We spent Sunday afternoon decluttering our basement. We’ve lived in our house for over 8 years now and have accumulated s o m u c h s t u f f. My closet is full of buckets and buckets of clothes I’ve been keeping just in case they fit again, in case I need it for a costume, in case it comes into style. I am certain Matt has every spare screw that ever came with any kit. After a couple hours of tossing items in either the donate or garage piles, we called it quits and headed back upstairs to where the clutter is a bit more manageable.
The fall cleaning inspired me to clean out the pantry. In the back as a lone can of white beans tucked away–likely bought for chili that I never ended up making. There were two zucchinis on their last legs and a jar of unopened pesto from who knows when. And that is how this pesto white beans with grilled zucchini came to life.
We ate it as a meal, but it would be a great appetizer or side dish. It’s a fun interplay between heavy foods (beans and cheese) with lighter foods (pesto and zucchini). Toast some crusty bread and layer the bean/zucch/cheese mixture on top. It would be the perfect dish to bring to a late fall cookout or to eat in front of a fire. It’s got just the right level of flare without feeling pretentious. Which is what I am always looking for in a meal 🙂
Today was one of those days where I saw my reflection in the mirror, and I thought, “ugh, I am that chubby girl.” And that’s because I am. No, I am not fishing for compliments. It’s true. I am chubby. Yes, I did recently have a baby, but this chubbiness cannot be blamed on Eloise. It’s because I’ve been eating subpar and not working out as much I’d like. See, before we went to Texas, I was kicking ass. I was eating healthy. Working out. Drinking all the water. And then vacation happen. And then I got back and I was busy. Work. Babies. House. Errands. Yeah, I know. You can make all the excuses you want. Clearly I wasn’t making my health a priority.
Ok, well that is the great thing about priorities. They can change. So healthy eating is back on the docket. I spent the weekend digging into new recipes to try. To revitalize my motivation to eat healthy, work out, get my spirit back into the better myself vibe. It was time to get out of my funk.
Because I have three little eyes watching me. Taking notes. Learning from my habits and internalizing them and possibly even making these habits their own. So if not for myself, then for them.
And that is how this beet salad came to life. I am not about to just eat rabbit food. That is not going to get me excited about eating healthy. But of course, healthy eating doesn’t have to be bland. I just had to remind myself of that. So I went outside the typical “green” salad and landed on beets. There is something about beets that make me feel like I am being healthy and trendy at the same time. This recipe is unbelievably easy, with no dressing because the ingredients themselves have more than enough flavors.
I was about 7 months pregnant with my first baby when I started to seriously think about the fact that I had to get this baby out of me. Of course, this baby had to come out at some point. But the idea of going into labor was terrifying. No one could tell me how my labor would be. No idea how long it would be. When it would start. How much would it hurt. Would there be back labor? The realization that so many things were out of my control was too much. So instead of dwelling on this things I couldn’t control, I decided to focus on the things I could.
1. Take a Birth Class // I signed Matt and me up for a 6 week natural childbirth class early on in my pregnancy. I had been reading random blogs about labor, but I am certain Matt had done zero research on childbirth. So by going to a weekly class together, we both were on the same page. We had an arsenal of copping mechanisms to try. We got to practice the labor management moves out (which felt sort of dumb but in hindsight, it was nice to have the practice). The hardest part of the class was watching the video of a woman giving birth. I had never seen someone give birth before. I don’t think I could ever be emotionally prepared to see an actual birth either. It shook me. As Matt and I drove home that night, I cried. It was probably the closest feeling I’ve had to a panic attack. But since Matt had seen the video too, he understood why I was so shook up. Anyway, after seeing that video, it was a big part of why I became so focused on controlling the remaining pieces of my upcoming labor that I could.
2. Get your nails done // I had no idea how disheveled I’d look after having a baby. But I knew that my nails would look good holding my brand new baby. Plus, getting a manicure and pedicure is wonderfully relaxing. After carrying a baby in your belly for 9 months, there’s no question you deserve a mani and pedi.
3. Buy labor clothes // Guys, I took such care in figuring out what I was going to wear while I was in labor, you’d like I was picking out an outfit for the Oscars. I spent an embarrassing amount of time online shopping for labor clothes. After hours and hours of window shopping, I ended up buying a floral robe off Etsy. I bought a bunch of new underwear so when I finally did go into labor, I had a fresh pair of undies (even though I knew the joys of labor would destroy them). It was nice to have brand new clothes to wear and to not have the whole “what should I wear” debate in your own head.
