Lonely Moms’ Club

Lonely Moms’ Club

Before I gave birth, I envisioned myself having tea and pastries with a group of moms bitching about all the sleepless nights we’ve had while our babies nap.

None of that happened. The sleepless nights—sure, those happened. None of the tea and pastries with the moms though. But that’s my fault, right? I didn’t enroll in a prenatal yoga class, I didn’t join a centering group (mostly because I was too far along when I looked into them), and I didn’t really click with any of the women I was in a class with. So where does that leave me? Alone with my baby after my husband’s paternity leave ended and having to think of ways to entertain myself while my baby naps. 

It can get lonely, and I hope you’re ready for it, Mama. 

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You might think it’s perfect—I’ll catch up on my reading, walk a lot, see that shop I’ve been meaning to visit. Yes, sure, that’s all nice and dandy. But who do you talk to? Who commiserates with you about your anxiety about this person you brought to the world who’s fully dependent on you? Who says “Oh my gosh, yes!” when you talk about how you can’t even go to the bathroom because you’re too scared your kid will stop breathing? I know it sounds extreme, but you will have those moments. And you probably need someone to share them with who knows what you’re going through. If you’re the first in your circle to have a baby, it’s not going to be the same dynamic once you start yammering away about your child’s poop. Yes, your partner will listen to you for sure, but unless they’ve pushed a human out of their body, it is just not the same. 

When you search for “loneliness in pregnancy” online, you’ll find a dearth of scientific articles and plenty of mom blogs that discuss the subject. Why is that? Loneliness is not popularly studied on its own. It is often interspersed with depression or grief. Couple that with the special subset of pregnant women, and you’ll have even less material to choose from.

Harry Stack Sullivan, an American Neo-Freudian psychiatrist, described loneliness as the most painful human experience. He commented on the “driving force” of loneliness—a force great enough, he pointed out, to cause people who were normally painfully shy to aggressively seek social activity. 

So what can we do to alleviate this pervasive feeling? 

Go out at least once a day.
I’ve found that this improved my mood immensely. Start with getting dressed. If you can shower, thank the heavens and jump up and down. If not, just put on clean clothes. Staying in your jammies will not coax you into conquering the day. 

If you wanna take the extra step of doing something repetitive, that’s even better. Whether it’s postpartum yoga or Pilates (makes sure diastasis recti is not a concern), a daily park visit, or dropping by your corner store for a fruit fix, a scheduled activity forces you to get out of the house and do something.  

Go somewhere that will make you happy.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a coffee shop, a bookstore, the supermarket, or the park. The fact that visiting a place makes you happy is already a win. I went to a bistro that had tables outside where I could read a book or solve a crossword puzzle while my baby napped. It was ah-mazing.

Try to meet with people.
I know I said it’s a different dynamic with friends who don’t have kids but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to see you or hear about what you’re going through. They do. They probably don’t wanna hear about your kid’s poop for a straight hour but they want to hear how you’re doing. And if it’s done over delicious brunch or mimosas (virgin or not), muuuuch better. Try to schedule it during nap times so that you focus on your conversation instead of having to divide your attention between your child and your friend.

Talk to people.
Lucky for me, I got to video call my mom and sisters. I know it’s not the same thing. Having someone there physically to hear your trials and tribulations about taking care of a living being who cannot communicate is certainly better, but it got me through some tough moments.

When you go to the places that make you happy, strike up a conversation with someone there. The person behind the counter at a bookstore, the barista at your favorite cafe, and if you’re lucky—that other mom who’s also toting a baby. So many other people want to talk, too. You’ll be surprised how many people would love to strike up a conversation. You just need to start.

Talk to your partner. Even if they don’t understand it fully, they know enough to support you through this tough time. If there is something deeper and stronger that is taking over, they will be the one to get you some help if you’re not doing it already. Even if it’s just talking about the frustration or the boredom during the day, force them to listen if you have to. 

Find some moms. Or not.
There are mom groups everywhere. You don’t have to pay for a class or for membership. Check out resources out there. There are Meetup groups, Facebook groups, and other local maternal resources.

I also started organically talking to some moms in my extended circle. And sometimes the experience of having children magically breaks down some barriers you’ve had before. Someone you thought you never would be friends with all of a sudden has so many things in common with you. 

