If you’ve endured the not-so-quick reads of my Birth Story Part 1 and Part 2, then you know the many highs and lows we encountered bringing Henry into the world. But really, that was just the beginning of the rollercoaster that is motherhood — specifically, the first year postpartum.
I’ve chickened out on writing this here “Part 3” a dozen times. You have no idea how badly I want the story to end at Part 2 — with a new, joyous family of 3 headed home to sleep and snuggle and smile forever. But… that’s just not the reality of giving birth.
Giving birth is messy, hard, and emotional. But bringing home a newborn baby and trying to find your identity as a new mom is too.
And while I wanted to share the story of Henry’s birth — I feel an actual calling to share what happened following his birth. I think it’s less talked about, yet the more important part of it all.
If any part of birth, postpartum, or postpartum has been harder than you expected, then this is for you. I pray that in sharing more of my journey someone will feel less crazy and alone — and more seen and loved.
Disclaimer: Birth and motherhood can be a very vulnerable talking point — and I’m fully aware that by sharing I’m setting myself up to receive feedback (both positive AND negative). But if you’re reading this, please know that it is different than having a personal conversation with me. As much as I wish I could, I’m unable to tailor these words to be sensitive to individual readers. I hope you know my intentions are pure.
This is just me sharing my story. This is NOT me wanting to compare, invalidate, make light of, or make you critical of your own story. And it’s also not me wanting any kind of praise or judgement. It’s me simply offering insight to my journey — in hopes that maybe one thing would encourage even one person.
The First 6 Weeks:
If you’re not familiar with a “Golden Hour” in relation to birth — it’s a term used to describe the first hour after birth where a mother has uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact with her newborn. I believe having a “golden hour” is beneficial for many reasons — and it was very much something I looked forward to in my birth plan.
While pregnant, I envisioned my golden hour to be in our living room, either in the very tub I had just given birth or on our couch close by. William would of course be right there with us. It would be a nothing but a peaceful and joyous hour — as we soaked in every inch of our newest addition. And of course, baby boy would naturally and easily begin to nurse for the first time.
But alas, this daydream didn’t even come close to fruition! If you remember my previously described “pushing” stage (in Part 2), I’m sure it comes as no surprise to find out that I was left with a pretty good tear — degree 3 to be exact. Which meant about 40 minutes of my “Golden Hour” was spent being stitched up. Something that still makes me feel squeamish — as I am extremely afraid of needles.
Everyone had told me that if there were stitching to be done during the Golden Hour, I would hardly even know or care, because of what, or rather who, was on my chest. But this just wasn’t true for me. Not only was I very aware and somewhat nauseous about what was going on on the other side of that white sheet — I was also as tired as physically possible. William did his best to distract me from what the doctor was doing — but it didn’t help that I could barely keep my eyes open or lift my head up enough to look at Henry. I remember feeling so exhausted and so uncomfortable that trying to soak him in didn’t feel Golden at all. It was almost as if I were in another world — and in already the very first minutes of being a mother, I felt as if my expectations were in question.
I dreamed of doing nothing but rest, nurse, hold, feel and HEAL in those first 6 weeks postpartum. But as much as I may have wanted those sacred days to be handled with gentle care, I quickly learned that wasn’t entirely realistic. And that many of those things were easier said than done.
My mom was with us for the first 3 weeks of Henry’s life. Followed by my sister joining us for a week. And then my mother-in-law closing out with another 2 weeks. William took off the first two weeks and then also received 3 more weeks of paternity leave after his mom left. SO if you followed that, I wasn’t on my own with Henry until he was almost 2.5 months old (except for a day or two while family switched places).
Sure, there were a handful of days that I would have preferred to have been alone in my own space — but I can’t explain how grateful we were for this amount of help. We needed it more than I knew…
Our home in Germany was at a dead end of a one way, gravel street. We had heard rumors since the day we moved in of the city (brick) paving it — but knew we could only believe it when we saw it. When we pulled on to our street from the hospital with our 5 hour old baby, we were completely shocked to see bulldozers and stacks of bricks blocking the front of our home.
