I could just as easily have called this post “Everything Smells Like Sour Milk.”
Since the birth, a million amazing, crazy things have happened! For one, we named our baby girl! Her name is Alice Athena. As of today we are exactly one month and one day postpartum. Alice is doing really well. Although we have yet to take her to be assessed by an actual “professional,” as a matter of fact I am taking her to a pediatric chiropractor tomorrow morning. Big sisters Mia (8) and Lizzie (6) are so proud, and also definitely a little jealous…
I keep meaning to sit down and get to work on writing this blog post, but it’s getting harder and harder to manage it. And each day I accumulate more and more memories to write. One day I took my laptop out and put it on the little folding stool we use as a TV table in our living room, but a friend called and the baby fussed, and I never got past opening the lid. It sat on that stool for 48 hours before someone finally moved it off to put a drink down. 😩
The further I get into my postpartum days, the more exhausted I become. I think my placenta pills are helping, but I honestly don’t know. Some days it’s all I can do just to muddle through diaper changes and almost as many milk stained shirt changes, falling asleep sitting up nursing and probably drooling all over my fresh shirt. Total mombie status. 🧟♀️
But I don’t want to let too many days go by before I write about the life I’m living now. Compared to my pregnant life, I feel like I used to be a caterpillar and now my baby and I have become a butterfly. One beautiful butterfly. 🦋 I still feel like we are so connected we are almost one and the same. She was part of my body for so long that she doesn’t like to be separate from me for very long. In fact if she is awake and our bodies aren’t in contact, she becomes very upset.
I can understand how traumatic it must be for her to lose that connection, so I am doing my best to honor it, and keep her happy and comfortable. But sometimes, you know, I just have to take a shower, and so Papi puts her under his shirt and she is happy there too, tucked up in a makeshift chrysalis.
What Is A Baby?
There is so much about newborn bodies and behavior that I have forgotten. When Alice was first born she smelled wonderful – like birth and pretzels. I loved smelling her little head. I held off on washing her hair for as long as I could.
During the first few days after birth she shed her skin like a snake 🐍 Skin peeled off her wrists, feet, ears, forehead, neck – everywhere! We had a hard time cleaning her armpits at first. She chafed really badly in those creases.
She was also born with lanugo and milia and stork bites.
She puckers her lips in that distinctive newborn way. The general consensus is that this is a face of concentration/focus.
Her lips are still blistered where she is learning how to suck.
The Moro reflex is a startle reflex that breaks my heart every time those little arms spread out. This link btw has a great video called “Moro Reflex While Sleeping” that shows this very well.
When Alice was first born she didn’t cry very much. I thought maybe she was just a very calm baby. But at about three days pp she found her crying voice for sure.
On her first night of life she was mesmerized by the mist coming out of our humidifier. On her second day of life she was fascinated by the fire in our gas fireplace. So many wonderful new things to see in this world!
I have been trying to get video of all of her amazing newborn sounds. My favorite is a sound she makes that is like a baby elephant. She also makes mousey sounds and a sound that is like a baby goat. I have been recording snippets of her whenever I can but I haven’t been able to capture these sounds yet.
I do have a precious one of her yawning at 4 days pp.
And one of her fussing.
And one of her sleeping.
Her sweet little tongue thrusting reflex makes me want to shower her with a thousand kisses. She is so helpless and so little. Every time I look at her I can’t help but remember what I learned from Our Babies Ourselves – human babies are born altricial. “My sweet little altricial baby!” I like to say. In fact I like it when no one else is home and I can gush as much as I like for as long as I like as stupidly as I like over and over again “Mama loves you so much baby!” “You are the cutest, sweetest, best baby in the whole wide world!” “I love you I love you I love you.” In the first few days of her life I made up a silly little poem for Alice that I recited to her like an anthem,
“You are so beautiful. You are so smart. We love you baby girl. You stole our heart.”Ode to Alice
I am clearly madly, deeply in love with this new little creature.
A Freight Train
Our life has changed so much and in so many ways. From day one postpartum it struck me how funny it was that I was SO focused on the birth, I read so many books and listened to so many podcasts about birth, and I was so prepared for it, but I didn’t read much about postpartum!
