Friday, February 26, 2016

Preparing for a new baby, postpartum etiquette, and realistic expectations for recovery

I can't believe there are less than 3 months left until baby #9 is due! We still do not know if we are having a boy or a girl, and likely won't find out, but my guess is boy. I am feeling really good, with lots of energy as long as I don't skip my daily 20-minute afternoon nap. Without it, I tend to crash and burn by dinnertime, which is NOT a good situation as the hours from dinner until bedtime are some of the most intense in our house.

This week, I started with the usual pre-baby preparations. It's just a lot easier to do that when it's not so hot outside yet, and I'm not too huge to comfortably be on my feet.

That, plus the fact that we have had 5 babies born at our church this month, with two more coming any day now, got me thinking about this post.



For me, some of the best ways to prepare for baby are to:

- Wind down all homeschooling before baby comes, and plan on taking three months off from it completely after the birth. Being due at the end of May works out pretty nicely this time around, as this coincides with our usual summer break.

- Make and freeze at least one month's worth of food, plus have lots of stuff in the house for throwing together easy meals. I find that this usually ends up feeding us for more like 6 weeks or longer, since others might bring dinner, Dad might take the kids out or cook up something, etc.

- Buy enough paper dishes for at least the first month.

- Stock up on all non-perishable household supplies for at least one month (diapers, TP, laundry soap, toiletries, etc.) so you won't need to run to the store unnecessarily. Utilizing automatic subscription services such as Amazon Subscribe and Save can save you time and money, plus they help counteract mommy brain. 

- Familiarize yourself with same-day home-delivery services for groceries and other goods in your area. If you do end up needing something urgently right after baby comes, you will know where to find it, fast. Where we live, not only do most items ship same day on Amazon (and virtually everything ships within 48 hours), but we now also have Amazon Now, which offers free delivery by courier within two hours, including every imaginable household staple, groceries, and even refrigerated and frozen goods, with many natural and organic choices. So, so worth it, even if you tip the courier (as I suggest you do).

- Have a good routine in place for yourself and the older kids before baby arrives (bedtimes, chore assignments, meal plans, etc.). Not only will they be better able to help take over for you after the baby comes, but it will also keep them busy, and make them feel like an asset to the family.

- Stock up on oodles and oodles of good books and other entertainment for the older kids right before the birth. You could stash some books out of sight, and pull new ones out as needed. If you have one library card for every member of the family, you will be able to get out enough books to last quite a while! ;) Most libraries will let you renew online for 3 times, for a total of 12 weeks or more, so this really is an endless, free treasure trove of quiet entertainment for everyone in the family.  

- Have good reading and other entertainment in the house for yourself. You will want to have something better to do with your brain and time than just scrolling through Facebook on your phone for hours each day as you nurse. Books on possible postpartum issues such as breastfeeding and newborn care are always good to have on hand in case you need them (even veteran moms do!), or you might enjoy doing some favorite crafts with baby in arms, read through your cookbooks in search of new recipes to add to your regular meal rotation, finally have time to read other books that have been collecting dust, browse Pinterest for inspiration on any given topic, view a free Craftsy class, find something wholesome to watch on Amazon Prime - the options are near endless.  

- Plan on finishing up any necessary projects (home repairs, deep cleaning, de-cluttering, organizing, seasonal wardrobe switches, etc.) before baby comes. Your husband and older kids can be a great help with this. You will be spending a lot of time sitting down in your house after the baby, and you won't want to be looking at dirty windows and dusty blinds. These are great projects for kids to help with, though! Even a toddler can wipe down surfaces with a damp rag. Don't be afraid to toss things and projects mercilessly that just sneer at you day after day, unfinished. You don't need that kind of negativity. :) For example, if your mending pile is only ever growing, it might just be easier to toss clothes than to fix them. If you bought a pair of shorts for you son at a garage sale for pennies on the dollar, there is no reason to keep them in the mending pile, collecting dust for months and making you feel defeated, only to find he has long outgrown them by the time you finally get around to fixing them. 



As a friend of the new parents, here are some ways to help the growing family if you are so inclined:

- As the birth is approaching, do not make comments about when the baby will show up. Never use the term "past due" - this is not a bill, it's a baby. When mom is in labor, do not call and/or text for updates.

