Here I sit, 38 weeks and 1 day pregnant – officially full-term. I am beaming (and bulging) with excitement about meeting baby #2.
At this point I truly feel about as ready as I will be. The house is clean and in order after months of nesting — floors mopped, bathrooms cleaned, bookshelves dusted, basement organized, bedrooms arranged, several meals at the ready in the freezer, tiny baby clothes folded neatly in draws, newborn car seat installed, and most importantly, the “chain of command” informed and on standby to help with Lance when I go into labor. My mom is ready to make the drive to Danville on a moment’s notice while neighbors and friends are alert and supportive. Lance is potty trained and sleeping soundly in his new toddler bed, all ready for his new role as big brother. Jan and I are giddy with eagerness.
In our final weeks (days?) as a family of three we got outside this weekend and enjoyed some unseasonably warm weather.
These days, aside from the whole labor and delivery (minor detail, right?!) part of this process that still by and large remains a mystery to me in terms of when it will take place and how things will play out, most of my thoughts center around life after baby. I’m committed to having as natural a childbirth as possible, but I am also very open-minded for alternative methods (give me the drugs!) and decisions (repeat C-section) depending on what is best when the time comes. I find if I sit here and imagine my labor and delivery going a certain way it will probably go the opposite so I’m not going to focus too much energy today on sharing a birth plan.
My ideal birth plan is simple: get the baby out in a way that is healthy for both baby and me with as little and no unnecessary intervention.
So back to life after baby… I am a strong believer in the inevitability that all women go through some kind of postpartum depression. Although I hesitate to even use the word depression because of all the negative connotations and stigmas attached to the word, like it or not, postpartum depression is common and real. For some of the lucky ones, its short-lived and minor, but for others it’s a painful and lasting struggle in the months that follow giving birth. Call it what you like – baby blues, Mommy meltdown, or just plain exhaustion – it’s hard to escape entirely.
From my own personal experience after having Lance and becoming a first-time Mommy, I thought I had done just that – escaped the throngs of postpartum depression. But right around the three-month mark I had a serious bout of sleep deprivation, milk overproduction, and anxiety attack out of nowhere. At the risk of over-sharing, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Exhausted, sleep-deprived, and lonely after months of exclusive breastfeeding, no Mommy friends or anyone in close proximity to talk to or share uncertainties that accompany caring for a newborn for the first time, or immediate family nearby to help me, I unraveled out of control physically and mentally and landed back in the hospital for three very difficult days.
This time around I am in a very different position. My lifestyle is already accustomed to life at home with a small child, I have a strong network of amazing Mommy friends, and family – although still far away – very aware of what I went through last time who are willing to lend a hand in an instant should I need them. Above all, I have a husband who will be able to step in and recognize the warning signs and signals and act accordingly. Sometimes a Mama just needs a break — and that’s okay.
Going forward after my experience, I vowed I would not be afraid to talk about it and reach out to other women about their experiences. Postpartum is truly different for everyone, but it’s ok to talk about it and share and disclose some of the not-so-pleasant realities of life after baby. It’s also ok to try to plan ahead and remind yourself of a few survival tips post-baby the second time around (says me!).
Having a baby is beautiful and wonderful and life-altering in such a momentous and special way that will forever change lives, but it’s also uncertain, nerve-wracking, hormonal, emotional, and even a little scary at times. Therefore, I’ve put together a list of “six reminders to myself after the baby is born” as a way to share some survival tips and (I hope) help me prevent such a drastic and painful experience with postpartum depression this time around. I don’t expect to beat it or sidestep it all together, but I am hopeful these reminders and “self talk” will help keep me grounded on the super tired, exhausted, droopy eyes, hairy legs, and breast milk stained days. A little preventative manual if you will.
