My No BS Guide to Having and Recovering from a C-Section

Since having a C-Section 17 months ago, I have had several friends ask me to guide them through what to expect with theirs. I realize that I wish I had know some of these things before going into my C-Section and so I have decided to share.

This is my absolutely no-bullshit guide to having and recovering from a C-Section. Now, mine was planned so the recovery from an emergent C-Section could be different. In fact the truth is each woman’s recovery will be slightly different. I wish I had someone tell me the truth about what to expect- I think it would have prepared me and made my experience a lot less scary and unknown at the time. Here it goes mamas!

Part One: The C-Section, before and after

  1. Belly bandit- wear it as soon as you feel you can. It’s the one single thing I can now swear by about healing and recovering from a C-section. Wear it as much as you can. I didn’t sleep in mine but otherwise I wore it as much as humanly possible!!! It shrunk my uterus down in 1 month to almost it’s normal state and supported my incision area and also my back. It just really holds everything in that otherwise after a C-Section can hurt as you’re tummy is all wobbly and wonky for a while.  This is the one I used. I started with size small and then eventually had to buy the XS because I shrunk so fast but still needed and wanted the support. I saved both as I plan to use them again if/when we get pregnant a second time.
  2. THIS:  Use these strips on your incision as soon as you’re allowed to. They are the most amazing things EVER! I wore them 24/7 (you can wash them when you shower- that’s the only time I wasn’t wearing them)….my scar looks SO good because of these PLUS they protect your scar from underwear, clothes, etc. which can feel pretty icky against it for a while (up to 2 months maybe more).
  3. Compression big panties: I wore these every single day and night and I wore them under the belly bandit. They also help with the swelling and really do help hold things in…They aren’t sexy but none of this is sexy (plus you can’t have sex anyway so just do all you can to get your body put back together and try not to care about what you or your big ass panties look like)! 
  4. Pooping: DO AN ENEMA BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE HOSPITAL! If they’ll allow you trust me this is the way to go. Have a nurse give you an enema in the hospital you will be so relieved. Take stool softeners so that you don’t get constipated with the pain meds post C-section. I had to do an enema the first poop after surgery, 3 days later…And on that- that first poop….hang on to your heart: it feels like you are ripping yourself open but you ARE NOT…just remember me telling you this- you are OK…you are not ripping yourself open and are totally okay. You have to poop and once you do it’ll only get easier to do it again. I ended up doing a few enemas post surgery until I was able to go on my own. It won’t hurt you and is the easiest way to get it done. Any pushing hurts deep inside as you’ve been sliced open and are healing.
  5. SLEEP! In order to heal fast, you have to sleep. Sleep as much as you can and let the people around you help you. The worst you can do is over-due it. You will set yourself back  not heal yourself. Tell your husband/partner this: he/she needs to be in charge of stepping up and not letting you over-due. After about 1 week the pain reduces a lot and after the 2nd week so much more  but you have to be careful not to over-due it even though you feel better because for about 6 weeks total you’re still healing and things are still fusing back together. It’s easy to push it but you have to really be on yourself not to. This is extremely tough for those of us who take care of everything and everyone but ourselves so try to use this as practice for asking for help from your support team. Remember- they WANT to help you but you may need to be specific about the kind of help you need and when you need it.
  6. Big pads- you will bleed for weeks. I wore a long heavy over-night pad 24/7. Finally switched to a regular pad at week 5 post partum. Don’t think you can just hang out after taking a shower for 15 mins- you can’t- you’ll bleed. Pad it up!
  7. Make sure to eat high protein as it helps you heal fast.
  8. You may come home swollen from the fluids they pump into you but not to fear- it will go away (you’ll pee it out) with in about 1.5-2.5 weeks or so. I think drinking lots of water/coconut water helps flush and drain it out. You need lots of water anyway to support nursing. It can be scary to see yourself looking so puffy after you get home from the hospital but I promise the swelling goes away and you’ll be able to see what you really look like post baby in about 1.5-3 weeks.
  9. NIGHT TIME HELP: This is KEY! If you can get a night time nurse or Doula (we had a Doula and it saved us) do it! If you can do it for 2 weeks at minimum but ideally would be 1 month. I can’t stress enough how much this helps. It allows you to sleep a little with out worry. Someone skilled and trained is up with your baby or up watching your sleeping baby. They will come get you out of bed to nurse when you are needed (usually every 2-3 hours in the beginning). If you do not sleep, you will not heal and also your milk supply will suffer. You have to sleep. So someone you can rest easy with should be with you at night. This isn’t your mom and it’s not your husband. This really is someone much more skilled to actually do just this. If that person is with your baby trust me you WILL sleep and you will be a better new mommy for it. The reason it’s not your mom or partner is because you still need those people’s support during the day while you heal. You can’t lift anything for a while and barely that sweet new baby so try to set this up BEFORE you have your baby (if you know you’re having a C-Section). If this isn’t an option for you financially or perhaps because you don’t live near family then you need to set a very real schedule with your partner for them to support you in being able to sleep (and then stick to it).
  10. Pain: people do NOT talk about how painful it is to recover from a C-section. I will be honest it’s SO painful. So just know this and it’ll help you not worry that something is wrong. Also, the healing itself can feel very weird. The area of the incision ends up this weird combo of numb and painful to touch. It changes and you may feel some weird tinges of pain (healing pains) on and off. Don’t let them scare you- just expect them. The body is amazing…almost 5 months postpartum my scar wasn’t even close to as wide or scary as it was at even month 2 or 3 and my tummy was back to normal. When you’re freaking about stuff- just don’t. Know that you’ll get back to feeling like yourself and instead focus all your energy on loving your baby because that will take your mind off anything uncomfortable that’s going on (and make it all worth it).