4. Get waxed // This may not be for everyone but…there is no question that there are going to be a lot of eyes down there when you have a baby. I am 100% certain that the midwives/doctors and nurses have seen it all so if you did nothing, it’s fine. But I didn’t get waxed for anyone but me. I wanted it to be all neat down there. I knew that the weeks following the baby would include quite a bit of care of my lower parts–using a peri bottle, spitz baths, witch hazel sprays. You have to take care of your vagina on top of your baby. Being waxed before the baby arrived made me feel like I was already take a step towards my own personal care.
5. Get a new haircut and dye // What is it about a fresh haircut and dye that makes you feel like a brand new woman? Ok, this is not a recommendation to get the quintessential mom haircut (at what age does everyone cut their hair short?) But having a new haircut and dye makes you feel lighter. I swear for the first couple of weeks post-hair cut, I am able to style my hair better. Plus your hair will pop in photos with your new baby. So it’s a win win.
And after all of this, I did feel a bit better about feeling out of control. If you are pregnancy or know someone who is, I highly recommend you knock at least a couple of these things off your to-do list before the baby arrives. Because when you really think about it, the to-do list before the baby arrives is just too baby-focused. Sure, the baby in your belly needs a lot of attention, but that momma building the baby is equally as important. And I know this list is basically just a pamper/spa day. But there should be no shame in wanting to take care of yourself and feeling your best when the baby does arrive. You are about to go through a challenge. Even the “easiest” labor is still tough and can leave you wiped. So grab yourself a pedicure as you prepare for the big day.
Serious question: how do you parents get your kids to bed? It is 10:30 and the boys are still wide awake. They’ve been laying in the dark for the past twoish hours. But that doesn’t matter. They are still rolling around, giggling, not closing their eyes. Matt is currently being held hostage in the bedroom, sitting in the rocking chair waiting for the boys to finally fall asleep. It doesn’t seem to matter what bedroom routine we have. The boy are impervious to our tricks.
Ok, but beyond typically bedtime, I just haven’t been my normal self in the kitchen. Guys, I’ve been in a funk lately. No researching of new recipes. No wandering around the grocery store looking for new food to incorporate into a recipe. Not looking forward to trying new dishes. Not really sure why. But then last week, I texted Matt before I left the office to put some rice on (because I refuse to cook my own rice). I stopped at Trader Joe’s, walked around the store, and picked up chicken and tzatziki sauce. I didn’t have any particular recipe in mind. But for the first time in a while, I was in the mood to experiment.
And I came up with this. It isn’t anything too crazy or fancy. But the boys eat it. Matt really liked it. It was exactly what my soul needed. Perhaps this recipe will rejuvenate your meal rotation as well.
I spent this spring on maternity leave. Which meant I had all day to prep for dinner. And for the first couple of weeks, I had sincere plans to make elaborate meals, fancy desserts, and snacks. But then I didn’t. Because I have three kids. So sure, I may have had the time to tackle a multiple step recipe but yeah, I have three kids. I have no hands. I am constantly breastfeeding. Someone needs a glass of water or milk. Someone is screaming that a toy is no longer in his grasp. While I may have all day to cook, life is anything but simple. Dinner recipes need to be as uncomplicated as possible.
That’s where soup comes in. The idea of tossing all the ingredients into a pot, letting it simmer (maybe checking on it periodically to stir, but maybe not)–yeah, I can handle that and breastfeed a baby while wiping a toddler’s butt (yeah, that happened. Sorry, Ellie!)
And when making soup, why not stick with a classic: chicken noodle. I am all for making as much of your recipe from scratch when you can–especially when it’s not super complicated. Making your own chicken broth is stupid easy. Literally, you throw full chicken in a pot of hot water. Leave the chicken in hot water. Come back later and take out the chicken. And wah lah, you have chicken broth. Even with three young children, this is manageable.
So anytime we get a rotisserie chicken, there’s a good chance homemade chicken noodle soup is on the horizon. Here’s some unsolicited advice that you do the same.
