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Postpartum

Through Clouded Glass

Sometimes, I look back over the past few years of my life and get overwhelmed. Our timeline goes something like this:

October of 2013: Got married
December of 2013: Found out we were expecting
January of 2014: Began graduate school while still working full time (and super sick with my pregnancy)
August of 2014: Welcomed home sweet Jackson
May of 2015: Put our house on the market
September of 2015: Sold our house, found out we were expecting baby number 2, and moved in with my in-laws
December of 2015: Graduated from grad school
April of 2016: Began building our house
May of 2016: Brought home Lincoln
The entire summer of 2017: Worked on the new house, packed things up, applied/interviewed for new jobs, and dealt with a colicky and difficult new baby while adjusting our toddler to being a big brother
August of 2016: Started a new job upon return from maternity leave, celebrated Jackson turning two, and FINALLY moved into our new house
June of 2017: ended breastfeeding with Lincoln

I love this photo. We all look so happy. But in reality, at this stage Lincoln was incredibly colicky, I was waking up with kids 4-5 times per night, and I was struggling to keep the show going every single day.
That may seem like a bit of a novel, but the moral of the details above is that, from December of 2013, my body has not been my own. Once becoming pregnant, everything you do and every decision you make surrounds what is best for the baby. That mindset continues afterwards for those of us who breastfeed, because our diets, schedules, abilities to consume alcohol..they all revolve around when baby needs to eat and how those decisions affect their bodies.
I weaned Jackson on his first birthday, and found out I was pregnant with Lincoln exactly one month later. So, my body had roughly a three week window where I wasn’t nourishing a child in some respect. I literally have not had my body to myself in three and a half years. And that, my friends, is a long time.
I really have never thought too much about this or the effect it may be taking on me. I loved breastfeeding both of my babies. It was a special bond, a time to escape from the crazy and be alone with them. Dare I say, once we got the hang of it, it even became a relaxing experience, one where I was able to tell Mike I was going in another room to feed Lincoln and I would soak in the peace and quiet for twenty minutes. I have felt blessed and lucky with my pregnancies and post baby experiences, and never thought much more than that.
And then it happened. I quit nursing Lincoln. I could tell I had some hormonal changes happen when my body stopped producing milk, almost immediately. My skin got worse (that pregnancy glow and its after effects is real!) I put on a few pounds, because my body wasn’t burning hundreds a day for feeding, which is one of the harder things to deal with. But, more than anything, I felt like a fog lifted and I could see clearly.
I never once considered if I ever dealt with postpartum depression, because I never really felt depressed. And I don’t know, even now, if I would say that I did. But, almost instantaneously with ending my breastfeeding journey, I felt more alert, more playful, more appreciative of the smallest things, like a sunny day or a sentimental song. I have more energy, and don’t feel like I need to go to bed at 8pm to function. I feel a spark with my husband, who *deep breaths*, I have always loved with my whole heart, but over the past year in particular, has been placed on the backburner more than he deserves as I try to just keep my head above water. I am not a perfect wife, and it can be hard to acknowledge that, while it was easy to blame tough days on my husband, I often wasn’t doing my part in ensuring he was being cared for as he rightfully deserved. It is a hard thing, to make an effort to make another person feel happy and special, when you yourself are struggling to find your own happiness and balance. Most days, this past year in particular, I would crawl in bed craving solitude, wanting to drift to sleep as fast as possible after being touched and tested by my children all day long. I have experienced plenty of happiness, don’t get me wrong, but it was easy to get overwhelmed in our daily lives and let those feelings control me and keep me from finding joy in the little things.
Those feelings have changed so much since quitting breastfeeding that they almost feel drastic. I find myself thinking about my husband and smiling over something he said or how he looked so handsome playing with our children. Heck, I even feel flirtatious and like I did when we were dating, cracking jokes (poorly, I might add) and playing silly games at home. I finally feel like there is enough of me left to take care of myself, and my relationship with Mike, too.
Mostly throwing this one in because I don’t know if I will ever love a photo of the two of us more than this one.

I suppose all of this is to say that, if you feel like you are in a fog with small children, that you are just going through the motions, know that you are not the only one. I was seeing my life through clouded glass for the past year, but in the moment I didn’t realize it. I feel more alive with a zest for life that I was unaware was missing. For the first time in a long time, I am feeling like me. I still get sad. I still get annoyed and frustrated. But at the end of the day, I feel so much more capable of getting past those emotions and not letting them consume me. I would take the same path with my children that I did a million times over, but it feels good to recognize that how I was feeling was not long term, and to put some sort of an explanation to those days where I felt like a zombie just moving forward on autopilot. Even if on the exterior it looks like a person has it all together, we all have our own internal battles that we are fighting. And it feels so good to know I have come out on the other side of this one, now matter how small it may have been.
Mothers, remember to always take care of yourself, and to know that you should experience happiness, sadness, and even anger, to their fullest extent. Because that is what really living is. Love your babies, love their fathers, and love yourself. And know that you deserve the world.

My Postpartum Body

Postpartum life is very real. Very real. So much goes into it that you aren’t prepared for or don’t think about. One of those things is returning to your pre-baby body (which honestly will probably never 100% happen). After having two pregnancies, I can say that recovery definitely was different. While I wouldn’t say I had major struggles, the second go-round was not as easy as the first. For my own memory, and to share the realities of getting your body back, I decided to document the few months after Lincoln was born to see the changes that were happening.

12 hours after delivery

I was obviously still rocking a major bump at this point, but it is also crazy how small I felt now that the baby was in my arms and not in my belly. Obviously, I still had a solid 20 pounds or so to go.

