I’ll share with you a little bit of my first 6 weeks of post partum aka the fourth trimester.
I had it all planned out when I was leaving the hospital hotel after 3 nights. A list of my own self-care routines that I was going to apply from the moment we got home. I felt it was my first day of “freedom” since I felt so cooped up in the hospital hotel room with our baby that I just wanted to be out and about in the fresh air. Luckily it was in the summer time, as that would have been impossible in the freezing cold Norwegian winter. We even walked home, having a couple stops on the way. First for a well deserved coffee at our neighborhood’s coffee shop, and then we decided to surprise our helsestasjon (child health clinic) and have our baby registered right away.
Our baby girl was sleeping so well in the baby k’tan (I wasn’t ready to put her in our stroller) the entire time that I thought oh my god I’m so blessed, I have the easiest baby, everything is going so well, I CAN DO THIS. As it was a tuesday I started making plans in my head of all the things we were going to do that week.
The next morning, nothing went to plan. I could not do my morning facial, have my morning coffee while reading the news on CNN, do my daily morning ritual of affirmations and prayer, or even put together a simple avocado toast. I think the one thing I managed from my daily self-care routine checklist was having a shower. This was non-negotiable for me. I needed to wash off the hospital hotel germs!
I couldn’t manage to do any of these seemingly simple tasks. My baby needed me. More than I ever could have imagined. Suddenly she was starving around the clock, and my milk barely just started coming in. We left the hospital without getting proper help from the lactation nurse/midwife. That was my fault, I wasn’t one used to getting help. Dear first time mamas, please ask and receive the help they offer while you’re still in the care of the midwifes.
My stay at the Ullevål hospital hotel
Unfortunately for me, I was not vibing with the midwifes on duty. Which was a complete disappointment, as my delivery and midwives were wonderful. You can read my birth story! The ones on duty in the day at the hospital hotel were apparently not experienced as mothers, and although they tried their best. Nothing was working. The midwife on duty at night, clearly with a lot of experience. However, she honestly had a strange smell(?) and she was a bit aggressive with the way she handled me and my baby. Plus, my Norwegian is not fluent, and the words they used to explain breastfeeding was the first time I ever heard them, so I was struggling to understand. I should have asked them to speak english. Since I’ve never been a person to ask for help, I decided that I would figure it out when I got home.
I’ll quickly mention my 3 nights stay at the “barselhotell” or the hospital hotel here in Oslo, Norway. I absolutely hated it. I found it dirty and unhygenic; it was hard to accept that this is the conditions for newborn babies. I remember asking for extra sheets so I could cover the sofa with it. The sofa and the single sofa chair hadn’t obviously been cleaned or steamed in a long while. The food was absolutely horrendous. I could not believe that this is what they are feeding new mothers who’s milk needs to come in! The food was all pre-cooked frozen meals. You know the kind that you would never spend a cent on! Or want to consume. The only thing decent enough to eat was the overcooked sluggy oatmeal at breakfast.
I was fortunate enough to have my mother bring food that she had spent days cooking and preparing for me, like oxbone soup, seasweed soup and other foods that supposedly helps milk production and heal the uterus. My mother’s presence during was comforting and gave me the confidence to get through the first days.
My breasts were engorged, I felt the milk come in while we were at the hospital. Honestly I can’t remember how long my breasts stayed engorged, whether it was 2 weeks or even longer. I really was having the worst breastfeeding experience.
No one ever told me
Why isn’t it ever talked about, how painful breastfeeding is? I honestly believed that breastfeeding was as simple as “mouth to tit”. I struggled to breastfeed our daughter for the first 3 weeks. The first week was absolutely the worst. My nipples were cracked, bleeding, and unbelievably sore. Every latch, and every second of the feedings was on a pain scale of 9.9 out of 10. After each feeding, I would be relieved it’s over, but also in fear of the next feeding to come. We tried everything, I say we because my partner was there for me in every way he could be.
We tried everything to get the positioning right for breastfeeding. The breastfeeding pillow I got, the ergobaby, was not working for me at that time. I’ve been using it everyday now though, since the pain went away. It’s also perfect for when I’m blogging and breastfeeding at the same time. We tried every single pillow we had, mixing up the combinations of pillows as well. Sometime during week 2, I found using the pillow I actually use for my head and one of the harder sofa pillows was sufficient.
By week 2, it was still so painful! I did have a few breaking moments. At one point, we got her formula. I fought it, but Le’Von insisted. He soothed me and told me I was doing my best and how proud he was of me. As he warmed up the store bought formula, my heart broke. I pleaded crying, “Please let me breastfeed her. I’ll do better.” Like I wasn’t trying enough? I felt like I wasn’t a good enough mother, if it wasn’t for Le’Von’s consistant reassurance that I’m an amazing mother and I’m doing my best, I would have broken down. As for the formula, we gave her formula in a total of 2 or 3 times. And I’m okay with that.
