My Body Isn’t My Own

There are quite a few things that I’ve found difficult with the almost-22-month spacing between my two girls, but one of the hardest things has been the physical toll on my body.

In October 2013 I got pregnant with Clara.

During pregnancy I was nauseous and tired and then huge… you know the drill.

I gave birth in July. The labor and delivery was hard and it ended in a c-section.

My c-section recovery was pretty rough, and I had a hard time moving around the house for quite a few weeks.

I had an oversupply of breastmilk, and while that sounds like a blessing, it was quite uncomfortable at first, until my body regulated itself to only make what Clara needed. I felt like everything in the house was drenched in breastmilk (so awesome, right?) and since it was summer in Chicago and we didn’t have air conditioning, I was hot and exhausted and sweaty and leaking and bleeding (from the labor and delivery) and generally I was just a huge mess. Plus I couldn’t get out of bed by myself without pain.

Those weren’t my best weeks.

Motherhood

I started going to physical therapy to attempt to ‘fix’ my abdominal muscles which split apart (yay diastasis recti!) during my pregnancy. I loved going to physical therapy, but it took so much time that I didn’t have any free time or energy to pursue other exercises. However, I finally felt like I was starting to get my body back into pre-baby condition after a few months.

I breastfed Clara on-demand for an entire year (until July 2015). Thankfully, I was able to pump after a few weeks (I waited for a while until my supply went down so that I wouldn’t continue to produce too much milk.) so I wasn’t physically attached to Clara for that entire time, but breastfeeding made me freakin’ exhausted and constantly hungry.

After a year of breastfeeding, I decided to wean Clara so that I could wear non-breastfeeding-friendly shirts and to stop her from pulling up/down my clothes at the playground or in front of friends to take a quick swig of milk and carry on her way. That type of breastfeeding is less than ideal in my world, so I made the decision to stop. Plus, I was getting a bit concerned that I couldn’t keep on weight, as I was getting skinnier and skinnier as Clara required more and more breastmilk.

I got pregnant with Isabelle the same month I weaned Clara, in July of 2015 (but we didn’t find out until September).

Motherhood

I had a very similar pregnancy the second time around. In the first trimester I was nauseous and exhausted and then we moved across the country so I was really nauseous and exhausted… it wasn’t my finest hour(s), that’s for sure. I felt like I couldn’t do anything productive at all and was disappointed in my lack of energy. I was especially disappointed that I couldn’t keep up with Clara in the ways I wish I could have, but that’s a different post for a different time.

I still breastfed Clara in the morning and at night until she was 18 months old. So for 6 months I was pregnant and breastfeeding. (Sidenote: it turns out that nipples get really sore when breastfeeding a toddler while pregnant.) My exhaustion just kept increasing, and I didn’t start feeling better until almost the third trimester of pregnancy, which of course is when everything started going downhill again with the ‘normal’ pregnancy discomforts.

I went 12 days ‘overdue’ with Isabelle, which only surprised me a bit, since I had gone 10 days ‘overdue’ with Clara. The labor was a grueling 36 hours and it ended with another c-section.

Now I’m 13 days postpartum from this second pregnancy and my body is worn down. Once again, I seem to be having an oversupply / fast letdown issue with my breastmilk and Isabelle is gulping down a ton and then spitting it all back up. I’m sure she’s eating enough, but I feel like I’m feeding her around the clock and just producing more and more, which becomes painful after a few hours while she’s sleeping and not eating.

Sore nipples and engorged breasts… it’s all sexiness over here.

The physical challenges of having kids 22 months apart

And as if normal postpartum discomforts weren’t enough, last week I had a spinal headache and couldn’t move for days (yay side effect from the epidurals!) and I’m still feeling some incision pain, although this recovery seems to be much easier than my first c-section recovery.

Thankfully, I make sleepy newborns, so Isabelle has been able to sleep 5 hours at a time (I don’t wake a sleeping baby) and I’ve been able to sleep at night – but still, I’ve been getting tired and worn out lately. 

Now I have a toddler and a newborn, and am breastfeeding on demand, and am recovering from a rough labor and an even tougher c-section delivery. I don’t have the ‘luxury’ of being able to lay around all day because our household has a lot of activity, but I’m not very good at relaxing anyway, so that’s really okay by me. However, my body is exhausted and I don’t see it improving any time soon.

The physical challenges of having kids 22 months apart

I anticipate another 1-2 years of breastfeeding ahead of me, and I’m actually not sure how I’m going to physically be able to handle wrangling a toddler and a newborn by myself – once Tim goes back to work. And we aren’t sure that we’re done having kids, so there could be more pregnancies in my future, too.

My body hasn’t been my own since October 2013, and it won’t be my own for a while longer. I’ve been responsible for supporting other lives for almost 3 years and counting.

Mentally, I feel like I’m in a really good spot (aside from the anxiety about being a SAHM with two little girls) but physically, I’m feeling like a disaster. Once I get the go-ahead from my OB, I’ll start exercising and going to physical therapy to start regaining my strength, but even with a lot of hard work, I’m not sure my body will ever be able to recover to what it once was, pre-kids. And maybe that’s okay.

My goals for the immediate future are to recover from this c-section with as much rest as possible, eat well, sleep well, and survive this transition into being a mom of two.