Because it is very common—these child-rearing ups and downs—everyone has them. EVERYONE. Don’t be scared. Reach out. Chances are those moms know about being lonely. They’ve gone through it, too. You are not alone. 

Or you can also choose not to seek out other moms. I had some occasional visits with mom friends but no regular meetings that I would go to. That worked for me, coupled with regular friends, and that could work for you as well.

You’ll get your own rhythm and system. It takes time for this to happen but it’s good to know all the things that you can do.

Get some help.
I mean this in the broadest sense. If you’re getting overwhelmed with taking care of your little one such that you aren’t able to take care of yourself, get some help. Or even when you just need time to do other things that aren’t home-related or child-related. Whether it’s a night time doula, a house cleaner, a Postmate to deliver you food or get you some supplies—it’s worth it if it saves your sanity.

When your loneliness is getting the better of you, call your doctor—whether it’s your obstetrician or your family doctor, they can refer you to someone you can speak to about dealing with it. Postpartum depression occurs in 1 out of 9 women, according to a CDC study.

We should not feel embarrassed or ashamed about getting help. We’ve gone through an upheaval, not to mention the hormones that are out of whack. It is perfectly fine to seek help.

Let’s make this the new normal.

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The Pregnancy Mask

The Pregnancy Mask

Dealing with skin issues is a common occurrence during pregnancy. As your body’s hormone levels skyrocket, your skin can be one of the first places you notice the change.

During each of my pregnancies, I noticed a darker patch of skin on my cheek. With each consecutive pregnancy, it became darker and would fade noticeably between pregnancies. When I asked my doctor about it, he said it was chloasma or the pregnancy mask.

WHAT IS THE PREGNANCY MASK?
Chloasma is a change in skin pigmentation brought on by the hormones of pregnancy. These darker patches commonly appear on the face, especially the forehead, cheeks, and mouth; hence the name pregnancy mask.

WHO DOES IT AFFECT?
Women with darker pigmentations are more prone to chloasma and you’re more likely to have it if it runs in your family, like it does mine. The dark patches can also become more prominent with each pregnancy.

WHERE IS IT FOUND?
I developed a couple of other patches on my upper arms as well. These could have been caused by sun exposure. Staying out of the sun or wearing protective clothing can help prevent these patches and always apply an SPF 30 or higher while pregnant. I also notice a dark line running down my belly. My doctor said this was the linea nigra, similar to  chloasma and nothing to be concerned about.

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
I definitely began to wonder if there were any treatment options for the pregnancy mask. In my research, I discovered that there are some natural and easy ways to lighten the dark patches right away. Mix 1/2 lemon juice and 1/2 hydrogen peroxide and apply to patches to lighten them. The same is true with a half-apple-cider-vinegar/half-water mixture, too. Turmeric milk and milk of magnesia can also help. Dermatologists can prescribe skin bleaching creams and even laser surgery if the patches really bother you. In the meantime, you can simply use a concealer. Personally, I didn’t think about it too much. I wanted to know if it was dangerous and my doctor assured me it was normal. As the weeks went on, the patches would fade and they are easily covered with a basic foundation now.

HOW DO I PREVENT IT?
There are ways to lessen your likelihood of dealing with chloasma. Balancing your hormones before pregnancy is a great start. A healthy diet with lots of omega 3’s and 6’s will keep your skin in top condition. Omega’s help balance hormones. I always found flax seeds and oil and salmon to improve my skin. Oral contraceptives containing estrogen, like the Pill, can contribute to chloasma in some women so you might consider another option. Protect your skin from UV rays before and during pregnancy. Apply a moisturizer with SPF daily.

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED
If you ever have a skin discoloration that is associated with pain, redness, or bleeding, or if you see any changes in the color, shape, or size of a mole, call your doctor. These can all be signs of skin cancer.

KNOW THAT YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL NO MATTER WHAT
Changes in your skin are just another normal symptom of pregnancy that we women have to deal with. Be patient. This too shall pass and in the meantime know this: No matter what, you are beautiful!