It turned out that the rumors were finally coming true — and they had baffling timing! After a long first night, unbelievably desperate for some sleep, yet feeling the pressure from others to do nothing but nurse — we were so kindly woken up to jackhammers shaking our home at 6 AM.
Not only was this obvisouly loud and disruptive for our new, newborn lifestyle — but with the way our house was positioned, it was also incredibly inconvenient. We had to park our cars out on the main street, therefore anytime we needed to come or go (or people would so graciously bring us food) we/they had to walk anywhere from 200 – 400 feet. This may not seem like a lot, but Germany was still cold and wet during this time, and trying to manage getting a fragile newborn, an even more so fragile mom, a full diaper bag, carseat, sometimes groceries or luggage, or more to the car — while stepping around dirt piles, though waves of cigarette smoke, and hoping the loud sounds of construction didn’t wake the baby we just got to sleep — was enough to want to call it all quits. Had I not had help for those first 6 weeks, leaving the house would have been nearly nearly impossible for me on my own. The project ended up lasting 8 weeks.
Something that I was often told in preparation for natural child birth, was to focus on the fact that as soon as the baby is born, the pain will be GONE. — Ha!
Yes, the pain of contractions went away (a big relief) but honestly, I felt like the real pain was just getting started….
Not only was there constant pain from my oh-so-many stitches and piranha attacked nipples, but my pelvis had also grown and experienced so much exertion that my new body was pretty much rejecting any movement. Walking. Sitting. Standing. Laying. It all felt awful. And going up or down the stairs? Don’t even get me started.
In one effort to help this, I was going to the chiropractor 2x a week. This was only validating how much trauma my body had been through. My chiropractor was very clear about the state of my pelvis being “wicked mad” and felt strongly that I limit the amount I walked, and especially, picked up or leaned over. This recommendation made me super emotional — as I had a baby who happened to prefer I did nothing but walk to lean over to pick him up, to lean into nursing him, and then pick him up and lean over to change his diaper 1 million times a day.
Add in trying to find enough time to eat, sleep, shower, get to appointments, nurse 10 – 12 times a day, oh and process the birth you’ve just encountered in between… and you’ve got yourself a recipe for an emotional disaster.
Thankfully my midwifery care with Alexa also included 6 weeks of postpartum care. One of the biggest advantages of home birth in my opinion. The time she invested in us through prenatal appointments was special and obviously important — but our postpartum time together was absolutely invaluable.
William made sure to let Alexa know when Henry was finally born and when we had made it home. The following morning, she came bursting through our door and embraced my swollen and fragile body with a smile and hug that I can still feel. We were both completely overcome with emotion as she got her first glimpse at Henry (who she always lovingly called, “du”) and I began telling her ev-ery-thing that happened since we said our sad goodbyes at the hospital the day prior. She was so proud of me — and immediately began to guide me on my postpartum healing journey.
She would come over every few days the first 2 weeks. And then once a week the remaining 4. She stayed at least an hour every visit — and always thoroughly checked on both Henry and I. I knew postpartum care would include things like weighing the baby or checking on the status of my stitches, but I had no idea the great extent it would go.
Alexa spent a good amount of time helping me learn my “new” pelvic floor. We would do gentle exercises and breathing techniques to retrain my now very weak and tired muscles. But more than that, she was very dedicated to helping Henry and I get the hang of nursing — my biggest postpartum challenge by far. The most unnatural, natural thing I have ever experienced.
Henry was such a sleepy little baby and had no concept of opening his mouth wider than the size of a marble. His latch was weak and shallow and absolutely destroyed my milk making body parts. We had a midwife, a lactation consultant, pediatrician, chiropractor, friends, and more all trying to help us achieve a pain free latch and honestly, I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. There were so many days I thought, “this might be our last shot”.
We finally realized Henry had a tongue tie and it was
clipped reversed when he was almost 2 weeks old. I was so hopeful that this would immediately fix our many issues — but sadly, nothing changed overnight.
