Tag Archives: postpartum

Maternity Leave (or training for my new job)

It was never a question of if I would return to work after having a baby – it was a fact. Like many working mothers before me, I would return to work. I would take the U.S. standard of 12 weeks postpartum before jumping back into my day job and resuming the new normal of life as a family of three (well, four if you count the dog). Before going out on leave, 12 weeks sounded like forever. Looking back, it went by in the blink of an eye (and it’s not nearly enough time… but that’s something I can tackle in another post).

Maternity leave was tough – after 10 months fraught with physical changes, crazy hormones, emotional challenges and more – she was finally here. And it’s different for everyone, but I had kind of a rough time postpartum. Between our breastfeeding challenges, PUPPP, and taking care of a newborn, I felt a little bit crazy. Add to all of those things normal, every day necessities like eating a meal, taking a shower, or finding time to pay bills and I felt mentally maxed out. It was easy to think, “Nursing will get better once she can hold her head up,” or “When I’m not itching myself until I bleed I will enjoy the weather more,” but I promised myself I wouldn’t wish it all away because all those people who’ve said, “It goes by fast,” when they talk about their children growing up are right. Time moves differently when you’re a parent, quicker than you can ever imagine and in a way you don’t understand until you actually are a parent.

Going from having a pretty normal everyday routine – work, gym, family time – to having a completely open and unpredictable schedule was jarring. There were times when I literally did not know if it was day or night. Some days I stayed in bed with the baby nursing for what seemed like the entire day, only to climb in to “sleep” at night which was more like a series of catnaps with hour-long nursing sessions in between. It was a total haze but looking back, it was the routine things that helped anchor me when I was feeling really turned around. Brushing my teeth twice a day reminded me that there was a morning and night, eating regular meals reminded me that yes, my body needed nutrition and paying bills reminded me what day of the month it was.

I think It was the latter that stressed me out the most – my leave was comprised of short-term disability, paid time off, and unpaid leave – meaning that my usual income took a decent hit over those three months. I planned as much as I could, and had plenty to bridge the gap between paychecks, but I constantly worried, “What if?” Looking back, I wish I would have started to plan even sooner. So soon-to-be mamas take heed and plan as much as you can! Here’s a link to some good tips about preparing financially for maternity leave.

But by far the biggest challenge about maternity leave was its inevitable end – I felt like the minute our daughter was born, the countdown to my return was on. Throughout my leave I vacillated back and forth between wanting to spend every waking minute of every single day with our daughter and really missing, and craving, the challenge that comes with pursuing a career and getting some mileage out of my degrees. There were days when I said to my husband, “I could never stay home full-time. That’s just not me.” There were other days when I simply couldn’t imagine dropping her off at daycare and returning to work, days I thought I would chain myself to the bassinet and refuse to budge.

It feels like as soon as leave began, it was over. My first day back at work came and went and I’ve been back for about two months that have completely flown by. I jumped right back in and picked up projects, started new ones, and caught up on what I’d missed. I’m still adjusting, for sure, but now I look forward to my days at work. On top of giving me an outlet to channel my professional energy, being back at work also allows me to eat at least one meal a day with both hands, put on grown-up clothes on a regular basis, and shower much more frequently. And let’s be honest here – at this point, those are all pretty major accomplishments.

I dutifully go to work now with new goals on top of my general career aspirations. Working means I can provide my daughter with the best and most amazing opportunities that i can. Whether it’s swim lessons or music class or traveling or saving for college – she’s my new motivation to work hard every single day.

Every minute I’m not working is devoted to our family – fun-filled weekends and evenings, special snuggle time in the mornings before the day gets going. We laugh, walk, play, go for walks and more. Of course we miss each other a lot during the day, but it makes the time we do spend together that much more precious. Quality over quantity never rang more true. In a way, maternity leave was never something with a set end – it was really just training for my new full-time gig: being a mom.

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What the… PUPPP?

Well, it’s been a little while since I posted. And there’s a reason (other than having a newborn). It’s called PUPPP – an acronym I have grown to loathe in epic proportions over the last few weeks – that stands for pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy. Or, hell on earth.

It all started with a little itch on my belly about a week postpartum. Just a little itch. Within minutes I was scratching my belly so hard that the stretch marks that had popped up during pregnancy turned into raised and angry looking welts. I figured it was kind of weird, but I chalked it up to the fact that my skin had gone through a lot of changes. Then my breasts got itchy (not fun when you’re breastfeeding), my legs, and my arms. I broke out into a rash that looked like mutant chicken pox and if that wasn’t enough, it itched to a maddening level. The only thing that made it feel better, temporarily, was itching. The itching, in turn, made it all worse because then it itched MORE. The most vicious of vicious cycles… I quite literally could. not. stop.