During all this time, we were still going out, it’s summer after all! And if you happen to live on this side of the northern hemisphere. Then you too know what it’s like. Long winters, practically dark days more than half the year. Cold springs as well, with short summers. Everyone is out every single sunny day in the summer, trying to soak up as much of the summer rays that they can.
Oddly during the outings, that was the only time I felt like myself, or as much as I could feel! Still the fear that Aiyana Honey would need to be fed, as I was not relieved of the pain yet nor was I comfortable to publically feed her. But during the last days of week 2, I managed to feed her outside. Still painful but bearable without tears building up in my eyes! As long as we could avoid her cluster feedings during that time, we were good. As she loved to sleep in her baby k’tan.
How did I get through the first painful weeks of breastfeeding?
I just pushed through the pain. No matter how much nipple cream I applied, warm and cold towels, and breast massages I got from my partner. Nothing honestly really helped, other than that every time I looked down and saw my precious and vulnerable baby. I truely felt the mother’s strength at that time. It was purely survival instincts and love for her, I need to feed my baby and keep her alive and growing.
Thank God for Google. Is what I felt. I had to watch videos online to understand how to get a latch. Even though I read and watched about breastfeeding and all the how to’s. It really wasn’t working, and I didn’t understand why. For some reason Aiyana Honey had a hard time latching on.
After the first week, I knew I had to come up with a plan. Let’s assess what we know. I knew that my left breast was impossible to feed from, for some reason she could not latch on properly with the left. So I decided to just feed her from the right. I handexpressed milk from the left during that weekend. We did have breast pumps, but the size it came with did not fit my nipples at that time. So I handexpressed until Monday, when we bought the correct size. For a short while this is how I breastfed, she fed from my right, and the milk gathered from pumping was what Le’Von used to feed her at night.
By week 3, the pain was much less. I felt much more confident, but every feeding was still awkward. I needed the pillow positioning to be just right, and I still could only feed her in the football position or lying down at night. I also had to “assist” Aiyana Honey’s every latch so that her lips and jaw looked like it did in the videos!
Then one magical day, everything got better. I have no idea how or why, but the pain went away. I think Aiyana Honey had to learn how to latch and suck, and I had to learn the different ways to assist her. By week 4 we were good to go! I learned that I could breastfeed her in all the other positions! My boobs stopped gorging, but still plentiful milk for each feeding. I even found a way to breastfeed her wearing the k’tan, so I could do some simple chores, with one hand though.
So yes, just know that the pain goes away, the nipples will heal, and you will breastfeed with grace and ease.
You’re in it together
Remember those routines I mentioned at the start of this post? Well all the breastfeeding and her cluster feedings honestly prevented me to keep up with my daily routines. On some days I managed and other days I didn’t. And that was okay. I can’t remember who it was, though I think it was Le’Von’s mother, who told me that I need to do what’s best for me, Le’Von, and the baby.
If you get anything out of this, that’s the one thing I hope leaves with you new mamas. Do what’s best for you, and your baby. And if you’re blessed to have your partner with you during the first 2 weeks, then him as well. You’re a team and you’re in it together! Let him help you so you can help your baby.
All the rest…
The bleeding and the pain down there was manageable. I’ve heard about other American mothers in the US being prescribed medication to deal with the pain. However here in Norway, it seems like they treat everything with paracet or ibux, nothing prescription. Unless you’re in critical pain from a wound or something. I didn’t need any medications though. I mean I lasted 3 days of contractions before I got an epidural, so the after birth contractions (when you’re uterus retracts) and the pain at home felt like discomfort rather than pain.
I stopped bleeding after 3.5 weeks. The first week was heavier, which I wore those underwear diapers, the ones you can take from the hospital, then the rest of the 2 weeks I just used pantyliners. I didn’t use any products that I’ve been reading or hearing about other women use? Like witch hazel pads, peri bottles, etc. I showered daily, and kept it clean down there. I didn’t tear my perineum, though I had a stich or two on my labia (my midwife never told me how many and I refrained from looking too close lol). So the discomfort I got was when I’d be sitting down, from the pressure of the pads/pantyliners onto the stitches. Loose underwear was crucial during this time. I think it took 2 weeks for the discomfort to go away. I also was SO OVER wearing pantyliners. Once I could stop wearing those which I think about 2.5-3 weeks after, I felt much better. Almost like myself.
The last couple weeks
My confidence was up! My baby and I were getting the hang of things. I felt good to take her out alone. Sure the first few times was so scary. But what I learned from the entire process was that I just have to try. If she’s crying, just try one thing and move to the next. She will stop crying. If the breastfeeding position isn’t working, try another. Sleepy at night? Try breastfeeding lying down. And when I tried this, it worked! Oddly that was the position that hurt the least! Whatever the challenge, just try. There’s been several moments were I tried something, it worked, and I felt proud!
