As a family nurse practitioner and mom to two beautiful children, Paige who is two and a half and Levi who is six months, I thought I knew EXACTLY what to do as a mom. I mean, I have spent ten years as a health care provider educating new moms about breastfeeding, pumping, after birth bleeding and how to “properly swaddle a baby”. I knew about newborn checks, vaccines and milestones my kids should reach but QUICKLY learned there is so much more “they” don’t teach you.
Let’s go through some of them:
After Birth Bleeding: Or medically termed “postpartum bleeding” is very common and occurs in nearly every woman who gives birth and/or has a caesarian section. I knew that there would be some of this but did NOT know to what extent. In the hospital they give you “granny panties” that make you feel like you have a small fishing net that is holding up the biggest pad you have ever seen. Not only do you have to wear the “fishing net” while in the hospital, but the nurses (bless them) help you pull them up each time you go to the bathroom. At first you are embarrassed but after a few days you come to love these fishing net undies as they don’t squish and squeeze your love handles that you thought would magically disappear right after having a baby. In fact not only do they not disappear but you still look six months pregnant after leaving the hospital, and this I was NOT expecting!
Bringing Baby Home: We all learn how to swaddle a baby, but when your baby is screaming and you have very little sleep, the swaddle doesn’t seem to stay in place. Velcro swaddles are KEY! I am in love with them. They also tell you to keep the temperature at 71-72 degrees when you come home. Well, I had a baby in the middle of winter and I thought that is too cold, so turned the heat up to 75 with a hat and 2 layers for the baby. Needless to say, she ended up crying most of the night, and I’m pretty sure she was on fire! So, keep the house at 72, dress your baby in one more layer than you would dress at night. Trust me, they love this.
Another KEY item to have is a pacifier. My daughter still LOVES her “binki” (a WubbaNub she named Jeffrey). I know that using a pacifier before breastfeeding is established is controversial, but my kids never had this problem and it was JUST what they needed to soothe them when they were fussy.
Breastfeeding: I have had many friends who have had babies in the past few years and their number one complaint is, “they don’t tell you how much it’s going to hurt.” Yes, breastfeeding HURTS. For me, it felt like tiny knives stabbing my breast. I would curl my toes and almost cry every time I breastfed Paige. I came to resent her because it hurt so badly, and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. I was a Maternal/Child Nurse for a few years and taught breastfeeding to new mothers, but I could not get it right and almost gave up. After seeing lactation consultants (which I very much recommend to new moms) they would help me and tell me that I had a “great latch” and the pain just started to slowly ease. Plain and simple…. it just hurts! It WILL get better, so stick with it if you can and use lanolin, it was my best friend for several weeks. The good part is that by the second baby, your nipples know what to do so it doesn’t hurt half as bad. On the flip note to breastfeeding, if you can’t for some reason or another DO NOT beat yourself up about it. Yes, from a medical standpoint, it is important for the baby to establish a healthy start and research shows breastfeeding is the best way to do this, but seriously, DO NOT beat yourself up if you just can’t breastfeed. As a society, we put WAY too much pressure on moms if they don’t breastfeed. Give yourself a break, you are doing the best you can and if that means breastfeeding, great! If that means formula feeding, then that is just as great! Happy baby equals happy mama!
Postpartum Anxiety: Like I said, I thought I had everything together. I pride myself on being a good mom, wife and nurse practitioner. Paige was six months old when I felt like I “lost it”. I just started crying and couldn’t stop. It felt like everything came full force and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to be around her and I didn’t know why. It was hands down the worst feeling in the world and I can honestly say it makes me a better practitioner for having felt this. I now have extreme empathy for my patients that feel this way. I did see a therapist a few times who said it was “postpartum anxiety”. I knew a lot about postpartum depression but never felt depressed, so knew it wasn’t. But, this wave of anxiety hit me like a truck. I realized I was trying to be “super mom” and was doing too much, combined with hormones, stress, etc. it just got to me. I had horrible thoughts of dropping my baby off a balcony… not that I ever would, but they would flash through my mind.
I now tell this story to many of my patients who feel the same way, sit in my office in tears and thank me for saying something as it is not talked about openly. They too feel the same way and it’s a feeling of shame. You love your children so much but sometimes hormones and stress take over. It’s nice to know that this will pass and is a common feeling. If this is something you are experiencing, know it’s common and talk to your primary care provider or obstetrician… this too will pass!
For more information about Saint Mary’s Medical Group or our new Women’s Health Center, call 775-770-76940 or visit saintmarysmedicalgroup.com.
Staci Dooley, APRN is a life-long Nevadan. She was born in Reno but was raised in Fallon, Nevada. After graduating high school, Staci returned to Reno to attend the University of Nevada, Reno and completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from UNR in 2005. She worked as a women’s health nurse immediately after graduation and returned to UNR and completed, with honors, her Master’s Degree in Nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner, in May 2009. She currently works for Saint Mary’s Family and Integrated Medicine clinic in South Reno.