I won’t say that the physical discomforts aren’t completely and totally worth it, because of course I would do it all over again – and I continue to choose to breastfeed even though it drains me (no pun intended). However, I can’t wait to truly get my body back one day. I look at moms who are done having kids and I think about how nice it must be to be completely done being pregnant, sleep-training, and breastfeeding… but then I look at my newborn and have a crazy urge to have more babies so that these snuggly newborn phases never end, so clearly I’m still a bit hormonal.

I’m constantly reminding myself that this season of life is just that – a season. And this particular season is an uncomfortable, unsexy, and physically exhausting one. I’m forced to be more self-sacrificing than I would like to be sometimes, but I also consider my abilities to get pregnant, grow babies, and then breastfeed for months to be great (albeit uncomfortable) blessings.

One day I’ll have my body (and maybe even a flat stomach) back, one day. Until then you can find me snuggling my two (2 week old & 22 month old) babies as much as I can and trying to find beauty and some rest in this season that we’re in.

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14 Responses to My Body Isn’t My Own

  1. Kristen DeSantis says:

    Just a bit of encouragement from a fellow in-the-trenches mom: my little ones (now three and one year old) are also 22 months apart, and you WILL start to feel like yourself again, albeit a changed (bettered!) version. It is exhausting, no doubt, and the nursing and night wakings don’t make it any easier (my 16 month old is still waking up 2+ times a night to nurse…), but day by day, week by week, one dirty diaper after another, you’ll find yourself again, and will be oh so proud of all you’ve accomplished.

    • Lisa says:

      I SOOOO needed to read this comment. And keep reading it – haha! What a great reminder that this is a season and I will get back to my ‘old’ (but improved!) self again, eventually! I’m sure having a 3 and 1 year old is less physically exhausting in some ways, but still soooo tiring because they can both move quickly! I can’t say I’m necessarily excited for that phase to start – I’m tired just thinking about trying to chase after 2 toddlers! Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Man oh man this resonated with me so much today! I’ve been thinking a lot about the truth that my body really isn’t my own… And I’m just in the beginning of this season! There are some moments of the day while breastfeeding or when I know I’m about to breastfeed that I kind of feel exhausted by the idea I’ll be doing this for so long going forward. It’s easy to long for the days she won’t need me in that way. So thanks for not making me feel bad about that! There are many more times I love that she needs me and that my body is capable of sustaining another life, so it’s definitely a roller coaster of emotions basically every day lol, but it’s easy to feel mom guilt over some of those thoughts! Loved this honest glimpse into motherhood. Thanks for being vulnerable!

    • Lisa says:

      I so feel you!! I was carrying Isabelle in a sling yesterday and my back was sore and then I had to take her out to breastfeed her and my boobs were sore and I was just thinking how TIRING being a mom is! I don’t think there’s any way to truly explain to anyone how physical being a mom is! It’s so crazy but it really is a season – and it is beautiful that our body can do great (and hard!) things.

  3. You’re amazing!! You’ve got this!! I keep thinking how I basically had my body back after Bensen was two months old because I stopped. I want this time with the new baby to be different, but I’m nervous because I know that I’m not accustomed to what that all entails, since I kind of had it easy with Bensen.

    • Lisa says:

      You didn’t have it easy with Bensen, because newborns just aren’t easy EVER! I mean even ‘easy’ newborns aren’t easy – because mothering is physically hard whether you breastfeed or not. I hope things are different for you this time, though!

  4. Whew, you are so amazing, Lisa. I was so moved by this post.

  5. You are a warrior, momma. Thank you for being real!

  6. erinhzauner says:

    I have felt this way a LOT as well since fall of 2013, but not to the extent of what you have been through, so thank you for writing this and putting my feelings to words. I did have a brief break about 4 months long from the nursing (my boobs and Amelia respectively gave up on me at 11 months with pumping and 12 months TO THE DAY with nursing). but dude, even 4 months was the break that I needed. I got pregnant in December last year, but lost that pregnancy very early as you know, and then I got pregnant in January with this current babe I’m carrying. I’m anticipating (and REALLY REALLY hoping) that I will have a year of nursing from October 2016-October 2017, and when you think about how many years of your life and body you give to your kids, it makes you feel a little insane. so proud of you for your determination and dedication to your babies and their well-being.

    • erinhzauner says:

      also, let me say, as someone who would give a limb for an overabundance of milk, I totally get that it’s not always greener on the other side. there have to be pros and cons to having ALL THE MILK, so I totally get where you’re coming from.

      • Lisa says:

        Oh I’m thankful for the milk, but that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable! It’s regulating a bit now though, thank goodness! I think nursing for a whole year (or anywhere close to that) is AMAZING. I’m already looking forward to the break I plan to take after this round of breastfeeding… although who knows when that will be, since I might still be breastfeeding Clara if my milk supply hadn’t dried up! (Although, watching Clara now, I just can’t imagine breastfeeding a 2 year old!)

  7. Lisa says:

    GOSH I just can’t imagine having that many kids that close together! That is such a loooong time to be pregnant/breastfeeding/bouncing fussy babies…. Your mom must either be superwoman or still very, very tired 😉 Thanks for the encouragement!!!! <3

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