Part Two: Your tummy, your healing

  1.  Tummy Time: One of the hardest things post C-Section is getting the tummy muscles to fuse back into place and start working the way they used to. This is just a game of patience but there are things you can do to help. The Belly Bandit as mentioned above is a must. On top of this I suggest trying to do all things you do being mindful of your core. After you have a baby and while you’re in recovery there’s not much time for working out (plus you aren’t allowed to do much but take walks for a while). So use the walks and even lifting the baby or doing the dishes or laundry as your work outs. Tighten and use your core muscles (which may feel very weird for a while) as your power zone. Do all movements from this power zone (not your butt or your legs). Soon you will just use your core as a habit and you won’t have to think about it all the time. Most important take walks and as you feel better and better take longer, faster walks using your core as the movement force and power zone. The weight will start to fall off. Oh and wear your belly wrap on your walk and as much as you can! Eventually you can start to get back into your normal work outs. I recommend pilates with a trained instructor for good post C-Section healing. Make sure to always tell the instructor you just had a C-Section!
  2. What you eat: In my experience the MOST important component to healing and getting your body to slim down after a baby is what you eat. In the beginning you have to make food choices to support your nursing (if you choose to do this). That means you must eat. This is one of the hardest things to do with a newborn and a C-Section recovery. It might sound nuts but it’s true. First of all, stuff happens like you could have a baby who can’t latch (like we did) and then you end up pumping 8-12x a day. Between the pain of getting in and out of bed or walking around post C-Section and then need to pump then feed the baby I swear I barely had a moment to do one more thing. This is where HELP comes in. My mom was in town to help support us after the baby came and ended up staying longer once we had some postpartum feeding issues and difficulty. She would actually feed me while I was pumping AND also trying to breast feed. If she wasn’t there spoon feeding ME I swear I wouldn’t have been able to eat much in those first couple weeks. If you’re partner is around then they can be this person (my husband wasn’t able to take time off right after the baby was born and had a crazy schedule in fellowship and being on call at the time).
  3. More on what to eat:
    1. High protein (note: eggs are the best fast food while nursing and healing), probiotic yogurt is also really good for you but use full fat if nursing.
    2. Lots of easy greens (kale, spinach, asparagus)
    3. Good fats: Avocado, coconut Milk, coconut oil, olive oil
    4. Fiber: You may be having post C-Section “issues” as I call them and will need extra fiber to help support you. Try lentils, hummus, dates, figs, prunes, apples, pears mixed into your diet to assist your needs.
    5. Good healthy carbs: Try quinoa, brown rice, chickpea flour based pasta, sweet potato or yams but try not to overdo it on the carbs.
    6. Nursing support: Try to eat your carbs in the morning in the form of oatmeal or gluten-free oatmeal. This will help your milk supply but also give you fiber and carbs for the day (add dates, figs, pears, apples here for more fiber support).
    7. Water water water! Drink water all day. If you’re not a water person then add cucumber, lemon, berries, orange slices, etc. to water in a container in the fridge and let it marinate. It’ll be tastier and also add some good things to your diet at the same time.
    8. What you eat after nursing and in order to get your body back to a good space:
      1. Greens! Greens and veggies oh my! Okay so the skinny is this: eat as many greens and veggies as you want! That’s right- you get a free pass on this one. You can fill up on greens and veggies at each meal!
      2. Small amounts of protein you don’t need as much as you think! If you make a fist the amount a protein you actually need per meal is in fact probably 1/2 of that size. So, if you’re doing a lean meat or fish try to portion it out with that in mind. If you’re having a vegetarian meal then the protein may be in the form of lentils or beans of some sort (I do this more than anything else protein wise). I say 1/2 a cup of beans is the portion size per meal depending on the size of the bean…then it may end up being 1 cup.
      3. Eat whole unprocessed foods. Instead of the low or non-fat item (which is filled with carbs and sugar and “filler” opt for something real and whole (and then eat slightly less of it). For example…choose whole organic yogurt, choose a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of sea salt on your salad instead of “fat-free dressing.” Your body will process these things so much better and you will actually be thinner for making these choices.
      4. Cook your own food. If you make your own food then you can control what’s in it. Going out or ordering in here and there is fine but if you can, try to control what REALLY goes into your mouth. I find it helps to make dishes once or twice a week that you can keep in your fridge and grab as needed such as: hummus and organic veggies to dip into it or grab and snack on, Israeli salad (or salads in general), salmon or lean meats to have and grab.
      5. Do not starve yourself. The worst thing you can do when trying to shed baby weight (or any weight) is to starve yourself. You MUST eat. Just eat less and make healthy choices.
      6. Splurging is okay. It’s important to be kind and moderate when on the long road to loosing your baby weight. The reality is you’re going to have days where you want to splurge or you’re out and you want to eat something you have been craving for ages. Eat it. Enjoy it then let it go. Start the next day back on track and don’t sweat it. The reality is that even one splurge meal or even one day a week will not derail your weight loss if you are making healthy choices (most of the time).
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I Have A Daughter

I have a daughter.

She’s f-cking amazing. She’s not even six months old but she’s f-cking amazing.

I am terrified that she will not have rights to health care that will make her feel like a safe woman. I am terrified that she is coming up in our country with a major group of people trying to rob those basic, human, legal rights from her. I am worried that because of this men who are bullies will feel empowered by our government. I am worried that because of this people will stop caring about our girls. I am worried about the power of the Republican Party for this reason. (I am sorry Republican friends I still love and accept you but your party as a whole is very extreme on this issue now and so I will not stop worrying unless you start changing).

I am worried but more so…

Society currently scares me. I have a girl.

