LOVING YOURSELF POSTPARTUM

LOVING YOURSELF POSTPARTUM - This Wild Home

So it’s my second time being postpartum and I’ve got to say, I’ve learned a lot on caring for myself, even when it’s hard to.

I’d say the biggest struggle is your postpartum body. It’s in pain, it’s worn, it sags, and it really doesn’t feel like your body will ever look as good as it did before you started having babies.

Basically, to me, going from your pre-baby to post-baby body is like having an attractive, nice boyfriend that you have trouble loving because of all his “flaws” and then breaking up with him to find that, compared to the rest of the dating pool, his flaws weren’t so bad and having to find a way to fall in love with a less attractive, not quite as nice guy.

Maybe it’s a weird analogy. Maybe it sounds really superficial, but that’s how it feels to me. You go through all your teen years, maybe even early adulthood, acknowledging all the flaws in your young, unworn body and it’s not until you take it to hell and back that you finally realize that yes, it can get much worse.

I’m sure this all sounds terrible at a time where appreciating all body types no matter what is a big movement and I think it’s amazing and helps me to feel pretty positive about my body these days… but I also think it’s OK to acknowledge that there are negative things about a postpartum body and it’s OK to grieve your old body and want to do everything you can to feel good in your new one.

***

Ranting aside, when I got pregnant the first time around, I in no way prepared for the reality that my body wouldn’t go back to normal for a long time, if ever. I imagined I’d bounce back in a second and my body would be exactly the same. I didn’t prepare for a little pouch of skin that will seemingly never go away. I didn’t prepare for my boobs to sag like they’re 80 years old. I didn’t prepare to have stretch marks everywhere from my stomach to my thighs that will forever look like someone came in and ripped my skin to shreds and glued it back together again.

You just don’t think about all of that when you’re planning on creating a human life. You’re a little more focused on the whole creating a human life part.

But this time, I was prepared. I prepared for the absolute worse and because of that, I was able to go into my postpartum life knowing that I would need to care for myself and love myself no matter what.

LOVING YOURSELF POSTPARTUM

From the actual healing that you need to do physically to the emotional healing of exhaustion, becoming a mother (again, if you already have kids), and losing the body you never fully appreciated. From the day your baby is born, it is so important to remember to care for yourself as much as you can. You have very little control over what your body is doing, what your baby is doing, and how your time is spent so when you get a few moments to take control, it’s extremely valuable and should be used wisely.

  • STOCK UP | Before baby even arrives, make sure you’re all stocked on some basic essentials.

    • Pads - super jumbo ones, just in case.

    • Adult Diapers - seriously are a dream that first week so you can hold in all the stuff you need to use for healing.

    • Hemorrhoid Things - witch hazel pads, a cream, whatever sounds best. But definitely don’t skip on this. I’m embarrassing myself now to save you later.

    • Nipple Cream - if you’re planning on pumping or breastfeeding, this is a real must.

    • Breast Pads - you will leak for a couple of months and these will help you to avoid ruining all of your shirts.

  • TAKE ME TIME | You’d think this would be obvious, but it can be hard to feel like it’s okay to take time to yourself after baby is born. I know I feel guilty sometimes that I don’t want to sit and watch my baby sleep literally all day, but I mean, come on. Babies are cute, but not look-at-them-24/7 cute.

    When you get the chance, take a bath, watch a TV show, write in your journal. Whether you wait for baby to fall asleep or you pass baby off to someone else, make sure you’re getting some good time in.

  • ENGAGE IN RETAIL THERAPY | This is probably weird advice coming from a self-proclaimed minimalist, but I believe there is a time and place for retail therapy and it is when you’re postpartum.
    You’ve just spent the last nine months slowly watching the number of clothes you fit into shrink down to only a select few. You’ve spent at least a month or two with only a handful of things that are actually comfortable to wear, and now you have at least a month (at LEAST) until your body is sort of normalish.

    Girl. Get you some clothes that make you feel good. Just do it. Whether it’s leggings that hold everything in or a shirt that covers you engorged boobs perfectly or the coziest sweater you’ve ever put on your body. Just get something that makes you feel good.