I felt something like a fish out of water riding a bike. After all, I have had two other babies – but it’s been six years – some things came back to me but others felt brand new.
Suddenly the birth was over and it felt like the day after Christmas, or the day after that big birthday party when all the decorations are still hanging around. All my great expectations from the past nine months were like so many sad streamers sagging off the ceilings and half deflated balloons hovering dejectedly in the corners. The birth had been everything I could have hoped for, but it was an event that lasted all of half a day. It was over so quickly, I was left with that oft-quipped metaphor of birth as a freight train. It hits you so quick and so intense and then it is gone and rumbling away into the distance.
This is usually what is called “the baby blues,” when the birth high dissipates and we’re left with life back to normal again. Or maybe not so normal. Maybe life with a fussy new baby we don’t know quite what to do with. A new life we weren’t quite prepared for.
My life nowadays mostly consists of laying down nursing baby. Maybe sitting up on the couch nursing her with the Boppy. But honestly our favorite place to be is laying reclined with Alice on my chest. The warm weight of her body on mine just feels so right, and she is content. I call this her “happy place.”
In the beginning we did this mostly skin-to-skin. Sometimes I read or write while the happy place is going on, but sometimes I practice my 2019 mantra: “Just be.”
“Accomplish one small thing a day. Maybe it’s cleaning that counter, maybe it’s writing one thank-you note. Don’t make the task too difficult. For the rest, you’re healing a uterus; adding millions of cells to your baby’s brain (though it might sometimes feel as if they are being siphoned off from your own); developing is liver, heart, and lungs; boosting his immune system; and maintaining the integrity of his intestines… you’re a busy lady! All while sprawled comfortably on the couch. Multi-tasking raised to an art form!”The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, p. 115
My first meal postpartum my husband José made for me. It was a baked sweet potato and green beans. It was so good, so wholesome and nutritious; it is one delicious detail of my postpartum that I will never forget. If I ever have another postpartum it is one detail I would definitely repeat.
During my pregnancy I was obsessed with bagels. I guess it was my biggest pregnancy craving!! I would go every Monday to buy a baker’s dozen bagels for $12 at Einstein Brothers. Two days pp was Valentine’s Day and they made heart shaped bagels! I pre-ordered a baker’s dozen the day before and had José pick them up. They were so fun and a special postpartum treat!
I remember reading in Mindful Birthing that breastfeeding requires three times more calories than we needed while we were pregnant. So I’ve been making sure to eat lots of snacks – whenever I’m hungry – I nibble all day long.
I look for especially nutrient-dense foods filled with lots of good fats like eggs and bacon and avocado toast and bowls of cashews and almonds. I’ve also gotten hooked on Lärabars. I think my favorite flavor is cashew cookie (2 ingredients: dates and cashews) but I also love blueberry muffin!
One thing I have noticed is that I certainly don’t have time for tea anymore! Sipping on a hot cup of tea is just one pleasure I don’t have the luxury of anymore. When I do manage to sit down with a hot cup and actually drink it hot, I appreciate it so much more than I used to. It’s the little things in life. I suppose that’s one thing Alice has taught me already.
In the middle of Alice’s second week of life, my friend Nati sent us a wonderful gift. She lives in El Paso, TX now but ordered all of this from our local Sprouts and had it delivered!
We were so grateful. We had beautiful flowers in our house til the end of February thanks to her gift and some from Bubbles.
Between all the gifts of food and love from my friends near and far, and my mom spending 10 days with us, we were able to spend a lot of time snuggling our sweet new babe.
Day three pp my milk came in right on cue, and man did it hurt. I was engorged and so grateful for the ice packs I’d ordered from Amazon in January. José brought a small cooler filled with ice and set it next to the bed so I could reach in and grab fresh ice packs throughout the night.
The next day he went out and got me a green cabbage. I’d read that putting green cabbage compresses on your breasts reduces engorgement (compounds in them dry out milk, so this treatment should be used sparingly). I did one treatment and got instant relief, so I never did a second one.