Gah, I am in love with my maternity leave! Every morning, around 7:15, I am woken up by JR and Max very loudly demanding breakfast or that I hold them. They roll around in our bed, driving Matt insane (as he wants to keep sleeping). Many times, I am nursing Ellie so I lay in bed feeding her while Matt makes the boys oatmeal. Eventually, we make our way out of bed. We slowly get ready for the day. I wash my face, brush my teeth, put in contacts. There is no rush. We have no deadlines.
Eloise and I spend our mornings checking emails, listening to podcasts, drinking coffee, watching the boys play. Our afternoons are spent grocery shopping, taking short walks, running errands. And of course, lots and lots of nursing, burping, changing diapers, cleaning off spit up.
Some days are more stressful than others. Taking care of a newborn and two toddlers is not always easy. Max and JR are still learning the nuances of sharing. Maxwell still nurses at night (but he would love to nurse all day). But without having work on my plate and knowing that my workless days will come to an end, the toddler tantrums are easier to stomach. After all, I get to spend my days with my children. These little people I created with the person I love the most. These little people who love me so much. These little people who have so assignments or deadlines for me to accomplish anything.
And each afternoon, instead of fretting on whether I have had a productive morning full of billable hours, I get to start planning what home cooked meal I’ll be making my family that night. Gone are the days of planning a meal around the fact that I get home from work at 7:00 p.m. No recipe is off limits. If our pantry is missing an ingredient, I can go to the grocery store. If the recipe takes several hours, that’s ok. I can start cooking early.
The slow, mostly relaxing days bring me so much comfort.
Minnesotans express love with warm casseroles we call hot dishes. So this meal reminds me of family. It is full of hearty veggies and cheese that remind you of a dinner you ate sitting at your grandmother’s kitchen table with your siblings. Or a meal you’d share with friends in the church basement at a pot luck.
Typically hot dishes call for canned soups, which are full of salt and aren’t that healthy. But this hot dish subs the typical cream of mushroom condensed soup for Greek yogurt, eggs, and milk. Honestly, you can’t taste the difference but your waist line will. All over, this is a great hot dish.
When I am pregnant, I never get too worried about my weight gain. I don’t eat too terribly. I don’t eat as if I am eating for two. I work out 5 days a week. I try to stay active. Each time, I gained 45 pounds. Sure, this technically is more than what is recommended (35 lbs is the top) but I see no reason to lose sleep over the weight gain. I feel healthy.
Of course, now starts the hard part: losing the baby weight. For me, the first 15 lbs drops off right after the baby is born. Another 10 falls away shortly thereafter thanks to breastfeeding. But those last 20 lbs don’t leave without a fight. And honestly, after JR’s and Max’s births, I didn’t lose all 20 lbs before I got pregnant again. This time I am hoping it will be different. And not only because it is likely that we won’t have a fourth baby (never say never because who knows).
I’ve read that getting back into shape is 20% working out and 80% diet. No idea how accurate that is but it feels right. I have always been great about working out and relatively crappy about keeping a clean diet. It’s not that I don’t eat healthy. It is just that every day I also eat something arguably too sugary, processed, or salty. Right before I wrote this, I shoved three gummy worms and three pieces of chocolate into my mouth. Despite the fact that I ate healthy the rest of the day. I ruined my healthy day in less than three minutes. Clearly, I need to strengthen my willpower. So, what should I be eating instead of my children’s treats for going potty on the potty?
My new go-to lunch meal has been this avocado chicken salad. I’ve made this salad twice since Eloise was born, and she is only three weeks old. It is a heartier salad than most so I stay full longer. You can easily add more ingredients to the salad or keep it simple. The salad does call for bacon, which you can sub for turkey bacon, use just a strip or two, or get rid of all together, depending on how healthy you want to be.
So now starts my journey into losing the 20 lbs. Cross your fingers and toes for me. My sweet tooth will not be kind to me. I need all the help I can get.
