Tag Archives: postpartum

My Heart Will (Hopefully) Go On

30 May

Life certainly doesn’t ever slow down. While we’ve been traveling to and from Asheville obsessively over the last month to visit and house hunt, I’ve also been taking a deeper look into my heart. This is not just psychological heart ache (per usual), but recently I’ve been to see the “family cardiologist.” My grandmother, my aunt, and my mom have all been his patients.

My mom’s mother is almost 94 and is still going strong. She’s at a nursing home and has been since her strokes the summer after Dave and I were married, so just about six years ago. She actually looks better now than she did Christmas of 2011. My mom’s older sister suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhagic stroke over a year ago, and it’s such a miracle that she’s alive. She’s doing fantastic now and has really seemed to mellow out.

Four days after I had Rex, I couldn’t fall back asleep at 2am because I had a fever and my back hurt when I breathed. When I called my MIL around 7am, nursing a sleeping baby — and crying — to see if she could watch Walter so I could schedule a visit with my midwife, she told me that Pop would come get the 4yo and that I should go immediately in to the ER because I might have a pulmonary clot. This is a woman who usually dismisses my flus as mere colds. So Dave and I did as she said, deliriously tired with the tiniest of babies, and they took an EKG and a chest x-ray. The EKG read as slightly abnormal but the x-ray was fine. The blood they drew had elevated numbers, so both they and my MIL, who was an OB/GYN at Piedmont hospital for over 30 years, recommended that I should get a CT scan.

To make things more fun, they totally freaked me out when they said they were injecting me with a radioactive dye and that I shouldn’t breastfeed for 24 hours. My milk supply had just come in, so I didn’t have any saved up (hello, I had just left the other hospital!), and I was totally unprepared to feed my baby another way. Besides that I just cried because I had spent two years yearning for another baby to nurse, and here he was, brand new, and I had to give him up for a day.

We researched it as best we could — called the MIL, the ER doctor brother, Google — and were given the CT disclosure, and as best we could conclude, the stuff leaves your body in 15 minutes and isn’t a big deal. So we decided to ignore what the one nurse had suggested that started the whole debacle, and I continued to nurse Rex post procedure. Maybe his insides glow in the dark now.

The hospital then kept me somewhat hostage, denying me food and water in case of possible surgery, for about four hours after the procedure. I was a newly nursing mom, horrible postpartum hormones, body out of whack after growing another human being for the last nine months, and I couldn’t get a sip of water for about six hours total (wasn’t allowed it before the procedure also). The hospital I had just left after giving birth told me that I needed to drink 5 big cups of water and 2 cups of milk every day to establish my milk supply, and it wasn’t until I literally started crying and begged for the results and for something to eat or drink (I’ve never known hunger and thirst like when I’m pregnant or nursing around the clock) that they produced all three and told me I could go home. I did, at some point before this, sneak some water from the bathroom sink in the ER. God knows what diseases I could have picked up there doing that.

Right before they sent me on my way with my $900 bill, they described the irregularities of the EKG and told me that I should follow up with a cardiologist. Low and behold, I kinda already had one! I’ve read those stories of women in their thirties having heart attacks etc (and not knowing about it because the only sign was that they threw up twice or something like that). Well, I don’t want that to happen to me. So I made an appointment with Dr. McGorisk, who is this very lovely cardiologist at Emory with a to-die-for Irish accent. He knows what he’s doing and has the greatest glasses. When I told him that I was related to the Fleeman women, he brightened up even more.

Unfortunately, the repeat EKG showed that the irregularities were still there — even though I’ve been working out 2-3x a week recently! How very unlike me! — so I’m getting an echocardiogram this week, which he says is a much better diagnostic tool than the squiggly lines of the EKG. He’s not worried (as the results still fall within normal range), but my blood pressure was super high at the appointment. Hopefully that was related to white coat syndrome. I did wake up earlier than normal and drive through an hour of I-85 collapse traffic to get there. I have struggled with high blood pressure in the past (runs in the family on both sides), but it has usually been pretty good since I had Walter. I stopped regularly eating ramen noodles around that time, so that might have helped. But it’s something to keep an eye on.

I have been hurrying to get it all in before my husband quits his current really great job for our adventure in Asheville. I pretty much had met my out of pocket maximum for the year the first two weeks of January, and this new job change means our insurance is already starting over. I better not need a doc in the second half of 2017! Dealing with insurance (and then still owing a ton of money on top of our deductible) is a huge stressor for me. No wonder I (might) have heart problems.