Society is obsessed with being thin. Being “hot” having big boobs, having perfect skin, having a perfect ass…a flat stomach, being super-fit, being “perfect”? WHAT IS PERFECT? Last I checked that was pretty subjective. It doesn’t matter though because my daughter is growing up around superficial obsession. It scares me. And it should scare you too. (In my opinion)…

WE NEED TO BE THE CHANGE: Everything you say and do- she hears and takes to heart. So change it! Start the change in her house…one by one we can make things better, girl by girl…

-Do not talk negatively about your body around your daughter. STOP IT!

-Do not diet or talk about dieting in front of your daughter (just show her moderation, healthy eating and exercising habits).

-Practice positive reinforcement about her body “look how strong you are” “look how good you are at doing that” etc. Also you and your partner should talk about each other in that way in front of her.

-Tell your daughter she is beautiful. DO NOT OVER CORRECT ON THIS ISSUE- SHE NEEDS TO BE TOLD SHE’S BEAUTIFUL, SPECIAL, SMART, CREATIVE, THOUGHTFUL, INSIGHTFUL, COURAGEOUS, FUNNY, COMPASSIONATE…from you. It’s never too early to start this. I do it now. It’s been part of the song I made up to put her to sleep. It calms her and she totally listens. “I love you Aviva, yes I do, I love you Aviva..yes, it’s true…I love your nose, I love your toes…I love your eyes, I love your smile. I love your laugh, I love your heart, I love your thoughts, I love your soul. I love your insides, I love your outsides, I love your everything…yes I do… ”

So while we work on all of the above we need to try to also combat the issues with in us that make us feel shitty and keep us from being an awesome mom-woman-example to our daughters.

Some thoughts on this from a new mom who’s postpartum and still wants to party life up, but has had a LOT goin’ on…

HERE’S THE POSTPARTUM SUCKS PARTY…

  1. THESE ARE NOT MY BOOBS!!!! (Yeah dude…these are your boobs. check yourself before you reck yourself…these…your post nursing boobs…are YOUR NEW BOOBS! (Hello 32D good-bye 34G) and then it’ll hit you how MUCH MORE AWESOME THESE NEW BOOBS ARE! You don’t have to put them in 3 bras…and a work out bra. Nope! They’re cool on their own. Remember that from, before you were pregnant? I know it seems like forever but yeah…So much easier and way more fun!
  2. MOM NEEDS LOVE TOO! Okay so you’ve had your baby and you’ve been living for, breathing for, dealing for this person 100% since they arrived. It’s the best thing ever ever ever but it also zaps you of “you” so let your partner step up and give you some love…go get a Mani Pedi, blow out, massage, go out with a friend…let the person who doesn’t take care of this baby full time step up for a couple hours and give you some “you time.” P.S. This is not gender specific…if you’re a stay at home dad this pertains to you…. if you’re in a same sex relationship-this pertains to you! This means the full time person needs/gets to have a break. The whole fam will be better for it, trust. 😉
  3. USE YOUR TIME WISELY… so the baby is taking a nap? Here’s what that looks like (and this grants you freedom post bed-time to: have dinner/take a shower or bath/ take a breathe/ have a cocktail/ really shave and put lotion on/lay down/sleeeeeeep, HAVE SEX!!!!)

-Do laundry (or start it at least- you can always finish it after they go to sleep)

-Make or organize dinner

-Do dishes, bottles, etc. organize feedings for when they wake up

-If you’re on formula- pre-make it and make bottles for next 20 hours or so

-Clean house/clean yourself!

You get me- get as much done while they nap as you can so that when they go to bed at night you can try to have a life. Even if that means curled up under a blanket in your PJ’s watching TV. Just do what you can do to set up some chill out time each day. This will make you feel human.

  1. TELL ME WHAT YOU NEED! You and your partner need to communicate. There are so many more new things to be on top of now.  You need to check each other about what needs to be done and when. You have to be each other’s checks and balance system.
  2. LET IT OUT: Find a way that’s healthy to let your emotions, frustration out. If you need to dance intensely (what?) around the living room and then stay up way too late writing, to alleviate stress- do it. (Not that I know from that I’m just saying…as an example)… Play drums? Ride a bike? Surf? Meditate? Whatever it is- do it. Let it out or it’ll come off on your kid, or partner and no one wants that in the world. We need to practice maximizing love export/import.
  3. EMBRACE YOUR POSTPARTUM BODY: If you are a stay at home mom like me chances are you are CONSTANTLY moving: you’re bouncing him/her, burping him/her, dancing, moving and grooving, holding, rocking, multi-tasking all the time…you do not stop. Okay so you probably lost weight this way- but if you didn’t it’s also because you’re still nursing (mine ended 8 weeks post) or for the sheer fact that every single body is different. This includes the body you started out with and the body you now have several months after giving birth. This is mine. I took this in the bathroom mirror at 3am. This is me 5m postpartum. It’s not my best photo. I didn’t try to make it look good (I even have a line from my sweats on my stomach, my hair is up still wet because I didn’t have time to tend to it today, I’ve had a whole day of eating and what not….this is just REAL). This body has had nothing but hard times with nursing, had to stop after 8 weeks, had a c-section, had retained placenta and a D&C to remove it at 7 weeks postpartum. I look at my “new and temporary” body and think:

 

-My breasts don’t fill out my bra the way they used to, but they still look good naked and I’m feeling lucky about them because they fed my baby and gave her my immunity. (Give yourself props for things- it’s okay to say- hey- I LIKE THIS- MY BODY DID GOOD)! Society teaches us to hate ourselves but that’s not okay- this is an activity of love….go take a postpartum selfie and try to like some things you see!!!

