Oct 18, 2010  •  In Baby, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal, Relationships, Touching

Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 4)

Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 1)
Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 2)
Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 3)

My mother arrived that fateful day with one mission: to take care of her own baby — me. Sure, she wanted to see Claire, hold her and coo over her, but her sole purpose was to look after me and to make sure that I was well on the road to recovery.

Ten days port-partum, I was still: 

  • Majorly swollen from water retention. In the past, being hooked up to an IV for just three hours had left me swollen for days, so you can imagine what 12 hours of IV and 5 hours of pitocin — another med that is notorious for causing water retention — did to me. The day after giving birth, my sister looked horrified as she pointed out that I had “Shrek feet,” and I had trouble bending and flexing every joint for a full week after birth.
  • Bleeding. They say that most women will experience post-partum bleeding for 7-10 days after birth, but I am still bleeding as I write this…a full 17 days after giving birth.
  • Experiencing pain in my cooch. I had gotten one short but deep second-degree tear from delivering vaginally, and needless to say it hurt whenever I sat down or got up. (The funny thing is, I have never gotten stitches before so I found the prospect of getting stitched up for the first time in my life on my hooha pretty amusing.)
  • Feeling like a failure for all the trouble I was having breastfeeding.
  • Suffering from the effects of crazy fluctuating hormones. I was crying every day, and every little thing seemed to set me off. Luckily, I have gotten MUCH better since then, and I’m pretty sure that I am not suffering from post-partum depression.

As soon as my mother arrived she ordered me to bed. She probably spent a total of 2 minutes with the baby before she began putting away the food that she had brought for me. She began cooking a monstrous pot of 미역국 (miyukgook, or Korean seaweed soup which is supposed to be very nutritious and helpful for post-partum recovery and increasing milk supply). She did the dishes and steam-mopped the floors. She folded the laundry, and as soon as the 미역국 was ready she brought me a big bowl to eat in bed.

My mother massaged my swollen calves, feet and ankles. She helped prepare warm compresses for my breasts and tsked tsked over the state of my blistered and bleeding nipples. She brought me the baby to hold and embrace.

I started to cry once more, because as much as I know that my in-laws care for me, I knew that when it came down to it their primary concern was for the baby. My MIL had been preparing dishes for us to eat and J had been a tremendous help, but I had been taking second place to the baby all this time. My own mother was putting me first and it was so clearly obvious that I couldn’t help but break down.

My mother and me when I was about a month old

When I described to her the troubles I had been having breastfeeding/pumping in-between tears, she asked me why I needed to pump every two hours.

“Because that’s what all the books and websites say.”

“But every woman is different,” she challenged. “You need to give your nipples some time to rest and heal. Right now, the frequency and intensity at which you’re pumping keeps re-opening your blisters and creates new ones.”

“But all the sources say that the more frequently I empty my breasts, the faster my body will build up my milk supply.”

“Listen to me. Pumping every two hours is not only ruining your nipples, but it’s putting tremendous stress and pressure on you. Doesn’t stress affect milk supply too?”

She then went on to tell me how worried she is for me, especially in light of my previous stress-induced health problems (I had suffered a minor stroke two summers ago from the stress of my wedding and my new life as a newlywed). She told me the story of my father’s friend — how his wife was just like me: forever wanting to take care of everything herself, always putting additional pressure on herself, never asking others for help and always putting on a happy face in front of others. How she had suffered a massive stroke at the age of 41. How the entire right side of her body has been paralyzed as a result. How her two young children has had to grow up with a mother who is confined to a hospital bed.

“Don’t you think that a messy kitchen is preferable to leaving your child and husband to fend for themselves?” my mother emphasized.

I only cried harder.

When I began to feel sleepy, she quietly left the room and reappeared a few hours later with another bowl of 미역국. It was time for her to leave, she told me. She reminded me that I cannot take care of a baby unless I take care of myself first. She kissed me goodbye, and left.

To be continued…

Read the conclusion:

Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 5)

26 Responses to “Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 4)”

  1. KH:

    OK — I love your mom and I love the direction the story is going now.