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Finding God Within

1 Apr

I hesitate to use the name “God” because I know so many people who are atheist or agnostic or other religions (and where I land on that scale I don’t quite know), but I think we all at least believe in the magic of the universe. And that’s really what I’m talking about too, because it truly is magical that we’re all here.

I came home from the hospital with my newest little boy, somewhat ready to take on the world as a mom of two. I was feeling much better than I did after W’s birth. But of course, there had to be something that humbled me.

With Walter, he cried and turned a horrible shade of red. This sounds jokingly easy in retrospect. I had thought I was a baby guru. I had babysat and nannied for babies 3mo+ since I was 12 (so for about 16 years). I thought I knew what I was doing. But oh how I cried when he cried, because newborns are way tinier than babies that have had three months of growing under their belts. And let’s give a little credit to raging post-partum hormones too.

With Rex, I was determined not to get so upset when we got home that I wanted back in the horrible place we call a hospital. But my first humbling experience with him was much worse.

He shivered and shook almost constantly starting (of course) as soon as we got home. He had done it a few times in the hospital, and I had asked the pediatrician about it. I didn’t trust that the ped commented on what I was talking about though, because he said, “Oh it’s OK, the baby calms down when you soothe him and the shaking stops.” But this wasn’t shaking related to crying. This was awake, asleep, happy, upset, constant little tremors. And babies that little don’t shiver from cold temperatures.

I was resolved, after wasting so much of my sleep time when Walter was a newborn, not to lose myself in Google researching everything bad that can happen to a baby. But I had to find out what it was! Did we need to go back to the hospital? What was going on? And Google pretty much said it could either be a) pee shakes, b) nothing, or c) horrible, irreversible neurological problems.

I don’t think I cried (yet), but inside I was full of fear. After a few hours of this and talking over our options with Dave, I took my baby into his nursery and sat in the glider in the low sunlight of the winter afternoon. I held him and I rocked him and I spoke to him and for the first time ever, I said, “Dear God, please take care of this boy. Whatever is going on I give it to you. He is your boy that you have given to me to take care of, and I love him. Please keep him safe.”

Turns out he stopped his shivering almost as soon as my milk came in, so we think it was low blood sugar. But sitting there with him was a life changing moment for me, when I fully felt the universe hold us in its arms. The universe decided to take care of us at that moment, and I’m grateful. I have the happiest little baby full of joy and smiles that I could only have ever hoped for.

IMG_20170330_212107_613Springtime outside as well as in the heart. I love how these boys love nature.

Rex: Male Model

28 Feb

img_20170221_175556“Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?” – Derek Zoolander

Last Monday night I was getting ready for bed when my friend texted me about LalabuBaby wanting newborn models. Because I was a model for a midwifery magazine ad with my parents when I was three days old, I thought I’d give at least one of my sons the chance at the same type of stardom.

Newly joined to Instagram, I figured out how to DM them a super cute picture I had recently taken of Rex and some basic contact info. After a little back and forth, I agreed to bring my sons the next day, completely unsure of what this adventure would entail.

Tuesday after lunch and my six week postpartum appointment, I wasn’t sure why I had agreed to go do this. It was looking like rain, and we had just gotten back from Ohio, plus the baby had basically been crying since we got home. We figured he was either going through a growth spurt or thoroughly expressing himself after being in a car seat for four days straight. However, I had made a commitment, so I got the boys in the car yet again and trekked into town. We made it to their office in Old Fourth Ward only five minutes late.

When I approached the door a very nice woman came out and told me filming was running late. I could only go in if we would be absolutely silent. With a four year old and a new kiddo I knew that would be impossible, so we went back to the car to wait. Walter played on his Leap Pad, and I nursed baby Rex. Soon they were done, and we headed back in to wait some more. Turns out they just wanted newborns on call, to work as possible stunt doubles for the model and her newborn who were really doing all the shots. At this point I was genuinely wondering why I had bothered to leave my house, but I decided to wait it out so that I could get the free $75 baby-wearing shirt they had promised.

Two other new moms were there. One was a first time mom with a 5 week old boy. She and her husband own The Big Fake Wedding, which was really interesting to hear about, especially since I love all things wedding. The other mom had a 5 day old boy, one of a set of twins, the other still in NICU at North Fulton, even though he was ready to come home. I was super impressed that she was there. She had brought her husband as well, and they also had a two year old girl at home. It didn’t take long for all of us to start talking, and it was a great, albeit brief, new mommy support group. It made the whole trip worth it.