It was Monday morning, and I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with a contraction. It was strong. I twisted around in bed and tried not to wake Matt up. One, two, three. I imagined myself walking up a hill. When the contraction felt at its height, I made it to the top of the hill. As the contraction waned, I walked down the hill. It took about 40 seconds. Ok, not a minute but certainly not nothing. I drifted off back to sleep. Ugh, it’s back. I grabbed my phone and pushed the side button. 3:36 a.m. glowed back at me. Seriously? Only five minutes had passed. Ok, walk up that hill. Then again at 4:48. And 5:00. By the time it was 6:30, I was exhausted and confused. My water hadn’t broken. I had never had any contractions until my water broke so what was this? I was already two days past my due date so chalking these contractions up to Braxton Hicks seemed patently wrong. But this couldn’t be it, could it? I texted our doula to give her an update and made my way to the bathroom. The side of pants were a little damp. Not enough to consider my water broke. Or was it? I immediately started questioning myself. I mean, three hours of contractions, which had now mostly dissipated, maybe this was my water breaking. No matter what, I decided that I should work from home today. If those contractions worked themselves back up again, there was no way I could drive home. I got ready for the day of working in the basement so I just tossed on a fresh pair of yoga pants and made my way downstairs. Arg, maybe I should call the birth center just to be safe. I dialed the midwife on call line and asked to be seen in the mid-morning. The contractions. The damp pants. Two days overdue. Probably a good idea to go in.
Matt woke up and immediately said, “we are having a baby today!”
“I don’t know. I feel ok now.” I said. I didn’t want him to be disappointed. Still, I wanted him to be right. I wanted to have the baby today.
We grabbed breakfast at Panera and then made our way to the birth center for our 9:45 appointment. From my initial call to the appointment, I had no more than two contractions. They were minor. Yes, they were not comfortable. But since they were spaced out, having 20-40 seconds of pain was more annoying than anything else. It’s just a cruel joke to have this pain when I am two days overdue and it’s false labor.
The appointment was brief. The midwife confirmed that my water had not broke and instead broke some rather disappointing news: it is very common for third babies to be “tricky.” Having labor start and stop is common. Don’t get discouraged. You are near the finish line. But your labor may start up and stop again so get prepared for this. I left crabby and discouraged.
Beyond telling work that I had some contractions, which was why I was working from home, for most of the day, I didn’t tell anyone until late afternoon. Mostly, I didn’t want to give our family false hope that the baby would be born soon. Like me, they too were getting anxious for Toastie Three to arrive. With the sting of three hours of wasted contractions hanging over me, I couldn’t stomach fielding questions and comments about the entire situation. So I told everyone I was at work and fine. Neither were true.
I noticed that if I stayed sitting, I had no contractions. But when I stood up, my stomach would twist a bit. “Maybe that’s the secret. You have to start moving around to get the baby to get out,” Matt said to me. Maybe he was right. I put on my workout clothes and pulled out my pregnancy workout guide to week 40, day two and fit in a workout. No contractions, but it was nice to a solid workout in. At least I accomplished something with my body today.
My work day ended, and we ate dinner together like we always do. The boys were well-behaved and earned TV time, which meant Matt and I could watch the new episode of Shark Tank with no interruptions. It is a 40 minute show, and I had three contractions while we watched it. Ok, so these contractions are coming back. But is this another start stop false labor marathon? We started the bedtime routine and the contractions continued. Just like in the early morning, each contraction was 20-40 seconds long, coming every 5-10 minutes. They were strong enough to make me stop doing whatever I was doing and focus on walking up the hill. “Relax, your body knows what it is doing. This pain isn’t because something is wrong. It is a good sensation” I would tell myself as I walked up the hill.
I couldn’t help Matt get the boys to brush their teeth and into pajamas. Instead I paced from the living room to the dining room and back. Once they were ready for bed, I grabbed Max and took him to his crib. As I nursed him, a contraction came. I held him tight and waited for it to subside. My water still had not broken. This had to be this false start stop labor that the midwife had talked about, and I am not a fan. I laid Max down to bed, went to JR’s room to tell him “The Little Boy Story,” and then headed out to the TV room to relax. The contractions had started to die down again. I was frustrated and needed to unwind. I tossed on a mindless TV show.
It was 9:27, and I had only watched about 15 minutes of the show when I felt a gush of water. Holy hell, my water broke. For real. I immediately texted Matt, who was still in JR’s room waiting for him to fall completely asleep, “Water broke.” “Just like Max” he wrote back.
I texted our nanny and asked her to come right away. Then our doula. Just then, my mom sent a text saying, “Any stirrings?” Funny she should ask. Normally, I wouldn’t have told her until we were on our way to the birth center or if the baby was born. But her timing was impeccable. “My water just broke. I need to get stuff figured out. Talk later” I wrote back.