Breastfeeding in those beginning weeks was SO painful — I remember biting my tongue as tears rolled down my face, and telling William I would do anything to go back to hours of natural child birth. And as far as pain levels go, I meant it. I was having to use nipple shields, constantly apply nipple creams, doing daily salt water soaks, and always feeling extremely anxious about the next time Henry would need/want to eat. It was beyond exhausting.
Although the scale was insisting I had almost lost all of my “baby weight”, my hips had grown 8 cm which made my body seem completely unfamiliar. I felt so defeated as I couldn’t get any of my jeans past mid-thigh — and ‘everyone’ else I knew (or saw on instagram) seemed to be back in their regular clothes within a couple of weeks.
I was so tired of wearing maternity jeans (and leggings aren’t always socially acceptable), so my mom ended up convincing me that it was OKAY if I needed to buy bigger clothes. And so, that’s what I did. I forced myself to choose grace and bought two new pair of jeans, 1 & 2 sizes up from my pre-pregnancy size. I feel silly sharing about this now, but it was a really big deal to me at the time. I felt so lost in my own skin, didn’t want to have to buy new clothes, and really struggled to be gracious with my ‘new’ body.
There were very few things consistent or normal in those early weeks — but one thing was guaranteed: I would be overcome with sadness that my birth experience felt radically different than I had planned. And although it may not make sense to you, the dissonance between my experience and the experience I had “prepared” for felt like failure versus triumph. My inability to process it all in the midst of everything else was absolutely overwhelming to me.
And while I LOVED that new baby with everything I had — I couldn’t deny that I felt so Emotional. Disappointed. Embarrassed. Angry. Sad. Betrayed. Confused. William, my mom, and close friends were overly available to me, but yet I knew needed to talk to someone that didn’t know me from Adam. And so with Henry only 2 weeks old, I started going to counseling.
It was difficult to plan for and very inconvenient to our schedule, but going to counseling ended up being THE BEST thing I did for myself in those first 6 weeks. There are some things that counselor and I talked about that I guarantee will stick with me the rest of my life. Her encouragement, care and openness to my very fragile state was a much needed gift during a time I felt I had completely lost control and certainty.
As those first 6 weeks came to a close, I remember having unspoken expectations that life (and I) should feel somewhat normal again.
But the reality was, I still couldn’t nurse without awkwardly and frustratingly using nipple shields and usually holding my breathe, I was still bleeding, still waiting for the last of my stitches to completely dissolve, still couldn’t fit into my regular clothes, still crying almost daily… and the thought of being cleared to have sex or work out? That was absolutely HYSTERICAL.
Those first 2 months were really, really tough. I quickly learned that birth affects more than just the new life it brings. And that we don’t always get to decide the ways in which that might occur. I felt as if I was the most read, most prepared, most supported new mom in the world — and yet I still had days where all I could do was cry.
I’m so thankful for how William, my mom, sister, and MIL stepped up for me during this time. Helping me walk. Helping me shower. Drying my hair. Changing every diaper. Not letting me carry a thing. Handing me Henry in the middle of the night. Bringing me meals in bed. Changing sheets. Cooking meals. Cleaning the house. Keeping up with laundry. Holding Henry when I needed a break. Holding me when it all became too much.
It’s amazing how there’s so little, yet so much, to be done. And I’m forever grateful I didn’t have to attack it alone.
Months 2 – 4:
By 2.5 months, we were nursing better, sleeping better, handling our emotions better. Just all around doing better! Hallelujah! We had also found some freedom in our new roles. William was back at work everyday and I was officially now a “Stay At Home Mom” — something I always wondered if I would be! I was thankful to have a lot of my strength back and to have pretty good routine going at home.
We were in our last months of living in Germany and bravely squeezing in a couple more trips. There was obviously added stress with preparing to move and shipping off everything we owned with a 2 month old, but overall, we were handling things well and finding joy everyday in getting to be Henry’s parents.