Right when we were about to leave to avoid rush hour traffic, they asked if anyone could spare their baby for a few. Rex was just finished nursing and happy. The other boys were either nursing or sleeping, so Rex went to makeup… just kidding. I put him in a white onesie, and he got to be the baby model in a video showing how to get a baby in and out of the shirt. When he started fussing after a couple of takes, it was time for us to go.

We were parked in the neighboring church parking lot. The car next to us had its windows open and the three occupants were in there drinking beer and smoking some wacky tobacky. I had to ask them to shut their windows before we got close to the car because the smoke was billowing out around my car, which they did of course. Walter didn’t mention it if he smelled anything funky!

Gotta love in-town Atlantans and random experiences.

I am Woman, Hear Me Roar: the most extreme road trip I’ve ever been on

24 Feb

I don’t know which makes me feel more accomplished as a person: giving birth twice without any drugs, or road-tripping up to Cleveland, OH for a long weekend with my husband, 4 year old, and 6 week old in an RV.

We left Wednesday night around 9pm. I tried to sleep, as the boys, our most precious cargo, were both asleep, but somehow the back of an RV in the dark feels like a plane about to take off. And I don’t really like planes that much, so every time I was about to drift away, I would suddenly wake up fearful we were going to crash into something or drive off the road.

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One of Dave’s best friends, a former Marine like himself, was getting married. We’ve been friends with the couple for a long time, so we knew we wanted to all attend, especially since Dave was asked to be a groomsman and W was asked to be the ring bearer. And there was no way I wanted to leave young Rex with grandparents for the weekend. After Rex’s birth I became unsure if I would attend, and this uncertainty stayed with me until I got into the RV to leave. I was even texting Jason, who was staying at our house with the animals, thirty minutes into the trip that I was insane and I should have stayed at home.

But I didn’t.

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I won’t lie, it was rough. It was a long trip for an already tired woman, but honestly I did it for Dave. He wanted his boys there, and his wife, to be with him as he celebrated this grand event with some of his dearest friends. There were other Marines there with their wives and kids whom we get together with every couple of years. We are scattered across the United States, but these people are very important to us, so we all make the effort to see each other when we can.

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Wednesday night we stopped at an RV park in Knoxville, TN. We figured the only way we could sanely make the 10+ hour drive was to not have to do it all in one day. We didn’t buy plane tickets because of the expense, for one, and also because we could never be sure who would go, given that Rex’s birth was so close to the wedding.

The first night was a bit of a disaster. We got in around midnight and tried as quick as we could to set up the RV for sleeping. Walter woke up and asked questions as we moved stuff around, and I got Rex fed. Then we all settled down for the night’s sleep (or what was left of it)… and the heat in the RV didn’t work properly. It was also 34° outside. The furnace would turn on briefly, get nowhere near the temperature we set the thermostat to, then turn off for good. If we wanted it back on, we’d have to restart the heat ourselves by getting out of bed and flipping the switch.

Walter seemed cuddled in his comforter (thank goodness I had brought a million blankets), but I was super worried about the baby. My face and hair were freezing to the touch. I bundled the baby up (which made me worry about him sleeping with loose blankets and a hat on in bed), and I climbed in with Walter in his twin — I abandoned Dave in the double bed because it was too cold on his side near all the windows. Eventually we just turned the RV on and ran the heater. I was having visions of all of us dying from exhaust fumes when I finally passed out around 3am. Soon enough I woke again because the inside was too hot, and I immediately ripped the blankets off the baby, worried about him overheating, and turned the engine off, worried that we were going to run out of gas. Falling back asleep, this cold/warm cycle continued until we all, rather tiredly, woke up later in the morning.

img_20170216_091557_648The boys were completely unfazed, of course.

img_20170216_091251_283First time in an RV park. Made me think of this romance novel I once read where they traveled around the country in an RV.

img_20170216_101413Keep both hands on the wheel, little man.

Thursday we drove the rest of the way, and I have to say, I love traveling in an RV. Dave has lots of experience driving large military vehicles, so during the day he seemed very at ease, plus the front seats are more like recliners than regular car seats. Walter got to watch TV, sleep, or draw on his clipboard. Rex slept for the most part. We had food, cold drinks, and a toilet at our convenience, and a comfy and easy place to nurse Rex when we stopped. And best of all, I got to buckle myself in to the couch and rest and read books when I wasn’t tending to other things. That’s the way to do it if you’re going to spend that much time traveling!

img_20170216_142006You know you’re redneck enough for an RV when your food prep area is the same as your diaper changing area.

Around 7pm we pulled into the hotel parking lot in Cleveland, unloaded our stuff, and parked by the trees. We quickly took showers to wash off the drive and headed into the chilly night to meet up with our friends for dinner.

