eight weeks postpartum

Eight weeks… er, two months

When do you switch from counting weeks to counting months? I stopped counting days when I got to one week so I suppose I should stop counting weeks after one month.

two month old baby photo
Can you tell how much we just did not want to get our picture taken? No. Look below.
long sleeve white onesie baby
Not. Happy.

He is two months old; I am eight weeks postpartum. For C-section ladies, eight weeks is the magic number of weeks for recovery.

I don’t know why.

do know that I have “recovered.”

My stitches dissolved. I’m cleared to do light weight lifting, (whatever) gentle yoga (is) and some cardio, such as walking. I’m allowed to climb stairs regularly and lift things heavier than the baby. You know, like the baby in his car seat, which weighs exactly 300 pounds. I’m also officially cleared to drive… but I’ve been doing that for weeeeks.

Not on pain killers? Back in the driver’s seat. Girl’s got places to be.

Speaking of pain…

The consistent sharp cutting pain I felt during the first three weeks postpartum is gone — so is the consistent dull throbbing pain I felt in the weeks following.

Now, the only “pain” I feel comes from pressure on the incision site.

Which means ALL of my structured pants and skirts from pre-pregnancy hurt me because they put pressure against the incision site so I guess I don’t have to worry about fitting into them again… yet.

Which is good, because I don’t have the time or energy to add a workout routine to my day… to my week. I might be able to pull off a trip to the gym once every two weeks — and I’ll be doing NORMAL yoga in my NORMAL class, if baby and boobs cooperate, of course.

Yeah, it’s not just the baby taking up all my time and energy. I also have to contend with my boobs.

Every spare second of waking up early in the morning is spent — you guessed it — pumping, and every spare second of waking up late in the morning is spent — oh, yeah — still pumping.

For instance, while writing this blog at 5:15 a.m., I’m — yup! — pumping.

I’ve got an overactive set of milk producers over here (I’m not worried about not producing enough anymore). I’ve also got a hungry baby who recently when through a tremendous growth spurt — mostly in the head region, adding two inches to its circumference and setting himself solidly in the 99th percentile for head size.

So I don’t have the time…

…waking up earlier doesn’t work either. For instance, again, I’ve been awake since 4 a.m. — first feeding the baby, and then pumping.

Plus, I have to wash my pump parts after every use. There’s only like six pieces so I’m not going to run them through the dishwasher. I’m hand-washing these babies, which takes up even more of my morning.

By now, it’s 6:45 a.m., and I have to get ready for work. (But the baby woke up again, and he’s hungry.)

So I don’t have the energy…

…there is not enough caffeine, there are not enough calories I can consume.

Oh yeah, whoever decided you don’t have to increase your calorie intake while breastfeeding — and I’ve heard people say this — is a jerk.

have to increase my calorie intake because, now, I’m literally eating for two. I have to feed me, and then I have to feed him. with. the. same. food.

Luckily, the person who decided you don’t have to increase your calorie intake while breastfeeding is also wrong. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and not gain weight.

Want to know why?

Turning roast chicken into breast milk burns calories. Lots and lots of calories.

So I don’t care.

Full stop.

I. do. not. care.

The only thing that can get me on a regular workout schedule without time and energy is money… for the nanny, the housekeeper and personal cook I would need to get time and energy enough to incorporate a workout into my daily routine.

I’m not never going to work out again. I will fit into all those pants and skirts hanging in my closet again — mostly because I don’t want to buy new ones — but my body will never look like it did before pregnancy.

Stretch marks cannot be exercised or dieted away — and we all know I’m not going to diet. My scar will fade, but it will always pinch the skin to pucker. My skin will probably remember, at some point, that we’ve already gone through puberty. My hair will grow back… my hair will grow back my hair will grow back my hair will grow back…

pregnancy hair loss
That part has never looked so bare… My bathroom mirror, however, is often that dirty.

I gained 41 pounds during pregnancy, most of which was water weight that fell off entirely after two weeks. One night I sweat soaked the sheets, peed for five minutes in the morning, and it was gone! Additional weight loss I attribute to breastfeeding because it burns calories.

Lots and lots of calories.

At eight weeks postpartum, I’m five pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. A weight at which I was happy. A weight at which I fit into pants and skirts without elastic waists. A weight at which I do not plan to work for right now.

Instead, I’m going to try to go to yoga every other Saturday morning because I’ve missed it immensely.

Instead, I’m going to eat Cool Ranch Doritos and Greek salads because I love Cool Ranch Doritos and I can tolerate leafy green vegetables again.

Instead, I’m going to spend my free evening hours between dinner and dream feed snuggling with my son.

Full stop.

