After giving birth twice before, Victoria Wilson thought she had “life with a newborn” pretty much figured out. But when her third daughter was born fussy, frustrated, and just wouldn’t settle, Victoria was thrown for a loop. Was this just who her baby was? Or was something wrong? Victoria shares with Adriana how making her own wellness a priority during pregnancy allowed her the strength to navigate and surrender to this extremely difficult experience from a place where she was well-resourced.
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- Spontaneous delivery is related to barometric pressure, Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics
- Premature rupture of the membranes and barometric pressure changes, Journal of Reproductive Medicine
- Effectiveness of craniosacral therapy in the treatment of infantile colic. A randomized controlled trial, Complementary Therapies in Medicine
- @tonguetiebabies Instagram account, from Michelle Emanuel of the Tummy Time Method
- The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp (book) (video), which includes the five Ss that Victoria referenced
- Expectful meditation app
Related Birthful episodes:
- [Birth Stories] Support Beats Stubbornness (where Victoria shares her first two birth stories!)
- Effects of Stress During Pregnancy
- Understanding & Calming Your Baby
- [Breastfeeding] Figuring Out How to Suck, Swallow, and Breathe
- What Are Tongue and Lip Ties?
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[Postpartum Story] Coming to Terms With the Baby She Got
Adriana Lozada: Hello, Mighty Parent or Parent-to-Be. Welcome to Birthful. Once again, I’m Adriana Lozada. Today’s story is with Victoria Wilson, who is here to tell us about her third birth and especially her postpartum story with that baby. You might be thinking, “Adriana, why are you doing a postpartum story inside this series on movement and body wellness during pregnancy?” Well, let me tell you.
The thing is that in between her second birth and this pregnancy, Victoria was feeling like something wasn’t quite right and that she wasn’t feeling like herself. Having two kids, several jobs and a household to take care of, she felt like she couldn’t stop. She just had to keep everything running.
Maybe you can relate to that relentless busyness. I sure can! But when Victoria got pregnant again that became a wake-up call to, as she says, “Get it together because we’re going to have another person in our family and we want to be the best family we can be.” Who knows? Maybe it was Victoria’s intuition speaking really loudly that made her listen. This story is almost a cautionary tale of sorts, because her third daughter was not an easy newborn to say the least.
Even though she had a very difficult postpartum experience, all the efforts that Victoria had made during pregnancy toward wellness and to make sure she was well-resourced and feeling better, they were a huge part of why she was able to navigate these postpartum challenges without it all falling apart.
Yes, I really know how hard it can be to prioritize the basics like movement, sleep, nutrition and mental health, but I hope that this episode motivates you to do so, especially if you have other kids already because pregnancy is biologically a depleting event and you never know what type of baby you’re going to get.
Figuring out your baby’s personality and coming to terms with the baby you got rather than the one you had envisioned? That in itself could be a book and in fact it’s a whole section in my postpartum preparation classes. Because it’s such an unknown, it’s just vitally important for you and your body to be in a great place during pregnancy— or even before you get pregnant— so that you have the capacity to navigate and figure out the challenges, whatever they might be, that come your way. So do it. Take care of you.
Oh, and I also wanted to mention that I’ve had Victoria on the show before sharing her first two birth stories, so if you want to hear them, the link will be in the show notes.
You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition.
Adriana: Welcome, Victoria! It is so great to have you here on the show again.
Victoria Wilson: Thank you. Yes, I’m really excited to be back and it’s fun to have a reason to be back.
Adriana: Yes, because since we last talked, your family has grown!
Victoria: Yes. We’ve added our new surprise third baby and it’s been super fun.
Adriana: Oh, congratulations!
Victoria: Thank you.
Adriana: Before we start getting more into her story, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Victoria: Yes, well of course my name is Victoria. I am married to Ben. He is just a wonderful husband and partner, like in raising the kids, everything. We have three girls, which is crazy to think about now. Then also I’ve been a DONA certified birth doula. I do run a doula practice on the side. I do a couple clients a year and teach classes, which is just really great. I love the work. I love being able to do it. Working with families, I was just telling my husband last night, like, there’s just something about being in those labor rooms I just love, like, it makes me come alive!
Everyone’s excited, of course, when the baby is born. That’s what we’re all there for. I’m always sad, like, all the labor part is done, because I just love it. I just love walking on this journey so much. I don’t know, there’s just something crazy about it. I just love watching birth unfold.
Adriana: You are such a doula, for sure.
Victoria: I know. Of course, there’s some births and labor you’re like, “Okay this is long” (or “difficult” or whatever). It’s a journey, I love those journeys and being able to help people along it.
Adriana: Yes, I know, fantastic. So, back to the thing at hand: Tell me about your last ten months?
Victoria: Yes, well… they’ve been crazy. I guess this pregnancy was a surprise one and the pregnancy was long in general. A lot of people say they go quicker, but this pregnancy with Harper was just longer. I realized I had a lot of mental health issues I needed to address. I was in therapy for anxiety and just postpartum stuff and working through my last postpartum times that I didn’t really work through. That was very healing. By the time she was born, I felt like I was in a much better place. I took time off from being a doula just to take care of my physical health. I found out I had some food allergies and eliminating those foods really helped me start feeling better.