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After a wonderful meal with the group, I actually asked Dave if we could hurry and go, which is very unlike me. I’m usually literally the last to leave any type of party, but I was about to fall asleep on my feet. Another night passed uneventfully. I had been very worried about all four of us sleeping together in the same space, but Rex only woke me during the night when he wanted to nurse. Walter, thankfully, is as deep a sleeper as his daddy!

Friday was reception-prep and rehearsal day. We were late to the reception venue to help everyone and drove the RV there (what else could we do?), and unfortunately a Pyrex dish fell during a turn-around-pothole-miscalculation and shattered all over the tile floor. Consequently we learned where the RV vacuum was and how to use it.

Later that evening we piled into our friend’s van, rather awkwardly but gratefully, to get to the church. I sat there nursing while the big boys practiced their roles. Because of my annual Christmas card mailings, I was approached by the best man’s wife, Dina. She said our card was on her fridge, and she loved the book list I put on the back. It was nice to make another friend, and we chatted during the rehearsal and sat together during dinner as well. She was a very lovely Jordanian woman who is a performance aviation engineer for GE. I find it very interesting to learn about the different, highly specific engineering jobs out there.

img_20170218_095822_584Walter knows how to dress sharp.

Saturday was the big day. It turns out that David had many hours of obligations as a groomsman, so for most of the day I was on my own. This brought out a few tears as I was exhausted and hadn’t made this big a trip so quickly postpartum to be on my own. It was made worse when Walter, after having come to sit with me mid-ceremony when his ring-bearing duties were over, saw Daddy walking down the aisle with a bridesmaid and asked, “Mommy, did Daddy just marry that other woman!?!” I kinda laughed and said “No, honey, he’s only married to me” and Walter replied, “But that was David.”

img_20170218_123409175_hdr#handsomemen #idontliketoshare

img_20170218_175051767We had several hours to kill in between the ceremony and reception while Daddy took pictures around town with the newlyweds. We played in the RV since we had checked out of the hotel earlier that day. Plans were to leave that night and repeat the driving procedure we had followed on the way up.

img_20170218_175129152#cutebaby #cutebabyjeans

img_20170220_095637After watching the first dance, finally in the same room together, Dave bee-lined for us. We ate a delicious dinner — one of the best wedding menus we’ve had — drank some tasty beer, took photos in the photo booth, danced (me with the baby at the breast, Dave holding an almost sleeping Walter, who had run around the dance floor with the other kids all night), and left early around 9:30pm. I didn’t want to go, but we knew we had to get out of there if we wanted to get to Cincinnati at a decent time.

img_20170219_032826631We rolled in around 2am and the blackout shades in the brand new hotel room proved to be very effective. We all slept until 9:30am, ate our last breakfast in the RV, and drove home. We even got to enjoy an extra hour and a half of driving time due to Sunday night road construction. Thank you, Georgia.

img_20170217_121004Thank goodness he loves his car seat. He probably thought we were going to leave him in there permanently.

48 hours of travel, 48 hours of partying. Totally worth it.

Round 2

10 Feb

This time pretty much couldn’t be more different than the first time, except it’s still a story of Mama Johnston having a little boy. I am definitely more prepared, having gone through it before, but having my husband stay home for three weeks made all the difference in the world. We also had lots of grandparent help. So while I was busy getting my physical footing again after the marathon months of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, we were all getting looked after. And as it turns out, I didn’t need to be scared about how Rex would fit in to our family. He, and we, transitioned like he was always meant to be with us, was always with us.

And I’m so glad he is here.

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Taking the boys to the playground when he’s six days old. With Walter I had a hard time making it to our front porch the first couple months.

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Everyone needed their hairs trimmed, and we even made it on time! When I had Walter, Laura made a house call for the first trim I needed postpartum.

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First sushi in 9 months at Ra with Dave’s coworkers.

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Walter is the best big brother. He loves soothing Rex when the baby cries and singing him songs to make him happy.

And then David went back to work. I was scared. I cried the morning he left, missing him more than I’d ever missed him before. Those three weeks with him at home were the best three weeks of my life.

But I forced myself to get out of the house (thank goodness for W), and we got to storytime at our local library. I even cleaned the house when we got home.

img_20170130_112402555Homeschooling benefits me as much as Walt!

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Walter also started a computer class – this month’s theme is Lego robotics – that first week Dave was back at work. I swear this kid turned into a teenager when we were busy blinking.