  • INVEST IN YOUR BEAUTY | Sorry if I sound like a shallow broken record, but making yourself look good helps you to feel good. Especially at a time when it’s hard to feel like you look good.
    Schedule an appointment at a salon. Get yourself some masks, cleansers, and moisturizers that make you feel luxurious. Take time every morning to get yourself ready. Like really ready. Like make up, hair done, and a cute outfit ready even if you have no where to go. It gives your day purpose and you confidence.

  • EAT HEALTHY, MOSTLY | It’s really tempting to stick to all freezer meals and take out, but it really doesn’t make you feel good. You’ll feel heavy and drowsy at a time when you already feel sleepy and bulky.
    It’s not easy making food when you’re getting used to a new baby and I’m not saying everything needs to be amazing. But a smoothie here and there or a salad when you feel like it can go a long way to give you an energy boost.

    But also, if you’re like me, you may have felt really guilty anytime you gave into an unhealthy pregnancy craving. But now, besides your breastmilk, there’s no baby to share with your body anymore so definitely indulge in all those yummy treats you didn't have when you were pregnant.

  • GET INTO A ROUTINE | It’s kind of hard at first to make your day normal, but after a few weeks your baby should start to know the difference between night and day, you should be much more confident with feeding, and your baby will naturally start to fall into a rhythm.
    When this happens and you start to feel like things are normal, think about everything that’s important to you to do in a day and start making a routine that includes all of those things.

    For me, I like getting ready. I like making my meals. I like a clean house. I like downtime. So that’s what I focus on in my day. I don’t make perfect meals, I’m not always dressed to the nines, and my house isn’t always spotless, but it’s a start. I do what I can when I can and having it happen around the same time everyday helps with that a lot.

Babies don’t have to take over your life. Your dreams and goals don’t have to change just because you have a baby. You can still be your own person. While there’s a learning curve with getting your life on track after having a baby, the best way to make everyone happy is to make sure you’re doing what you need for you. Right now, baby only needs food, diaper changes, and a safe place to sleep. They need love and attention, but not all of the love and attention we have. Some of that still has to stay with us.

After all, how can we love another if we don’t truly and fully love ourselves?

BOOK CLUB: SIBLINGS WITHOUT RIVALRY by ADELE FABER & ELAINE MAZLISH

BOOK CLUB: SIBLINGS WITHOUT RIVALRY by ADELE FABER & ELAINE MAZLISH - This Wild Home

I am the oldest child in my family and after almost 6 years of being the only child, grandchild, niece, what have you; my brother was born and I hated him. As adults, we get along and he has become one of my favorite people. But as a kid, he was my biggest competitor for our parents love and attention and I wasn’t into it at all.

About 3 years later, when my sister was born,  I was over the concept of sibling and grew up never inviting her into my world. My sibling were a distant part of my life for a very long time and I’ve felt like I missed out on many years that could’ve been spent developing these relationships to their fullest potential.

With this being my only real experience with the relationship between siblings and the effects a new child can have on a family, I was pretty nervous about how our newest child would effects our oldest.

In my mind, all I saw in the future was a toddler full of resentment that lashed out against his parents who betrayed him.

Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but it was hard for me to imagine a child who is okay with sharing attention. Especially a child like mine who has had my full attention for most of his life. How could it ever be possible that he’d actually be fine with introducing a new baby who not only shared my attention, but demanded it most of the time?

In walks Siblings Without Rivalry, the book that I never knew I needed until I read it.

I wasn’t looking for it. I honestly hadn’t thought much about the fact that I could have some influence over how my children interacted. I mean, I knew I’d have some, but I didn’t realize how much parents can effect their children’s relationships until I read the wise words of Faber and Mazlish.

ABOUT THE BOOK

This is a book set in a parenting workshop and follows the experiences of the parents and leaders who have siblings that just don’t get along. The experiences, people, and stories are all based on real life situations that parents have found themselves in with real solutions that helped them navigate the delicate world of siblings.

The stories range from adult siblings, teens, kids, toddlers, and babies. From introducing new siblings to knowing how involved we need to be as our kids get older.

