5 Surprising things about my postpartum recovery

When I was pregnant I geeked up on my pregnancy, what was happening day by day, how my body was changing, how it was going to change over the 40 weeks.  I read books, blogs, downloaded 3 different pregnancy apps and read them like the Bible everyday. Some of the articles touched on postpartum recovery, but really I didn’t pay that close attention. So there were some things that surprised me when it came to my postpartum recovery I wish I had known a little about before so I wasn’t obsessively googling!

1.Urinary Incontinence. I learned about incontinence fast. And I’m not talking about the kind of incontinence you get when you laugh or cough and just a little bit of pee comes out. I’m talking about standing up out of bed and your entire bladder falls out from between your legs into a warm puddle beneath you, with no way of stopping it no matter how hard you think about it.  Apparently postpartum incontinence is very common (1 in 3 will women suffer) – so how come I had never heard of this before?! What’s more…it can take months to recover.  When the nurse told me it should get better within a few weeks, I believed her.  But now, I am not so sure.  It has definitely got better since the immediate week after giving birth, but I am no way near being fixed.  Chris had me sit on towels on the sofa and in the car, he even put multiple layers of waterproof blankets under my side of the bed (a picnic blanket with a waterproof bottom, and one of the pads we took home from the hospital!).  Fortunately I haven’t had any real big embarrassing accidents.  I’ve been working on my kegels (I did do these when I was pregnant BTW) and trying to stop/start the urine flow when I pee.  Sometimes I can control the flow and other times I can’t no matter how hard I try, this gets me upset and frustrated at myself.  Here’s hoping the nurse was right and this doesn’t last long.

2. Night sweats.  The first night home I woke up after an hour (because that is all my sweet one would let me sleep) and I was DRENCHED – as if I had jumped into a bath in my sleep.  Weirdly, I had even managed to shape my duvet into a wet ball and was cradling it like it was my baby (that’s another story!).  The same thing happened night after night.  I suffered night sweats when I took the Progesterone in oil during IVF, so I hazarded a guess that it is hormonal related.  Again, a quick google, and apparently night sweats is very common in postpartum recovery! It is the hormones aiding the body to rid of all the excess fluid no longer needed that was made for pregnancy.  Oh OK then.  Could have warned me so I could be prepared with a few towels by my bed! Just as well Chris put those layers down in the bed for my incontinence!

3.  Body changes.  OK so I knew my body was going to change after giving birth – No shit Sherlock!  But what I wasn’t prepared for was how MY body was going to change.  Suddenly, I could sleep in what ever position I wanted.  I had got used to bending at the knees when I picked up things from the dishwasher/bottom cupboard etc.  But now I could put my shoes and socks on without having to contort myself into a yoga pose.  All of these things changed gradually when I was pregnant and now the change back was almost instantaneous…I couldn’t get out of the habit of doing my pregnancy moves! I only needed my maternity clothes for perhaps 2-3 days after giving birth, it wasn’t long before I was  able to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes.  Yesterday I packed away my maternity clothes and I felt an overwhelming sadness.  I haven’t packed away my maternity trousers/jeans though because they are so comfy!!! I missed my pregnant body so I had a little cry, I don’t know why I felt like that because now I have more clothes I can wear!  Part of me was also deeply sad for myself as I wondered whether I would ever wear those clothes again.  It was hard to let go.

4.  Weight loss.  Speaking of body changes…within 3 days I was down to my IVF weight and within a week I was back down to pre-IVF weight.  Some of you are probably hating me right now.  But honestly I did not expect it to be that fast, I started to worry if that was even normal.  I must have lost my IVF weight when I was pregnant which would explain why I only put on a total of 12lbs.  Remembering that I felt guilty for Aviana being growth restricted (IUGR), this just reinforced my guilty feeling.  May be I hadn’t eaten enough when I was pregnant, may be I wasn’t nourishing Aviana.  I have so many questions about Aviana being IUGR and what this means for a future pregnancy if we decided to try again.  I am hoping that my OB will shed some light on this at my postpartum appointment with the results of my placenta testing.

