This is me, nursing my sweet little baby girl, Nina. My oily hair is always in a top knot and I’m perpetually in my milk stained nursing dress that I wear all day, everyday. That’s why I love to create my fantastical fashion illustrations because for that one moment in time, I get to daydream and imagine in flounces, ruffles, florals and sparkles. It took me forever to work on one illustration because I’m a human cow for now. Stealing little minutes a day to illustrate means a few pencil marks here and a few brush strokes there in between nursing, pumping, napping, eating, hand washing poop from baby’s clothes, washing and sterilizing the pump parts and bottles, burping baby, changing her diaper 3 times in a span of 10 minutes every 2 hours and oh yes, while I help my husband make sure our two boys are still alive. My hubby does so much to help me, but he also has to work and take care of our 6 year old and 4 year old boys. It’s basically a crazy busy household here. My current sleep schedule is really no schedule at all. I sleep 1-2 hours, maybe 2 times a day when Nina naps. I do miss the long stretches of 8 hours, but this is my life for now and this too shall pass. Here’s my attempt to write my thoughts on POSTPARTUM in my foggy, farty brain state:
P is for Patience that I lack when I don’t get enough sleep and I instantly turn into the scariest wife, mom and person EVER. My voice turns to a low grunt like rumble and I even scared myself when I growled like a mama bear to my husband, “Do you think I’m making this shit up?” I don’t even remember why I said that to him. It was one of those mornings after a sleepless night. I do remember feeling like the bear from The Revenant and my husband was Leonardo. My sweet, patient husband understood and let me have my meltdown because I let him sleep through the night. I’m such a good wife.
O is for Oxytocin or Pitocin that I received during labor this time and I got the correct one! For my second baby, Dashiell, I had to be induced as he was 8 days past his due date. In order to be induced, pitocin is given via IV to the mom. However, I was given Magnesium instead of Pitocin. What does that mean? Pitocin induces labor, Magnesium keeps the baby in! Yes, it does the complete opposite of what I went in the hospital to do, which was to give birth to my baby. Anyway, that’s a story for next time. I’m just so happy that all the nurses were well aware of my past incident, so they were extra careful and triple checked that it was Oxytocin (Pitocin) that they gave me.
S is for Sleep and Seaweed. Did I mention I’m operating on very little sleep? I let my husband sleep through the night because he’s working and has to be alert for our older boys. I’m lucky that I can survive on little sleep. I think it’s due to my height. I’m short and thus I don’t need as much sleep as my 6’2 ft hubby. Until I lose my marbles that is. Why Seaweed? In the Korean tradition, it’s important for the woman to let her body heal by doing absolutely nothing but rest and eat healthy nutritious food. And seaweed soup is the main food that one must consume at least 3 times a day for the first 21 days postpartum. I actually love seaweed soup so I’m loving every minute of this period. Also part of the tradition is to hire a Korean postpartum doula that helps with the baby but mainly, I have her help me by cooking delicious, nutritious Korean food all day. We’ve had some wonderful postpartum doulas in the past. But the most recent one was too much drama for me and my recovering sensitive self. Anyway, that story is for another time.
T is for Tears that I’ve been shedding because I’m super sensitive due to the hormones that are adjusting themselves after childbirth. I did the ugly cry during the ending of the movie, “Me Before You,” while pumping. Sorry if I ruined the ending for you. Probably for the best so you’re emotionally prepared. I thought it was going to be a romantic comedy with a happy ending. Nope, not at all.
P is for Pumping breast milk. My milk production was low during my first and second pregnancies because I hemorrhaged too much blood so my body couldn’t produce enough milk for the baby. So I pumped after every feeding to empty out my breast in order to let my brain know that the baby needs more milk. I worked really hard on my milk production and ended up nursing close to a year for both my older children. Just like for the first two babies, I’m working on my milk production again with a hospital grade Medela breast pump. It’s a lot of work but gives me satisfaction to know I’m feeding my baby. Even though I feel like one of these women making Mother’s Milk from “Mad Max, Fury Road,” I’d like to pretend I look like these women instead. Or better yet, I just want to be her.
