[Birth Story] How She Was Surprised by Both Birth and Postpartum, but in Opposite Ways!

Ivy Tumlinson shares with Adriana the overwhelming challenges of her postpartum experience after being overjoyed by her fast and furious unmedicated hospital birth. She explains the lactation issues that lead her to exclusively pump and the difficulties in healing her pelvic floor, as well as why she recommends everyone have a pelvic PT assessment and be familiar with their breast pump before their baby arrives.

 

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A black-and-white image of Ivy, who has a surprised look on her face, in the hospital bed just after giving birth, with newborn Aura on her chest

Image description: a black-and-white image of Ivy, who has a surprised look on her face, in the hospital bed just after giving birth, with newborn Aura on her chest

 

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A black-and-white image of newborn baby Aura, wearing a big head bow and a receiving blanket draped over her, doing skin-to-skin with her father Adam

Image description: a black-and-white image of newborn baby Aura, wearing a big head bow and a receiving blanket draped over her, doing skin-to-skin with her father Adam

 

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Transcript

[Birth Story] How She Was Surprised by Both Birth and Postpartum, but in Opposite Ways!

Adriana Lozada: Welcome to Birthful, Mighty Parent or Parent-To-Be. I’m Adriana Lozada and today we’re doing stories as part of our Get a Head Start on Your Postpartum Logistics series. 

Today’s story comes from Ivy Tumlinson, whose unmedicated, low-intervention hospital birth was way easier than she imagined and on the flip side, her postpartum experience was incredibly more challenging, and more emotional than she ever expected. However, navigating the difficulties did provide her with some hard-earned insights which I’m excited for you to hear if they resonate with you, and if they do then you may want to set up a consultation with a pelvic PT— like, right now, no matter where you are in your perinatal journey— and if you’re pregnant, then make sure you get your breast pump before out of the box, and become familiar with how it works before your baby arrives. 

Also, Ivy’s husband is Adam and their daughter’s name is Aura, so when you hear those names in the episode, then you’ll know who we’re talking about… although I’m sure you would have figured it out. 

You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition. 

Adriana: Ivy. Welcome! So great to have you here on the show.

Ivy Tumlinson: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. 

Adriana: Yeah, I’m excited to hear your story! And we’re gonna be talking about Aura’s birth, but also more importantly, your postpartum period with her, because that’s what you said threw you more for a loop. So give us a little bit of background… Think back when you found out you were pregnant: What were your thoughts towards birth and how did you prepare for your experience?

Ivy: Sure. So, Adam and I were trying to have a baby for about ten months. We were not having any luck, so I started going to acupuncture. I went for ten visits and all of a sudden got pregnant. It was great. It was right before Christmas. We were, like, totally over the moon! I hadn’t really thought about what type of birth I wanted at that point. I used to see a physician’s assistant in a gynecologist’s office, so I figured I would just go with her, and, you know, we’d kind of “play it by ear.” So, I went for the first visit with the OB… was at 12 weeks, and that went okay, but I really wasn’t super impressed. I didn’t really feel heard, I guess. And shortly after that visit, I just happened to watch The Business of Being Born, like so many other people who get interested in unmedicated birth.

It was at that point that I decided that I definitely wanted an unmedicated birth and I wanted to try a practice with midwives. I didn’t wanna homebirth, I knew that much, but I did wanna go for an unmedicated hospital birth. I liked having kind of the backup of the medical interventions if I needed those, but I also wanted to try it without many interventions.

So I actually found a practice that was actually closer to my house that had Certified Nurse-Midwives as well as OBs, which I also like— that way in case I had any complications during pregnancy, I would be able to meet with the obstetricians there. So we made a plan to have a birth in the alternative birthing center in one of our local hospitals.

So it’s essentially like a mini birth center in a hospital. There’s a big tub in it. You can’t give birth in the tub, but you can labor in the tub, which I was really, really looking forward to. And it’s a little more homey. There’s a full size bed in there and it’s for people who are looking for an unmedicated labor and birth.

Adriana: That sounds lovely! And I like the idea of a full-size bed, making it different than a hospital bed. Just to give you a different perspective, I always look at birth rooms. I Google birth rooms throughout the world to see the differences and there’s some that are so… like, have ropes and ladders, and I always wish this could be a great thing to get your mind off of that set hospital room environment.

So I appreciate your birth center. So you did that. Did you take any childbirth education classes? 