Around 3 months, we were 1 month away from moving back to the states and things got somewhat hectic again. After months of wondering where our baby’s “baby soft” skin was, Henry was diagnosed with eczema, which was just the beginning of his sad skin and allergy journey. It was now summertime and the heat was making his dry and sensitive skin more than obvious to us. We were living without air conditioning, out of suitcases, and trying our best to navigate this new hurdle — all while feeling very emotional about saying goodbye to the home we’d known longest in our marriage.
At 4 months postpartum, with time, a compression belt, and many hip closure adjustments, I could almost wear all of my jeans again! Although this took MUCH longer than my pregnant-self ever anticipated, I was so relieved to finally have more clothing options — especially as we were about to be without most of our belongings for the next 2 months.
A week and half before we moved, I ended up having another postpartum checkup, as I was worried ‘things’ were still not healing as they should. I was SO sad to find out that my bladder was actually “prolapsed”. Of course I made the appointment knowing things weren’t exactly right — but I was obviously hoping to be wrong. The doctor insisted on referring me to Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy and he seemed very hopeful about ability to recover without surgery.
Although the news wasn’t as bad as it could have been, we were in the peak of a chaotic and transitional period and I was already feeling overwhelmed by Henry’s skin issues. My newfound diagnosis ended up resurfacing more birth trauma that I thought I had fully released. I became so anxious about leaving the country that held my first birth story that William decided we needed to go to the hospital to ensure closure. So the three of us spent our 2nd to last day in Germany at the hospital, having my birth notes translated and going over them with a doctor.
I remember feeling embarrassed that I was there, 4 months later, really needing to talk and looking for some more answers regarding my son’s birth. But William was really encouraging and supportive of me and of this — and it made a HUGE difference for me as I was able to confidently step onto that plane in peace of what I was leaving behind.
Months 5 – 8:
Months 5 – 8 will always stand out to me the most when I think back on my first year postpartum. Henry turned 5 months old a week after we finally arrived in Texas. We were greeted with over 100 degree weather as we spent our days searching for a home and car to call ours. With this heat, Henry’s eczema was only getting worse. And with all of the moving, I was not able to give my prolapse the attention it needed.
At 6 months, we were finally moved into our new home and William was beyond busy with his new job. I was in an unfamiliar city where only a few people knew I existed — and I was working tirelessly to make our new house a home, safely introduce new foods to Henry, fight his now out of control eczema, and find us all new care providers.
After a month of many flare ups and allergic reactions, disappointing doctor’s appointments, and a nightmare of a time with our insurance, we finally secured a pediatrician and allergist for Henry, a physical therapist and dentist for myself, and a chiropractor for us both.
Although I was relieved to finally have some medical professionals on our side, nothing was getting fixed overnight. Henry was now 7 months old, yet it seemed like we suddenly had an entirely new baby. He was beyond miserable. He would cry and scratch himself to bleeding what seemed like all day, every day. We were having to keep his head covered all day, his hands covered all night, and lotion on him 24/7.
I spent my days trying to keep him comfortable — and trying to not feel like a failure of a mom. But that was difficult, as he was in so much pain and it seemed like nothing I was doing was helping.
In the meantime, I was now going to physical therapy at least once a week (always having to bring Henry along with me). My prolapse felt like such a threat to my belief in the ability of my body. I spent a lot of time wondering why no one had told me this could be an option? Wondering how 1 in 4 women experience this, yet I had never even heard of it? Wondering how I could be 6 months old postpartum and STILL unable to work out — or wear a tampon — or comfortably have sex.
My therapist was so encouraging and helpful through all of this. My time with her was so necessary — physically but also emotionally. I worked hard in her office — but also daily at home — to strengthen my pelvic floor and confidence in myself.
This same month — I was seen for a routine 6 month dental cleaning. It was there that I sadly learned that pregnancy/nursing had really taken a toll on my teeth. As someone who always had a perfect dental hygiene record — I was in complete shock when my new dentist told me I had 2 cavities and a possible root canal. He questioned if exclusively nursing could possibly be causing a vitamin deficiency and weakening my teeth. I didn’t know what the exact cause was — all I knew is that I couldn’t handle one more negative appointment at this time.
