I can’t believe our little Harper is already 3 weeks old. She is just the cutest bundle of joy and we can’t believe she’s ours. We find ourselves staring at her little features and laughing at all of her different facial expressions and noises on a regular basis. She’s just too cute.
It seems like ages ago that I was pregnant and I (almost) completely forget how painful labor and delivery was…but I’m still not ready to be pregnant or give birth again anytime soon. I need a year or two to adjust to motherhood before I’m ready to start that journey over again! But all in all, I am so grateful for my first pregnancy and birthing experience and that, most importantly, Harper is healthy and growing day by day.
While at first we were super sad that we couldn’t give birth at the birthing center in Nashville, having to give birth at the hospital ended up being the best gift we could have asked for. At the birthing center, they send you home just a few hours after giving birth. Wowza! At the hospital, we were allowed to stay in the postpartum ward for two whole days. This allowed me to recover better physically and for us to wrap our minds around the fact that we now have a child.
At the hospital I was provided three meals a day as well as snacks and drinks. Nurses were often coming in to check on my bleeding and recovery, make sure Harper was okay and ask if I needed anything. During the night we were allowed to put Harper in the nursery in between feedings so that we could get 3 hour chunks of sleep. We also met with the sweetest lactation consultant a couple of times and she gave me the tools and confidence I needed to breast feed Harper. She also let me borrow a $2000 breast pump to help my milk come in…and it worked like a charm!
Brett and I were so grateful for those 2 days together as a family where we didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything. Adjusting to life with a newborn can be overwhelming and scary at times and being in the hospital with so many nurses available made things so much easier. I think from now on, as long as I can have a midwife present, I’ll be giving birth in a hospital.
The day Brett, Harper and I left the hospital, my sister Ruth and her eight month old daughter Eliza drove down from Virginia to stay 4 days with us. Ruth has three daughters and so much wisdom and experience with parenting. Having her around the first few days at home was the best gift ever.
Our first night home with Harper was rough. She wasn’t sleeping through the night and I was so sleep deprived from the previous few days that I ended up waking Ruth up asking for help. Ruth ended up holding Harper for a few hours during the middle of the night so that I could get some sleep. Seriously?! I would have had a mental breakdown if she hadn’t been around to help.
Ruth also helped me so much with breast feeding. The expensive pump I used during our stay at the hospital caused my milk to come in full force and Ruth gave me so many tips and tricks to help alleviate the pain and have my milk supply adjust to Harper’s feeding schedule. She also provided me with company during the many hours I spent feeing Harper
Oh, how I miss sleeping through the night! I always considered myself someone that could function pretty well on less sleep, but night after night of sleep deprivation is a whole different story. For the first two weeks of Harper’s life, she needed to be fed every 2-3 hours–even during the night–in order to help her gain weight. She also enjoyed being awake from 9 PM to 3 AM for a solid week or so, which made sleeping in between feedings pretty difficult. It took Brett and I a while to figure out a system to help me get the sleep I needed, but we’ve managed to find a method that works for us. Brett will usually take the first night shift from 9-12 or so and that’s when I get in a good chunk of sleep. Then I’m on duty the rest of the night. Naps during the day are also crucial!
Thankfully, at Harper’s 2 week appointment, she had gained enough weight that the doctor said we could let her sleep 4-5 hours at a time during the night if she let us. During the day we still need to feed her every 2.5-3 hours, but at night we can try to let her sleep longer. This has made things so much better!
Lack of sleep has been the biggest lifestyle adjustment. During the day my life seems to revolve around 3 hour shifts and I try my best to get stuff done in between feedings. It’s easy now while Harper is small and sleeps most of the day, but things could change as she gets more vocal and stays awake longer during the day. After feeding her I like to go on walks with her in the stroller or have Brett watch her while I go to the gym and walk on the treadmill. Getting out of the house, exercising and being around people really helps me feel better.
I honestly thought the physical changes would be harder for me than the emotional changes, but that hasn’t been the case. Postpartum hormone drops definitely affected me more than I expected and I’ve felt a whole range of emotions: sad, overwhelmed, joyless, exhausted, etc. During the day I usually feel pretty normal, but as nighttime approaches and the thought of another sleepless night looms, I start to feel more emotional. I’ve also felt pretty lonely at times. As an extrovert having to spend so many hours alone feeding Harper, I’ve noticed that I can feel really lonely at times. I’m still not the greatest at breast feeding in public or with a cover, so I’m hoping that feelings of loneliness will dissipate as I can do more things and be around more people throughout the day.