Ivy: Yes. So I started taking prenatal yoga at a local yoga studio. Well, it’s sort of like a health and wellness studio for pregnant families, and also they do some mama and baby classes. So it’s owned by a doula. And she has a comprehensive childbirth course. It was like seven weeks long, three hours a week.

It was really comprehensive and I felt like it gave me a good sense of all of my options from the really… intervention-heavy options to the lower-intervention options. My husband and I took that, I also did a ton of my own research.

I’m the kind of person who information helps me to feel a little bit more in control, or I guess as in control as one can feel when you’re pregnant and about to give birth. So I did a lot of research on my own. I listened to a lot of podcasts like this one. And I read basically everything that I could get my hands on.

I listened to a lot of birth stories. I also, in my third trimester, I finally downloaded Expectful, and I had been meaning to my whole pregnancy because I really wanted to get into meditation, because I felt like it would really help with my mindset and I loved it. Every night I would go into Aura’s— or what would become Aura’s room, and sit in a recliner and it gave me the space to kind of connect with myself and connect with my baby and, like, really got me in the right frame of mind. I felt like in order to get ready for what was to come.

Adriana: I love hearing that! That sounds super cool. You did all the things that got you and both mentally and physically in a space where you felt you were ready for this. Now, if we fast forward to the day of: How did you know you were in labor?

Ivy: So I woke up in the last weeks of pregnancy, of course I wasn’t sleeping that great, like many other pregnant people. And I had been waking up a lot around three o’clock in the morning and I would, like, put on my Expectful “Back to Sleep” meditation and it would work like a charm. The morning that I went into labor, I woke up… I remember it was 3:48 a.m., and I felt a contraction and I was like “Oh my gosh, that’s a contraction,” like, “My body’s doing something.” and I was like, “Alright, Ivy, just go back to sleep. I gotta rest. This could just be prodromal labor.” You know, I was only 39 weeks and in my head I had convinced myself that I was going to have a September baby, because she was due August 28th. You know, most first time moms go post-dates. “I’m definitely not gonna have this baby in August. She’s gonna be a September baby.” So, it was August 26th, so I was like, “This can’t really be it, so I’m just gonna try to go back to sleep,” and, you know, rest, “That way, in case this is it, you know, I’ll be ready.”

So, of course I couldn’t fall back asleep, even though I tried the meditation thing or whatever. So I was like, “Alright, I’m just gonna get up and take a shower.” So it was like, I don’t know, 5:00 a.m.? I’m in the shower and Adam came into the bathroom to use the restroom and he’s like, “What are you doing up? Why are you in the shower?” And I was like— poked my head out the shower curtain— and I was like, “I’m having contractions!” He was like, “What?! What do you mean? Really?!” And I was like, “Yes, yes, but this could just be prodromal stuff. I could be like this for days. They’re really not consistent yet.” Like, you know, he had planned to go to yoga.

I was like, “Go to yoga!” I actually had a hair appointment scheduled for that morning. I was like, “I’m gonna go to the salon. I’ll text you if anything else happens, but I’m really… I don’t think this is it. I think we still got a ways to go.” So that was that.

I sent him on his way and I went off to the salon and got my hair done— and didn’t say anything to my hairdresser, even though my contractions slowly became more and more consistent while I was sitting in the chair, and I started getting a little bit more uncomfortable. You know, I could still talk through them. It really wasn’t anything unmanageable. She had no idea until I told her at the end! So the contractions just sort of slowly picked up. They were becoming more regular and a little bit more uncomfortable. I believe I got home around 11:00 that morning and I was sort of trying to keep busy around the house, just still trying to ignore the contractions, but there’s, like, definitely a pattern starting.

And I had just so happened to download a contraction timer the night before. “Just in case,” I’m almost at Week 40 like this! I should probably have this on my phone now. So I started using the app to time contractions probably around 12:00 noon and they were pretty consistent right from the beginning, or from when I started timing, I should say. They were already five minutes apart or less, and I was kinda like, “Whoa, am I timing these correctly?” Like, I don’t know, I thought maybe I was timing them incorrectly or there was something wrong with the app. I was like, “This can’t be. I haven’t been in labor for that long.”

So I’m texting my best friend because she was going to be at the birth, And she was like, “Oh, like what do they feel like? What are you doing? If you wanna speed ’em up, you should really go for a walk. Stay on your feet.” And I was like, “No, I don’t think I need to help them progress. They’re definitely progressing. I’m gonna try to rest again.”

