In hindsight, postpartum after having my first baby wasn’t nearly as bad as with the second. Not to say it was by any means easy or to say others haven’t had a rough time. From what my experience has been, most people think that once the baby comes things get easier. Not sure where that idea came from. I’m here to tell you what postpartum life is really like. It’s not easy friends! Cute baby faces help, but it’s often a struggle.
Throughout my second pregnancy I constantly heard that the baby would deliver faster and easier. In my case, I went into labor at night so going all day and not resting didn’t help. With my daughter (first born), I labored in the morning so had a full nights sleep. So that at least made it seem easier looking back. My doctor told me throughout pregnancy that my uterus is more sensitive now with the second, and I believe that!
Once I delivered I was ready for the second night cluster feeding. I was ready for all I expected having done this before. What I haven’t been ready for is experiencing back pain to the point of not being able to pick up and play with my kids. I don’t always have help so I have to do it regardless. This makes the healing process feel like it will never progress. Add in the late night feedings and holding the baby and it becomes excruciating. There have been many nights where I just held a crying baby and broke down myself. With my husband on night shift, I have texted him just to vent and hear someone say it will be ok. That’s what I need to hear. That my feelings are ok. It’s ok that I’m frustrated because right as I get comfortable the baby is once again crying.
I am now three months in and still having this back pain. I know it will take time to heal and I have an amazing community of support giving me exercises I can do to strengthen my core. Having two babies within two years wasn’t easy on my body, especially my abdominal muscles. When I asked my doctor if I have Diastasis recti (ab separation that is common in 2 out of 3 women with multiple children) he shrugged it off. I did a plank around my six week mark when I was released to exercise again. My low back overcompensated for it. The hardest part is just doing the day to day with two babies; the constant getting up and down, carrying a 25 lb toddler and making sure everyone stays safe.
The care women receive here in the United States is not where it should be. If you remember after my first I became so frustrated with the system while trying to figure out if I had mastitis. I recently found this article on the Fit4Mom blog that shows what different cultures do to support mothers postpartum. It really is sad to see where the United States is in comparison. We often feel like we have more love to give (i.e. have more babies) but don’t have the support we need to stay happy, healthy, and mentally sane.
Breastfeeding is another thing that happens to your body. It actually HAPPENS to your body. Your breasts become huge, saggy, squirting, leaking, sweaty, rashes and oh so uncomfortable. And I’m not really sure if my back rolls are breast tissue or what. Forget those bras you already bought during pregnancy. They don’t fit. Go spend another hundred dollars and maybe get a little bit more comfort. But try to leave the house with two kids in tow and focus on trying clothes on. I didn’t even mention the first few weeks of breastfeeding nipple pain. Brace yourself and scream at the same time your baby does. Then cry because your baby is frustrated now too and not latching. And moms who feed another way you are amazing too! I am not here to complain or take it for granted because I know so many moms have different journeys and that is totally fine!
I debated talking about the emotional side of things. There is a lot of shame surrounding it. There is a big difference in feelings between my first and second. But not because I love one more than the other. You love them differently, as a friend of mine explained it perfectly. Savannah will always hold a special place, being my first born. She made me a mommy. And Owen, well we are seeing his personality more and more every day. It’s really tough to soak in the moments the same as when Savannah was a newborn. You don’t have the time you once had, nor the patience. These feelings lead to a lot of mom guilt; where you feel like you can’t help either child 100%. You also miss when it was easy, just the two of you. So then you have more guilt for thinking that, as if its the same as saying you don’t love your second.
I use to say I could never handle two kids. Somedays are better than others. It’s not always easy but it’s always worth it, especially when these two little faces look up at me with wide eyes (especially when Owen should be sleeping). And the sweetest thing is seeing them in awe of each other. Savannah is 22 months older than Owen and it has taken a little while for her to warm up to him. But the moments she kisses him or asks to play with him make my heart melt. Their dad going to work everyday working so hard makes me sit back and appreciate this family dynamic for now. I know that some day I will miss all of it. So if I cry more some days, so be it. They will see a strong, but vulnerable mom. Maybe someday they will want to be like me and have a family of their own. Each day that both of my tiny humans are safe and happy is a win in my book!
**Edited to add that since having my Mirena (IUD birth control) recently removed my symptoms of back pain and emotional side effects have significantly improved. And that’s a post for another day. The doctors had done very little to forewarn me of these additional hormonal side effects after having just gone through labor & delivery.