  2. wow, there is really nothing like a mother's love for their child.

  3. Your mom is awesome, honestly I can never say it enough, without my mom I don't know how I would have been postpartum. She is a lot like your was, she took care of me. Because she told me, how could you take care of a baby if you cannot take care of yourself. Everyone woman "IS" different and I am glad she was able to tell you that I cannot wait to see how this story turns out.

  4. allmadhere:

    I am so happy to read that you have someone looking out for you first and foremost :) Being able to turn to someone for unconditional support and not have to (or feel like you have to) put on a strong face all the time is such a blessing!

  5. MrsW:

    Wow, go Jenny's mom!! I'm so glad she told you to chill out about the pumping especially — I don't know how many "That's how I stopped breastfeeding stories" that involved crazy pumping schedules that burned the mom out. I hope you're doing better now and I can't wait to hear how things turned out. So happy for you that you have such an amazing mom.

  6. stephanie:

    Your mom is great! Seeing my mom definitely made things start looking up for me, too! Hooray for mamas! (Hey, you're in that club now, too!)

  7. Chang-Ying:

    oh boy did I cry when I started reading this. you have a great mom!

  8. There is nothing like a mother's love. No matter what, you are, indeed, *her* baby. You are so fortunate to have her love and support, and it sounds like she's pretty wise to the ways of motherhood and gave (giving) you very good advice. She knows you like no one else. Love the way she's looking at you in the photo, as if to say, That's my baby, look at her! She is a wonderful woman…

  9. Vir:

    Jenny, hang in there; I hope it's getting better. For me the bleeding took about 2 months and I think the avg. Is 6 weeks… So don't feel like you're abnormal in that area. I also tore to the 2nd degree in a couple spots… Colace and hemorrhoid pads help a ton!! Glad to hear your mom took care of you. :) trust your instincts and do what feels right for you and for Claire. It will get better!

  10. MP:

    Just wanted to throw in and agree with Vir that 6 weeks is average for bleeding (and I bled for 2 months too).

    Isn't it amazing how having a baby makes you appreciate your own mom SO MUCH!

  11. AH:

    Reading your posts is like reliving everything I experienced when my daughter was born a year ago. I had a crazy pumping schedule because I was so afraid of losing my milk supply. I only pumped 2oz every 3 hours and that was hardly enough for her to eat. I also supplemented with formula and felt guilty because every around me kept telling me not to. Well what was I supposed to do? Let her starve? Everything gets better around 6 weeks so hang in there. I'm still breast-feeding now and glad I stuck with it. I wanted to quit so bad in the beginning. I also suffered a minor stroke 2 years ago like you so I know how hard it is to try not to stress!

  12. As Mrs. Perfume said, you will always be your mother's baby. She sounds wonderful and I'm glad she is there to put YOU first. Things will get better!

  13. Nadine:

    I so cried when I read this. I'm so glad your mother was there to take care of YOU. I wish I had read part 2 and commented before you put up part 3. Hang in there. And I hope you listened to your mom's advice.

  14. Erin:

    Sounds like you have an amazing Momma. Aren't they the best? PS post partum bleeding of a month or two is totally normal. Annoying. But normal!

  15. Jane:

    Your mom is definitely right. I had a baby almost 4 months ago, and in order to increase my milk supply, I was pumping every 2 hours as well, and this was after feeding her, which usually took at least an hour 'cause she kept falling asleep. I felt like I had NO time in between feedings/pumpings for myself and literally felt like a feeding machine. I stretched the pumping sessions to every 3 hours and found that not only did it offer me time in between feedings for myself, but it also gave my body more time to produce more milk, which left the baby more satisfied (I think I was pumping into what would have been the next feeding, which was leaving her hungry for more). I also supplemented with formula as necessary. Your milk supply will increase as Claire grows and needs or "demands" more. I contemplated taking supplements to increase my supply (i.e. mother's milk, more milk plus, etc); however, just because they're organic, doesn't mean that they can be guaranteed as safe. I found that water, oxtail soup/sulrong tang, (even pig's feet soup) really helped with my milk production. I know how stressful it is to want to provide your baby with what's considered the "best" source of nutrition, but formula is great and nutritious too, and so if you have to supplement for a while, then you figure she'll be getting the best of both. (And you know, one thing that I came to realize was that I can only do as much as I'm able, and the rest, I just have to commit in prayer 'cause ultimately, it's God who made her and will continue to grow and bless her). In the meantime, take pride in knowing that you're doing the best that you can for your daughter and try to enjoy her as much as possible. Sometimes, amidst the stress and tiredness that come with a new baby, we have to be really intentional to just look at our babies and allow ourselves to feel what we do, whether it's delight or dismay that that "connection" hasn't already been established. It takes time, but it'll come when it does. Remember, there's no set timeline for these things. =)