1. Schedule alone time to recharge.
Although this will be hard, it is essential to my well-being. I will need to find time for naps, a massage here and there, and quiet moments where I can turn myself off from the demands of a newborn and a two-year-old. I will trust my spouse, my family, and my friends to take over on occasion so I don’t run myself ragged. A tired, worn Mama is a useless Mama to her babes. A rested, re-charged Mama is vital to a happy home. I’m all the better for it if I schedule some alone time here and there to keep myself balanced. Getting breaks is essential. Nuff said.
2. Let the cobwebs wait. Let it go, let it go, let it go. My house will get dirty, laundry will pile up, messes will happen, but it’s ok to let them wait. Don’t put false expectation on myself to complete projects, keep the house clean, care for two small children, cook meals every night, and continue at my current pace. For the first few months I’ve got to keep it simple. A good goal: keep up with basic laundry/vacuuming duties and allow others to pitch in when help and meals are offered.
My Aunt Sharon wrote in a baby card after Lance was born something to the effect of, “Just remember, the rest of the world can wait while you are rocking your baby.” The rest of the world can wait. More words to live by.
3. Keep writing and taking pictures. Blogging is a fun and healthy hobby of mine. I must not be afraid to put it out there in words and pictures when I have time to share. And it doesn’t have to be perfect – Motherhood is messy. Life will be different, but it’ll eventually settle into a new kind of normal. I remember reaching a turning point right around when Lance turned a year old – life became fairly predictable, I slept again, controlled the pace of our lives, etc. It’s going to get nutty again in the beginning, but I need to remember to keep sharing and writing and taking pictures as I go through this journey. I don’t have any outlandish blogging or writing goals, but I know I cannot abandoned it all together. It’s too much a part of what fuels me and sustains me when I get stressed. I like to think of it as free, effective therapy!
4. Ask for help. Although neither my mother or stepmother or mother-n-law is right around the corner, I do know that each of them would hop in the car or on a plane from Germany in an instant if I said the word. Fortunately, I have a whole slew of Danville girlfriends and neighbors and church friends nearby that I can turn to if needed. I must utilize them and not be afraid to ask for what I need. Same goes for doctors and temporary medication plans if that is what it comes to. It’s ok to have a little help every now and then. I think I tried to do too much all on my own with Lance.
5. Lay off the booze. There will be a time to eat, drink and be merry again. Beers, chardonnay, Cabernet, cosmos, margaritas, dirty vodka martinis will all still be there when I’m rested and back on my feet. With so much else going on chemically and hormonally in a woman’s body after having a baby and making the decision to breastfeed, why bother putting other substances into the mix? I need to keep my responsibilities in check, sleep when I can, and know there will always be more happy hours and parties down the road. The first few months after having a baby is simply not the time to engage in too much drinking.
6. Buy a new pair of running shoes. Who wants to think about exercise right after having a baby? Not I. But I know it helps, and I also know I am one of those people who is able to achieve the power and bliss of a good old-fashioned runner’s high. After the first few hard months, it will be spring. The longer days and warmer weather will provide a welcome invitation to lace up some new kicks and hit the trail again. I have always, always benefited from running so even though it will be challenging to get back in shape and find the time, I know how important it is to my overall physical and mental well-being. I don’t need to get crazy and sign up for the first marathon that catches my eye, but a few miles on the trail here and there should do the trick.
I fully realize these first months will be challenging, but my lifestyle has already changed into full-fledged Mommyhood-dom and I feel a heck of a lot more prepared about what to expect this time than I did the last time around. Just knowing I WILL sleep again, I WILL have sex again, I WILL be able to have a few drinks again, I WILL be able to run a few miles with ease, and most importantly I WILL survive and be all the more in love with another child again is huge. In the end, it’s more joy and reward than pain and heartache, but it’s important to be realistic about the demands and sacrifices that come with caring for a newborn. Nothing can prepare you for it except experience, which is thankfully on my side this time.
Now all that needs to happen is… well… labor to start! Here’s to finding out this babe’s gender any day now and getting to know a new little one all over again.
Wish me luck, and stay tuned for a birth announcement after baby’s arrival.
My final prediction: GIRL.
The Banter Lady