Meet the Sullivans: The Second Time Around (Guest Post)

January 12, 2016

The Second Time Around (Guest Post)

Hello lovely "Meet the Sullivans" friends, fans and readers! My name is Sara and I'm an attorney, blogger and the mom of two wild children (Mac is 3.5 years old and Mim is 1.5 years old). I live in St. Louis and blog over at Running form the Law. I'm thrilled to be here guest posting for Colleen today while she's being SuperMom and adjusting to life as the mom of two. I remember just how crazy and hard those first few months of adjusting to our new addition were and I'm sending all kinds of good vibes for restful nights and easy days. Today, I'd love to share a post that I wrote about 6 months into being a mom of 2. It's kind of a side-by-side comparison of how different (or similar) pregnancy, recovery and the postpartum adjustment period were for my two kids. I find this stuff really fascinating, so I hope you do too! And because it's been a year since I published this, I've included some updates on how things are now that we've been a family of four for a year and half. I hope you enjoy! 

Just for reference:
#1 Mac (boy) - born May 2012 (photos on the left)
#2 Mim (girl) - born July 2014 (photos on the right)


Pregnancy
My pregnancy with Mac was a dream the first two trimesters.  Other than being tired and having a few food aversions, I had the easiest first trimester in the history of pregnancies.  The second trimester was even more glorious...I ate whatever I wanted (obscene amounts of Chipotle), got lots of pampering and loved watching my belly get big.  The only problems came in the third trimester, when the swelling started and all the weight started taking its toll on me.  On my due date with Mac I'd gained nearly 60 pounds (lots of water weight) and I was pretty miserable.  I couldn't get comfortable to sleep, I had horrible acid reflux and heartburn, my ankles were as big as my calves and it was just difficult to get around.  I also carried Mac really high and felt like he lived in my ribcage, which was incredibly painful.

My pregnancy with Mim was the complete opposite. I don't know if it was because I was having a girl, or because I already had a toddler in nursery school, but I had a horrible first trimester - sick all the time from pregnancy, stomach flu, head colds, sinus infections, etc. The first four months of pregnancy completely kicked my ass and I've never been so tired in my life - growing one tiny human and chasing another one around.  But by 19 weeks, I finally started to feel better and it continued the rest of my pregnancy.  I loved pregnancy even more the second time around, maybe because I knew it was probably my last time to experience this.  I didn't gain anywhere close to the same amount of weight the second time (only about 25 pounds) and had little to no swelling at all.  I carried her very low, which was hard on my bladder, but so much more comfortable than with Mac.  My cravings were only for lemonade this time (no chicken tacos) and my food aversions were intense and still haven't completely gone away (I still am put off by salmon).  While I was mentally "done" with pregnancy at the end, I was getting around pretty well and proud of my body for handling everything the third trimester like a champ.

Birth
On my due date with Mac, I went to the doctor and was 0 cm dilated and 0% effaced.  Two days later, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday feeling off.  I thought I peed the bed, but really my water was close to breaking and I was leaking amniotic fluid, however I told Ryan I was fine and to go ahead and play golf that day. While he was in the shower I started having some mild menstrual-type cramps, which I didn't realize were actually contractions until they were so strong I nearly ripped the sink out of the bathroom countertop (can you tell I was in denial?). By 8:00 a.m. my contractions were coming pretty fast and furious and we were on our way to the hospital.  My water broke as they got me into my hospital bed and I immediately ordered the epidural.  I labored (and slept) until about 8:30 p.m. when I stopped progressing at 8 cm (because the baby had turned) and spiked a fever.  We made the call to have surgery and Mac was born by emergency c-section at 10:10 p.m. (after 17 hours of labor).  He was 2 days late and was 7 pounds, 14 oz and 22.5 inches long.

With Mim, I really wanted to try to avoid having another c-section.  My OB was more than willing to let me try to labor on my own and go for a VBAC, so long as she came anytime before my due date. At that point, with a prior c-section, we'd have to repeat (since I couldn't be induced).  We went ahead and scheduled a c-section the week before our due date (at just over 39 weeks) and prayed that she'd come on her own prior to that.  At 35 weeks Mim was measuring in the 75th percentile and I was nearly 2 cm dilated and 70% effaced.  I figured we'd be having her any day at that point, but that's exactly where I stayed for the next month.  Zero progress (she actually regressed).  We had Mim by scheduled c-section at 9:39 a.m.  She was one week early and was 7 pounds, 11 oz and 21 inches long.

Recovery
Recovery with Mac was horrendous.  Having gone through both labor and major surgery, I was a mess. My body was so beat up and I felt like I'd been run over by a truck for weeks.  My incision was painful and while I had doctor's orders not to go up and down the stairs (which didn't bother me), getting in and out of bed to wake up with the baby many many times a night was absolutely excruciating.  I could barely sleep because my stomach hurt so badly.  It took weeks for the swelling to go down and for me to lose the water weight, which finally gave me some relief from heartburn.  I felt (and looked) like I was still pregnant months after giving birth.