Tinkle, tinkle when I sneeze, how I wonder why that is

Tinkle, tinkle when I sneeze, how I wonder why that is

I have found out that there are a lot of issues that women deal with postpartum that are rarely talked about. This is sad because it leaves so many uneducated and feeling alone in dealing with problems.

Postpartum incontinence is one of those issues. 

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WHAT IS POSTPARTUM URINARY LEAKAGE
If you’ve never heard of it, postpartum incontinence involves feeling like you need to urinate often and not being able to make it to the bathroom. It also involves not being able to empty your bladder fully which results in leakage later. This problem affects thousands of women. It happens when the pelvic floor muscles and the ligaments that work with them are weakened.

WHO’S AT RISK  
I first experienced postpartum incontinence after the birth of my fourth child. There were several factors that could have contributed to the problem including consecutive pregnancies, genetics, the larger size of this baby, and the fact that they were all vaginal births. It was obvious that my pelvic floor was weakened.

HOW LONG DO THE SYMPTOMS LAST
Many women, like myself, experience this problem for weeks afterward. Others only experience it for days. Still, for many others that I have talked to, it is a lifelong issue that comes and goes.

DEALING WITH THE SYMPTOMS
First, you can deal with the side effects and symptoms. Wear sanitary pads and tighten your stomach muscles or cross your legs when you feel the urge to urinate or need to cough or sneeze. Empty your bladder often even when it’s inconvenient. Carry extra clothing with you just in case and don’t be afraid to speak out to other moms about it. It will help educate them and help you to feel normal.

TREATMENT FOR URINARY INCONTINENCE
Dealing with the root issue of the problem is a must. Since the pelvic floor is weakened, you will need to rebuild and strengthen it. This is where treatment should start. You can begin this by doing regular kegel exercises. Be certain that you are doing them properly. Watch videos or speak with a professional to make sure. When done correctly, kegels can reduce symptoms by up to 70%.

PHYSICAL THERAPY
You can speak with your doctor about seeing a pelvic physical therapist. They can help properly isolate the weakened muscles and begin exercising them the right way. They can also teach you exercises that will help your specific case and tell you whether or not you are doing them right. As a last resort, surgery is an option for some severe cases if other non-invasive treatments don’t work.

LONGTERM PROGNOSIS
Be patient as postpartum incontinence can take time to heal completely. Symptoms usually gradually improve with training even if they never completely go away. Although I still deal with it on occasion, I no longer consider it a problem; just one of those things to laugh at and move on. 

Recovering from C-Section

Recovering from C-Section

If you have had a C-section, first let me say that you are probably feeling pretty overwhelmed right now. That’s perfectly normal. You have just gone through the drama of delivery and (possibly) an unexpected c-section. You had major surgery, delivered your baby after months of waiting, and your body is now going through major recovery. Your emotions will probably be uncontrollable and your body will feel like a train wreck. Take it one moment at a time and you can do this. Whatever you feel, it’s normal. Here’s what to expect the first few days:

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COMING OUT OF SURGERY
Coming out of surgery, you will feel groggy and nauseated. You may also feel itchy from the meds. You will still have your epidural or spinal block to receive pain medication through.

PAIN MANAGEMENT
You will be given IV pain medication for up to 24 hours. You will probably have a button on your IV that you can push any time you need pain relief. This is not the time to be sparing, the less pain you have, the better you will be able to take care of your baby and recover. After that, your pain management will be in pill-form and you will receive stool softeners and simethicone for gas. These are all safe for your baby if you are breastfeeding. You should be able to breastfeed right away.

BREASTFEEDING
If you decided to breastfeed during your pregnancy, you probably studied up to know what to expect. Breastfeeding after surgery is different and difficult and you will need help. Finding a position that does not aggravate your incision and that your baby will take to, can be frustrating. Don’t give up. Listen to the lactation consultant. They can help.

TAKING CARE OF THE INCISION
The typical incision is 4-6 inches long horizontally below your belly button. You will need to place a pillow over your incision when you cough, sneeze, or laugh. It will be sore and will have staples that will be removed before you leave the hospital.

MOBILITY
The women I have helped weren’t able to move around much at first. Getting out of bed was difficult and they needed help but moving is important to prevent blood clots. By the time you leave the hospital, you will be able to walk to the bathroom with help. Empty your bladder often as a full bladder crowds the healing uterus and slows recovery.

