Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Planning for postpartum

Wet hair from my first postpartum shower ... four days after Marko was born.

I didn't really plan anything for when Marko was born. I did manage to pack a hospital bag! We had the carseat and Moses basket set up, and that was pretty much it. I went into labor, went to the hospital, and came home in a state of bewilderment. I was ready to pop the baby into his Moses basket and go to bed, only to find that he did not want to go to bed at seven or eight or nine p.m., and also that he had apparently totally forgotten how to eat. I spent all evening camped on the couch with a boppy pillow and a feeling of desperation. How was I supposed to make dinner?! I had expected to be tired and sore, but not THAT tired and sore. So when John's mother asked if it was too soon to drive down, I said "PLEASE COME NOW." By the time she (and four of my sisters-in-law) had left, I could actually walk, so it wasn't so bad. Still, I lived off Chips Ahoy and leftover casserole for about three more weeks after that.

So this time, I'm doing a lot more planning. However, I have a toddler to worry about, now, too, so I imagine a lot more planning will be required. It's quite likely that I will plan just enough to be as hopelessly lost as I was last time!

This time, I won't be having family coming right around the birth. Since my own family lives in Korea, they can't exactly fly over at a moment's notice, and I wanted to be sure I would have the baby in time for them to see it, so I asked them to come later in May. I've just heard one too many unfortunate stories of perfectly planned visits and two-week late babies, ending up in grandma having to go home while her grandchild is still on the inside. No thanks! I want very much to be relaxed about when this baby comes, not freaking out about it being too soon or late. John's family is coming, too, about a week after the due date, so we'll have some time with no family, and then help coming later in shifts.

John, however, is NOT going to be in another state this time, thank goodness, so he will be taking some time off work that first week. So it looks like I won't have too much time to fend for myself: first, John will be around; then his family; then my family. But depending on the actual day the baby is born, I might have a week or so in between where I'm on my own during the day.

The number one thing I'm trying to plan for is food. If it were just me, I could probably scrounge enough to get by on throughout the day, and just starve the rest of the time. It's what I did last time (I lost the baby weight so fast! And felt so lousy!). But there's Marko to think of. He's not going to want to wait until the end of a marathon nursing session for me to go and scrounge spoonfuls of peanut butter for him. He will want actual food, food that can be prepared quickly and food that he likes. John might be able to manage dinners (though maybe not, since he comes home at six p.m.), but for breakfast, lunch, and the many snacks Marko and I usually eat, I'm on my own.

That's what I'm stocking up on right now. I've got a lot of baked goods in the freezer waiting for me: carrot muffins, homemade hot pockets, and English muffins. I'm also planning to keep the fridge well-stocked with lunch meat, cheese, and bananas, which are Marko's favorite snack foods. For me, I'll make sure I have celery and carrots to munch on (I remember how desperately I craved raw, fresh veggies last time), and I should probably make sure to have some hummus in the freezer too. I also need to keep up on making yogurt in big batches, so I always have some at the ready. I usually make four pints at once, every week or two when I buy a gallon of milk.

There's no way I can make and store all the dinners we'll be eating in the first few weeks, but I've got a few containers of chicken soup in there now, and I hope to put up at least a lasagna or two and some tuna casserole as well. For the other days, I think John or I should be able to manage at least some very basic dinners: chicken and rice, or baked chicken with potatoes. (John is quite capable of cooking stuff like that: it's just the "fancy" stuff I make that he doesn't know how to do. But what he makes is plenty nourishing and delicious even without a fancy sauce.)

Chores -- ha! I'm going to let the place get messy. John can do some picking up here and there, and I may do some picking up here and there, but let's face it: we'll be stepping over toys much of the time. I really don't care. Dishes are the one thing that really MUST be done ... so John will have to pick up whatever I can't do.

Entertaining Marko is the big challenge. I mean, that's a lot of what I do all day. I'm trying to keep the house well stocked with library books, which are always a hit. If we spend the day sitting on the couch nursing the baby and reading books, he'll be at least relatively happy (since books are usually more of a treat for a few times a day -- he always wants more long after I'm tired of reading them) and I'll get rest. I'm also going to buy a few new toys for him at Goodwill or the dollar store which will come out once the baby's born. A new toy usually buys us one really easy day as he tinkers with it and exhausts all its possibilities. Finally, we're lifting the TV ban for awhile. I just am not sure I could make it through with no hypnotizing backup available for when they both want attention. (I spent Marko's first month of life watching documentaries on Netflix. This time, perhaps some Discovery Channel shows on Hulu. What do you know of that's a hit with toddlers and available free online?)

The hard part for me is probably going to be taking a break from my online life. It's my main social outlet, and I know I'll be lonely without it. However, I just can't imagine having time for much other than an occasional Facebook update here and there ... it may be awhile before I can get the time to blog. I may not even be able to manage many phone conversations, if they are both needy and/or hollering when I am trying to talk on the phone. So I'm very likely to be lonely on those days when I have neither John nor either of our families.

