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The first three weeks postpartum. My top ten topics!

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Our first three weeks together have been wonderful! Of course not without sore nipples and re-adjusting to less consolidated sleep, but there is something spectacular about the confidence we hold in round 2 that allows us to go straight to the things that we know work for us without worrying quite so much. The early days with a first born are often very difficult with so many unknowns, but with the second it boils down to baby having three top activities: sleeping, eating, & pooping. Lots more goes on of course, so my likely lengthiest summary follows of the top ten topics I mulled over, researched, or was sure to do in these first few weeks. I included headings so that you may skip ahead to topics that currently apply to you (which can be at any time, not necessarily in first three weeks!)

1. Lactation Support
2. Extra hands around the house/mother/mother-in law/doula/all of the above!
3. Night-time Tray/Caddy
4. Specialists for baby wellness
5. Minimize visitors
6. Herb Baths
7. Take your time with your birth story
8. Make sure car seat installed properly and using safe techniques
9. Massage massage massage!
10. Take every little window of opportunity for family time/big sibling time!

1. Lactation Support

On day 2 I found myself scouring the internet for lactation support, first finding a great list of local Lactation Consultants (LCs) categorized by whether they do home visits, etc. Then all of the great drop-ins with LCs held every day across the City. And finally heading back to one of my favourite spots for lactation support, Milkface, with drop ins from Monday-Saturday, 1-4pm (last registration by 3pm).

Home visits would be your most costly, most requiring a 2 hour session, ranging from around $150-160. At Milkface a first drop-in is $40, and subsequent drop-ins only $20. And all of the City drop-in programs are absolutely free!! In my experience with both Hannah and Avery, I have benefited from seeing a few LCs to get different opinions and tips. Once you get some great advice and are working through the recommendations, you can keep dropping in at the City drop-ins anytime just to do a weigh in of your own to make sure that you are on track for weight gain. If weight gain and output are up to snuff, and your doing ok too (in terms of pain), you should be good to continue to trust yourself and baby but never hesitate to seek support for even the teeniest of concerns!

2. Extra hands around the house/mother/mother-in law/doula/all of the above! 

What I find is so crucial is having in-house support other than just your partner. This can be your mother, mother-in-law, or other close family member or friend. A postpartum doula also plays this role wonderfully. Even if you have the support of a mother figure and your partner, a postpartum doula can still be so valuable as they are there to support the entire family in how best to support the mother-baby unit (selfless plug?). What is so beneficial is someone to catch you up and press the “reset” button.

For us this meant my mother whom I will love and cherish beyond the end of time, bringing down my tray of nighttime necessities (oooh great idea of something to cover, see next section) and cleaning everything, gathering and doing laundry, folding it and putting it back before I even notice, planning and cooking dinner, cleaning up afterwards, tidying the tornado of toys that my 3 year old leaves behind wherever she goes, watering the plants, cleaning the washroom, vacuuming, and I am sure 100 other things I don’t even notice!

Now I have to say that I lucked out with an incredible hubbi who also does all of these things, but having someone else take care of it at first allows mommy-baby-partner to live in their babymoon together if it is your first. If it is your second or third, etc. then partner takes on the older kid(s) and has the time to play hard with them, and pay so much attention to them, that they don’t have a chance to feel brushed aside. On that note, Grant and Hannah have taken to having what they call “sleep-overs”, while I have my sleep-overs with Avery and all four of us are incredibly well-rested and happy for this stage in newborn-hood!

3. Night-time Tray/Caddy

Every evening from 7-8pm we ready the family for the night, Hannah’s bedtime routine (bath, PJs, then she pics her three books and one teddy, her water bottle, all onto the stairs etc.) and I ready the tray of all trays with everything I need to literally not have to get out of bed from 8pm-8am (WONDERFUL!!). A nice ginger tea with honey and lemon for my cough, a gorgeous snack bowl with a homemade sweet potato and oat muffin, lots of fruit, etc., a hot water bottle for Avery’s cloths at diaper change time, his diapers and cloths, an empty bowl for dirty cloths, his nose spray and aspirator for his stuffed up little nose, lanolin, etc. Why make it harder on yourself? Put everything in arms reach :).

4. Specialists for baby wellness

Labour and birth can be hard on babies too, somewhat stressful at times, coming out of tight quarters, and possibly with further complications like forceps or vacuum assist. Hannah had her hand up b
y head for labour and birth (and who knows how long in utero) and it took us a year to realize that she had some neck kinks to be worked out because of it. Avery was posterior for his labour and birth and had a large frontal cone head and bruising.