Matt came into the TV room and started to get bags packed for the drive over to the birth center. I paced back and forth, waiting for the midwife on call at the birth center to confirm that we could come in. It took 7 minutes for her to confirm that we could come in right away.
At 10:00 p.m., our nanny Zee showed up. Matt had already tossed all our bags into the car. I had barely left the TV room where my water had broke. I was too nervous. As I made my way to the kitchen to leave the house, I got a contraction. It was strong enough that I stopped moving and talking until it passed. We said goodbye to our boys and headed to the birth center.
The drive was quiet. With my boys, the drive was stressful. But now, I wasn’t freaking out that I was going to have a baby in the car (Max) or that the contractions were too strong and I was confined to a seat (JR). I felt fine. Almost foolish that we were leaving so early to get to the birth center. I had 4 contractions during the 20 minute drive but there weren’t that strong. I just squeezed Matt’s hand as he drove down the highway.
We pulled into the parking lot and to a dark building. We were the first ones to arrive. I texted the midwife, who said she was 5 minutes away. I started to get anxious. The birth center is in a neighborhood, and the neighbors had their lights on. I could see them staring at me from the window as I paced. I felt like I was on display, and it irked me. I had one contraction as we waited. It was stronger. More present. I leaned against the car, upset that we had beat everyone and that these random guys got to witness me labor from their window.
Finally, the midwife arrived and by 10:20, we were walking into the building. I had never been fully present when I walked into the birth center in labor before. With JR and Max, I was so focused on the labor itself that I truly have no memory of walking in. But this time, everything was so clear. Watching Matt hurry to bring in our bags. The tub starting to fill. The bed nicely made with clean, white sheets. I leaned up against the counter and stared at the clock right in front of me. It glowed 10:25. I pushed my shoes off and a contraction started to come. MOTHER OF GOD THIS IS TOO MUCH. Matt was on my left, petting my back while he unwound the scarf so he could rebozo my belly. He wrapped the scarf around my lower belly and began to rock it back and forth. Nope, it didn’t help. OMG TWISTING AND TIGHTNESS. The contraction wrapped around my lower belly. Firmly grabbing hold of stomach and twisting and turning it. The pain was unbearable. I told Matt to stop trying to rebozo. No use for him to waste his energy. It wasn’t doing anything. He tossed the scarf aside and told me that he was proud of me. That I was going a great job. I tried to get off my socks. To bend over was excruciating. I barely managed to toss them both off. I couldn’t imagine myself moving from this counter. But I wanted to get into that tub. I could hear the water running, and the midwife said it needed at least another 10 minutes. A second contraction came as the midwife rushed to pull out heating pads and pads to soak up blood. She placed a cuff around my arm so she could take my blood pressure. I twisted and curled as the contraction continued. Nope. There is no way I can survive another contraction like that. This baby is coming out now. I started to push as the contraction waned. A wave of relief washed over me. Pushing felt so good. As if I could control the rising pressure I felt.
I told the midwife to help me take off my pants and take me to the bed. Matt and the midwife complied, and I shuffled to the bed as fast as I could. The contraction was over, but another one would be coming. I did not want to be on the move when that happened. Plus, the pressure in my butt kept rising. I had to get on the bed so I could push this baby out. There was no way I was going to wait another 10 minutes so I could deliver in the tub.
Once on the bed, I felt misplaced. With Max’s birth, the midwife ran the show. She gave me a birthing ball and calmly coached me how to give birth on the bed. But now, the midwife was scrambling. She was still placing pads on the bed, getting things ready. We’d only been in the birth center for 5 minutes at this point, and she still had quite a bit to get out.
“I need a birthing ball,” I said. The midwife handled me a large, silver ball. It was too big.
“Does this work?” She asked.
“No, smaller.” I managed to get out. The pressure was building. I was in between contractions but I knew one would be coming soon. She ran out of the room and came back with a smaller ball. I placed my forearms on the ball. Not perfect but it would do.
“I need a hot towel.” I said. I knew I was being demanding but I didn’t care. For Max’s birth, I had the birthing ball and the hot towel that the midwife pressed against my crotch for perineal support. Those two tools were the things I needed for a birth on a bed.