 

A Day Without a Woman

Today is International Women’s Day, and women across this country will celebrate by participating in A Day Without a Woman — taking a day off from paid and unpaid labor; purchasing no goods unless from a small-, woman- or minority-owned business; and (or) wearing red in solidarity.

I woke up this morning and went to work.

I work for a woman-owned business. We’re a small team, and I have a lot of work to do coming back from six weeks off with a new baby.

I guess, with an infant at home, I won’t be taking the day off from unpaid labor either. He requires a lot of labor (and it’s all of love).

Last night, I attended a Junior League of Wichita Diversity & Inclusion Committee panel discussion with local female leaders in the community — some truly amazing women from public service, higher education, law, non-profit and small business ownership. The panel discussed careers, obstacles women face in the workplace, including themselves, and — a recent topic for me — “mom guilt.”

The Wichita Eagle recently compiled a collection of survey responses from women in the workplace: Wichita women talk about workplace obstacles, which addresses obstacles, such as maternity leave, breastfeeding and child care — all things we talked about in last night’s panel discussion.

I almost did not attend the panel discussion, even though I’d been looking forward to it for a month, because of mom guilt. My husband had been home all day with our son who was suffering from gas and discomfort.

So he was fussy.

When I got home, I nursed him, burped him and gave him back to my husband so I could leave again.

He was still fussy.

My husband told me to go knowing I’d stand there staring at them with keys in hand fretting… and feeling guilty.

“Mommy guilt is real,” the panel agreed, and it’s a challenge women face in the workplace, in our home life and in our relationships.

One woman said, when her children were young, she feared the Kindergarten teacher would judge her seeing her son in the same T-shirt two days in a row “because we like that T-shirt” and some mornings can be difficult.

Another woman lamented about being asked how she could open her own business and plan her son’s birthday party at the same time.

“I can do it,” she told them.

Whether it’s the guilt we put on ourselves or the guilt we put on each other, listening to these women talk about their own mommy guilt assuaged my fears leaving my son — missing developmental milestones, not being there to comfort him, not being there to feed him.

I am going to miss things happening in his life, and that’s OK. He’s going to be OK. One of the women made a point to say: “You’re children will be fine.”

A small business owner on the panel with four children said she couldn’t do what she did every day — working, managing her business, mom-ing — without her husband. As a woman, a business owner and a mother, she wasn’t doing it all all of the time all alone.

Her message was of support — whether from a spouse, a family member or a community.

Years ago, I wrote about how my village raised me. Today, my village empowers me to be a mother, a wife and a woman.

Without the women and men who support me, throughout my pregnancy (and during the fourth trimester, especially), I could not do what I do every day — working, writing, mom-ing.

My husband, who is an amazing husband to me and father to our baby…

My mother, who taught me hard work and who loves my son so much…

My mother-in-law, who gives and gives of her time so my husband and I can go to work knowing our son is in good hands and loving arms…

My sister-in-law, who flew in just to meet him (and make us dinner — thank you!)…

My friends, who called or texted to check in on me weekly after he was born…

The women who gave so generously of new and used baby gear so I didn’t have fork over an arm and a leg to keep him diapered, clothed and soothed…

The women who became my tribe and who never passed judgement on me or my decisions.

I went to work this morning.

Wearing red.

Because — even though I went to work — I stand with women.

For an end to violence and harassment.

For reproductive rights.

For equal pay, affordable childcare and paid family leave.

For civil rights.

For women.

Like ripping off a Band-Aid

I woke late Thursday morning. Too late to take a shower, style my hair and make myself more presentable for my first day back at work.

To make up for it, I put lipstick on.

Going back to work last Thursday was a lot like ripping off a Band-Aid. For the first few moments, it hurt; but the pain faded, and I didn’t feel it again — not that I couldn’t wait to go home to squeeze my baby and hold him until bed (which is exactly what I did).

My husband walked me to the door with my son still snoozy in his arms. Walking out the door hurt, but the hurt faded as I drove, and it was gone once I sat down to check my email for the first time in six weeks.

I felt OK.

And  I didn’t feel guilty for feeling OK.

:)

Over the weekend, my boss and coworkers hung curtains over the large, inward-facing window in my office so I can close up shop when I need to pump, and I taped printer paper on the two small windows that face out into the parking lot. An “Open/Closed” sign and a lock on my door round out the perfect “Mother’s Room.”

curtains for pumping room at work breastfeeding
Curtains for the big window. And yes… that elephant is wearing a super hero mask. And yes… I have a stuffed elephant in my office.

I love not needing to leave my desk. Pumping is boring enough without the added hassle of setting up in some other room without anything else to do.

