January 4, 2019

The Fourth Trimester

It's hard to believe that 3 months have come and gone. Kyle and I have survived newborn-hood and we made it through one of the most unique and challenging experiences life can offer. There's rarely any other time or circumstance where a person lives through a rollercoaster of emotions all across the spectrum, zipping backwards and forwards between extreme bliss and hardship in a nanosecond. It's true that in a moment you could feel so happy and yet so jarring at the same exact time - new parenthood rides on this fine-tuned balance.

How Did I Prepare For A Newborn?
My personality type commands preparation in all situations, especially the worst case scenario. I expected that I literally wouldn't be able to function in any other way than to feed and be with my baby, so Kyle and I communicated with each other on how to manage his time supporting me as he works from home. The one piece of advice I gathered from every mom I talked to was to have a third set of hands, whether it be a family member, friends, or someone for hire. It was in our best situation to hire a nanny part-time for three days a week. Looking back, I don't know what kind of people or parents we'd be if we didn't have her! During the first six weeks, she focused on taking care of Kyle and me by cooking meals and such and keeping our home together, while I exclusively took care of Jacob myself. After six weeks, I started to have our nanny hold and care for Jacob for an hour at a time, just enough for me to do a little something for myself, take a nap, etc. As Jacob approached three months of age and I'm was nearing the end of the fourth trimester, our nanny started caring for him for more hours during the day so I can work.

Around four weeks after birth, my mother generously gifted me a weekly subscription to Motherbees, a postpartum meal delivery service based in Southern California. I got 3 meals a day for 6 days a week, including jars of chicken bone broth and mother's teas, delivered straight to our door. This made it so easy for Kyle to help me eat on time by popping a meal in the microwave and having it ready to go for me in just minutes. The thoughtful assortment of meals is inspired by the healing tenets of the traditional Chinese practice of zuo yuezi, the period of home confinement for a new mom's postpartum recovery. Following the nutrition part of this tradition was really important to me as both my mom and I truly believe in its efficacy. The ingredients included in every meal are delicious, nourishing, and purposeful in a mother's needs and so plentiful to where I couldn't possibly have the energy to recreate such a meal myself. I'm positive that this nutrition contributed to my quick and easy recovery after my c-section and overall great postpartum mood.  I also just simply love the fact that it's yummy Chinese food done in a clean, wholesome way. In addition, I read the book “The First Forty Days”, written by the founder of Motherbees, and found it to be an amazing read on postpartum care. The book covers the essential steps and recipes for maternal recovery and optimal breastfeeding care. The meal delivery service is a pricey option, so I'd consider adding this as a baby shower gift or plan for it as a short term investment for your convenience and wellness. I think the meals would be most helpful during the first 6 weeks, so that overall cost can be considered for budget.

I learned the hard way that reading books like “Bringing Up Bebe” was completely useless, because while a book like that is great to read for parenting a child, it didn't prepare me for understanding the mechanics of taking care of a newborn. Someone recommended “The Baby Whisperer” to me a couple days after birth, and I lost what precious little sleep I had to read it front to back in just a couple of days. This book is an amazing baby Bible that I highly suggest every mom- and dad-to-be to study, because it actually breaks down how to do things like breastfeeding, how to understand and soothe a particular cry, methods to get them to sleep, and it shares distinct personality types that you can group your baby in to just understand them a whole lot better. This and “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” are my go-tos.

I recommend: Planning for help for the first 8-12 weeks. The Baby Whisperer. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. The First Forty Days. Motherbees (or other meal delivery service).

My Physical Recovery After Birth
I think that exclusively breastfeeding has seriously helped me shed the pregnancy pounds. I'm almost back to my pre-pregnancy shape; I feel trim like before, though I'm still a few pounds away and my hips and waist are still about two inches bigger. And that's really just fine with me. I bought new jeans and a size up in some new dresses and I'm completely content. I'm not dieting because I'm breastfeeding, so optimal nutrition and calories are very important. I haven't exercised, though honestly I think all of the rocking, bouncing on my feet, and holding has toned up my calves and arms effectively. I highly suggest the postpartum girdle to wear for the first six weeks to aid in physical recovery, as many mom friends urged me to not forgo this. I only wore it for the first three because I got lazy, but it still helped a ton in my C-section healing and abdominal tone. I'm currently slathering on vitamin e oil on my C-section scar and I'm trying out Embrace scar therapy to reduce keloiding, which I'm prone to. Besides going through the rite of passage with a clogged duct and thrush, breastfeeding has luckily been going amazing with Jacob. He's latched on well since he was an hour old. Breastfeeding is a breeze now that my milk supply has regulated, but to help keep my milk supply up, I consistently take Makja protein powder and black sesame powder in my morning oatmeal. If I'm feeling like my milk supply is a little lacking or that Jacob is getting extra hungry during developmental leaps, I pump and I take the Legendairy Milk supplements Liquid Gold and Pump Princess.

