Tag: children

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

When you are eagerly awaiting the arrival of your first child, there are many things that you anticipate and mentally prepare yourself for: sleepless nights, dirty diapers, cries and giggles, spit up and smiles, and so much more.

In the first six months after our little one’s birth, I discovered a few very interesting things that I did not expect postpartum. I can honestly say that these three things blindsided me.

Excessive Hair Loss

This first one you may have read about in pregnancy books or on mommy blogs, but I did not fully grasp what it would mean to me until it happened. Every lady is different, but for me, I had excessive hair loss between about Week 3 postpartum until Month 5. I am not talking about a few strands here or there; after all, everyone sheds on average 75-100 strands of hair a day.

No, I was loosing hair daily in the hundreds! My shower walls would be covered in hair, hair would stick to my shirts and sweaters, and I would have to carefully examine little Peanut’s fingers and toes to make sure none of my hair had gotten tangled around his little digits. My once thick, luscious hair was suddenly thin, scraggly, and pathetic looking.

So why do some women lose large amounts of hair after childbirth?

Hair has three stages: active growth, resting, and loss (shedding). During pregnancy, the raise in certain hormones slows down the natural life cycle of our hair so more hair stays in the growth or resting stages and less strands shed. This gives pregnant ladies that thick mane many people notice and comment on. Unfortunately, after childbirth when the pregnancy hormones decrease, all those strands start entering into the shedding stage – often at the same time. This can lead to excessive shedding and what seems like hair loss.

Be comforted that this phase is not permanent. It may take a few months, but your hair will get back into a normal cycle and the excessive shedding will stop. While I waited for my hair to stop shedding, I cut it to shoulder length. Previously my hair was layered so the thinning made it look scraggly and awful. Cutting it helped to give my hair a little bit of shape again.

Fortunately, by six months postpartum, my hair stopped the excessive shedding and began to regrow.

Severe Gas Pain

The first episode struck about 10pm on the sixth day after little Peanut was born. It was the first day I ventured out of the house – Bradley took us to visit my parents (twenty-minutes away). It was a day that was full of success and achievement, as I had finally been able to pump milk successfully and relieve my poor, engorged breasts.

Around 10pm, though, I began to experience a strange pain in the center of my chest, located directly beneath/behind my sternum. As the minutes passed, the pain intensified. I tried lying down but the pain radiated around my ribcage. It felt like I was being stabbed in the chest while, at the same time, all of the muscles of my core (abs, sides, lower back, shoulders) were completely frozen or locked in place.

A few hours later, the pain had worsened to excruciating, beyond even the pain of childbirth, and it was terrifying because I did not know what was causing it. I leaned against the bed, praying for relief and groaning, wavering in my mind on whether I should ask Bradley to take me to the emergency room or not. What if we did go – call my parents, pack up our six-day-old infant, drove to the ER – and the mysterious pain vanishes as we are in the waiting room?

Bradley was very concerned. Our little one was fussy that night. It was the first time he scream-cried inconsolably for hours, and I was in too much pain to move, let alone help with the baby. Just when Bradley was about to call my parents and take me to the ER, the excruciating pain suddenly – Yes, it was very sudden! – vanished. One moment I was frozen in searing pain and the next: Poof! It was gone. All that was left was a little ache in my muscles.

This debilitating pain in my sternum seemed to happen once or twice a week for the first month postpartum. By the third episode, I was terrified that something serious was wrong with me. I tried gas relief tablets, but they had a marginal affect on the severe pain. It was about a month postpartum that I discovered that the unbearable pain was gas getting stuck in the upper part of my large intestines and putting pressure on a nerve.

When the gas started to built up, I would feel a strange pressure in my sternum and middle back. I remembered what the nurses told me in the hospital about walking, re-enforced by advice from my mom. To my relief, I found that when I took some gas relief tablets and went on a long walk, the walking helped to move the gas along and prevent it was getting stuck in that spot.

Also, I had to overcome decades of training on appropriate and inappropriate lady-like behavior and allow myself the freedom to pass gas. My poor husband! And what an embarrassing issue to discuss in public, but I am bearing my soul in the hopes of helping some other new mother who might be experiencing a similar situation. It is better to “toot” then to feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out.

