Let’s be real. When you were pregnant with your first child (or if you are currently pregnant), did anyone sit you down and prepare you for what postpartum would truly be like?
Chances are, the answer is no. If yes, you would be in the (lucky) minority.
Even as a medical professional, I was grossly underprepared for my first postpartum experience. Sure, I knew the mechanics of pregnancy and birth. I even visited postpartum women during my OB rotation, asking them how breastfeeding was going, how their healing was going. But I was not aware of how much deeper the experience goes, until I went through it myself.
I had an unexpected C-section, after laboring for 12 hours. My incision really hurt and I couldn’t even talk without wincing. I relied on someone else to help me sit up, walk, and use the restroom. I had no idea how to latch my baby to breastfeed, even though I had shadowed lactation consultants as a resident. When I did latch her, it was really painful, even when hospital lactation consultants assisted.
My baby lost 7% of her birth weight within the first 12 hours, which a nurse “helpfully” informed me was NOT good. I was alarmed. My pediatrician brain agreed with the nurse. My mommy brain told me I was failing at breastfeeding. I really, really wanted to succeed at it. It felt like an initiation badge to be a proper pediatrician mom. We tout the benefits of breastfeeding to parents all the time. I thought “Wouldn’t I be a fraud if I didn’t breastfeed? Wouldn’t I be failing my child, by not providing her with those benefits?” So I put all my effort toward making it happen, no matter what.
This came at the expense of sleep, rest, and my mental health. I hardly slept the first 5 days after birth, was anxious the whole time, and focused much more on pumping and feeding my baby than on taking care of myself. Thankfully, my mom and husband helped me as much as they could, by making sure that I was physically taken care of and by taking over baby tasks that didn’t involve feeding.
At the first pediatrician visit, my baby had lost 14% of her weight. (10% or more is a sign they’re not getting enough.) The doctor gave me a list of lactation consultants to call, but it was Saturday and none were open. In desperation, I called a lactation consultant that I knew through my practice. She gracefully swooped in on a Sunday and spent 2 hours with me. She patiently walked me through the basics of breastfeeding, pumping, and formula supplementing. She noted that my baby might have a lip-tie and tongue-tie, which could explain the painful latch and excessive weight loss. She referred us to an ENT who could correct the ties. She saved our breastfeeding relationship. Without all that information, we simply could not have succeeded.
In hindsight, and in talking to moms in my practice, while my particular postpartum experience was unique to me, the general challenges are universal. Lack of sleep, breastfeeding difficulty, physical pain, hormonal swings, and emotional suffering, to name a few.
My experience led me to learn more about how I can help moms through this difficult transition. I became a board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) to assist with breastfeeding. I learned the latest tongue-tie treatment technique from Dr Ghaheri, an expert in the field. I have helped moms gain confidence in and success with breastfeeding. By treating tongue-tie and other feeding difficulties, I have resolved babies’ extreme fussiness and families’ lack of sleep due to these issues. I offer custom in-home postpartum care with expert advice and personal attention, so that you can relax and enjoy your baby, without worry and inconvenience.
Ultimately, I understand how hard moms can be on themselves. If I could go back and give myself some advice, it would be this: “This is really hard, but you’ve got this. Try your best and be kind to yourself. There is no such thing as failing, only that your expectations may have exceeded reality, which is completely normal. Adjust your goals if needed. Recognize that you don’t have to be perfect and that you can accept any help that is offered. Remember to take care of yourself too, because it is difficult to parent with an empty tank. It’s ok to talk about how you’re feeling, even if you think you shouldn’t be feeling a certain way. You are a strong, loving mom and you are good enough.”