-I look at my c-section scar (not featured as it’s too low) and I just feel so grateful to have been able to give birth to my daughter. I’m in awe of her daily and to me, she’s a dream come true and a miracle all in one. I look at my scar and just feel love for her and proud of my body.

So let your postpartum body make you feel good! You gave birth to a human, you did that with your body- YOU ROCK! I am in awe of what my body went through and amazed by how it’s thriving even though I don’t have much time for it these days and with all honesty, have NOT made getting toned back up a priority. My daughter is. All day. That’s just me. Luckily I kind of work out all day while I take care of her because I just do it that way. 😉 I’m getting back to pilates and that’s a gift my husband is giving me in that he’ll be the child care for an hour on the weekend while I go love on my body a bit. This is ALL about me feeling good and not at all about looking a certain way. I feel better when I got to pilates classes- end of story. The focus here is on how I FEEL.

-Get it on. You need to let your postpartum body be sexual no matter what it looks like. You are now a MILF- OWN IT! Feel so sexy because of what that body did! If it feels or looks weird don’t sweat it! It’s so hot to your partner because if you feel empowered about it- they will in turn connect with that and focus on how sexy it is that you’re their baby’s mom. Oh my gosh seriously- it’s the sexiest thing! Don’t knock it till you try it!!! 😉

I have a daughter…..I will do everything in my power to keep her safe, teach her right from wrong and support her to be whomever she feels she is. So that’s #7. Treat your child the way you wish life treated you. This includes trying to protect her rights as a woman- that is part of keeping our daughters safe and treating them how we would want to be treated (with respect and as equal humans to men). This is the best party you can create: An everyday celebration of your child…Show then how you celebrate yourself and they’ll learn to do the same and not hate themselves.

This is all a huge gift…mommy. Enjoy it. Party on!

XO- The f-cking proudest mom ever baby….

All You Need Is Love

10676358_10152707350929086_4485169029334586016_nOur daughter is four months old now. The depth of emotion felt in these past four months has far surpassed anything I’ve ever experienced in life. We’ve been through so much and I feel like each experience deserves it’s own blog, but since it’s taken me this long to have time to write I think I should try to sum things up in a way that will be helpful to other women who may experience the same thing. Okay so mamas…future mamas…listen up! Some of this I hope you get to experience because it’s AMAZING and some of this I hope you never have to go through. It’ll be obvious which is which. 😉 Here goes!

Pump It:

Our daughter couldn’t latch. We tried everything under the sun including seeing many lactation specialists. Eventually and very soon after her birth I started to pump. I had to. I pumped exclusively and although I continued to try to get her to latch, I had to bottle feed her my breast milk. Thankfully (and remarkably- you’ll find out why later) I was able to get her 2 full months of exclusively breast milk. It wasn’t easy but I was totally committed to it.

Pumping exclusively sucks. It’s SO hard. I had nothing but problems. I had clogged ducts. I had clogged nipple pores. I had HORRIBLE pain. It took me forever to let down and my pumping sessions would sometimes take 45 minutes- and hour plus,  8-12x a day. By the time I finished pumping and feeding her it was time to pump again. I couldn’t leave the house I was so tied to the breast pump.

There were times when I was pumping that my supply was good and then times it was average. Eventually it took a nose dive and I will be forever grateful for the good periods where I produced enough to have extra to freeze (as we used it later once I had to stop).

I felt like a complete failure because I wasn’t breast feeding Aviva. I would cry all the time when someone would ask me about how breastfeeding was going or sound shocked or sad for me when I told them what our situation was. I had a “plan” to breastfeed her for one year. There’s a lot of societal pressure to breastfeed. It’s currently “in” and there have been waves over the last century of it being “in” our “out.” The reality is that as long as your child is thriving…it doesn’t f-cking matter if they’re being breast fed or not. Seriously- it REALLY doesn’t. So ladies….if this is happening to you please just know that if you TRY- you’ve succeeded. It’s not always on you how it turns out. Sometimes things are just out of your control. My daughter is amazing. She’s a total love. She’s super connected to me and totally obsessed with me but she never latched. Point being- it made zero difference in how connected we are or the love felt between us. Also, she’s just as happy (if not happier) enjoying a bottle of formula as she was breast milk.

The Bottle: A Trial and Error Story

When you have to try bottle feeding super early like we did it’s not easy. We tried a bunch of different bottle systems until we found one that worked. The trying part is tough. It involves what looks like choking, spitting up, painful gas, sometimes just plain spitting it out. The one that worked, well it worked until it stopped working and then we tried another system that hadn’t worked for her before but now that she was older and more evolved, seemed to be magic. Now we’re trying another nipple with that bottle system because she’s getting older and we’ll have to see how THAT goes. Point here is- try try and try again. Trial and error is the name of the game! You can’t give up you will find something that works. Do not get too cozy with the thing that works though because it may not work tomorrow. You have to be like water. It flows and gets where it needs to go. Be water mamas. Be water….

The Perfect Formula:

It doesn’t exist. Our baby is now on formula. She’s on her third type of formula since we had to start it. She’s always been on organic formula but because of constipation issues we’ve been trial and error-ing this as well. Finally she seems to be okay on this one. If you have to have your baby on formula and are like me, you want the safest, closest to breast milk, most non-gmo, organic option possible you will end up with about seven options. Within these seven options there’s a ton of good vs. bad and none of which has yet to be scientifically proven either way. You could make yourself CRAZY trying to make the right choice. I did. That said I finally just had to choose and then when it didn’t work for her tummy I chose again and then again a third time. So long as your baby is happy and gaining weight, growing and thriving…you’re making the right choice. There’s probably no difference between all these formulas at the end of the day but just do what you feel is comfortable for you in your heart. That’s all you can do as a parent, as a mother, I am learning. Once you’ve made a choice- let it go and just see how it goes. Be water remember? Flows…gets to where it needs to go.