I will briefly mention Aiyana’s gas problems during this time. As soon as I felt confident and the breastfeeding was going amazing, and the cluster feedings were over with. She started really struggling with her gas, and she got a break out on her face. Le’Von didn’t recognize this as well, so we felt it was best to take her to the doctors. The first time I took her, they gave us droplets called minifom. I tried for a week and it honestly didn’t do anything. They said the rash on the face was normal from hormones. I ended up taking her once more, and this time the doctor actually checked her out and cleared her. He explained that she’s a newborn baby, her digiestive sysem is brand new, and she simply has to learn. I felt so much at ease after, and I got better at burping her, and each day she seemed to progress in passing gas.
I have them to thank
Like I mentioned, my partner! I’m so grateful for the 2 weeks leave fathers get. He took care of us! For 2 weeks, he cooked every single meal, cleaned, massaged my breasts, ran all the other errands. He also took care of Aiyana at night so that I could get a longer stretch of sleep. Luckily by the time Le’Von had to return to work, I got used to the lack of sleep, and I could manage just fine at night alone.
Also, I was determined, I was going to be able to manage everything alone! I didn’t put a time pressure on myself, but I was hoping by the time Le’Von returned to work. I didn’t want Le’Von to have to help too much at home. As he has work, is the head coach for an American football league, and 2 lovely sons that he needs to spend time with as well. Yes, Aiyana Honey is fortunate enough to have 2 big brothers! And they love her so much! I’m so happy for my daughter that she’s going to have 2 big brothers to always look out for her and spoil her probably! We are really blessed.
I also must mention that the boys, Kian and Dario, were so helpful during this time. Actually, they are helpful in general. Kian loves having tasks, and Dario is Aiyana’s bodyguard haha. Kian will make sure that their chores are done and will always offer to help with anything! His favorite new thing to do is to push the stroller. And Dario will keep anyone in check, especially if they are being too loud. He’s also the one who’s always watching the baby monitor, even if his favorite cartoon is on. I see him watching the baby monitor, and he will let me know right away if she’s stirring! They are so sweet, and it’s going to be nice to see them grow as their new roles as big brothers. Or for Kian now a big big brother!
The mental and emotional side of it all
It was an emotional time. The first few weeks especially, with all the hormones running through my body. I did cry a few times, when the breastfeeding got too hard, and when I took something too personal. I didn’t feel sad during this time, but I did feel anxiety. Oh yes I did! Other than Le’Von, I didn’t want anyone around us. I didn’t want anyone touching her stuff either. This was difficult for me when the boys were with us. The boys were with us when Aiyana Honey was born. But they left for their summer holiday with their mom the day after. So the 2 weeks we were home with Aiyana, the boys were away. Then the week that they returned, it was the most emotional time for me I felt.
Breastfeeding was hard enough, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to breastfeed in front of them either. Is it normal? Is it okay? Is it weird? I had no idea. I’m now 8 weeks post partum. Actually Aiyana Honey turned 8 weeks TODAY as I’m writing this. We are doing amazing, routines in place, I can get anything done for the day! I don’t breastfeed directly in front of the boys yet. I still go to the bedroom. I do breastfeed in public though as I have to. Just last weekend we were all over at a friends’ and barbequing with their kids as well. I breastfed in front of them all, it felt weirder to ask to go somewhere private. Also I had to breastfeed on the walk and onto the bus. It was either that or having Aiyana Honey bug out on public transportation. And you know what, no one cared. A man immediately offered his seat, and I breastfed on the bus! Haha. Now I’m sure I would have felt weird if I was alone, Le’Von’s presence is what gave me confidence to do so. But at least now I know I can breastfeed her anywhere.
Back to the anxiety I felt.. I can’t explain it, but it was just an overwhelming feeling of I didn’t want anyone touching her stuff, or breathing around her haha. She hasn’t gotten her vaccines yet, so that was also bothering me in back of my mind. I felt a little snappy as well. But just as the breastfeeding pain went away, the anxiety one day left as well. And has not made a come back. Thank God! I know my family is relieved as well. No more tiptoeing around Jessica. haha.
I wasn’t able the first month to do my special time of morning prayers/affirmation to set my intentions for the day. I really wish I was better at it though, because once I could reapply that to my mornings, I felt so much better! The rest of my days were more manageable!
Thanks for reading
I hope my story has helped someone! Or that you’re not alone in this! I really want other new mamas to know that it’s all part of the journey. The pain, anxiety, sadness, or whatever you’re feeling is just temporary. YOU CAN DO IT and YOU WILL.
I’m writing a fourth trimester guideline/tips + affirmations, including the items that really helped. I’ll link that on here once I post it. I’d love to hear back from your experience. What was the hardest part during the fourth trimester, and how did you push through it?