very active, but I barely felt her movements…probably contributed to me not really “feeling pregnant”). Part of me was glad, because I love plans and this would circumvent the waiting to go into labor part that I was dreading. We were able to tidy up our house, ask our friends to take Panda for a few days, and get one last ice cream and a whopper meal from BK before heading to the hospital completely pain-free.
After a few hours of monitoring, they officially induced me. This involved giving me something to “ripen my cervix” to get ready for labor. I was completely mobile during this time, although I did have to be strapped to a monitor the entire time. We watched a few episodes of the Circle (lol, in a few years when I read this again I’m going to be like what’s the Circle), ordered some hospital food (it really wasn’t bad), and getting some rest. We spent the first night in the hospital, gearing up for many days of induction. I felt fine although the monitors kept slipping off so I had to be woken up every hour or so by a nurse to put it back on.
My water unceremoniously broke around 4 AM the next morning. Literally I got up to go to the bathroom and felt a gush after I finished peeing. I informed the nurses and went back to sleep.
After my water broke and the doctor checked me to see how far I had dilated (3 CM), they started me on Pitocin to induce contractions. This put me in early labor, which was pretty manageable for many hours. The nurses kept saying I could get my epidural at any time, since I made it VERY clear that I would want one as soon as possible in my birth plan, but as I labored I felt like I could ride it out longer. I wasn’t sure what a contraction would feel like – at first they felt like I had food poisoning and needed to poop, and then when they got stronger they felt like really bad back pain. The contractions sucked, but in between I felt completely fine and felt like I could go on for a while. I also wanted to get an epidural after I made some progress dilating, but they didn’t check me again. Eventually I decided that I didn’t want to get one too late since I would have to stay still while getting the epidural, plus I wanted to watch TV in peace, so I asked for one preemptively. It worked really well on one side, but I could still feel the peaks of the contractions on my right side, so it didn’t completely block the pain. It just made them feel shorter, and allowed the nurses to increase my dosage of Pitocin. I hadn’t been in terrible pain before the epidural, so I didn’t feel the “instant relief” many people mentioned, but I did feel very relaxed. I was also still able to mostly feel my legs, which had worried me a little. I laid in bed for the next 6-ish hours watching TV and sleeping. I was extremely skeptical that I was making any progress in labor, since I was so comfortable.
Finally the doctor was leaving for the day and came in to check my cervix and progress….and I was fully dilated with the baby’s head at +2 (out of +3, which means it was READY TO COME OUT). The nurse said it was time to start trying to push, and said she would help me practice a little first while the doctor got ready. As I put my legs up, she panicked a little and called the doctor back in…because baby’s head was BASICALLY OUT. I pushed for 15 minutes and little Miss S came out! I felt nothing, not even pressure, when she came out. The epidural really was magical in my case. I did end up having two second degree tears, but I didn’t feel those either. It probably helped that S was only 6 pounds 15 ounces, so there wasn’t much of her to feel anyway. To be completely honest, when they put Miss S on my chest I also didn’t feel that motherly bond people talk about…she was covered in black goop and looked like an alien!
All in all, my labor and delivery was so smooth, even with the induction (not sure why inductions get a bad rep? Maybe because usually they happen because something’s wrong with the baby). I was so scared for delivery, and it ended up being the easiest thing. I really felt like there was going to be a “catch” – like that I would definitely end up having a C-section. The universe ends up working in mysterious ways. Which brings me to the last stage of pregnancy, postpartum….which in my opinion is worse than pregnancy, labor, and delivery combined.
I was so lucky during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. I am still incredibly lucky during my postpartum period, as my healing has been pretty fast and I’m mostly feeling myself and going out of the house etc. BUT POSTPARTUM STILL IS TERRIBLE AND NOT ENOUGH ATTENTION IS GIVEN TO IT.