5.  Phantom kicks.  It is the strangest feeling…I know there isn’t a baby in there, but I was still feeling ‘kicks’ for two weeks after giving birth.  Whenever I felt something I would rub my tummy as if Aviana was still in there.  So so weird.

None of these surprises are terrible (except for perhaps the urinary incontinence being rather a pain), just wish I knew about them before!

Breastfeeding my IUGR newborn baby: The first two weeks

I had no expectations when it came to breastfeeding my newborn. Yes, it would be good to breastfeed, but if for some reason it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be overly upset. Formula milk is perfectly fine for a baby. Well…that’s what I thought I would feel anyway!

Not long after Aviana came into our world, in the golden hour skin to skin, I attempted to breast feed her. Chris and my Doula helped me with Aviana’s first latch. Wait – help from Chris?? Although Chris isn’t an expert in all things breastfeeding related, he did attend the Breastfeeding class with me, and he was able to recollect our learnings far better than I could at that moment of time. My head was a bit foggy after being awake for so long and laboring hard! He was my walking breastfeeding text book (well the fundamentals at the least).  I am so glad we went to this class – one of the most beneficial films we watched was how to visually tell the difference between a good latch and a bad latch.

Fortunately, after a bit of fussing, Aviana latched quite quickly and easily, I was pleasantly surprised. Getting the position right as I held her was awkward. I had never held a baby so tiny in my life. I was afraid to break her!!! And here in her first waking hours I was planting her onto my bosom. It was so innate and natural for her to suckle.

This first feed was rather magical. Yes, it was weird having something tug at my nipple constantly, but it made me feel connected to her. She was mine, she was our responsibility to feed, nourish and love.  It also felt onerous at the same time.  I was worried before hand that I wouldn’t fall in love with her, but this experience banished that worry.

Aviana is a ‘IUGR’ (Intra Uterine Growth Restricted) baby, born 5lbs 1oz, weighing in the less than 1 percentile, but very long at 19.5″ in the 50th percentile! Because she was so teeny we had to stuff her up and feed her every 2 hrs round the clock. Whilst in the hospital, just before each feed she had to have her blood sugar levels checked. She wasn’t keen on this – I mean who would want their heel pricked and a cold thermometer shoved between your armpits every single time you were about to eat some food??  It was a tough first 24 hours, recovering from labour, the first several hours I was surviving on adrenaline, but later I don’t know how I was staying awake as I fed her.  Each feed was lasting at least 30 minutes as she kept falling asleep.  After changing her she slept for an hour or so and then it was time to feed again!

She was 4lbs 15oz 36hrs later when she left the hospital and 4lbs 8oz 60hrs later when we visited our pediatrician. When I heard this weight I was shocked!  She  had lost just over 10% of her birth weight. For most other babies losing this amount of weight was on the edge of normal and to be expected- for her low weight it was a concern. My milk had yet to come in yet, so we were told we should try supplementing the breast with 1 oz of formula with every feed.

Now, I said before Aviana had arrived that I had no expectations for breastfeeding and I would be totally cool with formula.  But in that moment when the pediatrician recommended supplementing, my tear bucket was almost full and I felt a huge level of guilt wash over me.  My brain blamed my body for not providing the sufficient nutrients for her.  What if after the ease of the first few days and my baby latching so well she decided to pack it all in and replace me with the bottle?  I had fallen in love with the idea of breastfeeding, and now it all suddenly felt to be at risk.

DANI-don’t be ridiculous.  Your baby needs the nutrients, supplementing is critical to her thriving.  Buck up – I told myself.

Then the pediatrician asked me how I felt about the supplementing?  I responded – “she needs to thrive and that’s the most important thing.  We can supplement, no problem”.  I don’t know if I had hid my initial reaction of disappointment well.  We didn’t have any formula at home, and with it being Christmas eve and getting late, the pediatrician gave us a tub of formula for newborns to go home with.