The best things I’ve found to help with all the emotions I’m feeling is to 1.) talk about them with Brett or others and 2.) get some sleep! Sleep deprivation really does take a toll on my mental state and I always feel so much better after a nap or a longer chunk of sleep during the night.
Thankfully those rougher emotional issues have eased up during Harper’s 3rd week of life. Brett and I decided to take a road trip down to Houston to spend time with Brett’s sister and her family. Traveling and having more people around during the day has done wonders on my mood! Thankfully we have lots of travel and family time lined up before we go back to China so I’m hoping I’ll start to feel more like myself…just now as Harper’s mom too!
I’ve been absolutely amazed at how quickly my body physically went back to it’s pre-pregnancy-state. Even a week after giving birth I felt and looked like my old self. I had told myself before Harper was born that, “It took me 9 months to grow her, so I need to be prepared for it to take 9 months to feel normal again.” Welp, I didn’t have to wait as long as I expected, that’s for sure.
Brett and I aren’t sure this is the greatest thing however. By society’s standards, this would be perfect! To already be back to your pre-birth weight is what everyone wants, right? I, however, believe that the female body is supposed to change during pregnancy and may or may not ever go back to it’s normal shape and weight. Creating, birthing and sustaining life is no simple feat and our bodies need to adjust and adapt to do this healthfully. It’s hard to know if it’s just genetics that allowed my body to return to normal so quickly or if I possibly didn’t gain enough weight. We’ve already talked about what we’ll do differently next pregnancy and how we will want to track calories a little more closely. For this pregnancy I just ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. This usually is a great way to eat, but when you eat a voluminous, fibrous plant-based diet (and are as active as I am), it’s easy to get full on lower amounts of calories and therefore not eat enough. While Harper ended up being completely healthy despite her smaller size, we still want to be more proactive with making sure I eat enough the next time I get pregnant.
Other physical changes I’m loving is having more space in my stomach to eat larger portions and not having to go to the bathroom every few minutes. Being able to lay on my back or easily turn from one side to the other while sleeping are also some major perks.
As for exercise, I’m planning to take 6 weeks off from exercise (other than walks and different postpartum pelvic floor exercises). I know waiting will get harder and harder as the weeks go on, however, because after just 3 weeks I already feel so good. I’m just reminding myself that a long period of rest is just what my body needs and that a lot of stuff is still healing inside of me, even though I feel great and look normal on the outside.
Harper is doing great and is growing like a champ! She was 5 pounds 11.5 ounces when she was born and dropped to 5 lbs. 6 oz. the day after she was born. At her first doctors appointment 5 days after she was born she was back up to 5 lbs. 9 oz. and a week after her birth she had already regained her birth weight at 5 lbs. 12 oz. Then over the course of the next week she gained 11 ounces making her 6 lbs. 7 ounces! The doctor said it definitely wasn’t normal for a baby to gain that much weight, but that it was great!
She still sleeps most of the time, but she’s getting more alert everyday and we’re expecting her to “wake up” any day now. She starting to focus on our faces more and has longer chunks of awake time during the day, especially when we lay her on her back.
She is the funniest dreamer and her eyes are always flickering or rolling around. She can start by smiling and then switch to frowning and whimpering in seconds when she’s asleep. Who knows what she’s thinking about! When she wakes up from a nap she always does the biggest stretches, which often include her whole body and face.
Her cries are getting louder and more forceful. She often does three little cough/cries before letting out a longer cry and it can be hard not to laugh.
My favorite thing that she does are her sneezing fits. She usually has 3-4 sneezes in a row and they are so forceful that they cause her to “punch” herself in the face with her two fists. Sometimes the last sneeze never comes and she lets out the cutest little “the-sneeze-never-came-sigh” that kills me every time.
I love seeing her develop everyday and am so excited to see her personality come out more and more. But it’s also bitter sweet to see how fast she is growing. Time flies!
I plan to write some more postpartum updates in addition to updates on Harper in the future. Thanks for letting me share this part of my life on this space!