Adriana: Awesome. I love that. It’s like, “Oh no, I’m good, woman.”

Ivy: Yeah. Seriously. I was like, “No, no.!” They’re progressing just fine without me trying to make them progress. Like, I’m gonna try to take a nap! So, I laid down the contractions, slowed a little bit, but I definitely couldn’t fall asleep. And around that time was when I started to, kind of, say my one affirmations— what became my mantra during contractions— which was “Each wave brings me closer to my baby.” And every time the contraction would start, I would just start saying that to myself over and over until the contraction ended and I kind of got a little bit of a break. And that was really helpful for me. I think saying that over and over to myself… and also keeping my eyes open during contractions. So I would pick a point of focus and just sort of, like, try to kind of ground myself that way. I don’t know! That just sort of helped me to feel more in control. And I heard somewhere that, I don’t know if this is true or not… I read somewhere that they have done studies where people’s perception of pain is actually less when they have their eyes open. So I was like, “Okay, if I keep my eyes open during contractions, maybe they’ll feel less painful or less intense,” or something.

So I don’t know if that worked or not, but it seemed to get me through! So I just kinda labored around the house a little bit. I had a yoga ball that I had been using while I was pregnant, just sort of, so I kind of rocked on that a little bit.

I labored on the toilet for a little while and that seemed to be a good place to labor, although it started to feel really intense when I was sitting on the toilet where I was feeling a lot of pressure and feeling like I had to poop and I was like, “Oh my God. If people say that when you feel like you have to poop, that means the baby’s coming…!” So these are thoughts that are going through my head. So Adam was in the shower at that point and… 

Adriana: Oh, I’m so glad you just said something, ’cause I was gonna ask you like, “Is he at yoga class? What is going on?”

Ivy: No. So he… I should probably mention that he got home probably a little after I did. He had been texting me beforehand, and he was like,  “Do you need anything before I come home? I’m not gonna go to CVS.” And I was like, “Oh, actually, can you get me a handheld fan?” because I was so hot at the end of my pregnancy, you know? It’s like the end of summer, it’s blazing hot. I could really use a fan, right? So he sends me a picture of, like, three different handheld fans, and at that point I was already in Laborland and I was like “I don’t know, the blue one, just get me a fan!”

Like, I can’t! I was having a hard time, kind of, like, making decisions already. So he was in a shower and I was like, “I think we need to call the midwife.” And he was like, “Alright, alright. I’ll be right out.” He’s sort of, like, freaking out. He’s trying to help me through contractions.

He would come behind me and put a hand on my back and I’d just be like, “Don’t touch me!” I just couldn’t. I was in my zone and I didn’t want any sort of interference and a tiny little piece of me kind of felt bad because, like, I know he really wanted to be supportive and to be helpful, but I just couldn’t take like any sort of touch. I just needed to kind of be alone to do my thing, basically. 

So he called the midwife. She, of course, wanted to talk to me, so she kept me on the phone through a couple of contractions and I was doing okay. I had to stop while I was talking to her when the contractions started. But I think she kind of felt like I was doing okay, it was gonna be a while longer, so she was like, “I think it’s a little soon for you to come in, but if you would feel more comfortable coming in to get checked, you certainly could.” And I was like, “Yeah, I think I’d like to come in.” And she was like, “Okay, no problem. That can definitely help guide the process.”

This was not the midwife that I’d been seeing throughout my pregnancy. There are seven midwives, I believe, in this practice. And it’s just sort of you get whoever’s on call when you go into labor. So it was not my primary midwife, but she was very nice and I was like, “Yeah, I think we’re gonna go in.”

So, you know, she’s like, “Alright, I’ll see you when you get here. I’ll have them page me once you get to the ER,” because the… typically, OB residents will triage patients in the ER, but if you’re… if they know that you’re a midwifery patient, they’ll page the midwife. 

So we started driving there. I finally got to listen to my… I had made a “Labor Day” playlist, like a birth playlist. And I hadn’t even thought to put it on until we got into the car. So I’m like, “Oh, finally. Good. Get my Labor Day playlist going, I got this. It’s gonna be a while, you know?” So we were driving there and we’re on the highway, and there’s this point in the highway where it splits north and south. And we had to go south and Adam was in the lane to go north. And I, like, in between contractions, I’m like, “You need to switch lanes! We’re going the other way! Are we gonna make it to this hospital?” We almost went in the complete opposite direction.