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Rex even came with us to Couples Book Club. Here he is meeting Uncle Luke.

img_20170209_140314042We haven’t slowed down at all — thank goodness Rex is a fairly good sleeper already (though I still haven’t gotten more than four hours straight in a month). Having so many activities scheduled is a bit difficult, but I get to meet up with friends too, which is very important for new mommy sanity.

I feel a little drained, and I wish with all my heart that David could still be at home with us, but we’re more than surviving. We’re having a blast.

The Loneliness of Motherhood

21 Nov

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the loneliness of motherhood. I think it took me about a year to stop feeling lonely all the time (even though I had another person constantly attached to me and a great partner!). It was one of those things that took me by surprise as a new mother. I was just so excited to be pregnant and having a baby, and I knew things would change in my life, but I just wasn’t prepared.

It’s hard to stay connected. At first, people are so excited for you and they want to stop by and hang out with the cuddly new baby. This seems to always happen when the baby is sleeping, so your well-meaning visitors keep you awake and then leave when the baby wakes up and needs to eat, needs a diaper change, needs to cry… and then the visitors stop coming. They resume with their busy lives, and you’re left with a very demanding — albeit very cute — very small human who doesn’t sleep very much.

Day in and day out, they need you to hold them, nurse them, burp them, walk them, interest them, sleep them, etc. etc. etc. until you forget to go outside, even to step out on the front porch. At least that was me for a little while. And just when you’re ready to go outside for a nice walk, it’s either raining or too hot or too cold or too whatever (and Walt hated the stroller too, of course).

Most of my friends don’t have children. The ones that do are full-time working mothers. The few moms I know at home live far enough away that going out during the brief time between feedings and naps seemed like more effort than it was worth. Or their kids were on different nap schedules than Walt, once he had a “schedule.” Add to that that Walter cried like he was being tortured when he was in the car for the first couple months — or if he was held by anyone else besides me or Dave — and I was one isolated mama.

The mommy wars don’t add any pleasantness to the choices you make either. Working moms think stay at home moms are always judging them and looking down at them, and stay at home moms think working moms do the same thing to them too. So where does that leave us? One more island of loneliness on which to perch.

Luckily, there was a light at the end of tunnel (at least for your garden variety lonely), just like there’s a full night’s sleep at the end of the newborn tunnel. Walt and I get out and about, do chores, go to play dates and story times, and we can leave the house in record time if we need to. We still have our nursing relationship, but as he gets older that changes too, into something a little more convenient for both of us (though I hate associating that word). I see my friends more often (with and without baby), and I have a full calendar of work and volunteer stuff to do.

Somehow, enough time will pass that I will want to do this all over again. And I have no idea how two kids will make that loneliness feel. Maybe it won’t be as intense. Maybe it’ll be worse. All I know is being a mama has been the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done with my life. And while every mom probably understands at least a little bit of how I’ve felt, it also seems like there are few people I’ve been able to talk to about this.

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My sweet little buddy!

Mama’s words of advice

17 Mar

Nine things I wish people had told me before I became pregnant/a mother. Not that I would have necessarily listened.
(NB: some graphic details included)

1. Pregnancy is a physical endurance test. And it takes your body a long time to get over being pregnant, especially if you are breastfeeding. I would say 3-4 months after Walt’s birth I felt really good again. Luckily heartburn goes away immediately, thank goodness.

2. Birth is a challenge of body & mind. (I definitely already knew this one but it was still a surprise given I had never experienced it before). I felt uplifted when I knew I had accomplished my goal of natural childbirth.

3. Pushing sucks. But it doesn’t last forever. A good midwife/doctor can make all the difference in the world.

4. The first 6 weeks of having a newborn are overwhelming. Even if you had tons of childcare practice; even with a fantastic partner by your side. It is lovely beyond anything you’ve ever experienced before, and scary too. Don’t be ashamed if you cry. A lot. Or never leave your house. Or see your friends anymore.

5. Breastfeeding does not come naturally/easy to everybody at first. It does get a lot easier after 12 weeks. The book The Nursing Mother’s Companion was a lifesaver. Also, buy a giant sized bra. You’ll need it.

6. Even if you nurse around the clock you can still get your period back very quickly. And that’s after you bleed forever after birth.

7. Pumping output is not necessarily the same as nursing output. Don’t stress out if you can’t pump as much as that mythological mother who pumps 25 ounces first thing in the morning. I can imagine that comparison would be similar to guys in a locker room.

8. You don’t have to stuff your baby full of food/milk to get them to sleep better. Walt actually slept better once I was nursing full-time again and not giving him lots of pumped milk. Go figure.

9. Your life will never be the same!

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My love for this boy is more than I ever imagined.