You get to see the realities of what sibling relationships really look like while exploring what the root of certain feelings and actions may be. They offer examples of how changing your reactions and involvement as a parent can help your kids learn to navigate their relationships independently and more effectively.

Siblings Without Rivalry was written to help parents foster, not perfectly loving siblings, but more productive sibling interaction.

MY KEY TAKEAWAYS

This book taught me a lot about siblings and how important that relationship really is. Siblings effect so much of each other and parents effect so much of how siblings view themselves and each other.

While reading, I couldn’t help but think back to my own childhood. The way I interacted with my siblings, the role I took in my family, and how all of that has effected my adulthood and the relationships I now have with my siblings. I thought about how my parents would let us fight and how that’s helped me to be comfortable with confrontation in my adult relationships. I thought about the fact that I’ve felt like a problem at times and a loved part of the family at others and how all of that shaped the actions and decisions I’ve made.

Ultimately, I realized that your family really can shape your entire being so it’s important to do the best you can, as the parent, to make sure each child is given the opportunity to become the best version of themselves and Siblings Without Rivalry has given me the insight to understand how to do that for each of my children.

HOW YOU TREAT YOUR KIDS INDIVIDUALLY CAN DETERMINE THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH EACH OTHER

You know those “roles” people play in a family. There’s the perfect child, the problem child, the silly child, the what-have-you child. Humans love labels and as a parent it can be easy to label your children from day one.

I remember going on and on about how my first child would be peaceful and kind before he was even born. As if somehow his gentle movements in the womb could determine his whole demeanor for the rest of his life. In reality, it’s not fair to sum up a whole person in one word. These views are usually based on the actions of our kids when they are little and have terrible impulse control. They may not truly have anything to do with the traits and capabilities of our children, but the impulses they have towards the environment they’re in. 

“What I’m seeing now is that it’s up to the parent to set the tone, to make it clear that no one in the family is ‘the problem.’”

The danger in labeling your kids too soon is that you’re putting your kids in a box. You’re not letting them be a whole person. Your perfect child doesn’t get the chance to express their negative feelings which can prohibit honesty. Your problem child doesn’t get the chance to believe they can be good which can make them feel like their only choice is the wrong choice.

And with these labels, our kids can begin to view each other in these roles which can lead to resentment. Your perfect child may begin to believe your problem child is the one preventing them from having the freedom to express negative feelings. Your problem child can begin to believe your perfect child is constantly in the spotlight. And then, these roles can follow them into adulthood, making each child feel like they’re only allowed or capable of being only part of a person rather than a whole entire person.

So for the sake of your children’s relationship and your children’s futures, it’s important for each of them to know they’re allowed to venture outside of their natural tendencies. They’re all allowed to have negative feelings and actions and you believe they’re all capable of doing good.

IT’S IMPORTANT TO LET YOUR KIDS FIGHT

“Not till the bad feelings come out can the good ones come in.”

Whether your kids love each other or hate each other, the way you allow them to interact can shape how they interact with others now and later in life. This delicate relationship between your children is the perfect teaching moment for how your kids should treat peers and how they should expect their peers to treat them.

How you react to your kids stems from how your parents reacted to you. It’s so common for parents to reject negative feelings in their kids and to feel like it’s wrong to express them because so many of us were told it was wrong for us to express our negative feelings. The reality is, the more your force the negative feeling to stay in, the less they will be dealt with and the longer they will stew and grow out of proportion.

“Insisting on good feelings between the children led to bad feelings. Acknowledging bad feelings between the children led to good feelings.”

So when kids are fighting, they’re always fighting about something. There’s always a very legitimate root to every negative feeling. But they’re kids. They don’t have the experience or developmental ability to rationally and calmly explain the exact thing they’re upset about. Half the time they feel something, that feeling is so intense that all they truly know is that they have a feeling, but not always why. So they scream at you, they scream at their sibling, and only after they’re done expressing the feeling can they truly understand and communicate the “why.”

“But here’s the difference: We intervene, not for the purpose of settling their argument or making a judgement, but to open the blocked channels of communication so that they can go back to dealing with each other.”