How Are We Sleeping?
I recall just two distinct periods of tough nights. The first night home was a disaster. We didn't sleep more than an hour at a time and we barely made it to our pediatrician appointment the next morning. The second instance was between 3-4 weeks when Jacob was going through his first developmental leap and it was very difficult to ease his crying and to get him to fall asleep throughout the night (p.s. to learn more about developmental leaps, download the Wonder Weeks app!). Otherwise, it hasn't been bad at all. Since I've been exclusively breastfeeding, I was waking up 2-3x a night to feed him during the first two months. My body got used to this pattern really quickly and I would just get through the days with some coffee and naps when baby is napping. Now at 3 months, he's sleeping 4-5 hours in his first stretch, before waking up to feed just once or twice during the night. Jacob has generally been a great sleeper since he was a month old, because every time he wakes to feed during the night, he'll just fall back asleep while feeding. I never have to get out of bed thankfully. And lately when it's time for his bedtime, Jacob will gently fall asleep on his own for the night when he's laying in between Kyle and me. We swaddle Jacob and lay him in between us in our bed, turn the Baby Shusher on, give him his pacifier, and  Kyle and I will quietly watch TV through our Air Pods while he just keeps to himself, looking around and cooing. In 15 minutes time, our little bear is fast asleep and then we transfer him to the Snoo. We still don't know where this angel baby came from!
Air Pods. Wonder Weeks App.

My Biggest Hardship
My biggest hardship settling into motherhood was my emotional parting of the way things were. I really started to struggle with my new identity as a mom around 6 weeks postpartum. For 42 straight days, I held, fed, rocked, and looked after our baby around the clock. The repetition of every day started to pile up in my head and the pressure hit me hard one day. Becoming a mother is a striking shift from past to present and I sometimes missed my old life, which was my work. I missed getting behind the camera, I missed writing, and I missed the creative energy. I almost felt that I was leaving behind everything I had worked so hard for. Then, immense guilt set in. I tried to get rid of these thoughts by recognizing how thankful I am for gaining this precious gift in my life and for experiencing this role of motherhood that has been my biggest dream. 
I've lived my life with a huge flaw and it's that I am a stubbornly independent person who doesn't ask for help. I want to do everything myself; I'm convinced I can be this superhuman. There's the guilt of letting someone else take care of my child and the guilt of not being present with my child and I let this feed into my struggle. So, it all hit me one day emotionally and I let out a good ugly cry to Kyle. My sweet husband helped me understand that it's ok to accept help sans guilt. It still took a long while for me to feel ready to leave Jacob with our nanny, but after a few times, it's become so much easier and I feel content. I do still struggle with being in work mode. I'll get a couple of hours to myself and I'll get some work done, but not as much as I'd like to before I'm thinking about being present with Jacob. I feel like I'm tiptoeing in the middle of the road of my two identities as a mother and as a working woman, whereas I wish I can just be the best at both. It's a balance I've yet to achieve, but I've accepted that finding balance should be a steady journey and that I'll figure it out one day. Until then, I'm trying not to be hard on myself about getting back to my routines. I'm so, so grateful that I am in the position to be able to be present with my son while he's so small and adorable.
I recommend: Coordinating help for the first 8-12 weeks. Taking it by day by day. 
Being completely present with your baby in such fleeting moments.

How We Continue to Be Social
The first time we took Jacob out of the house was when he was 10 days old. I put a jacket over my PJs, bundled Jacob up nice and warm, and Kyle drove us over to Larchmont Village for an early evening stroll around the block. Jacob was asleep from the moment we left our home to the moment we returned - he had no idea he ventured to the outside. Since then, we've been taking him out pretty often on dinner dates, walks, and coffee meetings. It's nice to just get out of the house with Jacob and give him some fresh air; I've walked to Larchmont plenty of times, with him in my Sakura Bloom carrier. Jacob will fall asleep while I'm walking, so I plan the outing around his nap time.

The number of date nights haven't decreased at all between me and Kyle - we’re just a party of three now. I'd wear Jacob in my carrier during dinner and he'd pretty much sleep through the entire meal. Sure, I have to carefully eat over his head with a napkin, but it's still amazing to be out to a nice meal with my husband and a sleeping baby. Now that he's a little heavier and more alert, we carry him into the restaurant in his car seat and/or stroller. He usually takes a short nap while in it, but recently he's been more awake than not, so we'd just entertain him and hold him at the table. His blanket, a pacifier, and his white noise machine are a must whenever we are out with him.


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