Trust Your Body:

Our bodies are truly amazing. I mean- we make humans! How amazing is that?!?! What’s also amazing is that when something isn’t okay- our bodies give us clues and signals to let us know.

While I was pumping I had such terrible breast and nipple pain that often times I would cry. Many times when I would say to my husband things while pumping like “I feel like I’m doing serious damage to my breasts, “I feel like my body is fighting itself” and “It just doesn’t seem like I should be in this much pain.” I also found myself several weeks postpartum still bleeding pretty significantly and still having random shooting pains and cramping. Granted I did have a C-Section but much of the above seemed not quite right to me.

At six weeks postpartum I got heavier cramping and started bleeding even more. My husband had me call the on-call doctor for my OB. She suspected I got my period but told me to go into Triage if I developed a temperature or felt light headed (light headed- something I felt a lot after giving birth). We went to see my OB after that and she also suspected it was my period. She even jokingly called me “Fertile Myrtle.”  I was surprised to have gotten my period given the fact that I was still nursing (pumping, etc). My husband (thank God) pushed for an ultrasound just to make sure things were okay. As it turns out…they were NOT.

Even though we had a scheduled C-Section and this really shouldn’t happen (nor should your baby get cut on her head during a scheduled C-Section which also happened to us and we were STILL in the process of emotionally recovering from and Aviva was healing from)….apparently, I had retained placenta.

It’s a f-cking miracle I even made any milk in the first place. No wonder I had SO many problems nursing and pumping! My body was SO confused! It still thought it was supposed to be pregnant!!! No wonder I was still bleeding and having so many painful issues. I was so lucky we caught this and that I didn’t get a terrible infection or worse. The treatment was to have a D&C. We were SO unhappy with our OB after this, the second complication. Plus we felt she managed us so poorly through both that we decided to get another doctor on board. This took a little time but was handled it before I got super sick. I was starting to feel truly awful.

Trust. Your. Body. Your body knows and will tell you when something is wrong.

So, I had to have a D&C and as it turns out, they had to put me under at a level much deeper than we’d thought which was very scary for both of us. Once the doctor was in, she saw that there was a good amount of placenta there and it was quite stuck so it was good I was out because she did several passes.

(Shout out to my mom who flew in to help watch Aviva and take care of things while I recovered. I’m not sure what on earth we would have done with out you and your loving help. I have the best mom in the world. Period. End of story.)

After the Placenta it’s the After Party:

I can’t confirm or deny that after this procedure I’ll have scar tissue that will cause us issues in the future when we try for another baby. It’s too soon for me to know this. I have to just trust in the universe, as I try to do….that we will be able to do in life what we wish and want, with all the love we can throw at it. I choose not to stress over this and instead focus on my beautiful and amazing love of a child, Aviva.

Also, about 6 days after my D&C, I got Mastitis and after that my milk couldn’t come out unless I manually expressed it into water, leaving it un useable. After that I had to stop nursing cold turkey as I couldn’t get any useable milk out in any way. I used liquid sage drops (natural estrogen) to help my milk stop. Also, ice packs on my breasts and sports bras. It took about 3-4 weeks for my milk to stop trying to come in (when she cried or was on my chest my breasts would still try to fill up and it would hurt).

I don’t know HOW I would have gotten through these rough waters with out my husband’s love and my mom. These two people got me through in so many ways. Other family and friends too, sure but the people in the trenches with me..they gave me the love I needed and more importantly- helped with Aviva while I had to deal with some not so easy stuff. LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED. Truly. And, always.

All You Need Is Love:

You gave birth. Your hormones are crazy. Your feelings are out of your control. Every new mother feels this. Add to that that things don’t go easy….your baby get’s cut/can’t latch/looses weight/has a medical issue/you have a medical issue….IT FEELS SO CRAZY….

WHAT YOU NEED IS LOVE. LOVE. LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED.

You need love from your partner, your family….you need LOVE girl. And oh…my…god…do you need love.

Love will get you through anything. It’ll get you through surgery, complications, more surgery, more of anything. It will get you through. The people who truly love you will show up for you and that is all you need.

I say, when things feel crazy as many moms experience after giving birth…just focus on the love coming in and let it be your fuel because often times you will need it when you start to run on empty…you will need that fuel to keep going.

Note: I have so many blog posts in my head that I have wanted to share but our “stuff” has gotten in my way. Now that things are chilling out and going well I will be able to get back to writing more and I look forward to doing so. With, LOVE, of course. Always. 

I’ll Always Show Up For You…

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On 8-8-14 at 8:34am, my life changed forever when I heard her cry for the very first time. Welcome to the world, Aviva Zelda Shaftel….you are LOVED. I am your mommy….I will do everything in my power to take care of you, make you feel loved and create a happy, joyful, meaningful life for you…

I’ve been writing this blog for 6 weeks, in my head and in between feedings, diaper changes and occasional random moments of calm. So much has gone on this past 6 weeks that I just can’t figure out where to start or where to end. So, I just wiped the page clean and I’m going heart blazing open, honest, no BS, real talk on this blog right now. Our journey this past few weeks has been just amazing, but it has also been filled with challenges. We are not the first people to have challenges to get through after or around a birth and we won’t be the last. That said, this is my journey and I’m going to share it honestly in the hopes that it will help others.