Adriana: I love… It’s, like, that’s the perfect example of how… ’cause we always talk about going into Laborland and going deep into these sort of altered birth states, but it’s a great point to mention that it’s not like a trance, like you’re out of it, you’re deep and then you’re, like, you go deep into your Delta and your waves and then you come up, because you can have also your very logic Beta waves going like, “You’re on the wrong lane!” Now I’m gonna go back down.

Ivy: And that’s exactly what happened. So, you know, we get to the hospital, we go into the triage. And you know, it’s like you get in there and they want you to fill out all this paperwork, and I’m like, “It’s, like, the last thing that I wanna do right now.” And they’re like, “So would you like your baby’s photos taken in the hospital?” And I’m like, “Yeah, fine. Whatever! Just get me in the back.” 

At this point was… I don’t know if I had hit transition or I was very, very close— which I didn’t realize until after, of course— so they got me in the back, you know, they make me get on a gurney. I have to put on these two monitors: one for the contractions and one for the baby’s heart rate. And they’re having a really, really hard time finding baby’s heart rate. And they kept asking me like, you know, “Have you noticed any decreased movement? Have you noticed decreased…?” And I’m like “I don’t know!” like, that was sort of the farthest thing from my mind. But then I started kind of getting worried.

I was like, “Crap!” like, “Should I have been paying more attention? Was she still moving around?” But I think that they just had a really hard time finding her heart rate because she was so low and we just didn’t know it yet. So, you know, we’re sitting around in triage. I’m sitting both upright on the gurney— they actually raised it to be at like a 90 degree angle, or close to it, because for whatever reason that was, like, the only position that I felt comfortable in, just, like, sitting straight up. So they’re like, “Look, the midwife isn’t answering our page. We’re just gonna have one of the OB residents check you. Is that okay?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s fine.” 

So, of course I had to lay down for her to check me, which was not pleasant. And I hadn’t had any cervical checks up until that point. I had just had my 39 week visit a couple of days prior and they offered a cervical check that I declined because, that saying “Your cervix isn’t a crystal ball.”

I was just like, “You know what? I don’t need to know how dilated I am right now. It’s not gonna be helpful to me.” And I just felt like I would just focus on that if I had known. So she checked me and it was super uncomfortable and she was like, “Guess how dilated you are?”

And in my head I’m like, “This woman is not serious right now. She’s asking me to guess.” And I’m like, “I don’t know. I have no idea how dilated I am. Can you just tell me?” And she’s like, “You’re fully dilated with a bulging bag.” And I was like— I sat up from totally reclined— I was like, “What? Seriously?” It was, like, the best news that I had gotten all day! I was like, “Oh.” She’s like, “Yeah, we need to get you upstairs right now, and I’m actually gonna go with you in the elevator and I’m gonna put some gloves on just in case.” And I was like, “Oh my God,” like, “This is happening,” like “This baby is really coming, like, right now.” So at that point my… the people who were going to be in the labor room were Adam, my mother, and my best friend. My best friend and my mom weren’t there yet, but I was like, “Well, you know, we can’t wait. We gotta go upstairs.” So as they were wheeling me outta triage, my best friend came in.

So I’m like, “Oh good. So, she’s here” and I’m like, “Can you just, like, keep an eye out for my mom?” you know? I wanna make sure that my mom gets here and sees the birth of her first grandchild! So they’re like, “Yep, yep, we’ll send her right up.” And they were, like, you know, “Do you have any birth preferences?”

Now all in our fully-stocked hospital bag, I had, like, this nice printout with all these icons of all of our birth preferences and, like, I had snacks and honey sticks and my handheld fan and all this really great stuff. And Adam kept asking triage like, “Is our car gonna be okay out there? ‘Cause I’m the 15-minute parking only,” like, “Should I move it now? Should I go get the bag?” And then everybody just kept saying, “You have got plenty of time,” because this was before I had been checked. “You’re fine, you can move it later. Don’t worry about it. No one’s gonna tow you.” Whatever. Well, we didn’t have time to get the bag.

So I sort of gave a quick and dirty rundown of my birth preferences and they were like, “We can just wheel you down to the ABC (Alternative Birthing Center). It’s right down the hall,” like, “It’ll just take two seconds,” like, “You’re not ready to sort of push yet.” And I’m like… I’m sorry— right before that happened, she (the midwife) checked me and she asked if I wanted her to break my water because she said, “I think this is gonna go really quickly if I break your water.” And I was sort of like, “Okay, whatever,” like, again, not really able to make decisions, but I was like, “Okay, fine.”

