My Postpartum Story
I wanted to share my postpartum experience not only in recognition for #maternalmentalhealthawareness week but to also show you a glimpse of how motherhood is in the beginning and that there IS help and support out there. I also wanted to introduce myself in a way where you can get a feel of who I really am as the founder of Blessanca & Co. I've never been the type to share my vulnerability to an audience. To be honest, I'm not very comfortable with it. I admire those who have the courage to share their flaws, battles, pain etc. on a daily basis, but I for one like to keep my personal moments private and would rather share the positive moments, my strengths, and passions but because this experience is ALSO positive, highlights ALSO my strengths and my passion, I decided to share my story. Sharing my personal life does NOT happen often but perhaps this can open a window of doing this again in the future. Now, Mothers. We've been disciplined to suck it up, accept that THIS is motherhood, and heal silently behind our game faces. For someone who is a Type-A personality, I would have never thought that I would ever lose grasp of control. Now, don't get me wrong, the struggles I experienced does not make my moments with my daughter any less beautiful. I would go through it all again just to experience every moment with her all over again, because now I realize that my number one enemy, is TIME. She's growing way too fast. She's no longer the little peanut that I was able to hold with one arm.
Breastfeeding and Formula If I had a penny for every time someone asked me "You're going breastfeed right?" during my pregnancy, I would be a millionaire. Don't get me wrong, I already planned that I was going to breastfeed. One positive thing about the hospital I gave birth at, was that I wasn't allowed to go home unless my baby latched properly. However, every mother's experience with breastfeeding is NOT the same. Just when I thought I have successfully smashed it at getting my daughter to latch, it turns out that I wasn't doing something right because I was in pain. My nipples were bloody and raw (Sorry, TMI!) and I kept pushing myself because I felt like I was starving my daughter (she was perfectly fine). Finally, there came a point where I could not do it anymore. All of the pain I was trying to recover from; the post-labour pain, breastfeeding pain - I finally reached my limit and my breaking point. I felt defeated. I felt like I was failing my daughter because I did not have the capability to feed her naturally with my own body. A few weeks ago, I was listening to Moms That Say F*ck, a podcast that revolutionizes maternity leave, talks about getting to the heart of the issue and providing non-nonsense child health advice and dispelling myths. This podcast is hosted by Alana Kayfetz, Founder of MomsToronto and Pediatrician Dr. Dina Kulik. On Episode 5 they talk about postpartum depression with Dr. Bev Young. They talk about the stigma against the little quantity or lack of breastfeeding and Dr. Dina Kulik says "There’s not great evidence that 100% breastfeeding vs. 50% breastfeeding vs. 10% breastfeeding is any different for the baby. Breastmilk is good for babies. Whether they get an oz a day or exclusive." There was so much that was said during this postpartum podcast episode that made me cry because there was so much that I experienced that made me feel so guilty for not being on top of my game. This podcast episode made me feel like that I was not alone in this.
There were two people who gave me a sense or relief of my guilt and helped me look forward after my struggle with breastfeeding in the first week. First, was a nurse at the hospital I gave birth at. She praised me saying "It's okay if you're not breastfeeding. Formula or breastfeeding, YOU ARE doing an amazing job". Second, was the lactation consultant that I saw 3 days after my daughter was born who educated me on what to do and told me it was okay to let my nipples heal and give my baby formula. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND a lactation consultant to all pregnant mothers. "BREAST IS BEST" is such a challenging topic to tackle because it is NOT best nor is the ONLY BEST option. I know so many children who were fed with only formula and they have grown up to be the smartest and wisest kids I know. I WAS a formula fed baby, and I turned out just fine. My baby did BOTH breastmilk and formula and she's actually growing way too fast. So, to all the new mothers out here, you're not bonding any less with your baby if you choose to or cannot breastfeed. Remember that your baby came out of your womb and that's a connection that cannot be replaced by any kind of unsolicited advice.
