July 20, 2011

Birth Story Part III: Postpartum

This is the last part of my birth story, but really it's the beginning of the story of our life with our baby. It took me a while to finish this post because I feel like is not coming to an end yet and it has already been almost 5 months after Micah was born! It's still hard to believe that we have a baby on our hands now, although it seems like we've had him forever. Becoming a mom has been an incredibly transforming experience. Although I never felt I was missing anything, after Micah was born, I feel a new completeness and contentment that I never knew I could have. Holding him in my arms, even though he's heavy at times, truly makes me feel that it was all worth it, and excited at the same time at what the future holds. Now let me flashback to the Saturday night in March right after Micah's birth.

Having Milk

When Micah was born, he was slippery and wet, warm and cuddly, and vivacious! The first night he slept a lot which allowed us to get rested too. We breastfed at least every 2 hours, and I mostly did it lying down or reclined on the hospital bed. The nurses were pretty good at helping with latching on because the lactation consultant was out on medical leave. I just kept nursing the baby knowing that he's getting colostrum which is really good for him. My mom would ask me if I "had milk", and I would say "yeah, I think so." After all, the baby seems to calm down after nursing. Little did I know that "having milk" would feel totally different.


When my milk came in a couple days after our baby was born, my boobs grew 4 or 5 cup sizes, and I felt like they were going to explode. Baby kept nursing which made me produce more milk, but my plumbing was learning to work for the first time and only a trickle would come out. I became more and more engorged to the point I couldn't sleep. Every time I would pump or hand express I would get relief for about 2 minutes, then the milk would fill up again and I would be miserable. I ended up taking one Advil to help me sleep, and putting sliced up raw cucumbers on my chest while I slept. I calmed myself by remembering that it was at least good that I had milk, and too much was better than too little.

After about a day of engorgement, I felt much better. But it would be at 4 weeks postpartum that I would feel my first real let down. I thought to myself, "Wow, that's what it's supposed to feel like! This is great!" My boobs would be normal size most of the time, right when baby starts sucking for a few minutes, the breast would fill up suddenly, and milk would be delivered into baby's mouth. If baby was not sucking on the breast, it would literally be squirting or spraying out. It's an awesome feeling!

Traditions

Every culture has different traditions regarding what women are supposed to do after having the baby. In China, where I'm from, women are encouraged to "zuo yue zi" which literally means "sit for a month". We're not supposed to do too much walking, especially up and downstairs, no lifting heavy things, no cooking, no cleaning. Also we're not supposed to touch or drink anything cold. Drinking hot water was sort of okay, but really I should drink special postpartum drinks such as date and rice wine drink, or "sheng hua" soup which is made from many herbs and supposed to help the passing of lochia. All of this is supposed to help women heal and guard against ailments in old age such as arthritis. To go to extremes, we're also not supposed to take showers or baths (lest we get the chills), or even wash our hair. Even brushing teeth required using warm water. I did have sponge baths though which felt really nice.

Basically what I would do is lie or sit in bed, feed the baby and read or listen on my iPhone, eat food prepared by my mom or mother in law, and sleep. I did that and didn't leave my bedroom for about a month. It was kind of boring, but super relaxing. I felt like a queen. Outside my mom and mother in law would argue about what to cook, then lots of yummy food would show up by my bedside. I thought to myself that this is probably the only time in my life that I can be this lazy and baby-like. It was hard to let go of my tendency to keep busy, but I'm so glad that I had that period to really just recover and take care of the baby.

Sizes

I was a size 2 or 4, sometimes size 0 before being pregnant. I knew that I would gain some weight with the baby, but I was still surprised that I would go to being size 12! Not only is my tummy bigger and flabbier, my arms got thicker from carrying the baby so much. My boobs also grew a few sizes, so my chest circumference went up too. My shoulders naturally followed suit and expanded a circle or two as well.
It was too daunting at first to consider going to the mall with the baby, so I ordered clothes online. Thankfully, measuring a size 12 doesn't mean that I was actually size 12. When I got the clothes in the mail, everything turned out too big. Also, I am slowly shrinking back to my pre-baby shape. I think I'm a comfortable 6 or 8 now after  nearly 5 months.

Support Team

I'm so appreciative of the amazing support I had. Our doula was also wonderful in that she would visit every week or so, and weigh the baby, and assure us and the grandparents that the baby and I were both doing great. After 5 or 6 weeks, I went to the kitchen to eat dinner and started wearing real clothes. My lochia also stopped around 3-4 weeks postpartum. I went to see Debra Goodman at 6 weeks postpartum, and she helped me with my sore arm and shoulder muscles, as well as a mild case of plantar fasciitis. I couldn't have asked for a better support team during my postpartum recovery.

Now after nearly 5 months postpartum, I feel a new normal. I went back to work part time a few weeks ago and our nanny is working out fantastic. I feel comfortable taking the baby grocery shopping by myself, or visiting friends. I can do some cooking or cleaning the house, or writing this blog while the baby is sleeping. We are still tight for time, but at least we get some time to watch TV now and again. Life is getting more and more exciting everyday with Micah growing. We hope to continue to share our story and adventures with you!

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