Aviva’s Birth Story

I’m not going to tell it like the “birth stories” you read all the time…I’m going to skip to the part where the heart bursts open, rips wider than it ever could and where every single instinct that makes you a parent, kicks in like being hit by a train of love, emotion and fierce over-protectiveness like you never thought you could ever feel. Her first cry. The moment I knew our baby was out of my body and in this world with us.

We had a scheduled C-section for 8am on 8-8-14. She was born at 8:34am and that’s where this story begins. I can’t help but cry through this (already) as the emotions I felt that day are still so real and so raw inside me as if I have PTSD or can’t help but relive it every time I think about it. When I heard her cry I was so overwhelmed with joy and relief that I burst into hysterical tears (they had to give me oxygen) as I watched them run her over to my left where all I saw was a bunch of nurses and my husband huddled over her under the light. This is normal and then they’re supposed to bring her to me right away. That didn’t happen. Instead it took longer and more people crowded around her. I asked “Is she ok?” “Is everything okay?” over and over again (our OB was on the other side of the curtain stitching me up)…no one answered and I could tell something was wrong. Finally, my husband came over and brought her to me and had to tell me that she was cut during the C-section but that she was going to be okay. He was amazingly calm for me (although not at all inside). He told me the cut was on the side of her head and it was deep and hit the muscle- that he had inspected it (he’s an Oculoplastic Surgeon) and decided we needed a Pediatric Surgeon to stitch it up so were waiting on him to arrive. They took her back over to the light and away from me. Still, no one said a word to me and instead just kept stitching me up and getting us all ready to move to the recovery room. Three hours later (yes that’s right)…my husband went with the surgeon and held our daughter while her head got stitched up. Eventually, we all were back in the recovery room together.

This is a very brief and very non-emotional depiction of what happened. It was deeper, heavier, way more scary and intense than I can recount right now. Just trust me.

She got cut- should that have happened? NO! Is that common? NO! Did it get handled right with our OB? NO! I could go on. Sigh. No. Just no. (Days later after we were home, my husband reached out surgeon to surgeon, to talk to our OB about what happened and how it was handled. I also spoke with her at my 2 weeks postpartum appointment. We’ll never be okay about what happened but are trying to move past it).

After we got into recovery my blood pressure dropped super low and they had to pump me full of all sorts of stuff and like 10 lbs of fluid. All we could focus on was this little girl and getting her my Colostrum. My milk hadn’t come in yet (very common after a C-section) so my husband helped me hand express the Colostrum into a little cup and then we were syringe feeding it into her tiny little mouth. Our sweet girl was exhausted! She had that trauma to her head on her way into this world and then had to have a surgery right away. By the time she got back to us, she was out cold. It broke our hearts in two. I was laying there with my catheter in and still totally numb from the breast down from my C-Section spinal block. I was also totally wiped out but every ounce of energy I had was being put towards getting this little love fed.

My husband at this point had checked his rage and emotion about what happened to her in order to be calm for me and to just move this thing forward and make sure she was okay. In my own way I did the same thing because there wasn’t time for us to feel our feelings about what happened. We had to check that at the door and walk through into parenting solely focused on Aviva and what her needs were. No time to cry or to scream about it. No time to ride the emotional wave of “you f-cking hurt my baby…” etc. etc. No time and too selfish. This is Aviva’s story now. Check yourself at the door mom and dad. We’ll deal with you and your emotions later.

This is the beginning of the SHOWING UP. In the OR my husband showed up so big for me and then he just went into surgeon mode and made SURE that she got the proper care and insisted on it even when they wanted to just put some surgery tape over her wound. There was even a vein that ran through that gash in her head, which has subsequently reformed around the scar- amazing. Once we got back to the recovery room we both had to show up for Aviva. We did all we could to get her fed. Then we tried to breastfeed. This poor little thing was so exhausted she was just sleeping through it all. And then when it was time to latch on…she couldn’t do it. She never could, actually. So thus began part two of this story…Aviva’s weight loss after birth.

Aviva was born 6lbs 7.7 ounces and 19inches long. She wasn’t able to latch and breastfeed off of me and so we took to manually expressing my milk and then syringe/tube feeding it into her mouth. This process took at least 2 people and one very exhausted little baby girl mouth. She eventually lost 11% of her body weight. We were told on day 2.5 that unless we were able to get that percentage back to a lower amount, we’d have to stay in the hospital. So at this point we’d seen 2 lactation specialists and had been brought a breast pump. I began pumping my milk and then we’d put her on my breast and tube feed her and try to get her to latch. My husband and I were fiercely committed to getting her weight up and thus stayed up for 24 hours pumping, tube feeding, etc. we were even high five-ing at 3am like “Team Aviva! We got this!” No actually, we were just delirious. Eventually between a nurse and a lactation specialist we were urged to give her some formula just to get her over the hump. This was a very hard thing for me to do as I was so committed to breast milk only for my girl. That said that’s my thing and in order to get her to be okay…she needed this and so she got it. My husband was such a voice of reason for me and calmly helped me work through that to make the right choice for Aviva. So between the one dose of formula and all the pumping and syringe/tube feedings together as a team…we were able to get Aviva to only 7% from her 11% loss and thus on day 4, we were allowed to leave the hospital.

Part three of this story is a thank you to the people who showed up for us SO BIG that we can not even imagine having gone through what we did with out their support. My parents and my brother came into town days before Aviva was born. Once we got to see them hours after her birth (and no one told them what happened and they didn’t know we were okay for way longer than it should’ve ever taken for them to be informed-ugh!!!!) they went into super-amazing-power-support mode. They brought us water, healthy food to eat, made sure we had everything we needed (and often we did not- our hospital experience was subpar on many levels). Most important…they were there to emotionally support us. I can not begin to explain this. My emotions were crazy between my horrible pain, hormones, sadness, anger and fear and the stress that occurred around Aviva’s cut and weight loss. I know there were moments where my dad and my husband were alone and he was able to lean on my dad about his feelings dad to dad, and then when I was alone with my mom and just cried my heart out to  her and she was able to support me and comfort me in the most beautiful way. I just can not say thank them enough for those days in the hospital and what they did for us.