The first month and a half as a new mom obviously had its challenges, but nothing could have prepared me for the disappointment and anxiety these couple of months would bring. I was trying to balance so many appointments — without anyone to take care of Henry — and with a husband working longer hours than he ever had before. It felt like I was having to choose everyday between taking care of Henry or taking care of myself — and he would always win.
During month 7, I cried myself to sleep more nights than I didn’t. We prayed harder than we had since I was in labor. I questioned my ability to make it almost everyday. And I awkwardly tensed up every time someone asked when we were having another one.
But I believe there’s always a mountain next to the valley — and I felt the Lord begin to pull us up around month 8. We now had a strong community, which made a world of a difference. We had babysitters (!!!). The weather was finally cooling down. We were much more confident in handling Henry’s food allergies. I was miraculously able to avoid the root canal. And we weren’t taking any of these blessings for granted.
Months 9 – 12 postpartum:
And at 40 weeks out — something totally shifted. Henry’s eczema and food allergies were no longer consuming our days. My prolapse was no longer causing daily symptoms and I was finally cleared to start working out again! I even became emotionally open to the conversation of having more children in the future — something I had for many months very quickly shut down.
Months 9 – 12 felt radically different than the ones before it. There were almost no tears. Henry was again the sweet and content little boy we always knew him to be. He grew into a confident and wonderful eater — and while not perfect, his skin became clearer than ever before. He was learning and growing so much everyday and we weren’t sure if it were possible to love him any more than we did.
By 11 months, I was still dealing with more cavities than I care to admit — but I was excited to be released from therapy, as I had made really great progress! I’ve come to accept that I might always have the actual prolapse, but I’m thankful it doesn’t inhibit my daily life anymore. A gigantic answer to prayer. If you have had a baby 6 months ago or even 6 years ago, I am the biggest advocate for Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy!
As we entered into the final month of the first year, I was overcome with emotion. Where had my tiny baby gone? Who was this child hysterically laughing and crawling all over my house? Do I really have to start weaning him soon?
I absolutely loved watching Henry approach one year — but there was a side of me that was also mourning his fading infancy. And if I were being really honest — there was side of me that was disheartened that I was still dealing with some postpartum issues, yet I was technically exiting the “postpartum period”.
There are obviously MANY high and happy and joyous moments woven throughout this entire first year. More than I could count. But those moments aren’t what this post is about. Those moments are what every other post is a about! 🙂
Writing these stories has been unbelievably healing for me. It’s been so sweet to remember my first year as a mom and be completely unable to deny the Lord’s hand in it all.
I think this is the longest blog post I’ve ever written — and yet there’s SO much left unsaid. There are many details that don’t feel safe in this space. But if there’s anything here that resonated with you — or that you feel alone in — or that you want to know more about — I’m an open book. I would love to hear your story and to support you in anyway I can. It can be so easy for us to share the many exciting and fun and sweet parts of keeping an infant alive. But I think there’s so much good in sharing in the many, un-talked about challenges too.
So much healing that can come from knowing you’re not alone in hating the start of breastfeeding. You’re not alone in your organs not being where they use to be. You’re not alone in not being able to be intimate with your husband the day your baby turns 6 weeks old. You’re not alone in feeling angry about your birth plan going off script. You’re not alone is wondering if you’ll ever feel normal again. You’re not alone in thinking you’ll never be able to do any of this again. You’re not alone in the guilt. In the fear. In the doubt. In the hormones. In the tears. In the pain. In the opinions. In the confusion.
I found postpartum to be like the never ending fourth trimester. We can never go back to the old us. And if you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t dare want to. The challenges and fears make us stronger. And the joy makes us completely weak in the knees.
So my recommendation? Allow people to help you. Delegate tasks. Communicate your needs. Hold that baby. Buy the bigger jeans. Take the nap. Get in the photos. Eat if you’re hungry. Be proud of yourself. Reach out to a counselor. Cry. Invest in physical therapy. Call your mom. Laugh. Take your vitamins. Kiss your husband. Don’t forget to go to the dentist. Pray. And take care of yourself.
Because that brand new baby, that fragile mom, and their first year together — will all be a memory before you know it.