The midwife grabbed a warm towel and found a place behind me. Matt was at my head with his hand on my shoulder. He rubbed my shoulder, whispering that I was doing a good job and he was so proud of me.
A contraction came, and I pushed. It felt so good to push. As the contraction waned, I continued to push. “If you push a little longer, it’ll be worth it” I told myself. I let out a sigh as a pushed longer and felt a wave of pressure release from me. My baby was out.
The next thing I knew, I was moving myself from my knees to my butt, craning my neck to see if I had a girl or a boy. I swear I could see a vagina, but I didn’t want to be wrong. The midwife eased me to a seated position and handed the baby to me. I took a second look.
“Oh my God, it’s a girl!” I cried.
I kissed my baby girl, still in disbelief. Matt came beside me to get a closer look at our baby girl. She was perfect. 10 fingers. 10 toes. A full head of hair. Everything we had prayed for. I pulled out a boob to feed her and she immediately latched. As we nursed, the midwife tended to my lower parts. She gave me a shot of Pitocin to help bring the uterus down. Then a second dose. I was still bleeding a lot. More than usual. I needed more medicine. Unfortunately, that meant that the midwife shoving four pills up my butt. That was not great. It wasn’t even the application of the pills that was the worst. It the fact that those four pills do not dissolve immediately. Instead, it feels like you have a finger up your butt for about a half hour. It’s not great.
Still, I was losing blood so there was no room to complain. I felt so cold. Colder than I ever felt. As if I was completely naked in ice cube. My bones felt like ice. An entire liter of blood left my body, and it felt as if the blood was replaced with ice water.
I swear, my toddlers either eat everything in sight or they live on air. There is no middle ground. So on the days they eat, I try to load them up with as many vegetables as I can. We’ve been lucky. The boys generally like vegetables. Broccoli is one of their favorite foods. They usually like trying new foods and don’t have fits about texture or taste. Still, we have our days. The boys only want to eat donuts and cereal (they are their mother’s sons). No matter what healthy food we offer, they claim they aren’t hungry. Sometimes we need to be a bit more clever with getting vegetables in the boys’ diet.
Earlier this week was one of those days. Since we have a new baby, people have been stopping by to spend time with Eloise. Along with the people come treats: donuts, cookies, birthday cake and pie. Thanks to the sugar snacks, the boys started to refuse to eat dinner. If the food wasn’t 90% sugar, the boys weren’t interested.
Typically, if the boys refuse to eat dinner, I don’t care. If they are hungry, they will eat what we prepared. We don’t offer alternative meals. Either they eat what is on the plate or they don’t eat at all. I never clear their plates from the dinner table until both boys are sleep in bed so it is easy to direct the boys back to the table if they ask for food.
But this time, the reason the boys weren’t eating wasn’t because they weren’t hungry. They were full of sugar and no nutritional food. I was determined to get something healthy in them.
I recalled seeing a post on Instagram that would be perfect solution. If we put down a bowl of applesauce in front of them, there’s a good chance they’ll ask for seconds. So I used that to my advantage. I tossed a handful of spinach in the applesauce and blended until it was smooth(ish). The plain applesauce immediately was way more fun. It was green. It was a little more chunky (because I didn’t pull out the nice food processor). It was something new and different. The boys devoured the applesauce and got a full serving of spinach. An easy way to get more veggies in their diets without any fight.
So much preparing for a baby focuses on the baby. Diapers, wipes, swings, baby clothes, bottles, baby blankets, strollers, car seats. There are so many list dedicated to the “must haves” when you are having a baby (I am not immune from this: I wrote one back in 2016). But preparing yourself for post-delivery seems to get forgotten. Sure, you literally grow a baby in your belly for 9 months, go through intense labor, and push that baby through your vagina or get a serious surgery to remove that baby (not to mention that after all of that, you then feed the baby you just made). Your body does all of that. Yet, we put all the focus on the baby.