- Breastfeeding – Fed is best, but it was really important for me to breastfeed especially as I have no pre-existing conditions to preclude me from nursing (not to mention the cost savings….this is the AFFORDABLE ADVENTURIST, after all). What they don’t tell you is that the first few days of breastfeeding are some of the most terrible in your life. First, you produce just a few drops of milk, which apparently is enough for baby, but baby ends up growing and nursing all the time so those drops of milk aren’t enough. So you have a screaming baby, nipples that feel like they’ve been cut off, and a tired recovering postpartum body. I also have flat/inverted nipples so baby’s latch was very difficult and painful. I ended up getting some nipple shields and asked to pump to supplement. It’s been 2 weeks and it’s gotten a lot better, as S’s latch has gotten much better, but she still feeds ALL THE TIME.
- Postpartum healing – peeing is terrible, especially with stitches. My organs feel like they’re falling out. And I’m pretty sure I have the easiest postpartum recovery there is (can’t imagine how it would be with a C-section…) I am super lucky to have a great hubs who has done basically all the chores around the house so I’ve been able to sit around as much as I want, heal, and feed baby. I feel mostly fine, then go for a walk around the block, then feel like my organs are falling out. I just have to remember I pushed a human out only a few days ago and to take it slow. I can’t imagine how people who have no paid maternity leave go back to work after only a few weeks. I thankfully have not had postpartum depression or a strong case of the baby blues, probably thanks to coming home to aforementioned therapy dog (I did cry uncontrollably the third day after birth, which the doctor said was because my milk was coming in…) – but so many women suffer through the mental health implications of a traumatic birth that good parental leave is even more important.
- Support during postpartum – we are lucky enough to have a village surrounding us for support. I had a no visitors policy in the hospital, which I am glad I stood by as it was nice having a few days for just the three of us, especially as I was always naked and leaking from multiple orifices. Since I was feeling pretty good, we were able to receive visitors when we returned home. Everyone always asked what they could do to help. Since hubs can’t really help with feeding since I’m breastfeeding, he is very on top of all the chores, so visitors don’t have too much to pitch in there. The two most important things people ended up helping us with the first two weeks were food and walking the dog. Homecooked food especially was appreciated! I always told visitors that if they wanted to come see the baby they had to bring food (most people overdelivered here and brought many days’ worth of food) and take Panda out for a nice long walk.
A list of useful postpartum and baby supplies
Everyone loves gifting things for the baby, but the postpartum supplies have been the most appreciated. Don’t forget about mom when a new baby comes 🙂 Here are some of the most helpful items I’ve used:
Bring to hospital (and use after as well):
- FridaMom Peri bottle. The hospital gives you a peri bottle but this one is angled and much more comfortable.
- Always depends postpartum diapers. Again, the hospital gives you mesh underwear + maxi pads, but there are so much more comfortable.
- Witch Hazel pads
- Gel cooling pads for nipples.
- A comfortable cute robe
- A good nursing pillow. I love the MyBreastFriend. Bring this to the hospital so the lactation consultants can help you position it.
- Your own towel and shampoo/conditioner/body wash (will make that first shower so much better)
- Comfortable slippers or socks (it’s very cold in the hospital)
- A long phone charger
- A huge water bottle with a straw that doesn’t spill
Other postpartum/breastfeeding useful things – for after you return home
- Flax seed warming/cooling breast shields (to help with engorgement)
- Breast shields (to help collect milk during letdown)
- Nursing pads (although I like using the breast shields more at first so precious breastmilk isn’t wasted)
- Sheets you don’t mind getting dirty or some puppy pads/old towels you can lay down on the first few days when you’re bleeding and can air it out. I stole a hospital pad for this purpose (shh)
- A postpartum belly recovery band (I was skeptical, but it really helps support those organs that are just sloshing around in there)
Feel free to check out my baby registry to see what else I registered for. Might do another post in a few months about what ended up being useful. I’ve already added a few more gifts onto there for the stragglers (mostly: WIPES, DIAPERS, and NURSING BRAS). https://www.babylist.com/baby-liu-happ
Hope you enjoyed reading this unfiltered view of this ~magical~ time! Feel free to reach out with any questions!! In the meantime we shall be working on getting better at breastfeeding and…planning our first trip in a month or two with new baby!