#TeamNoSleep I was the girl that lacked sleep my whole life. I worked in the food and hospitality industry, working "Clopens" (closing the night before and coming back the next day, 4 hours later to open the restaurant) or vice versa (open the restaurant and closing that same day), I was that student that thrived off of studying, days before exams, pulling all-nighters and being fuelled by energy drinks. The whole time I was pregnant I thought that I was already trained to "handle" lack of sleep but boy was I VERY wrong. I have this mentality of always putting other people first and always telling myself "I can deal with me later". First few days, even first few MONTHS, I kept putting HER first. I was constantly worrying, and making sure she was being fed, she was getting sleep etc. and I did not realize that I neglected to eat, drink, and didn't realize that I was operating on 0-3 hours of sleep. All of these things are vital for breastmilk production. At this point, my mind had shut down and I was too delirious to function. Thank God my husband was there to help me out. My husband works in mental health so he was able to detect the signs. He was extremely supportive during those first few weeks and I couldn't have gotten through it without his help but how about partners who aren't in the mental health or healthcare industry? Everyone in a new mother's life should get educated so that they too can also detect the signs. There are also doctors like Dr. Bev Young who you can see to help prepare your mentality for preventative measures. With all of this happening to me, now I know, in order to have full strength to take care of her I also have to make ME a priority as well.
Now, if there was something that I can say that did not affect me too much, it was how I felt about my postpartum body. I've always admired a woman's body and most especially how it's able to create life in the womb. All female bodies, different shapes and sizes is beautiful. The female body is resilient and I feel blessed that I was given the opportunity to create life with mine. However, with all the stress I was going through, I gave myself the excuse to ditch a healthy diet and told myself it was okay to eat whatever I wanted, because I just had a baby. I've always believed in balance. If I wanted a piece of cake, I went ahead and got myself a piece of cake but I what I let myself consume was not a form of balance and I did it to the point where I was acting like I was deprived. I probably gained the most weight after my pregnancy. When I started to notice the weight gain and how my unhealthy eating habits were contributing to my lack of energy, I decided to smarten up. When I received the 6 week approval from my doctor, I decided to start going to the gym. Going to the gym therapeutic and it was something that helped me mentally. It helped me put all my frustrations into one focus which in the long run, helped me physically. I would say the process helped me more mentally than physically. Now, I'm 5 months postpartum, my body has transformed physically, but most importantly, I've found a way to lift that weight off my mental state - I've found a way to stay sane. Remember, every mama is different. There are some mothers who get to their fitness goals a lot faster than other new mothers and it can be discouraging to see, but your body just gave life to a beautiful human being. That alone already makes you #1. Plus, you never know what other mother's situations are, so we can't always judge from what we see on social media.
There are so many people I am grateful for helping me so far throughout this journey. My mom and mother in law for always checking in, making sure I'm fed and for always coming over to show their grand-daughter so much love. My cousin, who is a nurse and a mama, for educating me on sleep-training. If there's one healthcare professional I trust, it was my cousin and I am so grateful for her. My Best-friend for being there for me since the day she found out I was pregnant and since then, she did not leave my side to go through this mama journey alone. She gave me lists, tips, and more than I can say. I am also grateful for everyone that made me feel like the most beautiful human being and for reaching out to make sure that I was doing okay.
My daughter has been the best thing that has ever happened to me and I realize that time is passing by way too quickly. I felt like I just gave birth to her and now she's on the verge of attempting to crawl, she's already starting solids and she's communicating so much more with me and her dad (in gibberish of course =P). So now, I'm cherishing each moment I have with her. I hug her so much tighter because I don't know how much longer I have before she'd rather run off with her cousins and friends and would rather play with them. I am more present with her, acknowledging each sound and expression she makes because in about 6 months, I will be going back to my day job and won't be able to spend 24/7 with her. My 15 hour labour keeps replaying in my head (we were too caught up in the moment to record it, but I really wish we did!) and the best moment in my life was meeting her for the first time. My journey so far has been both difficult and beautiful and I would do it all again just so I can experience our first moment together again.