The idea of the supplementing was to give her all the time she needed at the breast, then when she was done, to offer her the formula.  Aviana wasn’t keen on the bottle at first, and I was secretly pleased she preferred my boob.  I wasn’t happy with the nipple we had, although it was a Dr Brown’s slow flow, I thought the shape of it was too different to my nipple.  So I sent Chris out to the shops to buy some new nipples.  We went with Nuk Perfect Fit Slow Flow.  This seemed to work better for Aviana and we lucked out at the second try.  We do have other nipples in the cupboard just in case.  Even with a better nipple, we were practically force feeding her the formula.  It broke my heart every time we tried to  give her the bottle.  But it was for her own good – she needed it.  Still on the two hour feeds the feeding sessions now lasted even longer with adding in the formula.  Chris and I worked as a team…he prepared the bottle whilst I breast fed her.  We took it in turns to burp her, then give her the bottle, then burp her.  It was exhausting at night because it required leaving the bedroom.

At night time, Chris and I took shifts to deal with Aviana’s fussing, change her diaper and burp her.  Chris took 9PM -2AM and I took 2AM to 7AM.  This suits us well because I’m a morning person, Chris is a night owl. Of course, I still had to be awake every 2 hours for every single feed.

Three days later we were back at the pediatricians for a weigh in.  Miraculously she had gone from 4lbs 8oz to 4lbs 15oz in 72 hours.  My milk was now in, so the doctor said we could reduce the supplementing if we wanted to but still stick with 2 hr feeds.

Another three days later we were back for a weigh in.  Incredibly, she had gone from 4lbs 15oz to 5lbs 6oz!!!!!  Chris and I high fived each other when the nurse called out her weight!  Aviana was gaining an incredible amount of weight just on my breast milk!  I was over the moon that my body had responded so well to Aviana’s needs.  The doctor said we could now extend to three hour feeds at night as long as we kept up the two hour feeds during the day. Woohoo – another high five!!!!

The prospect of an extra hours sleep in between feeds was worth celebrating!!! Except….Aviana hit her 7-10 day growth spurt and I was feeding her almost every hour.  I was on the verge of breaking down from tiredness.  I started to think that maybe my milk wasn’t sufficient for her.  But I educated myself on this kind of cluster feeding and took the advice not to give up and return to supplementing because my body would respond to the increased demand, I just had to keep up the breastfeeding.  Cluster feeding is normal.  As long as Aviana was pooping and peeing regularly she was getting enough milk.   It was a really tough few days.  But we came out of it and she returned to being an angel baby.

Another six days later (today) and we were back at the pediatricians for Aviana’s two week wellness check up. Aviana had grown from 5lbs 6oz to 6lbs 1oz!  She had moved up from the 1 percentile to the 2 percentile!  The pediatrician was impressed with her progress and said we could move to on demand breast feeding if we wanted to.  She told us that typically she would expect Aviana to be at least 5lbs 1oz (her original birth weight) – and we had exceeded that goal.

Admittedly, I have had it relatively easy with my breastfeeding experience so far.  My nipples have survived, yes they have gotten a bit sore, but the Lanolin the lactation consultant gave me to put on my nipples when I left the hospital has worked wonders.  Aviana latches well most of the time, we struggle a bit with my left boob for some unknown reason (I will go to the breastfeeding group the hospital runs with a lactation consultant every month next week to see if I can figure out why).

The only other thing I will mention is my experience of breastfeeding in public so far.  I bought a nursing cover a while ago because I thought that is how I would breastfeed in public.  My first necessity to breastfeed in semi-public was in the car after we had been shopping at the mall the day after Christmas.  That didn’t feel too public.  The next time was at the children’s health centre where my pediatrician is.  This was quite a benign environment to feed in, I felt comfortable whipping the boob out there.  This gave me a bit of confidence for my next public outing – the grocery store.  There was a starbucks in the store, so I sat with my back facing away from the public and fed Aviana there.  Again I didn’t use the nursing cover.  This all gave me the confidence for me to feed openly in Starbucks in Target and even at a restaurant when we had some lunch with a friend and his daughter.  I will still take the nursing cover with me just in case one day I don’t feel comfortable feeding so publicly, but I am surprised at my own confidence!

va-breastfeeding-law-card-front

Before Aviana arrived I mostly read about women’s stories of failure or problems with breastfeeding, which is why I didn’t have high expectations.  So that is why I’m sharing my breastfeeding story of success!  Here’s hoping it continues, because it is rather economical.

Dani

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