So much so that when I got pregnant, I knew basically nothing about post-partum care for myself. You guys, I didn’t even realize that you had to birth the placenta after you birth the baby! Sure, now it seems so obvious. But when my natural birthing class brought it up, my eyes widened, I sat straight up, and was speechless. Then I learned that I would become very familiar with a peri bottle and that tearing was very common. I quickly realized how clueless I really was and got upset about how much of my future care was a completely mystery to me. Seriously, I knew next to nothing. When I came home from the birth center with JR, the first thing I did was ask my mom to go to the store to buy me Depends. Because I didn’t realize that I’d be bleeding for weeks after giving birth. No one had really talked about the raw details with me. I took a birth class. I saw a midwife my entire pregnancy. But the post-partum care of me was just never really a focal point of the conversation.
After I gave birth to JR, I made a list of “must have” things for mom. I shared the list with pregnant friends. Bought them items off the list. Spilled the gory details of what happens to your body after you push a baby out of it. Because why tiptoe around this part of motherhood? Your body just accomplished something unbelievably remarkable. It needs some extra attention. And that’s ok. There is no reason why we should hide this part of motherhood.
Now with baby number three on the way, I feel incredibly more prepared than I ever have been to take care of my healing self. So here’s my list. After having JR and Max, these are the items that made such a difference in my post-partum care.
After having a baby, you are going to be taking A LOT of baths. A lot. At least once a day to soothe your swollen self. My husband was great about making sure I got at least one, if not two, baths a day and wanted to make sure I was as comfortable as possible so he got me a bath pillow. Having a bath pillow was wonderful. I have never been a bath person so I wasn’t really into the idea of sitting in a bath each day. The pillow allowed me to relax and spend more time in soaking than I otherwise would have, which helped speed along my recovery. I have the Airia Luxury Quick Dry Bath Pillow. I took off the cover so its just mesh. This way the pillow dries faster, as the soft cover is akin to a towel that holds moisture.
2. Extra Soft Bath Towels
There’s no way to sugar coat this: when you first start nursing, your nipples are raw. I will never forget the first time I got out of the shower after having JR and wrapping my towel around my body. Holy hell, my nipples were pissed. The towel was far too rough for my super sensitive nipples. After that eye-opening experience, I got myself the softest towel I could get my nipples on 😉 It was a game changer. I no longer cringed when I got out of the bath to towel off. Do yourself a favor and pick up the softest, nicest towel you can find.
After pushing a baby out of your vagina, it is swollen. You may have teared and have stitches. Witch hazel can provide some relief down there to smooth your sore muscles. These Tucks pads are incredibly thin pads soaked in witch hazel that help alleviate your swollen self. The fact that the pads are so thin made them less irritating since they really didn’t move once you placed them on. Something to note, the witch hazel has a cooling sensation that either makes you feel better or bothers you, depending on where your stitches are. On certain days, I couldn’t handle Tucks. Other days, they were a life saver. Which is a great metaphor for motherhood. Sometimes what you do works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And Lord knows I haven’t cracked the secret of why. It just is the way it works.
Another surprise for me was that you should not use toilet paper after peeing for a couple weeks after giving birth. Of course, after I had JR, I got it. No way would I let toilet paper near me. The birth center gave me a pedi bottle to use after I peed, but I wanted just a little bit more to feel extra clean. So after using the pedi bottle, I sprayed this Sitz Bath Spray from Motherlove. It has witch hazel in it, which helps soothe and heal your sore perineal muscles. Since the spray is just a light mist, the cooling sensation is considerably less than the Tucks pads. For me, the spray made me feeling like I was “extra clean” verse providing me relief from soreness. Plus, on days when the Tucks pads were too much, I was still providing relief to taper the swollenness.
5. Stool Softener
I am not sure about anyone else, but I swear to God, JR came out of my butt. The pain and pressure associated with pushing him out was so intense that the only sensation I could relate it to was pushing a bowling ball out your butt. So the last thing you want to do is push anything else out “down there.” With this in mind, most birth centers and hospitals recommend that new moms take a stool softener to help with your first double potty (ok, poop. There, I said it. Ugh, I hate that word). Because, you know, softer potty, less pushing. And after pushing a bowling ball out of your butt, I think that buys you a free pass from pushing anything else out for a looong time.