It was just a long, does that make sense? Like, the pregnancy was long and I was very excited to finally meet Harper when she was born. Then when she was born it was like a whole another phase of long that I wasn’t expecting, but ended up being of course what our family needed. She’s here and she’s just perfect for our family. Yes, just a long journey and then this birth and then another long journey, so I’m happy to talk about that today.
Adriana: Yes, so you did a lot of healing and a lot of preparation during pregnancy. What are some highlights of that? You said that you got to a much better place towards the end of the pregnancy, so yes. What’s that about?
Victoria: Yes, that’s a good question. I had started cleaning up my eating, was number one. I was never, like, an awful eater, but finding out I have a really strong dairy and gluten sensitivity. I cut those out a couple months before I got pregnant with her actually. Having those eliminated and then starting to feel better, which could have been one of the reasons I got pregnant, who knows! Just I started feeling better, whatever, just having more physical energy. That was one thing. Just taking more care of what I put into my body was very healing and learning about that, what I can and can’t eat.
Then… I mentioned therapy, but that was seriously one of the best things I’ve ever done was go to therapy. I went pretty often at first and then we petered out to once a month, once every two or three months. Then I finally concluded that course a couple months ago. That was another big keystone, just being able to take care of myself and Harper’s pregnancy really pushed me to do that. It was something it’s easy to kick to the curb. Like, “I don’t quite feel right, I don’t quite feel like myself, but I just got to keep going, got to keep moving.”
I have kids, I’ve got jobs… We got to keep everything running, but being pregnant and knowing you’re adding another baby— and in our case, it was a baby we didn’t quite expect to be adding. We thought we were done at two. Just that forced us like we really have to get it together because we’re going to have another person in our family and we want to be the best family we can be. So yes, seriously take physical and mental health, just taking care, slowing down all those things, say “no” to a lot of stuff, even though it was hard.
Like, my doula practice? I said “no” for like a year— good solid year, just over a year— to that was so difficult. It was really good and really needed just to have fewer things on my plate. I could focus on making myself and our home healthy and stable again. It was wonderful.
Adriana: Well, setting boundaries is huge and it seemed like you were doing a lot of that. And how important— that’s a key part of self-care. Also, I find that we don’t talk a lot about this and don’t shine a light on the fact of how much of a toll being pregnant like a whole pregnancy and postpartum has on your body. Having had two previous ones and suddenly a new one when you didn’t expect it, it makes sense to me that you went, “Whoa, already my body’s depleted. I’ve been trying to get it back to feeling better and I’m on that way, but I really need to focus on this right now because some more depletion is on its way.”
Victoria: Right. That’s exactly it. Even just realizing— and you can’t diagnose conditions in the past— but even realizing like, “Oh, I did think I did struggle with postpartum depression,” particularly with my first, and then just my body collapsed after I had my second daughter. Definitely looking back on that, my first postpartum experience now in light of this one— even though this one we’re going to talk about was difficult just because our daughter had some unique challenges— it was good, because I knew I was in a healthy spot mentally and physically. Even though it was very challenging, it was really good to know all of that work had paid off.
I was able to handle what was coming to us, if that makes sense because of all the work I had done and then able to compare like, “Oh yes, I definitely felt different after this baby.” Whereas before, I think I did have some of that just fog that postpartum, like “I’m not myself, but I don’t even know what is myself anymore.”
Adriana: That’s one of the biggest things, the hardest things to figure out: “Is this just normal postpartum stuff or is this out of those norms?”
Victoria: Right. In retrospect it was out-of-norm. Of course, I don’t clinically know what that would’ve been for me with the first two, but I definitely know that was not normal. Now I know what normal is, which is really good. Of course, we had a tougher baby. We all felt really great, but we had a tough baby. But it was so wonderful to not have everything falling apart. We felt strong and able to be a good system for our daughter.
Adriana: I want to hear a little bit about the birth story— a quick summary of that, because I want to focus more on the postpartum. How was the birth?
Victoria: It was crazy. It was typical third time baby. They’re wild cards. It was very fast. I knew I was in early labor and I was like, “We need to get to the hospital. This is going to go really fast.” Sure enough, we arrived at 1:00 a.m. at the hospital and she was born at 4:00-something. It was quick. It was chaotic. Because I’m a doula, right? I know what’s going on, and I think… I know I definitely got too in my head, which I know you’ve had a recent guest talk about being in your head in birth. That definitely was a case for me. I was watching myself go through the labor, “This can’t be right. This can’t be time for this and that.”
Yet, I think I was expecting to have a longer labor like I’d had the first two times, and this was just very fast and just hard. It was funny, at one point I told them “I really think I’m pushing.” They checked me, the nurses checked on my request and they’re like, “Oh honey, you’re only five centimeters” then I just flipped out like “What do you mean I’m only five centimeters?!” Then she was born 45 minutes later. Even that I knew, “Don’t get checked. Just go with your body. You’ll open. You’ll dilate what you need to.” Even that, I was just so focused on “Where am I? What are the stages?”
I could not get out of my head and that made for the birth a little difficult, but at the same time it was beautiful and perfect. I’m a weirdo. I love laboring. Even though this was hard, my body never feels so alive as it does when I’m in the birthing process, in my birthing time. I do still really enjoy that, even though her birth was hard and crazy and chaotic and really fast.