  16. Stephanie:

    YAY for Mom!!!! For your mom, and for YOU. Hang in there honey – what you are feeling is totally normal! My girlfriend said she wanted to write a book about how her daughter was born, place on her tummy, and she thought, "Hm.. I *like* her. I'm excited that she is here! I would do anything I could to keep her safe. But I don't *love* her yet – I don't even know her!!!" I think that happens more than most moms will admit. As your body calms down and your hormones calm down and you start to recover, those feelings will come. In the meantime, don't kill yourself for the breast milk! I think your mom is right – try every 3 hours or every 4. Then you have more time to MAKE more milk! And more "me" time to nurture yourself, which in turn will nurture your daughter. Good luck, we are praying for you!!

  17. Austyn:

    I love your mom, and I'm loving your story.

  18. jasmin:

    Hang in there. Your mom is awesome and right. Take care of yourself. My son was a lazy nurser. It took a about 2 weeks till we got the hang of it. I noticed when I started pumping to save for future use, that stress reduced my supply. I even noticed if I wasn't comfortable I wouldn't get a let down early. Take care!

  19. Liz:

    Beautiful post, Jenny. You brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing and you are so lucky to have such a wonderful mom :)

  20. Donna:

    Like you, I had my own struggles but the best part was having my mom and her sister come into town and take care of me. I swore that when the time comes for my little sisters to have their own kids, I would take the time off of work and be there for them to take care of them. Becoming a mother…also made me realize my own mother's love for her children. Suddenly, life has a new veil and meaning.

  21. mindy:

    I once heard… God couldn't be physically be there for everyone… so he sent us mothers instead.
    Who in the real world could love us more than our mothers could?
    My mom says.. I wouldn't be able to understand I'm a mom myself…! :)
    Prayers for your quick recovery unni!

  22. sandy:

    Nothing is quite like the special care only a mom can provide…i'm so glad your mom was able to be there to care for you physically and emotionally. I really cannot wait to hear more of your story…

    Also, that picture of your baby's first bath is ADORABLE!

  23. I have only just read your Mothering Journey posts, and this one particularly brought a tear to my eye. Your mother is a beautiful and caring soul, and she is right, you need to look after yourself so that you can be the best mother you can be.

    This post is 5 days old now, so I do hope that things have improved for you. Take care. xx

    PS. My lochia lasted for 3 weeks of heavy bleeding, followed by 1 week of 'normal' menstral like bleeding, and then a further week of light brownish bleeding. Every woman is different (obviously) but I always thought 3-6 weeks for lochia was common, my cousin even bled lightly from week 2 and finishing in week 7 postpartum. So unless it seems like something to be worried about (eg. different smell, clots, increased volume), don't be too worried that you are still bleeding.

  24. Meghan:

    you have a great mom.

  25. Alycia:

    Your mom is a ROCK STAR [and very correct too]. I am so happy you had someone coo over you for a while. I can only imagine the stress of being a new parent and though as hard as it may seem you need to breathe. Step back and relax.

    I hope everything is going well and you are taking some you time. It's very, very important :o)

  26. Reading this post brought tears to my eyes. It’s so very touching how your 엄마 took care of you.

    I’m a new reader of your blog, and enjoying it so much!

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