A is for Anxiety that I had before going into my labor and delivery for my third. I was nervous because I had suffered from physical trauma and blood loss from the previous two labor and deliveries. This time went so smoothly compared to what I’ve been through in the past. My hubby and I watched “Modern Family” and laughed a lot before it was time to push my baby out. But after the delivery, I had a pretty bad reaction to a medication that prevented hemorrhaging. I ended up with chills, fever and high blood pressure, all side effects from the medication. The scariest part was the intense chills that made my head pound and throb as I tried to stop the chattering of my teeth. It reminded me of the time when I had to be rushed to the ER when Max was 10 days old. I was diagnosed with a kidney infection because of the catheter that I had in me for a longer period of time than usual due to my trauma after the delivery. The chills reminded me of that day when I thought that I might not survive to see my baby grow up. I said to my husband on the way to the hospital, “promise me you’ll remarry.” Whoa. I’m so dramatic. But seriously, I was scared. I thought a lot about how lucky I am to be alive, be at home with my family, nurse my baby, see my boys jump up and down as we introduced them to their little baby sister. I’m just so grateful that I got the best healthcare possible. Safe pregnancy and childbirth should be a right for all women. I really love Christy Turlington‘s organization, Every Mother Counts. Please support global maternal healthcare for all today.
R is for Recovery after childbirth. TMI warning! I forgot how much effort it takes to recover from labor and delivery. Going to pee isn’t just a quick, “I’m going to pee, can you watch the baby for a minute?” It’s now, “I’m going to pee and will be in the bathroom for 20 minutes.” It’s all about making sure everything is squeaky clean down there because an infection is the last thing a recovering mama needs during this very highly sensitive period.
T is for Thankful for my mom. She is my hero, my rock, my goal. I want to be as strong as my mom when I become a grandma one day. Having another baby reminded me how hard it must’ve been for her as a mom of three. I don’t know how she did it. And holy sh*t. I’m now a mommy of three. Now if my mom will just lay off about how I should not take a shower for 30 days after having a baby. 30 days?! WTF! She keeps mentioning the cold wind going into my body and how I have to keep myself warm at all times. Sorry mom. No can do. I did last 10 days though. A record 10 days that ended when Max said to me, “Mommy, you smell.” Never again.
U is for the Universe. Thank you Universe for all the love and good in my life. I am truly grateful. Had to say my thanks to the Universe because writing about my adventures of childbirth is making me realize how lucky I am to have all the support that I need. Right before I had my Nina, there were so many stories I read and heard on NPR of maternal death during pregnancy and childbirth in the US, that I started to freak out. Hence my A is for Anxiety. A woman of two boys died last year from hemorrhage at the same hospital that I gave birth. I found this info out days before I had my baby. And this hospital is nationally ranked and recognized as one of the best. That’s when I realized how lucky I am to be alive! Thank you Thank you!!
M is for Motherhood and how women get there through labor and delivery one way or another. I remember when I wanted to give an all natural childbirth for my first baby. I had a doula and midwives support me and it was all great until they realized that my baby was sunny side up with his head cocked to the left. I had pushed for close to 5 hours without epidural. I can have an emergency c section or forceps. I opted for forceps. They used the forceps to turn the baby to face down and pull him out, all the while I had to push him out with all the strength that I had left in me. Thankfully, baby Max came out safely with no lacerations. I was injured pretty badly but not too extremely. Anyway, I was traumatized and the road to recovery was difficult and painful. I was hospitalized for 6 days and that’s when I had to get my blood transfusion because I lost half of my blood count. I finally went home for 4 days and then went to the ER and was hospitalized for another 4 days. I remember feeling disappointed that I didn’t have my natural childbirth. I remember feeling angry at myself for even trying to have the natural childbirth. I remember the sadness and the frustration that I felt all because it didn’t work out as I had planned. But that’s motherhood. Motherhood is not something one can plan to a T. Motherhood can be messy, disappointing, dirty, sad, filled with joy and happiness one minute and then tears the next. I’m just grateful that I’m here actually writing about motherhood. Not all women survive pregnancy and labor to be mothers. I told my doula how disappointed I was by my birth, and she reminded me that I had the instinct to want to give birth at the hospital. That I knew that I wanted to be close to the facility where they can save me and my baby. I read on Every Mother Counts site that in some parts of the world, women walk miles to get to their nearest health facility to only find that there is no healthcare provider to care for them in the clinic. How lucky I am to have had my experience, as now I feel so much more for the women that have had complications during their childbirth. I am so lucky and incredibly grateful that I’m alive, a mom and experiencing motherhood in all its messy, glorious ways.
Karen, The Illustrienne
PS, follow me on IG as I now attempt to illustrate fashion fantasy every other day (will try for every day, but it all depends on the hours of sleep I get the night before) and will try to write my random acronym based stories based on random words.