So we don’t have to let our kids become violent. We don’t have to allow them to be cruel. If they get stuck on a loop, we can help them move forward. But we absolutely have to allow them to have their negative feelings and learn to sort through them together however they need to. It’s completely unrealistic to believe a healthy relationship between two people can come without conflict and fighting. We need to allow our children to experience that in their relationships so they can learn how to deal with real adult relationships in the future. Our job is not to tell them their feelings and expression are wrong, but to give them a safe place to learn to deal with their feelings so they can learn to express them productively and considerately. But they will never learn that as long as we’re telling them to stop fighting and “get along.”

EQUAL IS NOT FAIR AND FAIR IS OVERRATED

I think we all, at one point or another, have said the words, “That’s not fair.” Whether it was when we were young or even now in our adulthood. Fair is another thing I think we all grew up believing was right and unfair was wrong. That unfair meant you were receiving less, even though fair was never really as satisfying as we thought it would be.

“That was when I realized how futile it was to ever try to make things equal. The children could never get enough, and as a mother, I could never give enough.”

I think this comes from the desire to not show favoritism or make one kid feel less important than the other. So when one gets attention, we think the other should get the same amount of attention. The problem is, each child may not need the same amount or type of attention we gave the other. One may be hungry and need extra pancakes, while the other may only want more pancakes now because they saw their sibling get more.

But when you start playing that game, the fair game, you stop addressing the individual needs and qualities of each child. You don’t give them an opportunity to learn empathy for one another. To see and realize that others have needs that are different from theirs and sometimes others will get something they don’t.

Beyond that, “fair” can become “same” and same takes away from your kid’s ability to feel like a unique individual.

“By valuing and being partial to each child’s individuality, we make sure that each child feels like a number one child.”

When dealing with your kids, it’s okay to give one child something without giving every child something. Attempting to make everyone happy and “equal” will not only drive you crazy, but it won’t truly make each child feel special or uniquely cared for in the long run.

“To be loved equally is somehow to be loved less. To be loved uniquely - for ones own special self - is to be loved as much as we need to be loved.”

So if you’re a parent of siblings or simply a sibling yourself, this book can help you navigate the intricate and delicate world of siblings. Not only can it help you allow your kids to flourish independently together, but you may learn something new about your own sibling dynamics that could heal any wounds that may have come about.

FROM ONE KID TO TWO: IS IT REALLY THAT DIFFERENT THE SECOND TIME AROUND?

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Here we are, a few weeks into life as a family of four.

I think there’s a lot of reasons people typically say it’s easier the second time around and honestly, I have to agree with them. This first weeks of having two kids has been easier than I imagined.

In my mind, I thought I’d be out of commission for months. I prepped mentally, said no to any commitments I had for at least the first three months of new baby, and bought a freezer full of microwave meals so I could still feed my family while struggling to stay awake at all times.

But now, almost a months in, my home is clean(ish), I’ve been cooking all of our meals, and my blog is full of posts I’m ready to share. I even managed to some how DIY some family photos of all four of us. 

I think it’s true that having experience with having a newborn really helps to make those first days bearable. 

  • While the oldest is definitely a little more moody, it’s no where near the tantrums I was expecting. His transition has seemed so much smoother than I ever imagined.
    Though, I may have to give some of that credit to season 5 of Daniel Tiger where he gets a baby sister.

  • We aren’t as exhausted this time. Something about knowing what to expect and preparing for the exhaustion actually helps to make it a little easier. I think having a toddler’s schedule to keep up with also helps us to maintain a daytime/nighttime routine much better than before.

  • Time doesn’t disappear as much as you’d think. I forgot how much newborns sleep in the beginning. I actually have time to make simple meals and take baths. Especially if your first kid is on a decent sleep schedule, it’s not as hard to find “me time” as I thought.

  • I have a better understanding that it’s OKAY when a baby cries. I don’t feel stressed, rushed, or panicked. I just simply give him what he needs as quickly, but calmly, as I can.

Still, I have wondered what it is that has made this transition so much easier than I thought it would be. There’s something about your first child, at least for me, that made it seem SO exhausting SO time consuming and SO overwhelming.