With the walking and passing gas, the excruciating, feel-like-I’m-dying, pain was avoided. By the end of the second month postpartum, I no long experienced the gas pains.

Difficulties breastfeeding

If you have read Our Breastfeeding Journey, then you know some of the challenges we faced breastfeeding. I will not repeat the entire story here but just the main points.

I was not expecting our little Peanut to be born small, with a severe tongue-tie, and be unable to nurse. For the first month, we tried unsuccessfully to nurse at least once a day and each time he could not latch, I felt like a failure as a mother. The whole time, I was pumping every 2-3 hours and there were a few times when he had to be supplemented with formula because I just was not making enough milk. Finally, at the end of the month, I had to give up trying to nurse for my own sanity’s sake and for the happiness of our little family. I had to realize that him might never be able to nurse and that it was ok, as long as he was getting food and growing healthy.

During month three, he latched very weakly. With some help from a pacifier to strengthen his sucking muscles, he was able to nurse a few ounces by month four. I began nursing him through the night. At seven months, he is now a nursing pro. I still pump every 3-4 hours, as I work outside the home and need to keep my supply up, but he is also eating baby food twice a day now and he gets a bottle of formula when needed.

I was not expecting challenges with breastfeeding and, I will be brutally honest, it was an extremely difficult hurdle to jump emotionally during a time when my emotions were already all-over-the-place (postpartum hormones fluctuations!). I made it through due to the love and support of my amazing husband and my parents, especially my mom. If I could go back and do those first month over again, I would. Because of my stress and self-deprecation, I did not have the energy to leave the house more, see friends and family more, and do those precious “memories” things with Peanut… like take infant photos and stamp his little hands and feet. I have no footprints of when he was 4 lbs 7 ounces except for the one foot stamped on the certificate the hospital gave us.

My advice to other moms who might be facing difficulties with breastfeeding is something my older sister shared with me when I was very low: Fed is best. A fed, happy, and healthy baby is best, no matter how you end up providing that nourishment: through breastfeeding, pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding.

While the first few days may seem to drag on, they really go by so fast. Do not waste that time with anxiety and needless stress over things beyond your control. You are amazing! You birthed or adopted this adorable precious little one so cherish every moment you have together.

Bonus: Just how much I love my little Peanut!

Okay, okay. When expecting a little one, most women are likely to be excited and eagerly anticipate the bonding that will happen between mother and newborn. However, what really surprised me was just how quickly this bonding occurred and how much I love my little Peanut. Even when he is crying and fussy, even after the fifth time he has woken me up in the middle of the night and I rolled out of bed, stumble to his room, and pick him up like a zombie, even when I find myself momentarily frustrated or overwhelmed, I just love him so much!

Baby cuddles, toothless smiles, little giggles, and the first time he said “Mom-ma” (even though he was crying and I’m pretty sure he did not do it on purpose) get me through the sleepless nights, the fits of crying, the explosive diapers that only the shower can wash away, the spit up all over my work clothes and the couch minutes before I was supposed to be walking out the door.

After all, who could not love this adorable little face?

Jacquelyn's baby on his third trip to the zoo!
Little Peanut and his daddy on his third trip to the zoo at six and a half months old.

I just love being a mom — especially his mom — and I would not trade this experience for anything.

So, in summary, when it comes to childbirth and its immediate affects, perhaps the old adage says it best: Expect the unexpected. In addition to these three things that blinded me, I also had some great experiences.

So remember this: no matter if you are losing your hair in clumps, experiencing severe gas pains, having trouble breastfeeding or whatever it might be — you just gave birth to a beautiful and precious little one. Cherish this gift that has been given to you. The other things will sort themselves out.

Six Weeks Post-birth

Six Weeks Post-birth

During your first pregnancy, no doubt you had or will have numerous individuals tell you that once your little one arrives, “your life will never be the same” or “your life will change forever” or “everything will be different” or some variation of this sentiment. After awhile, it can even get a little tiring hearing it over and over again. My advice? Smile and nod, because they are right!