Recovery with Mim was (once again) completely the opposite.  I was on my feet and walking the hospital halls the day after my c-section.  Since surgery was scheduled, I went into it well-rested and without having to go through the trauma of labor.  I felt pretty good by the time we left the hospital and didn't take a single painkiller past the one week point.  Getting in and out of bed was still the hardest and most painful activity I did, but that didn't last long.  I didn't really worry about the stairs this time and really just tried to listen to my body and take it easy when I felt like I needed to, as opposed to following doctor's orders to the tee.  The hardest part of recovery this time was not being able to pick up Mac or carry him anywhere.  He was very jealous of me holding the baby, but not him and it was emotionally very hard to deal with that.

Breastfeeding
You might remember my struggles with breastfeeding Mac (which you can read all about here).  Not being able to breastfeed and dealing with the emotions and guilt was probably the hardest part of having a new baby for me.  I was so incredibly hard on myself and undoubtedly made everything much more difficult than it needed to be.  Mac was a terribly difficult baby to feed, even by bottle, and I forced the issue way longer than necessary because I wanted it to work out so badly.  Finally, after weeks of nearly nonstop crying (by me) and visits with multiple lactation consultants, I realized that breastfeeding was just not in the cards for us and he was just going to have to be ok with breastmilk from a bottle.  I exclusively pumped for over five months (built up a big supply) and when Mac was seven months old, finished out our freezer supply then switched him to formula.  We all survived and were happier for it.

After our first experience, I went into breastfeeding Mim with very mixed emotions.  On the one hand, I so badly wanted it to work out.  I wanted the experience that everyone raved about.  I wanted that bond.  I wanted it so so much.  But on the other hand, I knew that it wasn't the end of the world if it didn't work out and we'd be fine.  I knew that I had to be more relaxed this time around.  I knew that once again pumping was an option to get breastmilk.  And once again, I knew that if we had to go to formula, that would be fine too.  Needless to say, I was so pleasantly surprised when Mim came out a champion nurser.  She latched on immediately and was great.  My milk came in on day 3 (lots of it) and we rocked nursing for 9 weeks.  Then all of a sudden, she was done...absolutely finished and refused to nurse at all.  I saw a lactation consultant and we tried everything to get her to come around, but she's strong-willed and decided she was finished.  I'm not sure if it was due to over-supply or what, but nothing (nipple shields, different positions, etc.) seemed to help So, we moved on...reluctantly.  I am still pumping and she's still 100% breastmilk, but always from a bottle.  And again, I have mixed emotions about it.  One the one hand, I'm happy that she's getting breastmilk and proud of myself for moving on and just sucking it up and doing what I think is best for her.  But on the other hand, I'm mourning.  I didn't get the experience that I wanted (or not for long enough) and I'm disappointed.  I was actually even angry with her for a while and very hurt because I felt like she was rejecting me, but that seems ridiculous now to even think about.  Hormones will make you think crazy things.  We're fine.  Pumping sucks (literally).  It's painful and horribly time-consuming and I don't plan to keep it up forever, but for now we're trying to make it work.  I'm not going to beat myself up about it this time.  I'm going to do what works for us until it doesn't and then we'll make a change.  And we'll all be just fine.

UPDATE: I stopped pumping in March (made it 8 months - woo hoo!) and haven't looked back. It feels great to have my body back and my time back. Mim was exclusively on breastmilk through April and we switched her to formula in May. She stopped taking bottles in August and it's all a distant memory by now! 

Postpartum Emotions
As you probably inferred from what I've already said, my emotions were out of control after having Mac.  From dealing with the pain of recovery, the lack of sleep, the newness of having a baby, the shock of no longer feeling human, the inability to get anything done, the guilt associated with not breastfeeding and the sense of completely losing yourself, I was a wreck.  I cried all the time.  I had many many breakdowns.  I felt sick to my stomach every time he cried (which was a lot) because I was so scared.  The love I felt for him was so intense I didn't know if I could handle it.  I couldn't stop thinking about horrible things happening to him and I was a nervous wreck about how I was going to ever keep him safe for the rest of his life.  It all felt so overwhelming.  I didn't know what to expect or how long it would last or if things would ever get better.  It was all so new and so raw and so scary.  It took months before I felt like things were starting to get back to normal.  It took a year before I felt like myself again.

Just like with everything else, the second time around was so different.  After I had Mim, I was crazy madly in love, but not crazy.  I don't know whether it was the placental encapsulation pills, the fact that I knew what I was doing this time or the easy delivery, but it was a night and day difference.  I did cry the first night we brought her home as I was putting her in her bassinet because I was overwhelmed with love and terrified of how I would ever be able to keep her safe, but otherwise, this ride has been pretty tame compared to the emotional roller coaster I went on with Mac.