The doctor came in, I remember his hair was dripping wet. He had come in from the rain at 4:00 in the morning, literally walked in the room, put his hands out and caught her. That’s how quickly it progressed.
Adriana: And it always catches everybody a little bit more off-guard when you do have a check. That’s why checks are so tough because they can be great and they can be not so great. When you get a check and it’s like, “Oh, she’s five,” or “They’re three” and then baby in 45 minutes, right?
Victoria: Right. I knew it was going quick. My husband in retrospect even said, “I knew you shouldn’t have gotten checked. I’ll remind you next time to not get checked.” It was just funny.
That was her birth just really fast and hard. This leads into the postpartum. What was so interesting about it is she was born, Harper, my daughter, was born… Actually, did I say the doctor caught her? I caught her, which was cool. I’ve never done that before. I got to reach down. I’ve always reached down and grabbed them, but I was there the whole time, which was neat.
But she was born and she was just mad. Babies, usually, they’ll, like, cry and then quiet down once they’re on mom’s chest. She was born and she was just angry and she was just crying and crying. I couldn’t really calm her down, and she would nurse a little bit and go to sleep, but then wake up crying. I say I was very proud to catch her, but looking back at the pictures, I definitely grabbed her by her head and pulled her out. I’m sure that was a part of her discomfort of like, “Hey, lady, don’t grab my head like that next time!”
Just on the whole, it was just weird. She was very unsettled and when her sisters came in to meet her, she was just very upset. She would be sleeping and we’d try to pass her to the big sisters and she would just wake up and start crying. People holding her, she would cry.
Even like, our family went to go get lunch or something and left me alone so I could sleep with Harper. She wouldn’t even want to sit in the bassinet, swaddle up like they do. Even then, I’ve just… like, newborns usually you swaddle them and at least that first day they’re pretty, you just plop them down wherever and they’re pretty good-to-go. Even then she would just wake up in the bassinet screaming, I couldn’t go to the bathroom without setting her down. That was very difficult. I remember that first day with her just thinking “Something is off with you. You’re a different baby.” Just because little things would just set her off.
Even I remember that night too… I’m not normally the person to want to send a baby to the nursery that I even- It was a weird situation. We were in a really small hospital and they were very busy that day. I had to get discharged from their labor and delivery birthing suite to a general hospital room. It was very interesting. We chose this hospital because they provided some more evidence-based options that we wanted. The downside is it’s a really small hole-in-the-wall hospital, in the middle of nowhere. They were just small and it was a big barometric pressure change. They were very busy.
Adriana: Waters breaking everywhere!
Victoria: Waters broke everywhere. They were like, “We’ve got ten rooms and there’s 12 people in labor right now.” They were clearing out as quickly as they could. In the general hospital, I was even asking the nurses there when I was on the floor, “Is there anyone who can take her for a couple hours just so I can…?” like, because she would, she was just unhappy and I couldn’t settle her. They were saying, “Oh, no, honey, sorry. You’re in the general floor. We can’t. We don’t have a place to put her.”
Adriana: With no nursery here, yes.
Victoria: No nursery, and I was just begging them like, “Is someone on a break, can they just take her?”
Adriana: “Hold my baby, it’s the third. I don’t care. Just hold my baby.”
Victoria: Yes, it was literally that. Like, “If there’s a janitor or something that’s free.” We made it through that night and I did advocate for myself to get discharged. She was born at 4:00 in the morning and I spent the night in the hospital. Definitely the next morning I was like, “I’m not staying another night. I need to get home so I can have some help with her.” Which is just crazy, really there was just something about her and I knew we’re going to be in for a different experience this time.
Adriana: Well, and you had a couple other ones previously to compare to. I just keep thinking if this would’ve been your first, of not even knowing that this was— like you had the wherewithal to say “Something is off with you. What is up?”
Victoria: I’ve since talked to moms who’ve said their first child was their “very difficult just to learn” one. I do not know, like kudos, hats off, props, to those people because that would be very crazy if this was your first experience! I can imagine, and you didn’t know, like, just little things, seriously. Newborns usually sleep a lot. She just would not sleep peacefully. She would just be very upset and it’s like you’re a newborn. You’re supposed to be out of it for at least a week or so, just chill. I can’t imagine.
Adriana: Now looking back on it, what do you think was off with her?
Victoria: That leads into our postpartum journey. I’m sure she’s very sore from the birth, because I totally did yank her out by her head. I feel really badly about that but I didn’t grab under her shoulders. Looking back, I’m definitely holding her head and just totally catching my baby. That had to have been uncomfortable.
I don’t know, sometimes I’ve wondered if, because her pregnancy was so difficult with walking through anxiety and the therapy for that I’ve wondered… What’s that? You know what I’m talking about? What’s the word? Where your cells can change. What is that?
Adriana: Oh, epigenetics.
Victoria: Yes. Maybe there’s some epigenetic effect where maybe I was super stressed and so you were born super stressed. Part of this is she does have lip and tongue ties. Breastfeeding was difficult at first and I know that that can add to baby’s discomfort, but I don’t know.