Put aside everything you think you know about babies. Unless you have experienced firsthand spending twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with a newborn who is relying on you for all of their needs while you are experiencing extreme sleep deprivation and possibly even recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth, then you have no idea just how different your life will become after your first child arrives.

And that is okay! I’m not here to scare you, just help you prepare yourself. To do that, I’m going to share my summary of what each week after giving birth was like in my experience.

Week One

I felt like I was living in a permanent state of adrenaline during the first week. Giving birth naturally without pain medicines allowed me the opportunity to be clear-minded moments after the birth of my little Peanut. I experienced some pain and discomfort, but it was overshadowed by the rush of oxytocin (the love/bonding hormone) every time I held or looked at my newborn. My mind was filled with awe and wonder as well as a deep love and little bit of worry. I was now this little one’s mother and he would be relying on my husband and I for years to come!

Week One was also very emotional for me. Within the first twenty-four hours, we discovered that Peanut could not latch due to a number of reasons and as a result, could not breastfeed. We were concerned for many hours as we tried, with the help of nurses and a lactation consultant, to breastfeed him — even going so far as to use a small syringe to get some colostrum into his mouth. Since he was born very small, the hospital would not discharge us until they had monitored him for an extra twenty-four hours to ensure his blood sugars were stable and he had successfully eaten. The anxiety grew the longer he went without eating, either from me or the bottle. I was praying so hard that Peanut would eat something, anything! Finally, the lactation consultant was able to bottle feed him a ounce of formula and later that day my mom was able to get him to eat as well. We were able to go home the next day, and I was exhausted.

There was also some pain. About Day 4, my milk was starting to come in but it was not being expressed even though I was pumping on a regular schedule (every 2-3 hours). The only thing the pumping accomplished was to make my poor nipples extremely sore, and I watched as my breasts became engorged… swollen, hard, and extremely painful. I tried everything I could think of to get the swelling down and the milk to be expressed, but nothing seemed to be working. Finally, I found a tip on a website. On Day 5, while at my parent’s house, I used frozen water bottles and rolled them gently over my breasts for twenty minutes before pumping. It hurt but it worked, and I finally was able to pump milk. A few pumping sessions later, and the engorgement and its accompanying pain was finally gone.

Week Two

Week Two was when the sleep deprivation was beginning to take its toll, but there was still the new baby high. Fortunately, my husband was in the middle of his three weeks of family leave so we took shifts during the night. I would take one feeding session and he would do another while I pumped, and that way I was able to get back to sleep faster at night.

A lot of Week Two was spent watching Peanut sleep and feeding and changing him when he was awake. I gave him a little sponge bath with a super-soft washcloth every other day, and we would sit outside in filtered sunlight while we did it. I took tons of photos of him while he slept, and just marveled that this tiny, precious little fellow was my son, my little boy, and I was his mother. I eagerly looked forward to his first smile and began thinking of little routines I could start with him: singing, counting, letter-sounds, reading Bible stories to him, etc. Anything to help him learn my voice.

Though very tired, Week Two was like a little bit of heaven on earth.

Week Three

Our little Peanut hit his first major growth spurt during his third week, as many babies do, but it came upon us suddenly and unexpectedly. We were not prepared for his ravenous appetite! In fact, for a couple of nights, we did not realize that the reason he was waking up and crying hysterically during the night was because he was still hungry.

Severely sleep-deprived and not knowing what to do, I was at my wit’s end. We tried a tiny bit of Gripe Water thinking he had gas or a tummy ache, but that was not it. Once I even had to set him down in his bassinet and leave the room to calm myself, because I was crying myself and frustrated that I could not figure out what was wrong with him.

Then I found out that most babies have a growth spurt during this time, and when I offered him more milk, he returned to being his usual, happy self and stopped the hysterical crying.

For a baby that, before the growth spurt, drank maybe 3 ounces in one sitting, he suddenly began guzzling the milk: 7, 9, and even 12 ounces at a time! Despite all of my valiant efforts, I was not producing enough milk to keep up with him. We ended up having to supplement, but I did not like the milk-based formula options so with my mom’s help we actually made our own formula using goat’s milk.