On a side note, this is also when my little brother saw my boobs for the first time. We tried hard to keep them out of his sight but when all you’re doing is whipping those things out to try to feed the baby and every other person that comes in is there to help assist this process..well, it’s hard to hide them. After the hospital and back at home it was just like f-it…there they are. He was such a good sport about it. I am certain when he returned to LA he went right to see a therapist and I don’t blame him. Sorry bro but thanks for looking at my eyes. You were an unreal support to us. What brother shows up for 12 days and gives 100% to help his sister and her husband through this process? Mine. This man knows how to show up in life. Proud to be on the other end of this from him and so blessed. 

Part Four of this birth story is about Aviva’s father. In the moments that followed her coming into this world, my husband began showing up for his daughter in the most beautiful way. He was the one who saw her head was bleeding and immediately jumped on it because no one was telling us what had happened. He then made sure she was taken care of because he knew better, medically and because of that- she won’t have a terrible scar on her head for life and was properly treated for what happened to her. He kept his cool the entire time and gave her calm energy and tremendous love even when he was holding her down while she was being stitched up by the Pediatric Surgeon. He then showed up for me in recover for days like a rockstar. I will never forget this moment in the wee hours of the night we stayed up all night together trying to get her fed when he turned to me and said “We will get through this. We’ll get through anything. I love you and I love her and I am committed to you both and we’ll be okay.” He had tears in his eyes while he said that to me (I was 100% crying ugly cry style) and I knew in my heart what I told him- this is what I have always known about you and why I picked you to be my partner and the father of my children.

In the days and weeks that have followed this hospital stay, my husband has done everything in his power to show up for us both. Watching the man you love go to another level of depth of love and care is a truly special experience. I am honored to be partners in life, love and now parenting with this exceptional man. Aviva is so lucky you are her daddy, Sol. As Aviva’s namesake, my Grandfather Abe used to say, “beautiful.” Yep- just like he said it and every single thing we’ve been through- there you go showing up so big, with love- it’s beautiful. Thank you.

On day four we got to take her home and that’s when the real journey began. Supported for over a week by my folks and my brother with us and all the love from family and friends, we felt blessed. My family bought groceries, cooked meals- most of the time mine needed to be hand fed to me while I was working on breast feeding or trying to syringe/tube feed her or pump my milk for her. They did laundry, cleaned up the house, ran errands (my husband had to go back to work right away) and they gifted us a night time Doula who helped from 11pm-7am so that I could try to sleep and heal in between the 2-3 hours I’d be woken up to feed/pump. They went above and beyond for us all day long and into the night for days and days. Showing up with so much love and emotional support. I am certain Aviva felt their energy and love all along the way too. A beautiful thing. She also got LOTS of snuggles, kisses and holding sessions by her Grandparents while they were here and her uncle Jack serenaded her on the guitar too. Once they all left, it was time for my husband and I to “learn our dance” as my mom put it (so spot on). We had only begun the emotional roller coaster that was the first few weeks of Aviva’s life. There’s so much that went on I’d love to write about but for now, I’m going to focus on one piece of it…

Breastfeeding. Or lack there of:

It didn’t matter how many breast feeding books I read. It didn’t matter how in my mind I knew our breast feeding journey would be so beautiful and important. It didn’t matter how much I was committed to breast feeding Aviva before she was born. Once she was born, and didn’t latch on to my breast- none of that mattered. From day one I was committed to doing all I could to get her to breastfeed.  In the last 6 weeks, we have seen a total of 6 lactation consultants between the 4 in the hospital and the 2 we’ve worked with at home. Totaling 6 opinions of what we should try and do. All of which, we have open-heartedly tried. We’ve tried nipple shields and different holding styles and techniques, different pillows for support, pre-pumping, you name it- we’ve probably tried it. In the beginning, I would pump and we’d syringe, tube feed her while attempting breast feeding as well.

Eventually, she lost weight again and wasn’t in a good zone. We ended up needing to rent a scale for the house. We saw her doctor and where put on a plan which we did 100% and it still didn’t get her weight up enough. So then we had to start bottle feeding. It was the only way to get her weight up to a safe place. So then we tried like 4 different bottle systems until we finally found one that didn’t give her gas, that she didn’t gag on and that worked. All the while, still continuing to try to get her on my breast.

Now let me say this to my own credit and I’m going to emotionally pat myself on the back for a moment here…I was recovering from a C-Section which yes, is a major f-cking surgery folks and painful and rough those first 2 weeks-wow, I was emotionally still reeling from her head being sliced open when I was, I was now watching her head wound and caring for that too, I was upset by how poorly my OB handled the entire situation, I was overly exhausted, my hormones were crashing and crazy,the 10 lbs of fluid they pumped into me at the hospital when my blood pressure dropped were still in my body which felt just awful and looked even scarier, I was feeling a million emotions about her not being able to breast feed, worried about her weight and yet STILL…every single time I put her to my breast…I got totally zen-ed out. I KNOW she feels me. I KNOW she feeds off my energy (maybe not my breast but definitely my energy). So I made sure no matter what- if it was morning, noon or 4am, this baby was put on my body with loving, calmness and nothing else. Every single time. I showed up for her. I checked all the above and put it aside and made sure that when she’s on me, or in my arms- she feels peace and love and me showing up for her. I did it in the hospital and I’m still doing it now.