So she broke my water. I wasn’t ready to push yet, so they were like, “Yeah, let’s just go down to the ABC.” So they open the door, my mom comes in, I’m like, “Oh, good! We’re just moving rooms. You’re just in time.” And then all of a sudden, a contraction hit. And I was like, “Oh my God, I feel like I need to push!”

And they were like, “Oh, oh, okay. We’re gonna stay, we’re gonna stay here.” So they’re like, alright, “Why don’t you try to push?” So I try to push, I really feel like I’m pushing, and they’re like, “You’re really not.” And I can see they’re sort of, like, exchanging glances. I think they’re saying to themselves “first-time mom,” like, “She’s gonna be a while. Let’s go back down to the ABC.”

So we’re getting ready to go again. And then again, another contraction hit. And this time I was really able to push. So I started pushing and that was like a really productive push. So I was side-lying, because, again, for whatever reason, that was just the way that my body wanted to be. It was the way that I felt the most comfortable.

So I have, like, the nurse holding up my leg, Adam’s up by my head. I’m squeezing his hand for dear life, and they’re like, “Great, you gotta keep your leg up!!Open pelvis! Open pelvis! You gotta keep your leg up!” And I’m like, “I’m trying here,” you know, it’s sort of not the easiest thing when you’re also trying to push a baby out.

So the baby… I pushed a few more times and the baby starts to crown and they’re like, “Dad, do you wanna see your baby?” And Adam’s like, “No thanks!” like, “I’m good.” And I was fine with that. And then, you know, they’re like, “Mom, do you wanna reach down and feel your baby?” whichI know for a lot of women that’s really, like, motivating, and, like, really a powerful moment. But I was just like, “No!” like “I’m okay.” I can… like, I could feel it all. It was not something that I was interested in at that point in time. So the plan was— which we were able to relay to them when we first got there— Adam was going to reveal the sex of the baby because we didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl.

So they were like, “Great, that’s totally fine.” I probably pushed for, like, I don’t know, 15 or 20 minutes. It wasn’t long at all, for a first time mom, I feel like… 

Adriana: And you hadn’t been at the birth center or at the hospital for long either!

Ivy: No, I was in triage for about an hour, and I was in the labor and delivery room also for about an hour, and that’s from start to finish with them. Like, you know, finishing up with the post-birth and me getting up and going to the bathroom, like it was really, really fast. I had been in the labor and delivery room for, like, maybe a half hour from when I got there to, like, when I actually delivered her.

So the baby comes out, she’s screaming, her arms are, like, straight, her arms and legs are just, like, sticking straight out. And they’re like, “Okay, Dad, what do we got?” And he looks at her and he goes, “Oh, I’m not sure.” You know when babies are first and like their genitals are swollen still? Like, in that moment, he just, like, didn’t know. And I just screamed. “It’s a girl! It’s a girl. Look at that baby!” And it was just like this amazing moment and I was just like, “Oh my gosh.” It was, like, incredible. It was, it was. And it was so funny the way that Adam reacted. And that’s a story that we like to tell people now.

And it was great. It went wonderful. So they put her right on my chest, you know, they sort of, like, stimulated her a little bit, but she was doing good. She was crying, she had good tone and everything, good color. We got to do skin-to-skin for an hour, which was great. We did delayed cord clamping, you know, it was, like, totally white. So I was really happy about that.

She was like, “Alright, do you wanna try to get her to latch?” ‘causeI was planning on breastfeeding and I was like, “Yeah.” And she did great. She latched right away. She’s like, “Oh, she’s a pro already.” I was just, like, on this total birth high. So I delivered the placenta fine.

She let us kinda look at the placenta a little bit and showed us,  like, you know, the inside and the outside and how it works and everything. So that was really cool. And she was like, “Okay, I’m gonna stitch you up, ‘cause you do have a tear here.” And I’m like, “Alright, like “How bad is it?”

And she’s like, “Well, it’s not too, too bad, but it does need a few stitches.” And I’m like, “No, but like, how bad is it?” She’s like, “It’s a second-degree tear.” I was looking for the nitty gritty, like, I wanna know what degree, you know? I’ve listened to enough birth stories, I know generally what the different degrees mean.