Milk-based formula, even though he did not show an reactions to it during his first week, made me very nervous for two reasons: 1.) I am severely allergic to milk proteins, and I do not want to introduce dairy to my Peanut too earlier just in case he inherited my allergy, and 2.) I am severely allergic to milk proteins, and my skin began to react when the formula powder got onto my hands while mixing the bottles. I was afraid I would end up breathing in the powder and not be able to breathe.

So I researched non-milk-based formula options but the soy-based formulas were not only expensive, but also were over 50% corn syrup. I remembered that my dad could not have milk-based products as an infant either; his mother gave him straight goat’s milk and he is one of the healthiest people I know. After doing a lot of research and experiments, my mom and I were able to make our own goat’s milk supplement that we only had to used maybe once a day or once every other day for about two weeks until my own milk production caught up with his appetite.

Week Four

The growth spurt was beginning to subside, he went down to about 4-5 ounces of milk at a time, and he began to sleep for slightly longer stretches at night. Unfortunately, my milk supply was still barely enough for the entire day: it fluctuated through the day, sometimes as little as 3 ounces and other times barely 6 ounces. However, the day we no longer had to supplement with the goat’s milk formula, I celebrated!

To increase my supply, I tried pumping every two hours, doing a marathon pumping session (where you pump for ten minutes, take a break for ten minutes, pump for ten, etc. for an hour), and put the pump suction higher, but the only thing this did was damage my nipples, especially the left one. They were blistered and raw even though I was slathering them in nipple cream, and the left one even had a blocked milk duct (resulting in a bleb or white milk blister). Overall, it became very, very painful to pump.

Towards the end of the week, I also finally gave up all attempts to breastfeed directly. I’ll write another post on our breastfeeding journey, but let’s just say, after a month of “failure”, I had to let go of the “dream” for my own sanity and the happiness of our little family. I had to come to terms with the idea that Peanut might never be able to nurse, and I would have to pump exclusively so I needed to figure out how to heal my poor nipples and increase my milk production.

Week Five

While shopping at a local Target, my husband found a box of Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea that helps with increasing milk production. I began drinking two cups of the tea a day, and after three or four days, I began to produce more. I was making about 10 ounces every 3-4 hrs, and more in the early mornings because I was now finally able to skip one pumping session at night. Peanut was also consistently drinking 5 ounces every 3-4 hrs, so the extra milk went into the freezer to save for his next growth spurt.

Easing back on the pumping schedule also helped heal my nipples. I pumped every 3-4 hours, lowered the suction power, and put cream on before and after pumping. Though it took many more weeks to see the results, the process of healing began.

Week Six

This time, we were well-prepared for Peanut’s Week Six growth spurt. I had pumped extra milk and stored it in the freezer so even when Peanut’s appetite was astounding, far beyond anything you’d think a tiny baby’s tummy could hold, we had enough milk that there was no need to supplement. (Praise the Lord!) I continued drinking the Milkmaid Tea to keep pace with him, but after the growth spurt ended, I stopped drinking the tea and my production leveled out to about 10 ounces each session. It was enough for him to eat and to re-build the supply of frozen milk to prepare for when I would return to work full-time.

By the end of week six, I was also getting a decent amount of sleep at night. Peanut would drink a little extra in the evenings and began to sleep longer at night. We were able to feed him at 11pm, and then again at 3-4am, and then again at 7-8am. Also, I was able to skip changing his diaper at 3-4am so he would go back to sleep faster, and I was able to skip pumping at that session as well.

Ah, the little things we celebrate!

So that is a general overview of how the first six weeks went for us. Your experience(s) may vary, as every woman and baby are different, but hopefully this will at the very least prepare you for the growth spurts around weeks Three and Six and encourage you that it does get easier! Your little one will figure out his/her days vs nights and start to sleep longer at night. The soreness, pain, and muscle aches eventually go away. You will also gain confidence in your abilities as mother and learn to trust your instincts.

Budget Guide: Your Children’s Future

Budget Guide: Your Children’s Future

Budget Guide series - tips for saving
In the previous three posts, we discussed general finance and budgeting tips that, with some minor modifications, could be applied to almost any individual and/or family. Today we are going to look specifically at saving money for your child or children’s future. My husband and I are expecting our first child this September so this is particularly important to us.

