I'm 7 weeks postpartum now as I'm writing this. Postpartum recovery this time has felt much smoother, possibly because my body has gone through it a first time and was less battered this round by the birth. Surprising, since I felt that I was physically more tired this pregnancy.
I recall how I felt like I was in pain from top to toe after my first birth and it was really a steep learning curve in caring for a newborn. This time, my perineal wound healed much faster - I didn't feel much pain after about 5 days postpartum. It was probably due to a few factors, such as doing perineal massage (big thanks to my Physiotherapist Danielle who helped me with it) and birthing off my back. My boobs had thankfully been seasoned from my 2 year long breastfeeding journey with my firstborn, and my nipples of steel were...still steel thankfully. HAHA. Hence, much less pain other than my 2nd night in hospital when baby latched through the night. I popped on my Silverette cups for a couple of days, but haven't had to use them much since then (unlike with my first, where I literally wore them 24/7 for a good 6 months).
Prioritising mental health
Confinement this time got off to a rough start actually, with a first confinement nanny whom we simply couldn't click with. I questioned myself multiple times over those initial few days, wondering whether I was just being difficult because we had our own ways of doing things after caring for a newborn once, and if it was my postpartum hormones which made me feel more affected by her negativity. But hubs also didn't feel comfortable with the nanny, and we also didn't like the way she spoke to little A and handled baby E. After struggling for a few days, with us shutting ourselves in the bedroom to minimise interaction with the nanny, I felt like it was taking a toll on my mental health. I was basking in the joy of having a newborn, and yet this stranger was making me withdraw into my bedroom in my own house. I made the decision to request for a change of nanny. Very thankful for our coordinator, Lloyd, from Newbubs who helped to mediate initially, and promptly arranged for a replacement nanny the very next day. The moment the first nanny left, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest, and when our second nanny arrived, things just went uphill from there. She was a bubbly grandma who was easy to get along with, and even little A warmed up to her really quickly, which I was pleasantly surprised by! I'm so glad that I made the decision to ask for a replacement even though it felt like a very confrontational thing to do (at least for me), because I realised how crucial this postpartum/newborn period was, and I really didn't want to compromise my mental health during this time.
Letting go of doing...
As a first-time mama, I wanted to be very involved in my baby's care from the onset when the nanny was around. It's not that it was a bad thing. There was so much to learn in the short span of a month, and I wanted to be there for everything. I worried that if my nanny was the main caregiver for my baby, that my baby would prefer her over me. I feared that I wouldn't be able to handle my baby or calm her down once the nanny left. So much anxiety.
Going through this phase a second time, I think I'm more relaxed (though the real test is probably after my nanny leaves). I was pleasantly surprised that I still remembered how to change my baby's diapers and soothe her, and I had the assurance that my baby would still be attached to me even if she wasn't currently sleeping with me or if someone else was changing her diaper. This allowed me to let go of control and relax.
...but spending time being
Instead, I focused on each moment that I was with my baby, to be present. Instead of whipping out my phone immediately and scrolling when nursing my baby (which is admittedly very tempting), I've been taking the time to look at her. I've seen her grow from that tiny, sleepy newborn just 7 weeks ago, to now becoming more awake and being able to focus her gaze on me, and we can look into each others eyes as I nurse. Instead of worrying about how I'm going to get her to sleep and whether she has enough sleep while I'm cuddling her, I simply enjoy nuzzling and smelling her baby smell and it's the best feeling. Since she is likely going to be my last baby (although never say never....I said that I never wanted to get pregnant a third time but my ovaries are kinda tingling just thinking how adorable my baby is), I'm just trying to soak in every moment, be present and store up all these memories of her being this little.
I feel that without the burden of uncertainty as a first-time mama, I can enjoy the newborn phase so much more this time. My baby still has her fair share of crying and feistiness (I always say that I don't know where my daughters' fiery personalities come from). But I have mostly been able to stay calm through these moments, knowing that what matters is that I am there to be her source of comfort (when in doubt, boob her :p) instead of worrying that there is something "wrong" with her.