I’m like, “Alright, second-degree tear. Not great, but not terrible. Could be worse.” And you know, I… soI didn’t have an epidural, obviously. That was not part of my birth plans to have an epidural. But I wouldn’t have had the option to get one anyway, because everything happened so quickly. So they gave me a local anesthetic for the stitches, but those stitches were, like, super painful.

And my mom told me after— like, she was watching me, you know, I’m holding the baby, I have her on my chest— and, like, she would watch my whole body tense up and then sort of relax a little bit. So that kinda sucked, and you know, it was not ideal.

Adriana: I find those are really hard, because with the contractions, and then, you know, you’re in your rhythm, you’re in your… you’ve got your endorphins, contractions are coming at regular pace, so you know when it’s gonna be intense with this… it’s, you know, everything’s swollen and the baby just came out through there, and now you’re gonna poke it and pinch it and it’s like, yeah. It’s very surprising!

Ivy: Right?! Exactly. But, you know, the stitching went fine. There were no issues with that. My heart rate was really elevated post, like, immediately postpartum for some reason, and they never kind of figured out why. And it kind of went down on its own. I’m thinking maybe I was just really dehydrated because I had this whole plan, like, how I was gonna, like, stay hydrated and I was gonna eat honey sticks for energy and, like, and I did none of that, ‘cause the labor kinda took me by surprise, I guess. So yeah, all told I was in labor for about 12 and a half hours from first contraction to delivery. So pretty quick for a first-time mom, I felt.

Adriana: For sure. And not only that, like, you went and got your hair done, in between all of this! 

Ivy: I know, “This is great! I’m gonna have, like, nice hair for the picture,” and this perfect…

Adriana: Ah! I love it. So, basically, this birth went pretty much according to your plans, maybe a bit faster than you… What were your thoughts? How did you feel about the birth afterwards?

Ivy: I mean, I felt great about the birth. I was totally shell shocked. Like, I remember sitting in the postpartum room that night, like, after my parents had left and my friend had left. So it was just me, Adam, and the baby. And I just remember looking at him, looking at the baby, and looking at him, and I was just like, “She was inside of me like three/four hours ago.”

I almost couldn’t wrap my brain around it! I can see now why women who have true precipitous labor, like, how I could imagine why that feels like getting hit by a train, because I sort of felt that way a little bit and my labor wasn’t quite that fast. So yeah, I was totally shell shocked, but really felt, like, super empowered and just like a badass.

I was like, “Well, I just did that. I just totally rocked this labor and this birth.” And it was exactly— well not exactly what I had planned, ’cause no birth ever is, I don’t think— but it was like I could not have asked for a better birth, just sort of generally speaking, broad picture. So I felt awesome. And you know, I was in the hospital for a couple of days, you know, I guess sort of the standard, because, you know, I didn’t have any complications. Everything seemed to be going according to plan. 

I did have a lot of trouble breastfeeding. So while I was in the hospital, every time I would try to get her to latch… That first latch went great. And then for whatever reason, I was having a really hard time getting her to latch after that. And every time I did try to get her to latch, I would call the nurses and I’d be like, you know, “Can someone come down to my room and help me try to get her to latch?” because I really was having a hard time. And I had… I have a few friends who’ve also given birth at this particular hospital and they had some not-so-great experiences with the lactation consultants there.

And, sort of, the recommendation was given to me, like, “Make sure that you insist to see a lactation consultant before you leave.” So, basically as soon as I got to my postpartum room, I was like, “I wanna see an LC. So if you can send one to the room, that’d be great.” So a lactation… they have IBCLCs who see the patients there, so they’re also RNs. 

So I had requested a few times, and the second day that I was there, one of the lactation consultants came down and she kind of observed me try to get her to latch and she was sort of, like, in and out and she was kinda like, “Yeah, well just keep trying!” like, “It looks good. You got her to latch there, kind of. So just, you know, keep at it.” I was like, “Well, that wasn’t super helpful.” 

And then the day of discharge I requested to see another one, and a different one came to the room and she actually brought a little cup and a syringe and she was like, “Well, here, you can use these if you need to.” But she didn’t really sort of explain to me how to properly like cup feed or syringe feed. So I just kinda, like, got sent home with the stuff and was like, you know, “Just keep trying! You’ll get the hang of it.” So the day of my discharge, I was waiting to be cleared by the midwives. The pediatrician had already come and cleared Aura.