In addition to the day-to-day expenses of raising a child, my husband and I recently discussed creating a savings account for our little one after he is born and depositing a set amount into it each month.

Even if it is just $50 a month, that money will grow to $10,800 by the time he is eighteen-years-old (plus a little extra from the dividends and other sources). This is a good savings for a young adult to have when he or she leaves the nest and enters into the world.

I was blessed that my parents set up a savings account for me when I was young, and my maternal grandmother gave to me a gift from investments or bonds (I don’t remember the details) she had set up when I was very little. So when I entered college, I had a nice amount of savings to tap into. I used half of it to finance two study abroad trips that I thoroughly enjoyed, I used some of it to send a child to school in India for many years through a trusted non-profit, and the rest was the basis of my savings once I started working.

Now I want to point out: I did not take the gift of my grandmother and parents for granted. I knew it was a precious gift that not everyone is given. I used the money wisely, frugally, saved money from a part-time tutoring job, and worked very hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA all the way through three Associate Degrees and a Bachelors. I was very aware that I was blessed to have been given a “leg up”, sort to speak, and I worked very hard to be worthy of such generosity.

I believe giving a child the gift of some savings when he or she is starting out as an independent adult is a blessing that he or she will cherish.

Think about it:

  • $25 a month for 18 years will become $5,400.
  • $50 a month for 18 years will end up $10,800!

If you have multiple children, it may be difficult to put aside a larger amount for every child. Perhaps $25 per child is good enough and maybe grandparents might be willing to supplement with $10 or $15 a month for each child. If your kids have two sets of grandparents, that might add up to $45 or $55 per month and that is $9,720 to $11,880 by the time the child is 18.

And how many times do we waste $25 or $50 dollars on unnecessary things? While this is for our children’s futures. No matter how big or small your monthly deposits are, the money will add up over eighteen years and be a very nice gift for your child or children.

He or she can decide to use the gift money for whatever journey his or her life takes: to travel, buy a car, learn a trade, go to college, invest, buy real estate, start a business, whatever! These figures do not even take into consideration any money he or she has saved up from part-time jobs as teenagers or from their first “real” jobs as young adults!

If you don’t have children, you can still use this idea to set aside a certain amount each month towards a long term goal: perhaps it is a dream vacation or a down payment for a house or a business venture or extra funds for retirement.

Raising Successfully Selfish Kids

Raising Successfully Selfish Kids

While driving home from work Friday, October 23, 2015, I tuned in to a radio talk show hoping to catch a local weather update. Instead, I had the opportunity to listen to two rather annoying gentlemen talk about a new study that shows that children who talk back to their parents tend to be more successful as adults. After ten minutes of listening to them go back and forth and the examples that callers shared of their own children, I had an epiphany.

The world’s definition of successful means an individual who is self-centered and manipulative, always looking out for what is in their best interest at the expense of others.

It is true that an individual who pushes back against authority, manipulates others, and always seeks out that which would benefit him or herself will most likely find success in their professional careers.

However, is this the type of person we want to raise our children to become? Someone who has no compassion or empathy for others? Someone who is always looking out for Number 1? Is this selfishness and lack of cooperative spirit truly a characteristic of a good leader? And even if these traits might bring more success in a professional capacity, how much harm are they doing to the individual’s personal relationships and emotional health?

The Bible warns:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5, English Standard Version

This list of negative characteristics includes many attributes that the modern world would deem as essential for a successful person, but those who desire something better are encouraged to “avoid such people”.

Philippians 2:3-4 tells us: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Notice that the Bible is not saying that we need to be doormats, just that followers of Christ should be concerned with others. As parents, we should be striving to raise our children with godly characters, molded from the traits listed in the Fruit of the Spirit passage.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:22-26, NKJV

The world would be a better place if more children were being raised to be kind, gentle, patient, content, and with the ability to exercise self-control. Contrary to how society may think, I believe that true success is not measured in what an individual has material-wise but the relationships he or she has built along the journey of his or her life.