- Bite your lip and do not criticize their name choice, even if it's before the birth and "there's still time to change it."

- If there is a meal train being organized, sign up for one of the days. If there isn't, offer to bring a meal for the family, being careful to inquire about allergies, food dislikes, dinner times, etc. Try to make something that is good for mom's milk supply, won't bother the little nursling, and will be appealing to the rest of the family. Bring food in disposable dishes, labeled, and with instructions attached if necessary. If you are taking a meal, send a text message first with your approximate time of arrival. When you drop off the meal, do just that - drop it off and leave. Don't be offended if the family does not want any meals - there could be many reasons for this.

- Do not invite yourself over just to visit, or drop hints about wanting to come see the baby. Definitely do not show up unannounced, no matter how close you are with the mom! Even if you are wanting to come over to help out, realize that unless you are very close, most moms would rather be at home alone with their family in their own mess, than for you to putter around their house cleaning up for them.

- Don't ask to hold the baby. If mom offers for you to hold her precious bundle, wash your hands first, even if mom doesn't care. Don't go near the family if you are sick, and don't touch baby at all if you have been around someone who is sick. Don't kiss baby's face or hands (I realize the temptation is real, but still). Do not wear perfume or other strongly scented body products - many babies are bothered by them, especially if the smell rubs off on their clothes, or lingers in the house long after you are gone.

- If you do visit the family for whatever reason, leave your own children at home. Yes, they are precious, but you want to be as quiet and calm as possible. Not to mention your kids might be bringing all sorts of germs with them.

- If you are visiting mom at the hospital, step out of the room anytime medical staff comes into her room to take care of her, so as to give her privacy. 

- Respect her breastfeeding preferences: If she would rather be alone to feed the baby, step out. If she wants to feed the baby without a cover, relax and get over it.

- Try to never disrupt nap time. This is a rule that should be observed for all families with small children, not just during the postpartum period.

- Give extra attention to the other siblings

- Don't expect a thank you card

- Listen more than you talk. Mom might want to share her birth story (or not) - don't try to one up it by telling her your own. She might have questions if you are more experienced, or she may just want to pour her hormonal heart out to you. Be sensitive and listen, offering help and/or advice only when asked. 

- Don't put any pressure on mom to volunteer for any tasks, especially not during the first three months postpartum.



And for all the new moms out there, here is a realistic timeline for recovery:

- Don't leave the house AT ALL for the first 2 weeks (exception: stepping just outside the front door to soak in the sunlight and fresh air with baby in arms), and strictly limit any and all visitors. There will be plenty of time to show baby off later.

- Stay home, rest, and enjoy baby as much as possible for the first 6 weeks (i.e. no school work, cooking, errands - don't do anything you can prepare ahead of time, or have someone else help with afterward). This is also a great time to focus your attention on the older kids while you are "stuck" at home.

- Slowly ease back into a new routine between weeks 6-12. No exercise or weight loss efforts yet, though adding a daily walk outside with baby is great at this point.

- By 12 weeks, you can expect to have found your new normal, with breastfeeding well established, baby having fallen into a predictable "schedule" that suits him/her, and the rest of the family having adjusted to the new addition. 

These time frames are of course just approximate, and a MINIMUM, so if anything, take longer if you need to. No trophy will be awarded to moms who prove they can do it all the day after giving birth. We all could, if we needed to. Being able to slow down is the real challenge - but both your baby, as well as the rest of your family, will be thankful for the chance to adjust at a gentle pace. Not to mention your recovery will be that much smoother, and your long-term health that much better. 

Motherhood is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. Just as there are seasons throughout the year, and just as all living things go through cycles of harvest followed by hibernation, it is important to recognize these same needs in our own lives if we are in it for the long haul, and don't want to lose our sanity, health, and family relationships along the way. 


34 comments:

  1. Any advice for a wife too scared of childbirth to get pregnant?

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    1. I have only had 4, but am a very tiny woman. I weight 95lbs 5ft tall (this is 10lbs heavier than when I got married). I have had 4 types of birth- c-section, vaginal after csect with epidural, natural hospital, natural home birth vbac.