You got to experience 9 months period free. It was lovely and glorious. To make up for that, you now will bleed for several weeks. Maybe just a couple days. Everyone is different. When my babies and I came home from the birth center, we were both wearing a diaper. And I decided to roll with it. Instead of wearing my underwear and pairing it with a bulky pad, I wore Depends. Honestly, I cannot recommend Depends over pads enough. Pads are huge, awkward, and move around as you move. Depends are disposable underwear that don’t have moveable parts so when you move, you don’t have a wad of cotton jabbing your already sore vagina. Depends are so easy to change, and I didn’t have to worry about leaking and ruining a pair of underwear. Plus, then you and the baby get to match since you’re both in diapers #mommyandme 😉
If you plan to nurse, nipple cream is your friend. No matter how much positive thinking and vibes you put out in the world, the first week or so of breastfeeding is generally uncomfortable. Your nipples are not use to a baby sucking on them 12 plus hours a day. Some babies aren’t pros at latching right off the bat. If you are like me, your nipples will chap and bleed until your body gets accustomed to breastfeeding (which will happen! Within a week or so, you will not grit your teeth as your baby latches!). You will play through the pain, but you’ll make it to the other side so much more gracefully if you use nipple cream after you nurse. I lathered it on like chap stick between nursing, applying it no less than 10 plus times a day. Within a week or so, my nipples had adjusted, and the cream no longer had a prominent role in our nursing routine. But without it, nursing my babies the first week would have been so much harder.
Particularly for first time moms, it can take awhile for your milk supply to match your baby’s demand. While your body is learning to regulate how much milk it truly needs to make, you may make a bit too much milk and leak. Or after your body has the supply/demand down, anytime you hear a baby cry, your boobs may leak milk on cue, even if it isn’t your baby. Or if you are me, you leak milk when you get embarrassed or scared. Placing washable nursing pads in your bra helps mitigate milk soaking through your shirt. They do make disposable nursing pads, but I found them to be itchy. Washable ones were far more comfortable, as long as you arrange them right, and since we are doing almost a load of laundry every other day anyway, tossing nursing pads into the wash wasn’t a big deal for me. I got the Bamboobies Overnight ones, which are extra thick, for every day use. They have thinner ones as well, but I found the thick ones were more comfortable, and I worried less about leaking throughout the day.
Yes, more boobie stuff. I was very lucky when it came to breastfeeding. My mother had instilled in me from early on that my body just made a baby–of course it could make enough milk. Her constant reminders to me that making milk was the “easy” part became my mantra–I can do this. Having that mindset made me more relaxed about nursing because I unabashedly decided that no matter what, my body would make enough milk so no need to worry about that. Still, I didn’t go into nursing without setting myself up for success. I drank Mother’s Milk Tea religiously. Every morning, my husband would make me a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of Mother’s Milk Tea. By early afternoon, I’d usually be on my third cup of tea. If I ever got worried that maybe my milk supply was down, I’d gulp down some tea. I can’t honestly say if this tea truly affected my milk supply, but it surely affected my mental confidence that my body was properly fueled to make enough milk. That is good enough for me.
Also, I totally get that making milk is not easy for everyone. It can be a huge challenge and struggle for many. I was lucky to not have that struggle. Instead, my struggle is that my babies don’t sleep 😐
I lived in nursing bras for the first year of JR’s and Maxie’s lives. My entire wardrobe focused on whether I could “get a boob out,” which trickled down to my bra. When you are nursing an infant, you’ll be pulling your boob out every couple of hours, if not more. Wearing a traditional bra can be clumsy, and yanking the cup down time and time again could stretch out the bra. A nursing bra just streamlines the process of getting your boob free without ruining the bra. There are tons of beautiful and fancy nursing bras on the market. If that is your jam, get them. I grabbed a handful from Target that came in a pack of two, and they work just fine and are a good price point for me at $10.00 a bra. I’m on baby number three and still plan to use the same nursing bras since baby number one. I’d say I got my money’s worth on these bras.
Depending on the size of your boobs and/or your comfort, nursing camis in lieu of nursing bras are great. You could wear them together but I wear either the cami or the bra. Nursing camis have a little clip on each side of the top of the cami that pops down so you can easily free your boob and feed your baby. Similar to nursing bras, there are so many varieties and styles of nursing camis. I’ve only worn nursing camis from Target, and they have lasted me through two babies and are still in great shape for baby number three.
And that is how I survived my own post-partum care the first two times around. We’ll see if my body falls in line with baby number three or if some new items will be game changers. If you have any post-partum tips or tricks, please send them my way!