Then just five days pp I began to notice some pain deep in my right breast every time we nursed, and after awhile I recognized it as thrush. I read some articles about breast pain and matched up my symptoms for a self-diagnosis. I also remembered the feeling from when I had thrush with my older daughters when they were babies. When Mia was about 4 weeks old we got it, but it was obvious that we got it because I had been on antibiotics for mastitis.
This time, just five days pp we were getting it right out the gate and I was disappointed. I was worried. Did we get thrush because I had been yeasty and Alice picked it up coming out of the birth canal? Or was it because my diet was too high in sugar? Did my placenta have yeast and I was reinfecting us every time I took my placenta pills?? Did it even work that way or was that just for bacterial infections like group B strep? (I found out btw it was definitely not the pills 🙂
However we got it, we had it now and it had to be dealt with. I was mentally preparing myself to go on a no-sugar diet, which felt next to impossible to manage. Luckily my mom was visiting, and she remembered something.
When Mia and I had had thrush in 2011 we’d been living at my parents’ house and my mom had made calls and found out for me that a tiny local pharmacy carried the natural remedy we needed – gentian violet (GV). Gentian by the way is pronounced JEN-shun. She had picked it up for us one day after work and Mia spent the next several days with a pretty purple mouth. Now it was Alice’s turn.
GV is a purple dye made of 98% crystal violet. Mom and I tried to research it further but all we could find out is that it’s a dye and it’s an antifungal. It has been used to treat skin infections since 1890. I did read that some Candida Albicans may now be becoming resistant to GV, but for the most part it is still just as effective today as it was in the 19th century.
GV is available on Amazon with 2-day shipping, but I really wanted to start treating our thrush NOW. So I posted in a local group, the 411 for the 719, if anyone knew of a local place to pick some up. A very kind woman who saw my post private messaged me offering a half bottle she had leftover from 2015. I expected her to live across town, but we were lucky! She was less than 10 minutes away. I sent José over to pick it up right away and began our first treatment within the hour.
To treat thrush, a caretaker can dip a cotton swab in GV and let a baby suck on it, then nurse. Alternatively, a mother can paint her nipples with it first, which is how I went about it. We did four treatments over three days and our thrush was healed. We went topless most of this time since GV permanently stains clothing, and I would let it sit on my nipples for an hour or so before a feeding. I don’t know if it makes a difference or not to let it sit for awhile like that, but the treatment worked. And in the meantime I felt a little bit like I had on purple war paint.
Since then our nursing relationship has been going so, so well. Every time we nurse I look at my baby’s beautiful face and think about how precious these moments are that we have together.
“That summer, when he was about five months old, we lay on the bed, barely dressed, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, with the breeze blowing across us as we nursed. I can clearly remember my inner dialogue. ‘With all the pleasures of the flesh this world celebrates, why is it that no one has ever talked about this bodily pleasure before?'”Jean, remembering 1959 (from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, p. 132)
At 9 days pp I finally decided it was time to leave the house for some fresh air and sunshine. I watched a YouTube video about how to wrap a newborn in a moby, and did a sloppy job of it, but baby was secure. I turned the panel upside down on my warm 3in 1 maternity/babywearing coat and bundled us up for our foray into the bright, bright world outside.
Alice slept the whole 20 minute walk, and when we got back I immediately curled up in bed and fell asleep. Postpartum is exhausting!
My mom and I decided that the bunting she’d gotten us for Christmas was way too big! So she returned it and got me a breastfeeding book I’d been wanting and some adorable 3-6month girly sleepers instead. I am finding that Alice does sleep so much sounder and longer when she is cozied up in a sleeper, so I’ve been dressing her in them for the night and whenever we go out.
So far we’ve been out six times. Mostly to bring the big girls to their library program on Fridays. The library is 8 minutes from our house and four minutes from the girls’ school. It is our habit to go there straight from school every Friday. The first day I went out when my mom was visiting. It was 10 days pp and I was feeling confident about a quick hour out at the library, especially with my mom there to help and to drive us. But on the way home Alice screamed her little head off in her car seat. It made me so upset I decided not to go out again for as long as possible, and I didn’t for about a week.