Our solution to this is to take advantage of various specialists, who are covered by insurance I might add, and have them check out baby and use their incredible gentle touch to mend any issues or simply for baby wellness. In his first three weeks of life Avery had three relaxing massages by a renown baby specialist registered massage therapist/ craniosacral therapist, Stephanie Bergeron, at Kneaded Touch, his first chiropractic assessment and two adjustments by the lovely Dr. Brent and Dr. Pauline, both who he was completely intrigued with, at Arc of Life Chiropractic and Massage, and two sessions with a great osteopath with infant experience, Christian Albrecht, at Ottawa Osteopathy and Sports Therapy. Every one of them helping us towards improving his latch and our early breastfeeding relationship, and his overall comfort and well-being.

5. Minimize visitors

Before I had kids, I was a terrible postpartum visitor. There should honestly be a book, or at least a handout everyone somehow receives, on what NOT to do. Don’t let the new parents play host/hostess, you should be serving them, not the other way around. And keep your visit short. Brand new mama’s might love chatting while you are visiting but find after that it actually drained her.

The best gifts tend to be food or service, so when you come to meet the baby bring something yummy (and nutritious if possible ;). Even if they prepped ahead and their fridge is full, they will freeze it and appreciate it later. If you aren’t much of a cook or don’t have time, take 10 minutes during your visit to get something done for the new parents. Sink full? Wash the dishes on the way back from the washroom. See a laundry basket of clean clothes? Start folding while you chit-chat. Most parents are too shy to ask for help but you might see their shoulders fall with a huge sigh of relief, a smile, and a “thank-you” as you begin a chore. They might not even care that you are folding their unmentionables ;).

Since there isn’t a universal handout it often lands on the parents to hold off visitors and to keep visits short. As the new parents, just be honest about what works for you!

For us, no one visited during the first week other than a close doula friend who popped in to put delicious “booby-bites” in my freezer and to do the dishes before she left. Our next visit was literally 5 minutes – a quick pop in by neighbours who completely respected the timeline I had available and who have since had Hannah over to make Christmas crafts. Then once I was ready during weeks 2 and 3, I planned two play-dates with Hannah’s besties to get some of her pent up energy out while enjoying a chat with their mums. One brought a delicious banana loaf and the other a huge pack of stickers, colouring books, crayons etc. to entertain the kids. It appears that all of my people so far got the hand-out!

I am still not great at asking for help (other than from my poor mama and hubbi hehe) but I have heard of some neat ideas of food trains, run by a close friend so its not even you asking and coordinating. Also, a chore list on the fridge or front door for people to complete one during their visit.

I have some great postpartum plan resources I have saved from the online summits I have attended to help you plan this part of your postpartum ahead of time.

6. Herb Baths

Treat yourself to some warm baths infused with healing herbs in the first few weeks, it smells and feels amazing!! Time alone to reflect is very important too. See Aviva Romm’s book in my postpartum resource section for some great recipes.

7. Take your time with your birth story

When people ask, “how did it go?” it is completely up to you what information you feel like offering. You can choose which ears will get a short little summary, and which (if any right away) will get your whole story. But please, let the reason you change your versions be for you and only you and not for the sake of the listener. In a great talk I had the pleasure of listening to by the amazing Pam England who wrote Birthing from Within, she said the following when describing the many stages of digesting and processing our birth stories:

“…then there is this social story, which is the one you tell people, but you change it depending on the group or the person so that you get acceptance…this isn’t a very complete story.”

In learning from Pam’s talk, I am realizing that all of the stages she describes are likely stages we must go through but I hope that if we are offering varying versions of our birth story, that we can try to be conscious of whether we are varying it for us or for the audience.
During the same talk Pam also offered the following advice:
“People should refrain from birth story swapping in the first 6 weeks, and the woman should really hold her story only for people who can be trusted with the pain or the sensitivity. There has to be more discipline about the story itself being guarded until it’s processed, because you are vulnerable, and everyone’s input then, I call it birth story morphing, it morphs it, and it makes it more complicated … because it is not just your language, which is complicated enough, its everybody else’s language.”
As I do not yet offer Birth Story Medicine as a trained Birth Story Listener (this is hopefully what you will see next on “coming soon“), I will not even attempt to paraphrase the perfectly crafted descriptions from the Birthing From Within site:

“For many women, the experience of giving birth and becoming a mother evokes strong memories and a range of emotions. It is one of the most powerful and profound events of your life, and, no matter the outcome, it can be infused with negative feelings. In our culture, “healthy mother, healthy baby” may be considered the only thing of value, yet what happened to you matters. Come to Birthing From Within for some Birth Story Healing.