      I can tell you, the c-section did not hurt, nor did recovery, though I would not recommend a c-section as there are many risks. I was young, and gullible, and also listened to scary stories about birth.

      The natural no medicine vbac in the hospital was totally painless, seriously, it was awesome! That baby #3 came out in the caul (the water sac) and it was amazing! It was the best day of my life. So empowering. God blessed me with such a strengthening experience. It was like, "Wow, I can do anything!" and before I thought I could do absolutely nothing well. I think it helped build an even stronger bond between me and that baby honestly. It was bliss.

      My 4th, a vbac natural birth at home, was also awesome! It was not pain free like my 3rd birth, but it was not long and was not bad. I had my tonsils taken out when I was 18, that was a billion times worse. I have had kidney stones, those are a billion times worse. I am a tiny tiny mama, no tearing with my 3rd of 4th natural births. I loved having a baby at home, I won't ever go anywhere else again. It was also an empowering and wonderful experience.

      Now, my 2nd birth, with the epi-dural. I could not feel to push, and my doctor was not nice, he ripped my baby out...that makes mommies skin rip. He has since lost his job for similar cruel things. That is completely avoidable. I only got an epi-dural because, again, young, pressured by doctor and family, they insisted get it because they were sure I would never birth naturally and would need an epidural for a c-section. I am still glad I decided to stop having c-sections, I would not have had the wonderful natural births! I also do not think my 2nd birth would have hurt natural, I was in like no pain at all, was around 6cm dilated with contractions all the time. I just learned to be calm and be happy, my dad taught me that, and the pain will go away. I am sure that is true because they say when you tense your muscles the pain is worse, you get tense when you are afraid.

      So, don't be afraid, it is really not that bad. My mother is bigger than me, and she had 6 children. She says sometimes it hurt a little, but she has had way worse pain, and that she felt utter happiness after the birth.

      My sister who claims to love epi-durals and pain meds, she had an unplanned no medicine birth with her last, and said she was surprised at how it did not really hurt all that bad. She says she had bowel movements that hurt worse haha.

      I think we are just so afraid in our society, and how can we not be, with all the bad t.v. and horror stories people like to tell. Women just love to tell their horror story, we love to talk, and I find many people relish in their version of a war story.

      I think people are afraid of the unknown, too. Well, don't be afraid, you won't die. It happens all the time. God will be with you. The pain will not be too much to bear. I also have many friends who when we talked about it admitted that birth was not all that bad. You can do it! Just chill and have a good time with life ;)

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    2. Everything that is unknown in life is scary. I have had 6 children, all vaginal, including a breech, and all unmedicated. It does hurt. Alot. The pain is different for every woman. But, even though it hurts, the pain is forgotten the moment they put that screaming bundle into your arms. It's forgotten the first time you look at the precious feet and arms and legs that have been kicking you for months. It's forgotten as you put the tiny babe to the breast for the first time and feel the sensation of them suckling. Outside of salvation, becoming a mother six times over is the BEST, most MAGICAL thing that has EVER happened. That moment, right after you birth a human being? Undescribable. Yet every mother here knows what I am talking about. All pain and fear is forgotten in that split moment. I was afraid with every single one of mine. But it vanishes as soon as you hold that screaming, beautiful, squalling miracle.

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    3. There's a lot of positive and inspiring birth videos and stories online to search up. Ina mays book has many birth stories. I was scared at first too but after reading and watching every day I was actually looking forward to birth and would always cry at the moment the baby was born! Obviously some of the videos can be graphic so be mindful. But the greatest comfort was knowing I was doing the will of God in my life. The Lord hasn't given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind! Sorry for errors, had to do this quick ;)

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    4. Well I've had four so far, and I've been terrified each and every time. And unfortunately after my 3rd birth, I was so emotionally drained, angry with my midwife, and traumatised that when my daughter was born and they handed her to me, I just passed her straight to my husband, rolled over and didn't want to speak to anyone or even look at my daughter for like an hour.
      But that's what a wife is called to do, bear children. We can't control every detail of our lives. You just have to knuckle down and obey God's commandments. Being fruitful and multiplying is one of them.
      As for your fear of child birth, just trust and obey. There is no magic cure for the fear, you just do it. Pray,trust in the Lord, and hope for the best.
      If your not saved, get saved, and maybe read ecclesiastes 11, 1-6. This passage helped me and my fears. And proverbs 16 vs 33

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    5. Thank you :)

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  2. I wish I had done some of this when I had my son!