So I heard a knock on the door and I heard, “Hey, it’s Maggie.” Maggie is my midwife’s name— ‘cause the midwife that I had been seeing my whole pregnancy, I, for whatever reason, in my postpartum haze, I was like, “Who’s Maggie?” And then she, like, came around the curtain and I was like, “Maggie! It’s you!” like “How?!” She’s like, “I didn’t even realize you were here!” Like, she just happened to be rounding that day. And she’s like, “How did everything go?” And all of a sudden I just burst into tears. And she was like, “Oh no, I’m sorry. Was it bad?” And I was like, “No, no!” like, “It was amazing. But I dunno why I’m crying right now!”

And I… At that moment I was kinda like, “Oh no, We’re not in Kansas anymore,” like, things are not the way that they used to be! ‘Cause I, you know, I’m not an emotional person, typically. And I’m really not a crier. So for me to just sort of, like, burst into tears when someone just asks me a simple question about this amazing birth that I thought went great and I felt really empowered by, you know, I was like, “Oh. This is something different!” So she was like “That’s totally normal, to cry like that. Like, you’re gonna have really high highs and really low lows. And if things don’t get better after like two weeks or so, like, you know, definitely give us a call.” And I’m like, “Okay, thanks.” So they sent me on my way.

Everything was fine. So we went home, and our first night at home as a family was so hard. It was so, so difficult. I, like, could not get her to latch. She was just basically biting down and she had a really, really shallow latch, and she essentially wasn’t getting any food, which I didn’t sort of realize at the time.

But she screamed all night. So much so that her little voice was hoarse in the morning. I just felt so awful, and I remember being up in the middle of the night. I’m crying, she’s crying. I’m looking at these, like, sample canisters of formula in my cabinet, and I’m like, “Should I just make a formula bottle?”

But I’m like, “No. I want her to be breastfed. I really want this to succeed,” like, “I don’t wanna give her formula yet,” like “I’m just gonna hand express.” So, I hand express into this little tiny cup, and basically we syringe fed her. But my understanding with this syringe feeding— you can tell me if you… if I’m right— is you’re supposed to, like, basically have your pinky in the baby’s mouth as well, so that they sort of have to, like, work for it a little bit. Is that right?

Adriana: So I am not a lactation consultant, but in my experience, at that point, the differences between, like “Is this a one-time thing…?” like, if you were constantly cup feeding her. And so then you were trying to get stimulation of her sucking and especially, like, say for preemies and that kind of thing, yes. But for a baby that is so frustrated and screaming in the middle of the night and just needs some food, you just need food. So I wouldn’t worry about other things like that right at that moment.

Ivy: Okay, well, that’s what we ended up doing! So we gave her some of that, and I was like, “Alright, I’m gonna call the warm line in the morning.” The hospital has this thing called the warm line, where, I don’t know, from, say, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., you can call and you get an IBCLC on the phone who can, sort of, talk to you about any sort of breastfeeding issues or if you’re having any other, you know, concerns postpartum.

So I called the warm line first thing in the morning and I was like, “Oh my God, I have a pump in my basement. I’ve never even opened it.” In the middle of the night when, like, she’s crying, I’m crying, like, it didn’t even occur to me like “Ivy, get out the breast pump.” So I was like, “Oh, of course I have a pump! Why didn’t I think of that?” And so that made me feel guilty, too. She’s like “I’ll give you an appointment to meet with one of the outpatient lactation consultants for tomorrow.” But in the meantime, you know, she gave me some instructions for trying to get her to latch. If I needed to, I could pump a little bit first just to… because I was also engorged, because my milk at that point was coming in. And, you know, she gave me some really good information and she was like, you know, sort of like, “Help is on the way! You can come in tomorrow to meet with a lactation consultant.” So I was like, “Okay, great.”

So the next morning we went to meet with a lactation consultant who was just sort of an angel! She met with us for, like, two and a half hours. We did a weighted feed. She observed me trying to get her to latch and she looked and saw that she… 

So, in the hospital they told us that she did not have a tongue or lip ties. This particular lactation consultant, she felt that she did have a minor tongue and lip ties. But she was like, you know, “Bring it back to the pediatrician. You can talk to them about it and see if you wanna get it corrected and all that. But, you know, correcting it is no guarantee that she’s gonna be able to latch.”