3 days postpartum

My belly really did a lot of shrinking in the few days after Lincoln was born. I am going to credit a lot of that to breastfeeding. Those afterpains were unreal you guys, I honestly felt more discomfort with the pains during nursing than I did from any of my contractions during labor (of course, my labor was pretty darn easy). I would actually brace the sides of the bed every time I fed him for about a week because I knew they were coming, and I couldn’t talk when I had them. They were so painful, but I know that nursing definitely helped speed up the process of getting my uterus back down towards its normal size much more quickly. What this picture doesn’t show is how soft, deflated, and alien a belly feels three days after baby. It may be smaller, but things are definitely still stretched out and it feels like a deflated beach ball.

11 days postpartum

There was a little bit of shrinking in the next week or so after delivery, and I was able to squeeze into some of my normal jeans for Lincoln’s newborn pictures. They were definitely a bit snug, but they buttoned and I could wear them without feeling like I couldn’t breath, so that did a lot for helping me feel a bit more ‘normal’! Of course, I should note that the jeans I was squeezing into were my very stretchy jeans! I definitely wasn’t rocking anything skin tight or structured! At this point though, I was probably 18-20 pounds above pre-pregnancy weight.

2 weeks postpartum

This is the point where I think the post-baby pooch really became less evident. There was still definitely some ‘pooch’ going on, but not where you would call it a post baby bump. Unfortunately, it starting feeling more like a ‘gut’ to me at this point. Clothes continued to fit more normally, and I was able to start wearing my favorite jean shorts again. Which was perfect timing as the summer weather started to arrive. I also started going on lots of walks and easing my way back into short runs. *I know doctors say to not exercise for six weeks after delivery, but the minute I felt discomfort I always stopped.

3 weeks postpartum (and a darling photobomber who wanted to go outside NOW)

This is the point where some frustration set in. From about 1-3 weeks post baby, I really seemed stuck at 13-15 pounds above pre-pregnancy weight. I am breastfeeding, which makes it challenging because sometimes the hunger is UNREAL, but I also hit the trail mixes (my ultimate weakness) during snack time a little hard. So, at that point while I still definitely kept eating to keep my supply up, I did consciously start working to stick to as healthy of foods as possible.

4 Weeks Postpartum

Up about 13 pounds from pre-pregnancy weight. I started feeling closer to normal in my clothing. In the photo above I am wearing the favorite jean shorts that I mentioned, and they were definitely feeling more comfortable than they were a week or two prior. I also wore a pencil skirt one day for the interview for my new job, and it felt great that I was able to get into it, but that was also major motivation to get all the way back to normal, because even though it ‘fit’, it didn’t fit how I am used to!

5 weeks postpartum

Up 10 pounds. This was the week where I got within 10 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight, and it felt amazing. Having a goal in the single versus double digits was huge, and really motivated me to keep it up. When I could manage on leave, I would sneak away for runs at the gym. I also went on a 3 mile walk nearly every day!

Right after the magical moment the scale was only 9 pounds away from pre-pregnancy weight. I was so happy!
6 weeks postpartum
Up about 7 pounds at my doctors appointment. At my 6 week appointment with Jackson I only had 3 pounds to go, but I also gained 5 or so more pounds this pregnancy so I had to try really hard some days to give myself grace. I had my brother in law’s wedding, at it felt amazing to put on a dress, have my sister do my makeup, and feel pretty. The dress I wore was a jersey material, the prettiest yellow color, and truly the most comfortable dress I have ever worn, and was also SO easy to pull the straps down when I had to run off to the hotel room to pump every few hours. I think it is so important after a baby to dress in what makes you feel good, rather than what you think you ‘should’ be wearing at any given point in time.
8 weeks postpartum

Up 5 pounds. As I remember with Jackson, there seem to be points where you kind of ‘stick’. The weight doesn’t necessarily come off steadily. I sat and sat around 15 pounds above pre-pregnancy weight, and then pretty quickly dropped to 10 pounds. Then, I felt like I sat there for a bit and then dropped to 5 pounds above PPW. This may very well be related to increases in how much baby is eating, as every ounce of breast milk equates to 20 calories burned. So, if baby has a growth spurt and is eating 10 more ounces a day, that’s burning an extra 200 calories a day! My supply really took off around 5-6 weeks too, where to remain comfortable I had to pump twice a day, ON TOP of Lincoln exclusively breastfeeding.

9 weeks postpartum

Up 4 pounds. At this point I was happy with every pound of progress even if it was a week at a time!

10 weeks postpartum
Up 3 pounds. I basically was ‘back to normal’ at this point. Of course I wanted to shake those last few pounds, but I was really wearing all of my normal clothing, doing all of my normal activities, and felt like myself.

The picture above is at 15 weeks post-partum, and the day I stepped on the scale to finally seeing myself at, and in fact about a pound below my pre-pregnancy weight. I really have sat at that same place since (I am about 19 weeks post-partum now). It took a little bit longer to get there this time, but I did grow am almost 9 pound baby and am amazed at what my body can do!
At this point, I would love to just really get back into shape. The weight comes off, but the toning and endurance don’t happen on their own. One day, soon I hope, I will have a bit more flexibility and independence to sneak to the gym or even do some at home workouts in the garage. At this season in life though, I have a precious and busy toddler and a baby that very much so loves to have my attention, so I am putting my babies first and getting my exercise in the form of walks and wrestling instead of running and weights. It’s a struggle some days, but I am ultimately just thankful for two amazing boys and good health!

I would love to hear how moms with demanding babies (who never let you set them down) are able to get in toning exercises!? I would love to hear your advice!

Linking up with Our Pretty Little Girls today.