I can tell you now, she’s ten months old. She is a completely different baby. For her, getting mobile was a game changer. As soon as she could crawl, get somewhere quickly, she instantly became much happier. It was weird. It was for Harper, there were just a lot of little things maybe contributing and I just couldn’t figure out. The first couple months I almost drove myself crazy trying to figure that out.
“What is wrong with you? What is the one thing? What’s the switch I need to flip for you, to make your life happier as a baby?” We couldn’t find it. One thing my husband said to me a lot during this process, is “It doesn’t have to be just one thing. This could just be her. This is just her personality right now. This is just who she is as a person.” I remember just being so frustrated with that answer— probably because I am a doula— I think and we want answers and information. I think we have this tendency to want to point back to something like “That’s the reason why this went wrong,” or whatever.
That could just be personality, but I think doulas [want] just the information and knowing everything that’s going on and how to help. It was just killing me that I couldn’t figure out the one thing I needed to know to help her. Honestly, just part of it was coming to that place of just, of really agreeing. I think my husband was right and looking at her and saying, “This is just like some people just have bad days for no reason.” She was just very grumpy and dysregulated. There wasn’t one thing. It was just the way it was. It was better to accept that and work around it than trying to beat your head against a wall trying to fix it, which is my tendency.
Adriana: That requires a lot of patience and grace with yourself also. “This is not that I’m doing anything wrong and nothing that I could be doing differently, but I just have to help her through it as best as I can.” Yes, that’s a hard mindset to get into day in and day out.
Victoria: Yes. Can I talk about her lip and tongue tie?
Adriana: Yes. I was going to say because it seems like maybe it wasn’t the one thing, but it was a combination of circumstances along with her personality. It all might have created a little perfect storm because I do believe that babies are born with their own personalities and how they come out. You’re like, “Yes, there’s some traits that just stick around.” What were the steps you took to try to figure that out? I know that realizing that she had a tongue tie and a lip tie was one part of the puzzle.
Victoria: Yes, that’s a good intro. I know this is all over the place because like you said there’s a lot of factors. The first thing with my middle daughter, she also had a lip and tongue tie that we did have revised through a laser procedure at two months old. I knew what to look for, and I knew it ran in our family or just that there’s that possibility it could happen again. I saw she had a shallow latch. Breastfeeding was really painful, and I knew, like, “This is what we’re dealing with. If I can just make it until we get an appointment, we just got to get her tongue and lips hybridized and we’ll be totally fine.” That was my mentality.
The funny thing is that we were trying to get an appointment with the provider we went to for my middle daughter, and they were super booked out. We tried to go somewhere else. At that evaluation, it was like, ‘yes, she has one, but we need you to do these therapies first.’ I know more about it now. I know that it is good to go do therapies and things like prepare for the procedure. We were just at the time, we were like, “I don’t feel like I can go to more appointments. She’s a crazy baby.” It just did not feel like a good option for us at the time. We were holding out hope like, “Maybe we can just try to make it to find someone. If we can just find someone who will just revise her mouth, it’ll be fine.”
In the meantime, one thing we did do is we explored craniosacral therapy, which was very helpful for her. I had never heard of it before, or I mean I’ve heard of it before, but I’ve never seen it, never had it done to me, or had seen it done. We did have a wonderful craniosacral therapist in my town and she was great. She came to our house and she really worked on Harper’s mouth and jaw to loosen up those ties or just work on them. I will say I did see some improvement with that.
Adriana: I’m so glad you did craniosacral because I find that regardless of what’s going on with your baby, with your person, with anybody, that type of bodywork is something that it’s beneficial for anybody to different degrees, but it’s not going to create any harm. It can only improve. It’s like getting a massage. You’re not going to go like, “I got the massage,” and then… It’s better than getting massage… but “I got that massage and it messed me up.” That rarely ever happens. Usually, it’s an enjoyable, beneficial experience. I think what you were talking about doing the different therapies to help with the revision is because there is the physical aspect of it and there is the function aspect of it.
The physical is the tie itself. This piece of skin is tight, these things are tight, but just opening that up is not going to— now she was getting used to trying to figure out how to work the breastfeeding or work on movement with that tie. Now that it’s gone, it’s like, “Oh, I got to relearn all these things.”
Victoria: Right. No, you’re absolutely right. It was funny because this was definitely an example where I know what the best thing to do was. At least for our family, we were like, “I don’t think we can pursue the best care at this time.” Maybe I think what I’m trying to say is all of the steps for it, we know it is best. Part of our difficulty was that we live in a really small town and so we would have to have driven an hour away to go to these therapies twice a week or whatever before and after a revision. It was just like, “I don’t feel like we can do that. Maybe, let’s try to pursue other ways.” It was more like, “Let’s see what we can do about your ties, not going through a revision” if that makes sense.
Adriana: Absolutely. It’s so much easier to say from my desk, tell you, “Oh, go do this therapy thing,” that when you’re in it postpartum and it’s like not only driving an hour but driving an hour with a miserable child both ways. Yes, I can totally understand the need to rationalize what is within the realm of doable and what isn’t. So you then went to craniosacral in the meantime?
Victoria: Yes, and the craniosacral did help, and it did get us to the point of breastfeeding was not painful, which I do credit to the CST. Because, thankfully, I had breastfed before. I knew what was painful. I knew how it was supposed to feel, I guess is what I mean. I knew what was normal and what wasn’t.