On the other hand, I actually do have friends who live in the area! Who have asked what I need! I'm not really counting "help from friends" on the list of things I'm preparing for, but I am sure if anyone does come over to help out, it will be a tremendous help. So here's my list of things I think I would like, to share with anyone who plans to stop by:

*I would really like to sit and talk to an adult. I know many people just want you to drop off dinner and leave ... but I am pretty sure I would prefer at least a short visit.

*I would like dishes done. It's going to be hard for us to get all of those. So visitors may make themselves quite at home in my kitchen, to wash a dish or two or the whole sinkful. Every dish washed will help.

*I wouldn't say no to food of any kind. Dinners are helpful, but so are snacks, baked goods, etc. I am not planning to be on any special diet, and Marko isn't on one currently either. Of course, if the new baby is fussy or rashy, I may start eliminating things, but I expect to be eating everything in sight at least for the first few weeks.

*I would like playdates for Marko. So friends with toddlers are welcome to come over and play ... especially if you are going to be doing all the "jumping up and breaking up fights" part. Not sure if I will be up to jumping anywhere. But Marko loves to have friends over and it would be a load off my mind knowing he was getting some outside interest. (Friends without toddlers can just come play with Marko themselves, of course, if they want to!)

*I would like to be told in advance when you're coming so I can let you know if that's a good time. Facebook will probably be the best way to do that.

I'm not sure how much help, realistically, my friends will be able to offer, since most of them live at some distance and all of them either have jobs or kids, but I can tell you right now, a visit from a friend would probably make my whole week, even if they didn't bring or do anything! Phone calls are nice, too, though (like I said) I'm not sure I will be able to talk long.

I'm hoping that by the time my own family leaves, I'll be ready to take on full responsibility for the house again. It took me four weeks last time to really feel strong enough and confident enough as a mom to get back into the swing of things. So my plan is as follows:

*Week 1: care for self and new baby. John does everything else. (How I do love that man.)
*Week 2: care for self, new baby, and Marko. Survive till six p.m.
*Week 3: care for self, new baby, and Marko; and prepare food as needed.
*Week 4: care for self, new baby, and Marko; prepare food; and wash dishes.
After week 4: do all my usual chores, plus take care of the new baby, of course.

The scary thing is that Marko doesn't nap, so I won't be able to "sleep when the baby sleeps." Then I remember that, once my in-laws went home last time, I never, ever slept when Marko slept. I finally started doing it when he was about five months old. That's a lot of naps I really should have taken, and didn't. And somehow I survived! And this time, with cosleeping and hopefully getting the hang of nursing lying down, I should be getting more sleep at night. As long as Marko manages to make a habit of sleeping through the night!

Moms, especially of multiple children: what did you do to get ready for those first few weeks? What do you wish you had done?


Conquistadora said...

Just let me know when you're craving adult company. I'll bring a stocking to work on just in case we run out of chores. :)

Tawny said...

I had a lot of help with my sister and husband around the first week, but after that letting Lu watch TV really really helped sometimes when I just needed to sit and nurse the baby. We discovered "Shaun the Sheep" which isn't really educational but is not nearly as annoying as most American cartoons (it's British). Luthien loves it, although we really limit it now.

I also found it wasn't nearly as hard to entertain her as I thought it would be since she was super interested in the new baby. I tried to make taking care of him a group project. So when Judah needed a diaper change I would tell Lu, "Alright now we are going to change the baby's diaper. Want to help?" She would gladly watch, and 'help.' She is still fascinated with the regular baby maintenance and loves to hold the baby.

The biggest change I probably made in learning to take care of two is figuring out how to wear the baby. I never did much baby-wearing with Lu, but it has been much more necessary with Judah so that I can keep up with Lu (and the house). I finally got a carrier I love (a mei tai) and I can even breastfeed with him in it pretty well.

And we would love to come over at some point after the baby is born to do your dishes :)

Jeanette said...

As far as preparation for the post partum period, I did a deep clean of the house and stocked up on food and baby supplies so I would not have to send my husband out to the store during those first few days. Looking back, this was not the greatest strategy. I found myself creating errands for him so that he could take our other two kiddos with him so our little guy and I could get some rest! :) In what I wish I had done differently, I wish I had requested more meals. I had dinner brought to me twice and it was so helpful! In my experience, people were more eager to offer help with the first baby, and must have thought by baby #3 we would be fine. I also wish I would have placed more limits on visitors. People were showing up in droves, staying for hours, and then expecting us to feed and wait on them. I found myself exhausted and resentful, not what I envisioned for the post partum period, yet I never spoke up. You are so smart for thinking about these things prior to the birth. Wishing you a joyful and restful postpartum period!

Alaina said...