Since then I’ve gone to the library again for the Friday program and another day to another library for a free screening of a breastfeeding documentary called Milk. Sunday we also went to an indoor farmer’s market in the morning and to a Mexican restaurant for dinner! I was really not in the mood to go out to eat, but we had a gift certificate, they didn’t deliver, and no one seemed to have the energy to prepare dinner at home.
Dinner out ended up being a miserable, albeit educational, experience. For one, I learned that I need to know in advance (like the day before) that we’ll be going out, so that I can have diaper laundry done. If I’m running low and need to throw in a load we can’t just spontaneously leave the house. I made my family wait three hours for a load of diaper laundry before we could leave, and this pushed our dinner back too late. We ended up leaving the house after 7, which is no good. The girls’ bedtime on school nights is 8.
The restaurant was also unbearably noisy. I felt like I had to keep Alice’s head under my sweater because it was so overstimulating in there, even for me. Between the 100+ people in the building all talking and the loud Mexican music and the TVs on mute showing World of Dance, we all wanted to leave as soon as we sat down. But we didn’t, because we were hungry. We definitely would have opted for take out from the beginning, but this particular restaurant was all the way across town, and José felt that our food would be cold and inedible if we got take out and waited to eat til we got home.
In the future we will make plans in advance, have diapers prepped, and we won’t be driving across town to eat out.
So slowly but surely I am getting more confident about going out.
Babywearing is something I’m familiar with from my older daughters’ babyhoods. When my oldest Mia (8) was a newborn, I fell in love with Mei Teis. I made my own and used it interchangeably with a Boba soft structured carrier (SSC). I did have a Moby that someone had gifted me, but I was immediately frustrated with it and decided not to use it at all after the first attempt.
I’m not sure what possessed me this time, but I decided to give the Moby another go. I found one super cheap on clearance at King Soopers and figured – why not?
Well let me tell you, I hated it. Absolutely hated it the first half dozen times I put it on. It is one very long piece of fabric – 18 feet long to be exact. It is cumbersome and intimidating. I watched a video on how to wrap a newborn in a Moby three times and I still struggled. It took me about ten times wrapping it to really get the hang of it. But then, all of a sudden, I fell in love. I realized why everyone I knew who had used their Mobys raved about it. It is super soft and cozy, and basically conforms baby’s body to yours. Not that my Ergo 360 isn’t comfortable, but the Moby definitely beats it on the comfort scale. I don’t mean to sound bathetic, but it’s honestly like wearing a warm, squishy baby hug right next to your heart.
Part of my problem with the Moby initially is that I was trying to fold it neatly after each use. This is not practical. I decided that the Moby was simply not made for people with my kind of OCD sensibilities. I like everything neat and tidy. A big pile of fabric plopped onto the floor and stuffed in the diaper bag was just going to drive me crazy.
But then I reached down into the recesses of my memory and remembered that woven wraps can be tied in slip knots to break them in and also to keep them “neat” and put together. So I did the same thing with my Moby. I was very pleased. I now tie it up like this after each use and it only takes about 30 seconds compared to the 5 minutes it was taking me to fold.
Papi has worn baby in the Ergo several times and I’ve worn her in it once or twice!
I’m favoring the Moby right now but since it can only carry babies up to 35lbs, I know Alice will outgrow it eventually. I really didn’t think I’d be interested in a woven wrap this time, since I never really used the one I had for Lizzie, but considering the affinity I’ve developed for the Moby I think I might just be inspired.
This first month has been full of ups and downs, highs and lows, sweet days and bittersweet moments. I’m so grateful for all of it. These days I’m learning to recognize my stressors, reel them in, and find a new flow.
I couldn’t fit everything that happened in the past month into one post, so you’ll have to look out for more coming up 😉 I’ll be doing a write up about how we got Alice’s birth certificate for sure, one on Alice’s fussy time and ways we’ve found to make her a happier baby, and one on all the baby “gear” I got together pre-birth and how I’m actually using all of it! I also have lots to say about our experience cloth diapering so far, and lots more thoughts and reflections I’ve had about my free birth experience.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. How was your postpartum experience? Is there anything you think I could have done that I didn’t do, or that I could have done differently? Let’s keep the conversation going ~