Adriana: How old was she at that point?
Victoria: This is maybe one month, two months.
Adriana: That’s a long time to be breastfeeding with pain!
Victoria: It is. Yes. Do not do this, people! [Laughs.]
It was more so like I just kinda knew if I can… I really was so fixated on, “If I can just get her revised…” Again, my thinking at that time was, like, “I don’t want to do extra steps. I just want to get someone open up her mouth and we’ll figure it out.” That wasn’t happening. Again, knowing we needed to go to additional therapies to make that whole experience optimal, it just led us to think, what can we do in the meantime to make this more manageable while we’re figuring out what’s possible for our family to pursue, if that makes sense.
And no, too. I felt like a bad mom in some ways, because in my mind, it was like, “I’m not giving my kid the best,” but in retrospect, it really was like, “This is the best we can do at this time.” The CST was amazing, and she came to her house, and she worked on my daughter, and it did lessen up the pain.
We also did see an IBCLC. I do want to mention that it’s important, within her, I think month one, maybe she was a month old or something to confirm she has ties. “What do you think needs to be done?” That was helpful, too. She also gave me some tips for getting more milk to Harper, working through that pain.
Then very shortly after we did our visit with her, it finally was subsiding, and I think that something worked out with the bodywork, and it did loosen. It resolved it, at least for the moment. I think it did too help, the body work did help her overall mood some.
When we started spacing out the visits, she really could have done body work every single day. She really needed that. When we started spacing out the visits, her temperament would return, if that makes sense. She still became very dysregulated. That was the word that IBCLC gave to her in her evaluation. It was helpful for me just to have a word for what was going on with Harper, “dysregulation.”
It’s little things like car rides. She would just scream in any car ride. Even if it was, five minutes down the road, she would just scream the whole time. We had to go to some appointments that were an hour away. Just the whole time I would stop and feed her just to get her out of the seat, see if that helps. It was never like she’ll cry a little and then just fall asleep exhausted. She just screams for an hour straight until we got where we were going. We just started not traveling anywhere with her. That was also part of why pursuing a revision just ended up being more daunting, because we were like, “I don’t think I can do this.”
I felt frustrated that I wasn’t giving her the best care I knew was out there. At the same time, it was a really good lesson. Sometimes what’s best is what’s best for your family. At the end of the day, you got to live with your family and you have to live with yourself and the kids that you have and what’s best. It’s not always objective.
Adriana: There’s many moving parts. It’s a dynamic between many people, not just this little kid and what we can do for her. I get that. Can you explain a little bit more of what— I love the word “dysregulated,” because I think it does paint a picture. Can you explain a little bit more of what that meant for you and how that showed up for her?
Victoria: Yes, crying in the car was a big part of it. There were times she would just be unhappy. I know you’ve talked about the five Ss. We love them here, too, in our home. Just little things like she might finish a nursing session and still just be fussy and crying. I would start walking or shushing and swaying, and I had a baby wrap that I love. I would put her in that and even still she would just be crying. I felt really helpless because it was like, “I’m doing everything I know to do for you, and you’re still unhappy about everything.”
She wasn’t a really cuddly baby. It kind of showed up like people want to visit with your baby and hold her and all this stuff. At this point, I’m still talking about maybe two months. This is maybe getting into the two-month, three-month mark. Even then, where they’re not quite like newborns anymore, she just wouldn’t want to be held by anyone.
You could tell she didn’t like being out of our house. When we would have to take her places like to the store or whatever, she would just be keyed-up and on edge, not really liking it if anyone was in her space or, even like family.
We live really close to my husband’s family, even that— which is hard. She would just cry if grandparents held her. Anyone else other than like mom if I was there or if it was just Ben (my husband), just him.
Or I see, especially that she’s a younger sibling, you see all these videos like people share of their big kids interacting with their babies and the babies, just so happy and snuggly, and she would just freak out if her older sisters would touch her or wanted to hold her. That was hard. It was really hard to be like, “Yes, you can hold Harper.” Oh, she starts crying, like, 15 seconds into you holding her. “I’m really sorry, guys.”
But what we did do is a lot of, I would lay in the bed and be nursing Harper and I would try to invite the girls like, “Why don’t you come up and rub the back of her head while she’s nursing? Rub her back. Why don’t you play with her when mom’s holding her?” That kind of thing. It was hard to explain because all they want to do is just play with their sister which, now, they do all the time, which is so fun for me! I hate that they lost that little new squishy baby stage, if that makes sense. Are those good examples?
Adriana: Well, yes, absolutely. I love that it’s not specific only to breastfeeding. I think it’s super important to understand that dysregulation or that overwhelm, that overstimulation doesn’t have to be only related to breastfeeding.
Victoria: Yes! No, I agree. It would show up in that sometimes it could be, if I knew she was hungry, hard to calm her down and get her to start eating. Or if she could be just in the middle of eating and start freaking out, just crying about something and it would be hard. Sometimes I would have to like— and I know this is tongue tie-related— start her feeding on one side, then maybe try to switch her to my other side that was fuller that I needed her to be nursing on. A lot of side-lying nursing for sure because that was just the thing that it was nice. I could rest and she could rest. That seemed to be our best. Yes, it did show up in nursing, but it really was helpful.