Which brings me to the point - most of the time, there is NOTHING wrong with our babies! Even if they want to be carried all the time, they are nursing round the clock, they won't sleep unless we're carrying them - they are NOT spoilt. As a first-time mum, I was told all these things about how babies should be sleeping x number of hours a day, I should place my baby in her cot "drowsy but awake", I should be feeding my baby only every 3-4 hours, I should let my baby cry for a bit before picking her up so that I wouldn't spoil her. None of these were practicable for me, and I questioned myself countless times whether I failed as a mother.
It was only as I continued along this motherhood journey, bumbled along and made countless mistakes with my first, broadened my reading and learned about biological, natural parenting that I realised my baby was well, just being a baby. It was normal for babies to want to be close to their mummies all the time - they needed the comfort, and it helps them feel safe. It was normal that they nursed often - they never felt hunger in our womb. And cuddling and soothing her immediately when she cried was 100% normal - she needed it.
Modern "experts" of parenting teach us to push our babies to "independence" way before they are ready for it. Knowing this now, all I want to do now is to be a responsive parent to my baby, and meet her needs anytime, all the time.
Not many people might agree with this, and that's alright. But I'm incredibly thankful to have found my tribe - fellow mamas who seek to raise their children naturally, biologically. And it's now my passion to share this with other mummies - if you would like to learn more about this way of parenting, or need support, that's what my Natural Parenting group is about.
Honouring the postpartum period, doing a longer confinement
Back to postpartum thoughts - while the official "1 month confinement" is over, but I decided to extend my confinement nanny for another month as our bodies actually take 6-8 weeks to recover from birth.
The postpartum period is often overlooked as we get swept up in our duties as a mother. Once we become a mother, we will always be a mother. I see this, not just from my own experience as a mama, but through my own mother as well who is continuing to pour her love into me and my babies as a grandmother. It never ends. We take on the role of the carer, nurturer, and wear many hats. Our mental load is immense, always having to plan for the next 1001 things that our children need. I always remind my clients and friends that we, as mamas, need to fill our cup first before we can pour from it to care for our children, but boy, I struggle so much with it as well.
With a confinement nanny, I felt that for the first time since becoming a mother that someone was there to care for my needs (and my baby's). It's honestly felt really good to be able to relax and have someone cook breakfast/lunch/tea/dinner for me, warm up chicken essence, remind me to lie down while keeping my baby clean, helping to get her to sleep and and keeping my house clean and tidy so that I can actually 100% let go (other than feeding/bonding with my baby and caring for little A). Of course, it's not for the long term, but I'm just enjoying the extra help while it lasts.
Lying down more
While I started off feeling much better going into postpartum this time, I was also mindful of getting as much rest as I could to "store up" for the time when the nanny leaves. It's certainly a different ball game going through postpartum with a toddler who still needs to be cared for. While I could let go control of caring for my baby with the nanny's help, but there are still lots of things that need to be done with little A, and also to spend time with her to fill her emotional tank so that she doesn't feel that baby has taken away all the attention.
As much as possible, I've tried to spend more time lying down though, which I feel is so overlooked!
I'm glad that I figured out the sidelying breastfeeding position with baby E much earlier this time! I couldn't seem to do it with little A till she was probably half a year old, but it's really been a lifesaver in this postpartum period. I usually latch baby E in the sidelying cuddle curl position while dozing myself, so I can get some shut-eye during the day and she would also asleep next to me after feeding. I've been taking as many naps as I can during the day (usually short & interrupted, but it's better than nothing) while my nanny is around and it's helped me to be able to sustain through the nights.
Read about why it's crucial to include horizontal rest in your postpartum period regardless of how you birthed here.
So I've got just another week to go before my confinement nanny leaves and I take on the full load of being a mama of 2. Wish me luck!