You know, like when I pump at 2 a.m.

breast pump at work
Opened the side drawer on my desk for the best pump placement ever. And yes… I was on the phone, and she knew what I was doing.

That Thursday, I think I pumped nearly 30 ounces <– Not an overstatement. It’s like my boobs knew I was leaving him.

breast milk storage
Three times I filled these buggers that day…

My coworkers took me out Friday, too, to welcome me back. I, of course, selected my favorite place to grab lunch — Public Old Town.

fish and chips public old town wichita ks
Fish ‘n Chips with Homemade Tartar Sauce (also AH-mazing!)

I also got new head shots taken Friday during Pink Portrait Day with corporate photographer Kacy Meinecke.

Kacy Meinecke Corporate Photography Wichita Kansas

Kacy Meinecke head shot photographer wichita ks

All proceeds went to benefit ICT SOS, an organization founded to fight human trafficking. Not only a fabulous photographer, also a fabulous person.

I didn’t just go back to work last week. I think I went back to “Shae” a little, too.

Emails, voicemails, proposals and projects? Check.

Lunch at a foodie hot spot? Check.

Sassy face photos with bright red lipstick? Check.

This new mom felt like her old self again.

 

 

 

 

Six weeks postpartum

Today, my doctor will tell me if I’m healed and ready to get back to active Shae duty. Honestly, though, “active Shae duty” just involves 40- to 50-hour work weeks and an occasional attempt to exercise regularly. (My last attempt to get into a fitness regimen was stifled by pregnancy exhaustion and nausea.)

Today is also my last day of maternity leave. Tomorrow, I go back to work.

I’m ready to go back to work. I’ve prepared for my child. He will not hunger because my freezer and my deep-freeze are packed full of breast milk for him while I’m away. I also have the best child care in the form of his father and loving grandmother rotating days when my husband doesn’t have to go to work.

Physically, I’m healed (as far as I know — the doctor might say different). Plus, I’m excited to take my work projects back on and get outside of my house on a regular basis — and to wear real clothes again.

…not that sweatpants aren’t amazing.

But I think I know why some moms choose to stay home with their children — and not just for financial reasons.

I am going to miss so much during one of my son’s most developmentally exciting times.

He’s only six weeks old. His smiles aren’t yet intentional; I might miss his first one. I might not be the first person he smiles at. His coordination isn’t developed, and his movements aren’t intentional either. I might not be the first person he reaches for when he’s hungry or cold or uncomfortable or just wants to snuggle.

Because I’m not going to be there.

I’ve experienced bouts of “mom guilt” — from going to the store for an hour to drinking Dr. Pepper. It takes many forms — some, ridiculous — but this “mom guilt” is the worst for me.

I’m excited to go back to work, and I feel so guilty for it.

Heavier than any other emotion I’ve felt, it is both dense and hollow. Leaving him when he is so small — even in the care of my husband — weighs on me and makes me feel empty at the same time. I know my baby will be safe and loved, but I’m not the one keeping him safe — and, for eight hours a day, I have to love him from my office.

Plainly, it sucks.

Guilt over leaving my child was not something I expected of myself. I expected to feel free to feel whatever I wanted, including excitement and dread, but I did not expect to feel like a horrible mother.

This also sucks.

I’ve been told by friends that “it gets easier,” and I believe it does. Before my son was born, my greatest joys came from working — don’t make fun of me — I love having work goals and accomplishing them and cheering about it in my head. Crossing things off my to do list is close to nirvana for me. (Again, please don’t make fun of me.) I’m giddy just thinking about it… but looking at my goals and my to do list now, both pale in comparison to every noise my son makes and the peacefulness I feel when he’s draped across my chest snoring softly in his sleep.

Of course, missing my son’s developmental milestones is not the only reason I have this mom guilt.

While I’m at work, I can’t help him with his development… because I’m not going to be there.

While I’m at work, I can’t nurse him… because I’m not going to be there. I also fear I’ll fail to pump just the right amount of times to keep my supply up and my milk might dry up. (Another form of mom guilt.)

While I’m at work, I can’t hold him while he cries… because I’m not going to be there. I don’t love it when he cries, but I sure do love holding him until he stops.

The case for paid maternity and paternity leave shouldn’t have to be argued in this country. It’s important for the health and development of the child, and it’s important for the health and wellness of the parent. It’s also important that parents not suffer crippling financial ruin for staying home to care for a baby.

I was lucky to spend six weeks with my son — not everyone can — but I had to use every day of vacation and sick time from last year and anything I earn this year to do it.

I am lucky my son will be close by while I’m at work — with his father or with his grandmother.

I am lucky.

I shouldn’t have to be.