And I’ve saved that IBCLC’s e-mail. She sent back our case notes. There was just something really helpful about a professional saying, “Oh yes, I see you with your baby. Your baby is not like other babies in this area.” It was just helpful. And it did, I would say until maybe Harper was six months old or so, I still was just determined there has to be something like, there has to be that switch I can flip. Even now knowing there really wasn’t one thing, just having that affirmation of someone else who doesn’t know us, looking into our family and looking to my relationship with her and saying like, “Oh yes, there’s something going on.” That was just really helpful.
Adriana: Yes, validating.
Victoria: Validating, yes, exactly.
The end of that tongue-tie story is we did not end up actually ever revising it. We’ve just decided “You know what? It’s not causing issues at this moment.” I know I can always do it later if we need to. I’m aware she has them, so if it starts presenting, we’ll immediately go to resolve it, which is good. Looking back, even if we had decided to revise them in the moment, I don’t even know if that wouldn’t have fixed anything. You know what I mean? Who knows that could have… because it was so multifaceted or it has been so multifaceted with her.
Adriana: At that time, and we’re talking now we’re still at six months, or already at six months, it’s been a long time and you are still seeing this. What were you doing and your husband, what was the family doing to try to be able to function and find that new rhythm once you realized or were forced to deal with this baby that you got?
Victoria: Yes, I think we did… That’s a good question. I know a lot of it was just changing your expectations. A lot of it, we try to be a pretty TV screen-free house but it was good to acknowledge, sometimes in the season— because at this time I was still home, I was the primary person home with my kids and then my husband was working— he still worked from home, but my job would be to keep up with the kids and then let him do his work. It was very nice because he was home, he was always really great to just jump in if he needed. If Harper really was having a difficult time, one of the big kids needed something I could say like, “Hey, could you do this?”
We talked about when it was appropriate to do that when it wasn’t, little things. He’s like, “If you can just give me a ten-minute warning, of ‘Can you help me in ten minutes, like go put them in the bath or something?’” that was I felt having him there felt like a lifeline.
Also, the “lowering expectations” part is we ended up using a lot of TV. Ben was home, but sometimes it was just like, “I need to go lay down and nurse Harper for an hour.” The big kids just got to watch a free-for-all TV show time which, it sounds silly, but just little things like that. Just saying, “This is just what we have to do in this season and it will be okay.”
Then maybe at a time when Harper was asleep or Ben could take her or something, I would try to go be intentional with them, have some one-on-one time. For a while it felt like “All mom does is just try to calm Harper down while we fend for ourselves.” It felt like that was never going to end, but now looking back on it, of course, it’s not like that anymore. For a while it was okay. We have a really wonderful church community and so people would just volunteer to come to her house. Like “Hey, I have a flexible schedule today. Can I just come hang out, take your big kids out somewhere, like go help them while you take care of Harper?” That was so wonderful. That was invaluable. Yes, that was really great.
Adriana: You were still doing therapy during this stage?
Adriana: It seems like you were very mindful of setting good lines of communication between you and Ben, as a family, come together as a team because situations like this can really tear people apart.
Victoria: Yes. No, it was and we’re pretty good about catching like, “Oh, okay, we’re off today… What’s going on?” Troubleshooting it and then going forward. A lot of it would be just getting time— I don’t know, maybe when the babies are like three or four months old— I start feeling like I can leave for like an hour or two, then come back to nurse. I wouldn’t be gone long. Little breaks like that were so helpful. It’s funny because he’s like my regulator. He’ll tell me, “Hey, you look like you could probably go use some mom time to yourself. Why don’t you go for like an hour or two and then come back?” That was also very helpful.
Adriana: I love that.
Victoria: I know, I’m telling you, Adriana. I know he’s… seriously, I totally lucked out, he is the best guy, but… and the same for him, I’ll try to see like, “Hey, you’ve been really hands-on with the kids a lot” or “You’ve been pulling a lot of the weight. Why don’t you go do something?” We try to do that. He’s much better about spotting it than I am. I’m working on it.
Adriana: Well, and I also find that as primary caregivers— usually moms are the primary caregivers, but whoever’s the primary caregiver— it’s harder to say, “I’m going to take this time off and take care for myself.” You really need somebody else to give you that permission because if not, there can be some feelings of guilt and it’s just messy.
Victoria: Yes, it’s very messy. That’s part of it too, just embracing like, this is just going to be messy. This isn’t ideal, but of course, being able to have the perspective of like, this isn’t ideal, but it’s not going to be forever and you’re not failing. Sometimes just going through isn’t failing. Looking back too, there really was an abundance of provision for us like in the people coming over and Ben having that job, he could work from home and on his breaks or whatever, his 15-minute break, he could go help out get dinner started, whatever, things like that. That was just such a lifeline.
It was also really helpful that she was born in May. This was the first baby I’ve had a summer/spring baby. Just having the sun was really nice. Just being able to let the big kids play outside and just sitting in the sun on the porch with her. Even if you can’t, I guess I went with the car, we really just stayed, she and I at least, really stayed close to home, but even just being able to be outside was really helpful. My other babies were winter babies, so I never really knew what it was like to be outside with a newborn. As silly as that sounds, that’s nice, just taking your baby out in the yard.