For moms who are experiencing these problems- pat yourself (yeah right now) on the back. This is SO HARD. You feel like a failure. Our society is has made breast feeding seem like the end-all and if you don’t or can’t do it- yeah- you suck as a mom. Or yeah, you’ve failed your child. Okay- first of all, that is NOT true. If you TRY you have succeeded. If your baby can’t latch, that’s not on you! If you can’t pump milk because you don’t have any AND your baby can’t latch…that’s not on you! I’m lucky in that I have a great milk supply and so I am able to be 100% attached to my breast pump day/night in order to feed my baby through a bottle, breast milk…with love. I will do this as long as I can for the time I feel is right and if things change then we’ll roll with that too. I have learned through my own process with breast feeding that there’s so much pressure to be able to do it and if anything we’re a society obsessed with it. It’s not fair to us moms and it’s by the way not cool to judge people about doing it or not- you do not know their journey so you should not judge it.

I’ve had people talk to me who had the easiest time breast feeding and suggested I go read a book…um, I’ve read that book- there’s nothing I am doing or not doing at this point that will change whether she latches or not. She’s too tiny or her jaw is too tight or whatever it is. That doesn’t help me and it doesn’t feel good. I’ve had people suggest I am stressed and that must be the problem. Again- no. I have only showed up 100% calm and loving while breastfeeding this baby who just, simply can’t latch right.  I wish I could tell everyone to ease up on moms. It’s hard enough one thing to deal with, but several and with all this pressure? It’s not fair and it’s not okay. I wish this could change I really do. I’m sharing this to try to do my part to shift things a little. If you’re going through this stuff- honey hold on to your heart…you can only do so much and then you just have to do what YOU feel as the mom, is best for your baby. If it’s pumping your milk and you have milk to pump- do it! If it’s formula and bottles- do that! The baby will thrive if it’s fed and if it’s receiving LOVE. End. Of. Story.

What goes on with pumping and trying to breast feed at the same time:

– ripped up nipples

-clogged milk ducts

-severe breast pain

-severe nipple pain

-your life is no longer your own…it belongs to the pumping schedule, for so long as you choose to pump

-needing to upgrade to a better pump

-investing in every single size of pump accessories as every few days things change or stop working

-trying a million different nipple creams, heat, ice, cabbage on your breasts, massaging your breasts, nipple protectors, nipple shields, nipple pads…

There’s more but these are just a few things. And you know what- ALL WORTH IT! I’m happy as a clam that I am lucky enough to have milk and to be able to pump it and feed our baby. She’s also latching now at times and I continue to work to try to get her on the breast but if it doesn’t happen I’m totally okay with it because I know I tried and she tried and at the end of the day, she’s gaining weight beautifully now and totally thriving!!! As a mom, what more can you ask for?!

Side note: MIND-BODY CONNECTION: The night my milk went away…

The day after my parents left and we were still very much in the thick of the very stressful pumping/tube feeding our baby who had lost weight zone…all of a sudden, a totally sleep deprived, stressed out, pain-ridden me stopped being able to pump out any milk. This went on for hours. In the middle of the night my husband (once again showing up for me) checked to see how much was in the fridge and realized only about an ounce. Instead of telling me this, he came in to the nursery and told me that in the morning (he’d taken off from work that day to be with us- times were TOUGH that week and thank God he was there as I wasn’t even allowed to drive at that time post surgery) if I couldn’t pump milk then we’d go rent the same pump the hospital had (which our Doula had assured us was the best pump if you’re exclusively pumping) and we’d try that and if that didn’t work then we’d get formula and told me over and over again that no matter what he’s there with me and that she’s going to be okay.

This calmed me and I was able to meditate myself to sleep (I meditate all the time and I highly recommend it). In the morning she had that one ounce but my milk wasn’t happening. Off we went the three of us to rent the pump, stop by her doctor to pick up formula samples in case we needed to use them and all sorts of milk supply stuff that our lactation consultant suggested. The love and calm from my husband and from that storage space inside me where I had to go get some from, plus the sleep I finally got, plus the new awesome pump…and poof! We got milk! And not only did we get milk…we got lot’s of it. Only goes to show that your mind and body are SO connected. The moment I calmed inside and believed she’d be okay no matter what…baby got milk. She’s still getting it and we have a whole freezer of extra milk just in case!

Yes this is the longest blog ever and yet I haven’t even scratched the surface of all I wanted to share! I’ll save some of it for another time. For now I just want to say, in all of this the message was clear…life is all about showing up. Love is about showing up. Showing up physically for people, or emotionally, spiritually. Just show up! It serves your heart and the person on the other end.

To the love of my life, Aviva Zelda….I will ALWAYS show up for you. You forever have my all and your daddy’s too. To the people who showed up for us in all the ways you did- there are so many of you, we both want to say thank you. It meant the world to us and always will. Now I have to go show up for Aviva and pump and feed her, change her, rock her and look into those baby blues and tell her mommy loves her. I know she can feel it….

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About her name:

Aviva: She’s named after my dad’s father Abe (Abraham/Avraham). Her name is Hebrew and means springtime, renewal, new life. I had a very special connection with him and when he passed away, years ago, vowed to name my first child after him. Thankfully, my husband also found this beautiful and so we did just that.

Zelda: This was my dad’s mother, Selma’s Hebrew name. Grandma Selma passed away this year while I was pregnant with Aviva. She was so over-joyed and excited about Aviva before she passed at 96. She called all the time to talk about my pregnancy and when she found out it was a girl, was beside herself. That coupled with my grandma’s lifelong commitment to Hadassah it seemed fitting to use her Hebrew name, Zelda, which means happiness.

Aviva is our renewal. She is our springtime, our new life and our happiness.