Body Image
After all the weight I'd gained with Mac, it took me a long time to feel good about my body again. Despite pumping for 5 months, I didn't lose hardly any weight breastfeeding.  Maybe that works for some women, but definitely not me.  I kept hearing "9 months on, 9 months off," so when the 9 month mark came around and I still hadn't lost the weight, I was surprised.  A year postpartum I was still 20+ pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight and realized that it wasn't just going to magically come off without a lot of work on my part.  When I went back on the fertility meds (for PCOS, which help me with regulating blood sugar levels) my weight finally started moving in the right direction.  I was within about 5 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight when I got pregnant with Mim (18 months later).

As I mentioned, I didn't gain nearly as much weight during my pregnancy with Mim.  However, I did start out heavier this time around, which didn't help.  Two weeks postpartum and I was within 5 pounds of my second pre-pregnancy weight and I thought it was going to be easy-peasy to get there. However, breastfeeding/pumping has increased my appetite this time around WAY more than I expected and WAY more than I apparently need.  I'm FAMISHED all the time!  I cannot eat enough. By December, I was up another 8+ pounds and held onto that until I stopped pumping.  While pumping, I didn't have the time or energy to work out (plus, my boobs were so sensitive and hurt) and I didn't have much willpower to keep my sweet tooth in check.  I'm was not happy with the way I looked, but I'm giving myself a pass until I stop pumping. 

UPDATE: I stopped pumping in March and I started working out and eating much better in May. By October I'd lost nearly 20 pounds and was almost back to my pre-Mac-pregnancy weight. Since then I've gained a little back from the holidays and slacking, but I hope to get back there soon. It's taking much longer this time around. 

Returning to Work
With Mac, returning to work after a 12 week maternity leave was excruciating.  It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.  Leaving a tiny 12 week-old baby that is your whole life in the hands of a near-stranger (at the time) was so incredibly scary.  I was terrified that something would happen to him.  What if he cries for hours and she doesn't know how to console him?  What if he doesn't remember me at the end of the day?  What if, what if, what if.  It was hard.  However, after a few weeks (days, even), it got easier.  It was nice feeling like myself again, being able to get things done, being around adults, using my education I worked so hard for, etc.  I liked my job and I wanted to be both a mom and a lawyer.

With Mim, returning to work after a 12 week maternity leave was even worse.  It was hard for entirely different reasons.  This time around I wasn't scare of the "what if's."  I knew our nanny could handle the crying, I trusted her to do the right thing, I wasn't as fearful for Mim's safety. But this time around I know how quickly the baby days go and I'm scared that I'm missing it all.  I know Mim won't forget me, but I know that soon I'll forget just how small she is right now and what holding your tiny baby feels like.  I know she won't remember that I'm not there, but I'll remember the hours spent away from her and I worry that I'm going to regret them.  I know the kids will appreciate all the trips we take and things we can afford since their mom works, but while they're little, I bet they'd rather just have their mom around more.  This is something I've been struggling a lot with lately and I don't have any answers right now.  It's been a over a month now and I don't feel like I'm adjusting as well as I'd hoped.  Fingers crossed things get better soon.

UPDATE: In March, I decided to ask my boss if I could do down to part-time at work so I could spend more time at home with the kids. I got approved to work 80% (which means I have one day a week off) and it's made a huge impact. I get more one-on-one time with the kids during the week, which also means I don't feel quite as guilty about taking some extra personal time for myself or date nights with my husband. I'm happier with my job and happier with my life in general. I can't beleive what a huge difference this has made. 

Love
I don't think there's any possible way to ever put into words how much you can possibly love your children.  I love them so fiercely, so adamantly, so equally...but differently.  Mac is so wild and free and spirited - I love him wildly and loudly and as passionately as I possibly can.  Mim is such a sweet, gentle soul - I love her with more of a quiet intensity that I can't even describe.  With Mac, it took me some time to learn how to love him, since my adjustment period as a new mom was so emotional and hard. I loved him immensely years before the pregnancy test turned pink and the moment I laid eyes on him in the delivery room I was overcome with so much love I thought my heart might explode.  But your love for your second child goes deeper and is stronger than I ever thought possible. After our loss (in between the two), I was devastated and scared and fearful about our future. Mim snuck into our lives and hearts so unexpectedly and under the radar.  The amount of love I have for her completely took me by surprise and overwhelms me sometimes.  It was like one day my heart no longer felt like it was going to explode because it was now ten times the size it used to be.  She is my baby, my miracle, my tiny little angel.  And he is my wild child.  I love them both so much.

What were the biggest differences or similarities with your experiences?


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