Adriana: Yes, no, that’s totally, I could totally—-
Victoria: Vitamin D, that was very helpful.
Adriana: It’s like, “Oh, it’s warm!”
What were the signs that said you were starting to feel that things were falling into place? Either she was more regulating or you guys had found your rhythm or you were more accepting? I don’t even know how to describe the moment, but now you say you’re really in a good place and that she’s much better. It might not be the one thing but a combination of things that got you here.
Victoria: Yeah, I do. I think I mentioned maybe before, but definitely her just gaining the just developmental milestones was helpful. When she could sit up by herself, that was… It’s like we unlocked a little something like “She’s crying a little less,” or she’s just… it wasn’t always crying, it was just grumpiness. I don’t know, maybe it was colicky, but she wasn’t screaming at the top of her lungs for hours. It was just fussy, grumpy, always grumpy. Sitting up by herself, it was like, “Oh, she’s not grumpy as much.”
Then being able to crawl around that was a huge one because then she could just go explore. Or if I walked out of a room, she could come find me quicker or entertain herself. The more ability she’s had to play independently, I would say, and move independently.
Then also, she’s been more receptive. She loves her big sisters. Now, she loves interacting with them. They love interacting with her. Maybe gaining that spatial awareness or person awareness, of people around her, like, “Hey, we’re here to help you and have fun,” something like that or something like that maybe has gone off inside of her that’s made it a lot easier.
Babywearing was always our lifesaver. I definitely love babywearing, but I would just say continuing to keep up that even if she’s gotten older has helped. We have an Ergo, so if we need to be out in a store, it’s helpful just to wear her instead of trying to keep her sitting in a seat or something like that.
I think I don’t know, in a way it’s almost like building trust with her. She knows like, “Hey, I’ve got you, I’m trying to take care of you. You’re going to be okay. We’re always with you,” but having those continued ways to keep up connection with Harper, it’s almost like it really has almost given her more confidence.
Adriana: It all comes— because we’re holistic, right?— so everything builds on each other and the, fact that she’s moving around more has reached those developmental milestones also means that one, she’s more independent and can get around the world, but also in order to crawl, there’s so many steps that need to light up, be sparked within the vagus nerve and different nerves that have to do with breastfeeding and that are connected to each other. If you look at the Tummy Time Method, it’s about how a baby uncurls and unfurls from that close tight “C” in the womb to a place where they’re doing the baby cobra when they’re lying for tummy time, to then getting themselves up to crawling and then finally up to standing. All that physical movement and the things that are required for that have to do with regulation, as well as all the emotional part of her being able to interact more with the world, and having that gratification of, “I do this, I’m not so helpless.” I don’t know, as you were talking, I was like, “Yes, all these things connect to each other.”
Victoria: It’s definitely like a case study that that is reality. That is definitely true. It’s science. It certainly happens and you could really see it in our case that we’re all coming into a new season together.
Maybe that was helpful for me too, just to be more accepting to see that seasons are always changing and it’s okay that something new is ahead and we’ll figure out how all of our kids fit into this new model of life. It was helpful maybe just to see, like, “Oh, it’s not just Harper, it’s all of our kids,” and we have a plan for all of our kids and taking care of them, if that makes sense.
I would definitely say around the holidays, it got easy. We even took a little family Christmas vacation in December and that was for sure the moment it was a spontaneous trip. I said to Ben, I was like, “Let’s just go do this really quickly,” on that day. “I just want to go run down.” It was to go see my family who live six hours away. It’s like “We got some free days, let’s just go do it.” We hadn’t planned on it. He says he’s like, “That was a moment I felt like you came back totally.” That was a really good confirmation that all the therapy had done its work. For me too, I remember I made that suggestion. I wasn’t worried about Harper crying in the car.
I was just looking forward to going to do this fun thing. She did great. She did super great on the trip. We all… of course, there was little kid meltdown moments, but it was fine. It was okay. That little Christmas trip probably was nice. I don’t want to say “crowning achievement,” but maybe “culmination,” of like, “We’ve done it. We’ve gotten through it. This is what it is. We can do this. Things are getting better.” It was a really sweet holiday.
Adriana: It was like closure.
Victoria: Victory! “Closure” is a better word, because definitely we had not achieved anything, because it’s definitely still a process, but closure is a good word. It was a nice like, “Huh, okay.”
Adriana: Moving on, next chapter.
Victoria: Moving on.
Adriana: I think it’s valid to have that perspective of not only valid, it’s good to have that perspective of “We are all a family, and sometimes one of us is going to require more help than the others. Then it’ll switch and we’ll just keep passing that along, and it’s constantly evolving as a team.” Which is, even figuring that out is a hard place to get to, from— especially if you’ve never had kids, and you’re just… [laughs] “just”… then you’re just pregnant. [Laughs.] The identity shift that keeps changing, that’s I think the hardest part.
Victoria: No, I would completely agree. Like you said, I cannot imagine if this experience were a first child. That would be, I mean a whole— it would probably hit you in a whole different way, but she came at just the right time, and those were definitely lessons our family needed to go deeper in. We had had that first identity shift with our first two kids and learning what it means to be parents. This definitely was like Parenting 102— I guess 103 since it’s our third— Parenting 103 for us, it was really, it was good. Looking forward to seeing how this knowledge helps us in the future, I think.