My mind started racing (cue freak out). What could it be? Chicken pox? Shingles? Poison ivy? Poison something else? By the time I was able to see my dermatologist, I was covered in this rash. He asked a few questions, took a peek at the damage, and broke the news: it was PUPPP, a condition that most commonly shows up in women while they are still pregnant and it generally resolves at birth. Well… since I was no longer pregnant, I could not count on it going away at any particular point.

Just a glimpse of the gorgeous PUPPP on my legs!

Just a glimpse of the gorgeous PUPPP on my legs!

As if trying to take care of a newborn, dealing with all of the fun postpartum stuff that happens to your body physically and emotionally, trying to manage the itching was ridiculous. I had a steroid ointment from the dermatologist that I wasn’t crazy about using while breastfeeding, so I used it very sparingly and only when things were so bad that I was driven to tears of frustration, discomfort, and pain. I spent a fortune on lotions and potions and became even more of a regular at our local CVS (I’m really glad that place is open 24 hours).

One of the midwives suggested that this might resolve around the six week postpartum mark and lo and behold… it did! Judging from what I read online about other women’s experiences, this is not always the case. I can only hope it is on its way out and never, ever, returns. The itching started to subside, the welts calmed down, and the areas I had itched until they bled started scabbing over. I still have periods where I am itchy, but nothing like it was during the height of my PUPPP-induced insanity.

I’m writing this post because I hope other women who desperately scour Google for PUPPP information will find this. And if that’s you, there are a few things I want to share with you:

  1. IT WILL GO AWAY. It cannot last forever. But I know… when you are itching your body to complete ruin, it is really hard to see an end in sight. But it’s only temporary!
  2. Feel bad for yourself. Go ahead! Bitch, moan, complain, cry, whatever you need to do! Whether you are pregnant or with a newborn, either way it SUCKS. Wallow in your own misery for a bit, but try not to let that take away the joy of pregnancy or of a newborn – not easy to do, but also time you’ll never get back.
  3. No one, other than women who have had PUPPP, will understand the depths of your insanity as a result of this rash. Adding the discomfort and downright pain of the rash and itching on top of pregnancy (or in my case, caring for a newborn) is a recipe for crazy town. (If you need to talk to someone who can relate – even if it’s to bitch, vent, and cry about it, email me: betterbalancedlife@gmail.com. Seriously.)
  4. It seems that what brings relief for some women does not work for others. Don’t get discouraged… just try something else!

I took everything I found on the web and sifted through to identify products I would be willing to try. Here goes the list, ranked in order of helpfulness – I will add that I’m not a doctor or any sort of medical professional. This is just what I found worked for me:

  • Sarna lotion. worked really well to relieve the itch. I put it in the fridge and put it on cool – felt SO nice.
  • Ice. Perhaps the most effective relief was simply numbing the itchy area. This is hard to do if your entire body is itching, but for “spot itching” it’s a miracle. I literally slept with ice packs rigged to my legs.
  • Dandelion root tincture. Picked some of this up at the local health mart and took it 2x a day. About 4-5 days after I started taking it, the rash started to go away. Coincidence? Maybe! But I think it helped.
  • Cortisone cream. Worked somewhat, but not enough.
  • Gold Bond Medicated Lotion. Was good for when the rash started drying up, since it has a moisturizing component to it.
  • Oatmeal baths. It was too soon postpartum for me to soak in the tub, so I made a paste out of the Aveeno oatmeal bath mix and rubbed it all over my body. Biggest mistake ever…. it burned, burned, burned. Others found the oatmeal bath helpful.
  • Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap. I bought this, but didn’t use it. It smells like campfire and I hate that smell… others have found it very helpful though! 

Elizabeth gave me enough time to write this post, but now she’s crying and hungry so… that’s all folks! Over and out – and good luck with the PUPPP, if that’s why you’re here!

*UPDATE – July 2016. We welcomed our second child, a baby boy, last December. I am so pleased to share that the PUPPP didn’t come back with this baby. I was so terrified that it would… and every itch, scratch, etc. I was sure it was going to flare up. I wish everyone the same luck on the next go-round! ❤

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