What is emotional birth trauma?

Anyone who gives birth or witnesses a birth (a birthing mother, father, or birth attendant) can experience emotional birth trauma. They may feel deep sadness, regret, anger, shame, grief, blame, numbness, or disappointment about event(s) that happened surrounding the birth. While some people avoid thinking about certain parts of the birth, others mentally re-play moments over and over again, wondering what should have been done differently. They may try to sort it out on their own or just brush it off. And while talking about it, swapping stories, or venting with similarly wounded moms may provide temporary relief, these approaches do not bring lasting resolution or healing. So, what does?

Our Birth Story Medicine® is different – and it works.

Birth Story Medicine is an uplifting guided personal-growth process that brings insight, resolution, and healing after a difficult or disappointing birth. Our unique model has its roots in Pam England’s personal journey of learning and healing after her unexpected, traumatic cesarean birth. Birth Story Healing has been continually refined over decades of listening to birth stories and through the vision, observations, and experiments of Pam England and her creative adaptations and integration of others’ work. Now, she has inspired and taught hundreds of women to skillfully and sensitively guide these sessions all over the world.

Mothers and birth professionals praise our Birth Story Medicine® process. In just one or two sessions, a profound difference is made, even for women who have “tried everything else.” It is never too soon, nor too late, to find new meaning and healing in your birth story.”

If you feel you had a traumatic birth in any way, and please know that it doesn’t have to have appeared to be traumatic to anyone else, please consider contacting Birthing from Within. Also, the Ottawa chapter of Birth Trauma Ontario meets meets the 4th Wednesday of each month at the Ottawa Integrated Health Centre at 1129 Carling from 7:15pm onward.

8. Make sure car seat installed properly and using safe techniques

If you aren’t a manual reader or are uncertain about properly installing car seats in any way, there are a few options. Seats for Kids holds car seat clinics a few times per month around the City. BEST FIT with Ottawa Safety Council also holds clinics. Both of these will cost you $30 for your installation and come with some great instruction.

The paramedic association, fire services, nor the Ottawa Police conduct inspections on car seats.

I am not (yet!) a certified technician, but I am a manual reader and attempt to use the safest car seat techniques. One new idea for Avery was to make a slight adjustment to the typical car seat zippered blankets. There should not be any layers between the baby and the car seat (same as there should be no thick or compressible layers on the child – you can find many videos about this online). Solution? Cut the bottom piece that would sit under the child, keeping a border of maybe 4 inches (and hand sow it so that it won’t fray) and place it under the front lip of the car seat instead, so that it still holds the top blanket in place!

9. Massage massage massage! 

 Even the busiest of partners and support people can spare two minutes here and there to give you a massage! This is often all you need (even though it leaves you craving more hehe) to reset the seemingly constantly flexed state of your upper back from nursing and holding your newborn. In addition to two minutes of love you manage to squeeze in here and there, use those bean bags you can warm in the microwave on your sore body parts, and the shower head works marvels too. Do your best to always nurse and hold baby in supported positions (use pillows, lying back position, side-lying position etc.) but it still takes a toll on your upper body no matter what.

 10. Take every little window of opportunity for family time/big sibling time!

In the early days it feels like baby is either nursing, you are changing their bum, they are catching a snooze on your chest, or are otherwise in your arms somehow. So when those odd little glimpses of time surface where baby is happily resting in their little chair or bassinet, and you managed to all eat dinner and there is still 5-10 mins before baby might wake, USE THAT TIME WISELY to reconnect with your spouse/family, especially if you have other little ones already. It can be so tempting to race to get the dishes done while your two hands are free, but leave it be, it can wait.

After dinner one night, Grant, Hannah, and I hopped onto the playroom floor and fit in a game of Go Fish before Avery came out of one of his rare lone slumbers in his vibrating chair. These teeny pockets of time (teeny in the early days, they do grow I promise!) where both parents sit down with each other or with the older kid(s) are more valuable than can be described to refill everyone’s love and attention tanks.

Mom should make sure to fit 10-15 mins of undivided attention with the older siblings every day. It doesn’t sound like a lot but you would be surprised how rarely 15 minutes straight go by uninterrupted by something relating to the new baby or by mum taking the well deserved opportunity to run and pee alone even hehe. But it is so worth it to keep the peace, and wow do you ever “miss” your first born even if they are always around, so it isn’t that you don’t want to give them much much more than that!

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