Adriana: Well, it sounds like it’s brought all of you closer together and given you more appreciation and more empathy with the rest of the world into your work that you do. That’s always beneficial.
Victoria: Yes, certainly.
Adriana: Now you mentioned the therapy and you mentioned the having that, especially from Ben, prompting you to take some time for yourself. Was there anything else that you did to try, to going back to touching base with what you were doing during pregnancy, of focusing on better nutrition and getting you in a place where you weren’t as depleted? Anything else that you did that we’re missing, to help bring that back up?
Victoria: Yes. One thing, I didn’t mention this, but just practicing the mindfulness and progressive relaxation was one thing I found very helpful and just being able to identify, having the skills to identify like, “Oh, I have some anxiety rising up in me right now,” or, “I’m getting a little angry in this situation.” Just having the tool to be able to acknowledge it and then just that really practical skill set of going through “Let me relax my head, let me relax my shoulders,” going through my body like that and just checking in the moment, that was another very helpful tool.
I don’t know if you want to call that “mindfulness” or “progressive relaxation.” The ability to just do that in the moment, whereas I think before, it’s easier to just run along with however you’re feeling, but the skill to wait, stop, check-in, what’s going on, and then move forward was very helpful.
Adriana: That body awareness… I’ll link Parijat Deshpande’s episode on that as well as the Pregnancy Brain thing. She’s one of the practitioners that works more closely to that. We have that in common, of our bodies are super wise in that they’re constantly telling us stuff. We don’t often pay attention, but they’re constantly telling us. If we start to pay attention a little bit more like, “Oh, my stomach’s been really hurting, what am I anxious about?” Or to just identify what those things mean in your body. Then it’s a tool to like, “Whoa, wait. Yes, I can hear my body saying ‘Take deeper breaths.'” It’s self-regulating. It goes back to regulating yourself.
Victoria: Regulation is so important is what I’ve learned. Yes, exactly.
Adriana: Oh, so good. Victoria, before we close off, is there anything you want to make sure the listeners know about your story before we end?
Victoria: Just I hope it’s helpful! I hope it doesn’t unnecessarily scare anyone, but to the mom who’s maybe going through— mom or dad, whoever is going through something like this— just a surprising baby, a baby that you didn’t really expect, that baby is in your family for a reason. He or she is teaching you something that’s very important for you to know. It’s definitely going to contribute to the fabric of your family, and even though there can be hard days and can drive you to tears and frustration some days, that it’s just the baby that you needed. It can be hard sometimes to relate to babies that you don’t quite know what’s going on but they’re with you for a reason and you’re the perfect parents for them.
Adriana: Yeah. And you have no choice either. [Laughs.]
Victoria: And you have no choice, right. Just like in birth, the resisting does not get you anywhere quickly. It’s the surrendering, that you really have to press into even when it’s uncomfortable, but the surrendering is what takes you places.
Adriana: It does.
Victoria: And screen time is okay sometimes! And get some disposable paper plates that you need for a couple of weeks and just make it through… like, it’ll be okay.
Adriana: There you go. Totally. Well, thank you so very much for coming on the show today to share this story.
Victoria: Thank you for having me. I love what you do and love you. You’re awesome.
Adriana: That was mom, childbirth educator, birth advocate, and doula extraordinaire, Victoria Wilson, who runs Mother Well, an organization that provides education, training, and support to parents and birth workers. Since we spoke, Victoria has added another unexpected baby girl to her family and it’s never a dull moment in her house. You can find Victoria on Instagram @motherwelldoula, and you can connect with us @birthfulpodcast. In fact, if you’re not driving, it would be lovely. If you would take a screenshot of this episode right now and post it to Instagram to your Stories, sharing your biggest takeaway from the episode. Make sure to tag @birthfulpodcast so we can see it and amplify it.
You can find the in-depth show notes and transcript of this episode at birthful.com, where you can also learn more about my postpartum preparation classes, where we go in-depth into how to figure out the baby you got (hint, hint) and how to best care for them. At birthful.com you’ll also find my free postpartum preparation plan.
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That is what allows us to keep doing this work. Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada with production assistance from Aysia Platte.
Thank you very much for listening and sharing Birthful, and telling your friends about it. Be sure to follow us on Good Pods, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and everywhere you listen, and then come back for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Postpartum Story] Coming to Terms With the Baby She Got.” Birthful, Birthful. February 15, 2023. Birthful.com.
About Victoria Wilson
Victoria Wilson CD(DONA) has practiced in Central Kentucky as a birth doula and childbirth educator since 2015. Past clients speak to Victoria’s compassion, expertise, and intuition as a birth doula. She runs thriving social media accounts with the goal of educating and encouraging followers on related topics. She is passionate about building relationships as a way to positively impact individual births and transform our broken perinatal care system. Her resume includes owning and operating a budding doula agency, giving university lectures, and a two-year tenure as Evidence Based Birth® Operations Director. Victoria is married to an incredibly supportive husband, mom to (now!) four incredible daughters, and drinks more lattes than she should.
Learn more on her website or join the conversation on Instagram @motherwelldoula or Facebook at Mother Well Doula Service!
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