WHAT TO EXPECT RECOVERING AT HOME
You will need help at home so accept any that you can get. You will be given a prescription for painkillers for a week and then you can use over-the-counter meds. You will be recovering from major surgery and taking care of a baby so use this time to rest and take care of yourself.

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED
Call your doctor if your incision oozes or gets worse, painful, or red. If you have a fever, increasing pain, or any other puzzling symptoms, don’t ignore them.

WHAT TO EXPECT LONG-TERM
Expect your recovery to take several weeks to a month. Don’t rush it. Go through the emotional process and deal with the physical limitations and know that you will be back to normal soon. Try to focus on your baby and enjoy this time with your family and take care of yourself; you just did something awesome. Celebrate you!

 

The Postpartum Period: What No One Wants to Talk About

The Postpartum Period: What No One Wants to Talk About

When I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to get rid of my heavy belly, back-ache, and maternity clothes and to be able to enjoy countless lattes and a glass of full-bodied wine on a Friday night. The only part of pregnancy that I didn’t mind was not having my period every month. Nine months without one were wonderful. But when it did return, things were a little different than before.

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WHEN DOES THE PERIOD RETURN?

The period returns at different times largely dependent on breastfeeding. Breastfeeding produces a hormone that suppresses ovulation and delays periods. Since I was breastfeeding, my period returned a month after I stopped, which seems to be pretty common. Breastfeeding moms tend to get their period back six months after birth or when the baby begins weaning. Non-breastfeeding moms usually get their period 6-8 weeks after birth.

WILL IT BE THE SAME AS BEFORE?

Though I started having my period after I stopped breastfeeding, it wasn’t particularly regular after that. I would have one cycle at 28 days, then one at 35, and then another at 45 days. Though I worried about it at the time, I soon learned that this was not uncommon. My partner and I struggled to conceive and I finally became pregnant through IVF after taking many hormone shots. This treatment made it more difficult for my body to adjust after birth. Taking oral contraceptives before pregnancy can have a similar effect. Breastfeeding also affects the hormones and can make the periods irregular to begin with.

THE FIRST “PERIOD” AFTER BIRTH

I was also bleeding heavily in the first few weeks after childbirth. This bleeding was accompanied with heavy cramping. This was not a regular period, but the process of my uterus returning to its normal size after pregnancy. I found that thin overnight pads worked well for this bleeding given that I was instructed not to use tampons while my vaginal tears were healing and I found other pads to be too bulky and painful against the tears. I was told not to worry about this bleeding as long as I didn’t need to change my pad more often than every hour and I wasn’t passing large clots.

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED

While there is no such thing as a “normal” post-pregnancy period, I learned that there were certain things to watch for:

  • If you have periods lasting longer than seven days or contain clots larger than a quarter.
  • If you miss a period once your periods have become routine.
  • If you experience spotting between periods.
  • If your period has not returned within three months after childbirth (when not breastfeeding) or three months after you stop breastfeeding.

These symptoms can be a sign of more serious complications like anemia, fibroids, or a thyroid problem, so it’s always best to contact a doctor.

LIFE AFTER PREGNANCY

Life after pregnancy will never be the same “normal” as it was before. For the most part, this is fine. This new life will have its challenges and delights. I tried to learn to embrace them both.

Why you’re struggling to lose your post-baby tummy: diastasis recti

Why you’re struggling to lose your post-baby tummy: diastasis recti

Post pregnancy, you expect a little tummy pooch until your uterus contracts to its pre-pregnancy size. What you don’t expect, though, is a condition called diastasis recti, which causes the so-called “mummy tummy” to never go away. This is a separation of the abdominal muscles. The muscles on the left and right side of the belly become stretched by the constant pressure of the growing baby and they are unable to retain their shape. It is what makes your high waist jeans that fit great before, never fit again even though you return to your pre-pregnancy weight.

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SYMPTOMS & CAUSES

Diastasis can cause a host of problems beyond the mummy tummy such as lower back pain, constipation, and urine leakage. The muscle should return to normal after birth but most women report this ongoing condition to at least some extent. Having multiple pregnancies, surgeries, or other abdominal issues raises your chance of having it.