I highly recommend "Modern Marvels" for toddler boys. Also, they really seem to enjoy some of the cooking shows on Hulu, like "Good Eats".

Sheila said...

Conquistadora, that would be awesome. Quite a hike for you, but it would be really fun to hang out.

Tawny, I think maybe I should be doing your dishes first! I came meaning to help last time, but since your sister was still around there wasn't much to do. I bet you could use the help more now!

Oh, and we LOVE Shaun the Sheep. It's got enough good humor in it to keep the adults happy.

Jeanette, that is one blessing for us: I don't think we're likely to get an excess of company. Last time I had ONE person visit me once the in-laws were gone. She would check in on me, drop something off, and leave again. This time we have more local friends, but even so, neither of us is from the area so we're not likely to get flooded. The overwhelming time will be when our families visit. They are both incredibly considerate, but there are a lot of each of them. So I put the word out in advance that we won't be able to host anyone like we otherwise would. Luckily there are many inexpensive hotels in town.

Alaina, cooking shows are a great idea! I might enjoy those myself... though I bet they'd make me hungry.

Momsomniac said...

Not sure what your criteria are for acceptable TV. Mine are no violence, no gender determinism, and general good behavior from all characters.

My sons (ages 2,3, 7) like
Blue's Clues
Dora (my 3 year old is even speaking quite a bit of Spanish from watching it, which I wouldn't have thought possible)
and Dinosaur Train

All are available from NetFlix on demand or DVD. Dinosaur Train is also on PBS. It's adorable.

The kids have also enjoyed
The Fresh Beat Band (silly, but positive, and no harmful content)
and Busytown Mysteries

Busytown is cute but Pig Will and Pig Won't bicker, which my sons think is hilarious, so right now, it's off the docket, until they figure out that bickering with or around Mom and Dad isn't a good idea.

We generally keep TV to Friday night (pizza night!) and sometimes Saturday morning. Of course, if one of us is ill, we do what we need to do. We only have network + NetFlix on demand, and it's plenty.

My 7 year old, some due to temperament and some due to our restrictions, is as happy with Blue's Clues as his brothers are....and he isn't "growing up too fast" (people complain about that but sadly, then promote it with media exposure).

There weren't *too many* shows I felt good about watching while nursing son 3 in the wee hours when everyone else was alseep (and sometimes, I needed it at 3 am). I am a fan of SF and those shows tend to get too...creepy; I didn't even want the baby to be exposed, but there was one show "Surface" that was generally fine.

DO what you need to do, even if it's something you normally would not even consider. As long as everyone is fed and loved, you're good.

I know you don't want your baby to cry - we tried to minimize that ALWAYS - but if (s)he's crying and Marco is watching TV while you grab a 10 minute's temporary....they'll get a good message from you taking care of you...and soon enough, they'll be rough housing together.

Anyway, I hope that was helpful and not too self-indulgent - you know who we older Moms of 3+ can be. : )

Congratulations! I wish I really knew you and was nearby - I am sure I could at least offer a play date! : )

Momsomniac said...


Tangent warning: Can you tell us why your family lives in Korea? Did you grow up there? Do you speak Korean? Do you read Hangul?

Sheila said...

Since we don't have a TV and we canceled the Netflix (we never had time to watch it), it narrows our choices a lot. My main standard is that it can't be violent or mindless. Preferably, it should be something we all enjoy watching. Marko's favorite two shows, before we really got down to eliminating TV, were Dirty Jobs and Shaun the Sheep.

And no, my family isn't Korean and I've never been to Korea. They've been stationed there for the past year and a half with the military. I miss them a lot, but on the bright side, my four younger siblings are having the adventure of a lifetime homeschooling in a foreign country.

Momsomniac said...

I hope you find things that work out!

Dirty Jobs was a fave with my husband and 7 year old when we had DTV, but it was often not OK with me!

Dinosaur Train (PBS) is educational about dinosaurs and it shows a very positive family dynamic. The other shows are educational in less obvious ways, except for Dora, which is *only* educational to my 3 year old. : ) To my other kids, it's more like watching a video game.

I am looking forward to your posts (when you get back to them:) after #2 comes along!

The Sojourner said...

I like Dinosaur Train too because they're a homeschooling, transracially adoptive family. :) Of dinosaurs, but we take what we can get.

And if any of the paleontology is inaccurate you could always point out that it's a show about time-traveling dinosaurs, of course some of the facts are made up.

I feel like there are other shows but I forget them now. Besides, I'm not sure which ones would be available online.

I hope everything goes well for you these next few months.

Maggie said...

Water color painting was a huge help for my toddler when baby #2 came along. Paper and easy-to-clean paint kept her busy for a long time.

We love Dinosaur Train here. Maybe you could make a "playlist" on YouTube with some age-appropriate videos? Some movies come in parts, but they might be all there.

Lock yourself in a toddler-proof room when your infant is sleeping, and catch a few zzz's while your oldest plays. :)

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