    I struggled getting back to 'normal', without recognising that 'normal' had dramatically changed! This led to feelings of inadequacy and made things quite wearing in the early days, especially as I was also struggling with breastfeeding.

    There's so much expectation for mothers to snap back into regular life (and jeans) right away. Whenever one of my friends has a baby I advise them to really take it easy for the first few weeks at least!

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  3. Perfect post! It's SO true what you wrote about realistic expectations postpartum.

    I had some of these finally established after our sixth, now she is nine weeks old and it's encouraging to read a mama who encourages taking it slow up to twelve weeks.

    It's so so frustrating to see mamas who jump back into life after one week. Why!!? I feel like they have to prove something... But the only thing to prove, is to rest so we can be good "rested" mamas, which makes happier ones; 0)

    I love how you said for others to notice and give attention to the other children. Yes! So many times the other children get over looked by visitors.

    Also, for others to drop off meals without the new family feeling pressure for them to stay! Yes!!

    Also not to feel the pressure to text while in labor, I (well my husband) felt so much pressure to text during my labor to update our families since we're overseas missionaries. I encourage to not feel this pressure even if you're missionaries overseas. Also, not to feel guilty if they don't receive a "baby is here" update until hours later. I know for us, hours fly by after the birth, and I am not one to be on my phone at all until the following days.

    Anyway thanks for encouraging and also being blunt! People need to be more bold!

    Mrs. R

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    1. Agreed! It is simple: rest for the recommended amount of weeks or over bleed....or don't rest and bleed and feel bad. Maybe men don't realize, or some women do not remember, but you really do bleed a lot and need to rest your womb. The placenta disconnected from the womb-that's wear the blood from your body got to the baby, those vessels don't magically heal up over night. :) Yay for resting our mamas!

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    2. Wow, I really should have proofed my comments. I do know that "where the blood" would be the correct form, not "wear". My bad.

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  4. I really wish I had this when I had my son to send to my inlaws. They did the opposite of every single thing (minus the food....SMIL did bring food) of the "as a friend" list. The next time around we were more forceful with them. Prior to having my 1st I had to send out an Itinerary Email daily to them so they wouldn't come over if I didn't answer the phone. It was ridiculous.

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    1. I was obsessed with my inlaws NOT coming over, and it took me 4 births later to just relax and go with the flow. But I was really immature. Otherwise if your too nazi like, it won't help your relationship with them, it breeds animosity, and it's the opposite of a Christ like love. They are excited to meet your little one. It is their grand child after all. And their son's child too. As long as they are not breathing flu germs on your baby, it's really not that bad at all. They can help you with your other kids and the house work.

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    2. when I was trying to get the baby to sleep, they showed up (unannounced) --albiet with food.-- My husband told them I was in the nursery with the baby, trying to get him to sleep. I could hear my MIL talking to my husband. She said, "Oh, I'll just be a minute" Proceeded to SLAM open the door (it hit the wall) flipped ON the light...walked in and started petting me. Breathing on me...(I had given birth 2 days prior. My hormones were all over the place and she's lucky to be alive at this point)

      ---This woman is not my husband's mother. His mother is outstanding---

      My Father inlaw did not understand why he could not be in the delivery room and wanted my husband to video the baby coming out so he could watch it. My husband told him no.

      My MIL proceeded to make a nursery at her house so she could "watch the baby while we went to the bar" (btw...we don't go to the bar) --My mother wisely told me to let that one go...if she wanted to waste her money..let her--

      My MIL did not agree with me breastfeeding because (according to her) "it was selfish" because how was SHE supposed to feed my child? (I suppose during the times we were at the bar?...not quite sure about that one)

      While going over a list of possible name choices (we chose not to find out the gender) my FIL looked horrified at our choices and said "why would you name a baby THAT?" They were normal names mind you...including Joseph...which according to FIL is just a terrible choice!

