What to expect after expecting
The internet is laden with tips and advice on breastfeeding, pumping, babycare and so much more. It has almost everything you need to know to help you adjust to the ‘new normal’ and your new self! There are still a few things though, that I didn’t know as a first-time or even second-time mom, even after much reading. So here is what to expect after expecting that I had to find out for myself:
As I said in my previous blog post, I had a C-Section for both my kids. Both experiences were still somewhat different. After my first C-Section, about a day later, I had a very piercing headache that was non-stop and made it very difficult to sleep and moreover breastfeed. The only relief I got somewhat was when lying down. Sitting, standing and walking made the headache much worse.
The anesthesiologist said that it may have been due to the spinal tap (ie. injection to my spine) for the C-Section. My understanding of what he said is that, when they do a spinal tap, fluid is inserted into the space that encases the spinal cord and fluid is also released. It is a pressurised system, hence the simultaneous release of fluid to maintain a certain level of pressure. However, irregularities in this pressure (ie. if the spinal tap is overshot or undershot) can lead to a headache.
In the end, the doctor said it may be an imbalance of fluids in this pressurised system that was causing the headache. He recommended that I drank lots of water and at least two litres of Pepsi a day to relieve the symptoms…which I could not stomach. He said the caffeine should help, but I can’t manage even a small bottle of soda so that was a real challenge. I tried drinking lots of water but it felt like the headache was not budging so I contacted a chiropractic to see if he could do something to my spine to help relieve the pain, but he said it was best to give it some time to balance out. That was very difficult having to constantly breastfeed a newborn, plus lack of sleep and taking care of myself after having a C-Section (which included doing wipe downs instead of showers for couple days). After seven whole days, I woke up and the headache was completely gone. Just like that.
When doing a Caesarean the second time around, I made the anaesthesiologist aware of my experience with the first spinal tap, and he did his magic so that it didn’t happen again. Thank God!
Scarring after my first C-Section wasn’t pretty. It was very visible, plumpy scar tissue that had an insatiable itch under the skin that would peak at very inopportune times (even a year after the surgery!). Some women say the line is hardly visible, but others complain about keloid scarring like I had even though I don’t have keloid skin. It seems to be more common in people of colour, but it’s apparently non-malignant, just very itchy. Keloid is said to be simply an extended growth of collagen that the body produces to aid with the healing process.
There are however, measures that can minimise the scarring. If you have keloid skin, it’s probably worth mentioning to your doctor in order to plan your delivery more appropriately, even if a C-Section is not scheduled. Another option is to discuss different suturing techniques with your doctor. My first C-Section was done with dissolvable sutures. The second was done with plastic sutures which I think helped to minimise the scarring. Some suture techniques are said to provoke the keloid, like very tight skin closure. So it is worth having a chat with your doctor about. It is your body after all…until your baby arrives at least.
The next thing on the list is the use of a substance called triamcinolone. My doctor recommended this for my second C-Section to help minimise the scarring. It is administered as an injection at the end of the C-Section surgery at the site of the incision. So I didn’t feel the needle since I was already numb from the waist down. From what I gather, it is a steroid that is used extensively in plastic and reconstructive surgery. It cost me a little over JA$100 after insurance. It may need to be readministered more than once after the surgery to promote better keloid suppression, depending on the extent of the scarring of course.
After giving birth, the uterus is still contracting and heavy bleeding can last for some time after. I experienced heavy bleeding for only a couple days and then had spotting ever so often, especially if I did something relatively more strenuous than normal. Heavy bleeding can last up to ten days after and spotting up to six weeks after giving birth based on my reading.
In terms of your period, I was exclusively breastfeeding with my first child for six months and my period returned about a month after I stopped exclusively breastfeeding. For some women, it can return sooner or later even if they are exclusively breastfeeding.
Another point to note, I read/heard some time ago that the hormone released while exclusively breastfeeding acts as a ‘natural’ contraceptive to prevent pregnancy. This is not entirely true. It is very possible to get pregnant during this time. The chances of it happening may not be very high, but it is still very much possible.
After about two to three months after my Caesarian, my hairline started to recede horribly. Even when I combed my hair, clumps of hair would come out in my hands. Apparently, due to the drastic fall in estrogen levels after pregnancy, hair follicles go into a resting stage. I endured this for about eight months after giving birth. For some women, it can take up to a year!
As I said before, the internet has loads of info on breastfeeding 101 and breastfeeding do’s and don’ts so I won’t labour the point. Here is good video by Yendi Phillips and Emprezz with some tips and advice. I’ll just add a brief summary of what my doctor told me or what I’ve read.
I’ve always thought that hell has no wrath like the hunger of a breastfeeding mother. It is like a vast abyss opens up in your stomach out of absolutely nowhere. I didn’t experience any dire hunger while pregnant, believe it or not, but while breastfeeding (and pumping) I had to have at least three breakfast servings on a regular basis to satisfy the hunger accompanied by breastfeeding. I was both pumping and breastfeeding and I am between a B and a C cup, so it was literally sucking the life out of me. I did have a strange experience of smelling like breastmilk while pregnant, so I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise. (Yes, it is pretty real to smell like breastmilk while pregnant. I googled it!)
There are loads of things that are said to increase your milk supply. Taking the pill (contraceptive) while breastfeeding, apparently decreases your supply though, according to my doctor. The things that I tried to increase my supply ranged from lots of water, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, raspberry leaf tea, moringa seeds, oats porridge, cornmeal porridge and a couple other things that I can’t remember. Lots of rest is also a plus, but that wasn’t my forte. I don’t know if any of these actually worked, but I was able to successfully breastfeed exclusively for six months with my first child. I wasn’t so lucky the second time for other reasons.
Click here to read up on another mother's breastfeeding experience that I found interesting.
High Lipase Breastmilk
I didn’t actually experience this for myself, but I read up a lot on it and helped a few friends pick up on this too. Lipase is said to be an enzyme in human milk that breaks down the fat in it to help the baby to digest it. Excess lipase speeds up the break down process and makes the milk taste sour or soapy or metallic. It’s said to be safe to drink, but the baby more than likely will refuse it. I would occasionally taste my breastmilk to check if it fell in this category. I’ve been laughed at for doing this, but if I feed it to my child, why can’t I do a taste test myself first, right?
Lipase is said to be deactivated at high temperatures so it is usually recommended that you scalled the milk before freezing. I always thought boiling milk would highly diminish its nutritional content, but perhaps the good outweighs the bad. Some women simply throw away the high lipase milk, but if you find this out after you have already built up a stash, that would be a challenge. So perhaps join the club, and taste test before freezing!
I experienced this with my second child. Cradle cap is said to be a sort of baby dandruff. It looks like a dark layer of dirt, on the scalp of the baby’s cradle head top. It is a bit thick and can sometimes have a smell. I use baby shampoo to wash the baby’s hair about once or twice a week. I also use a rag sometimes to help loosen it and then I brush it with coconut oil or shea butter. I’m still struggling with it almost four months later so I can’t give a timeline for it’s riddance.
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