I’ve spent most of my time questioning why I was remembering the newborn days in a negative light. Why it seemed so impossible. What was so different that first time, when I only had one, that made me prepare for months of chaos?

That’s when I realized:

The major difference between the two boys was me.

***

The first week my second child was born I felt like I was living in two different realities. One where I was experiencing this new baby in front of me and another where I was reliving the first week after my first child was born. The two experiences were very different even though both my boys have been very similar newborns. They both slept well, ate well, and generally didn’t have much to complain about.

My first child was born into a very different house with a very different mother. We didn’t make as much money. Our house was a run down rental that stressed me out every time I pulled into the driveway. We didn’t have anyone over if we could help it because we really just felt shame and embarrassment in our home which means my first child was brought home to a place that left a layer of stress in the air at all times.

Besides the environment, I was much different two years ago than I am now. I didn’t have a schedule, I didn’t have good habits. I didn’t cook, I sort of cleaned, and though I had my nesting kick in, I still wasn’t in the habit of maintaining a space. Especially one I hated.

Most importantly, My first child had to teach me how to be a mother.

We all go into parenthood with some idea of the values we want to pass on, but how we’re going to do that is something we have to learn along the way. My first is the one who taught me all of that.

***

Being a first child myself, I know it can sometimes feel like you get the short end of the stick. Your parents are stricter, they test out new discipline tactics and strategies that may or may not actually work.

Most importantly, the first child is the one who has to push all the selfish tendencies from their parents.

Before having kids, your time is yours. There’s not much telling you what you need to do and when you need to do it. You get days off and then on those days off you get to decide exactly how to spend that time. You can leave when you want, binge watch TV all day with no distractions, be creative, put your things where you want them without worrying about someone getting into it or breaking it. Even if you’re the most selfless person in the world, life before parenthood has room for selfishness. There’s room to give to yourself the most.

As a very independent, introverted person who feels stress when people rely on her, this was a very hard thing for me to get used to. The idea that I haven’t really “had a day off” in the two years my first son has been alive would have, at one point, put me into a spiral of stress that would have left me bed ridden for a day.

That meant my first born had to endure the painful process of me learning how to be there for him, whole-heartedly.

He’s the kid who had to teach me how to keep my cool, even when I was getting interrupted every few minutes. Or to stay present when what I really wanted, what I really needed, was to hide away from everyone. He had to deal with frustration being projected onto him for simply having basic needs in the times that I just wanted to indulge in my own selfish desires. 

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You’ll hear a lot of moms say that they lose a part of themselves when they have a baby. They feel a transformation happen.

For me, I didn’t realize it right in the moment what exactly was happening to me. I did feel that loss of self and when I found my sense of self again it was definitely different than before. But it wasn’t until I had my second that I realized what had happened to me. What I went through that made me more ready for this next step in life than I even realized.

I had let go of the idea that I need everything I want right away. The things I wanted changed. I learned to manage my time in a way that works for me AND my kids. My heart opened up to deeply care for more than just my personal reality.

I learned to see things, not just from my point of view, but from theirs.

Essentially, the biggest difference between my first and second is:

With my first,  I wasn’t a mom yet.

Technically, I became a mom the minute I got pregnant. Even more so the moment he was born. I had instincts, assumptions, tips, advice, and all the google answers in the world. But I’d honestly say I didn’t truly become a mother until I learned to be okay with sharing my time and priorities with someone else. And I didn’t even begin to understand what that meant until I took my baby home and realized that I had no idea what being a mother truly meant.

Now, with my second, I have close to two years of experience in my motherhood career. He was born with a true mother while my first was born with a mother in training.

This second baby has a patient, kind-hearted caretaker who understand the importance of balancing love and boundaries. Who knows that she can’t feed him unless she feeds herself and understand how to do so in a way that makes everyone happy.

I have healthy habits now. A home I love. I’ve dedicated myself to motherhood and I actually understand, as much as I can, what that really means and what it really looks like.

I’m not learning how to be a mother now. And really, that process can be harder than any sleepless night you endure.