      Trying to insist that we take our (non existent as I hadn't given birth yet but if I delivered on my due date) 3 day old child on an airplane across the country because I "had" to go to a family function. Then, because I told him no....my husband "had" to go. Leaving me at home by myself (remember, I had not given birth yet). My husband told him no.

      If I was napping and didn't answer the phone....they would show up at my house, banging on the door. And bedroom window (my husband refuses to give them a key. For good reason)...which necessitated me having to email them an itinerary every day as to when I was going to be napping, or not home.

      so while you may not think it's that bad with them.....it really was. Those few examples above? That was just a minuscule portion of what I had to go thru with them.

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    3. Loren, in reading your comment, I have to say - wow. I am so, so sorry. You could write a book on (really bad) in-laws!!

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    4. I am learning what not to do when I am an inlaw that's for sure.

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    5. I will also add that the above is my step-MIL and FIL. My husband's mother is a great woman...who refused to travel to see her first grandchild for three months (even tho I did invite her to come right away) because she wanted us to "get a routine and have bonding time" by ourselves without a house guest.

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    6. Loren, You and I have the same ILs! It is NOT 'unchristlike' to establish healthy boundaries, in fact Jesus DID multiple times in the Bible. An excellent book I just finished teaching a group on is 'Boundaries' by Towns and & Cloud. It took years, but now we've got a workable relationship with my ILs that honors them, facilitates a relationship, but also protects our family and time. It's hard but worth it.

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  5. I had to give a wry smile to "don't leave the house for the first two weeks" advice. My firstborn was in the NICU for her first two weeks so I was pumping round the clock and then my husband and I would drive to the hospital to stay with her all day. The hospital had these horrible uncomfortable office chairs for parents that were very unpleasant to sit upon much less if you were recuperating from birth and trying to master nursing. But we managed! Hoping my next postpartum experience will be a bit less dramatic.

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  6. Wow. There just aren't words to say how much I love this post. And while I've only been through the birth and postpartum process four times, I can say a BIG AMEN (!!!) to every single one of these points.

    "Make and freeze at least one month's worth of food"

    I have been trying to do this for two babies, and it's one thing I haven't been able to do. I stay nauseated and exhausted for the whole pregnancy, and I haven't been able to make this work. However, I think it's an AWESOME idea. Maybe if I can somehow work up to a pregnancy in which I feel good toward the end!!

    "Don't be afraid to toss things and projects mercilessly that just sneer at you day after day, unfinished. You don't need that kind of negativity."

    Oh, goodness! This is SO true! I have lots of projects that sneer at me regularly. :)

    On "ways to help a growing family," I can only say a huge AMEN to each single point. Yes, yes, yes.

    And on "a realistic timeline for recovery," YES again. I try to do 1-2 weeks in or on or around the bed, then staying home for minimum 6 weeks. Much better than when our first was born, and I was up vacuuming six hours later!! Oh, goodness.

    Thank you for sharing this excellent post.
    Diana :)

    P.S. Love the photo!! Beautiful work!

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  7. P.S. Another post I read recently on postpartum timing:

    http://www.smithspirations.com/2016/01/restoration-a-commitment-to-postpartum-rest/

    :)

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  8. I appreciate the comments so much about encouraging mamas to rest. The US has a ridiculously high incidence of postpartum problems because mamas feel they need to get up and prove something. However, after weeks of being miserable in a cave, I'm so happy that the baby is out and our first few postpartum days turn into an actual party in my house. Don't worry. I don't leave my bed except for the baptism. One year, we had over 20 people in my room and the next baby, we had a whole house full hours after she was born. Best advice is to follow the cues of the Mama and encouraging her to be honest. Some Mamas are quiet and some are not. :)

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  9. This is a great post. I think for the friends section, which can also go for family, it's just missing two things; one, don't post a play by play on social media, no one wants to read about someone else's woman bits ex. mucus plug and bloody show. And two, don't post a picture of someone else's brand new newborn, especially if the parents haven't yet, it's just rude. The parents should be the first to post the exciting news on their newborn with stats and pictures, it's their kid not yours. I think friends can come off as attention seeking and just wanting "likes" when posting about special news that don't belong to them.