AVOID ABDOMINAL EXERCISE WHILE PREGNANT AND POSTPARTUM

To keep a toned stomach, I often did exercises like crunches and planks before and soon after pregnancy. These muscles are already strained during pregnancy and when done wrong, exercises like these can make matters worse. Although I was one of the few who escaped permanent damage, I have friends who weren’t so lucky. They went on to have protruding stomachs, abdominal issues, and even a hernia (a condition when organs start poking out of the thin band of connective tissue that is left when the abdominal muscles have separated).

A SIMPLE TEST CAN TELL

You can get a good idea of whether or not you have diastasis recti through a simple, at-home test. Diastasis is measured by a gap of more than 2.7 cm between the muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor and place your fingers palms down on your belly button. Lift your head and neck up a little while you press down with your fingers. If there is a gap between the muscles you feel, that is the diastasis.

TREATMENT OPTIONS

There are some specific treatment options to help. If you suspect that you have this condition talk to your doctor. They can tell you whether your case is manageable through postpartum exercise or if you need surgery. If you go to a trainer, make sure they are familiar with diastasis or they could make your condition worse. Your doctor might recommend some gentle, at-home exercises or refer you to a physical therapist.

An operation called abdominoplasty or a tummy tuck may be recommended if your condition is bad enough to cause additional problems. The surgery involves stitching together the weakened central ridge. There is a device called a splint or binder that you can ask your doctor about but it’s still up in the air as to whether it is helpful or not.

There are programs online and that provide postpartum exercises that you can do at home to strengthen your core and try to close up that diastasis recti.

PREVENTION

If you know that you’re planning to get pregnant, the best thing is to start strengthening your core before getting pregnant to prevent diastasis recti. While pregnant, it’s best to avoid movements that isolate abdominal muscles like sit-ups and instead focusing on overall body strengthening.

Dealing with postpartum night sweats

Dealing with postpartum night sweats

There are a lot of crazy things that happen to your body postpartum and most of them, for some reason, no one wants to talk about. They happen to everyone and someone out there should educate women about their own bodies. Postpartum night sweats are a common occurrence for thousands of women. You wake up and suddenly find yourself soaked in sweat for no apparent reason. Why do people not warn you that this could happen to you?

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WHY DOES THIS OCCUR?

Normal night sweating can happen when you are wrapped up too much or your room gets too hot. Postpartum night sweats occur for a different reason and it is a perfectly normal symptom of post-pregnancy. Due to hormone fluctuation (yes, hormones are to blame for yet another postpartum issue) and excess body fluid from lactation, your wonderful body just finds a way to rid itself of what it simply doesn’t need.

You may notice yourself urinating more frequently; though who could tell after spending half of the last nine months in the bathroom anyway. This is also your body’s way of getting rid of all of that extra fluid previously needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Your body will also be producing tons of extra fluid if you are breastfeeding.

If you experience night sweats with other symptoms present, such as fever or chills, call your doctor because these can be signs of a serious infection.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Due to your body’s crazy hormonal ups and downs, these night sweats can occur nightly or sporadically. They will usually last for several weeks after you give birth. They should stop as your body returns to normal.

While there is no treatment, there are some things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms:

  • Keep your room cool.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. With all of that sweating, you can become dehydrated easily.
  • Sleep on a towel and keep a pile of them near to change if you need to.
  • There are great waterproof mattress covers that you just lay under you, too.
  • If your skin gets irritated from all of that moisture, you can consider using powder to ease the chafing and irritation.

WHEN TO BE CONCERNED

One study showed that women who experienced postpartum night sweats and hot flashes were more likely to become depressed. Breastfeeding raises the risk, even more, due to the tremendous hormone fluctuations. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to someone and tell your doctor. There is help and you don’t need to face it alone.

Don’t worry about the night sweats but if you experience other symptoms such as fever over 100.4 º, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, large clots or bright red bleeding for more than three days after delivery, infected looking stitches, severe cramps, or red, swollen breasts, call your doctor. These can be signs of serious complications.

Also if you feel depressed, or just anxious, talk to someone you trust and keep your six-week checkup and discuss any concerns with your doctor.

Dealing with night sweats may not be pleasant, but you can take heart in knowing that your body is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing. Isn’t that a wonder!