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  10. It's funny, with my first baby I took extra time to recover and had a lot of help but for some reason felt upset and locked down. So after I had my second baby I began cooking in about two days after delivery and going out in four. It made me feel so much better physically and emotionally.

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  11. I'm currently 13 weeks pregnant and am planning a home birth for our first child. But I wanted to ask you if you have ever heard of hypnobabies and what you think about it. Some Christians use it and I just don't know what to think or feel about it. What methods have you used during your births?

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    1. I'm pretty sure Zsuzsa answers this question in a q&a video!

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  12. Some very good things to remember. Many things were stressed, however, from a mature mom to other moms, other points could be stressed as well. We can get quite busy making sure our 'flesh' is taken care of just so during this time while neglecting prepare the spiritual man. Acting Christ-like during this vulnerable time is important. Moms still needs to be gracious and polite if people don't act just so. I will use Mary as an example (I am not a catholic). Her God ordained birth plan was really something. God thought it was fit for her to have the most humble of settings for labour, birth and postpartum, after all it wasn't even about her, even though this would be her first born child. I'm sure she was meek, mild, kind and tenderhearted. Isn't it great that she let the shepherds in to worship right after our Saviour was born. That was an act of selflessness at a vulnerable time, what a girl! Not saying that we need to have everyone over right after the birth, I am talking about the attitude of a humble heart. Be careful not to buy into birthing psychology or feminist attitudes during this time. These things can drive a mom to postpartum issues themselves (if not by design.) If a new mom is rude she will not have to worry about boundaries for the next pregnancy, people will just not be interested.

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  13. ^ great comment Anon @ 2pm

    Actually i was very testy with my 4th and i put a few noses out of joint...wished I'd been kinder.

    xx

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  14. Thank you so much for this post , I really needed to know this and I think this may be part of the reason my after birth pains last so long because I am not getting the rest I need , I was always told that you should be back on your feet after 2 weeks , but I didn't have anybody to help me much after my last birth .

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  15. Why not expect your husband to help out? after all, he's the one who got his wife pregnant.

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  16. "It's funny, with my first baby I took extra time to recover and had a lot of help but for some reason felt upset and locked down. So after I had my second baby I began cooking in about two days after delivery and going out in four. It made me feel so much better physically and emotionally..."

    Exactly! I had a natural birth and was up and about as soon as possible after I had my child. I would have felt miserable and depressed if I had behaved as if I had just had major surgery! I was cooking dinner the day I came home from the hospital, and if I hadn't felt like it, my husband would have made the meal or gotten take out. We were out in the car (not in crowds or around a lot of people/germs) and out visiting my parents by day four. To each her own, but I would lose my mind if I didn't leave my house for 2 solid weeks! I've never been in my house for more than three straight days in my entire adult life! And, yes I loved sitting on the porch enjoying the sunshine during my maternity leave, but I normally had a book in my hands and the baby was in her crib napping in my full view (The baby was in my arms plenty when she was awake, don't worry). I walked for exercise regularly before and during my pregnancy, so I resumed that at 3 weeks, sometimes with the baby in her carrier and sometimes she stayed home with my husband. Also, I didn't have any guilt about supplementing my breast milk with formula, so my baby regularly slept 4 hours plus at a time from day one. I'm sure it gets harder when you have more children, but with only one child, I had a very relaxing, stress-free, and enjoyable post-partum period. I'm glad I didn't feel the need to set all those rules and timelines for myself, and just did what I felt like doing each day.

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  17. "Respect her breastfeeding preferences"

    How about respecting her feeding preferences in general? Such as respecting women who chose formula over the breast, whether through need or want.

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  18. Hello!
    Do you have an email that I may send you a personal question? Kind of in regards to this blog...

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  19. Hi Zsuzsanna,

    This is a really neat birth clip while hubby and his wife are driving. It is not a long clip, baby comes fast. You only see the outside of one of her thighs. Very modest other than that. Cute young couple, hubby is calm and so sweet to her :)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXEZ6g2WLoM&feature=em-share_video_user

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