‘Cause I consistently would get that really shallow, really, really painful latch. So we went home with a plan to basically: Try to feed her if I could. And this lactation consultant gave me the best piece of advice that I had gotten during this whole sort of breastfeeding journey. She said, “None of this is gonna work if either one of you is crying,” like, “She’s not gonna be able to latch. You’re not gonna be able to get her to latch if either one of you is crying, hungry, really upset, whatever.” So we did that. We would do… Every time I tried to feed her, we’d do […]. I’d get her down to her diaper. I’d take my shirt off, we’d do skin-to-skin for a while so I could get her to sort of, like, start to root around and kind of, like, wake up and… 

‘Cause that was the other thing— she was so sleepy, because she was essentially so hungry and, like, starving. So every single time I tried to feed her, we’d do the skin-to-skin, I try to get her to latch. I’d struggle and struggle and I’d start crying. Then I’d be like, “Alright, I’m just gonna pump,” like, you know, at that point I had some expressed milk like in the fridge, so I would have a bottle ready to go. 

And, you know, we brought her to the pediatrician, a couple of different pediatricians at this particular practice. And one thought she had tongue and lip tie, the other didn’t. And, again, they were kind of like, you know, “We could refer you to get them corrected, but it’s not a guarantee that you’re gonna… she’s gonna be able to latch after that.”

So ultimately we decided not to try to get them corrected, and I would just keep trying to breastfeed. So, I kept trying it and I just felt so defeated and so much like, you know, I can’t do this one sort of basic “natural thing” for my baby. And it really had an impact on my mood. So finally I was just like, “You know what? I’m just gonna pump. And, I’m just gonna become an exclusive pumper, because this is crazy.”

Like, she’s upset, I’m upset. Like, nobody is having a good time with this. I’m just gonna feed from a bottle and just pump exclusively. So that’s what I did. And so that was really challenging, because, again, I had a lot of feelings of guilt.

But I ended up exclusively pumping for about six weeks. And you know, around the time that I stopped, I had to get put on antibiotics because I thought I had some kind of infection, so I had to pump and dump. And pumping and dumping, like, eight times a day is… was, like, so just, like, again, just feeling totally defeated, like dumping it down the drain. And I kind of got mixed reviews whether or not I had to pump and dump.

The midwife that I talked to said the benefit of your breast milk outweighs the risk of her getting some of this antibiotic in it. But the pediatrician was like, “I can’t recommend that. Absolutely not.” So we just went with pumping… and pumping…

Adriana: Ugh. And that’s so demoralizing, too, right? I’m so sorry.

Ivy: It sucked.

Adriana: ‘Cause already exclusively pumping, I had to do that too. And it’s the worst of both worlds, because you’re not getting the benefit of “always available, to the breast, just latch, on the go, whenever, bye-bye, all easy,” right? Milk’s available. You’re not getting that benefit, and then you’re also not getting the benefit of “I’ll just mix up this bottle, this, you know, formula and it’s ready and to go whenever.” You actually have to basically double your time, because you’re, all the time that you’re pumping, that would be the time that you normally breastfeed, right? Or even longer, ’cause you’re not as productive. The pump is not as productive at extracting milk as your baby is in general. So there’s that. And then you have to sit down and feed your baby, and then you have all these things to clean. It sucks!

Ivy: Crazy town! It’s crazy. And I actually had a friend from college who exclusively pumped for a year and I was kind of like… I couldn’t believe it. And, like, that sort of, like, long-range thinking. I was like, “I can’t see myself doing this into next week, nevermind into the next year.” So, like, I really: kudos to any mom who’s able to do that for any period of time, because it is really challenging.

And, like, you know, Adam would get up with me for the middle of the night feeds, and, like, I would pump and he would feed the baby and I just felt like I was missing out on time with my baby. Like, it was great that he was able to feed her and bond with her and, like, of course that’s important and necessary, but I was missing out and also taking up all this other time. Like, he would go back to bed and I’d be… have to clean all my pump parts, you know? So that was, like, really, really challenging. But, you know, we transitioned her to formula at six weeks, and it ended up being fine. I was afraid she was gonna reject the formula or she’d have, like, reflux, or we’d have to try to find the right formula, but luckily, we lucked out with the first formula we happened to pick.

She did fine with it, and she’s been fun. It’s fine. But it was just tough, you know, being, like, postpartum and having all these expectations of, like, how things are gonna go and that you’re gonna be able to feed your baby. You know,  breastfeeding: “It’s easy!” Yeah, right! So that was tough.

Adriana: It’s natural, but it’s not easy. I love that comment you made about that the lactation consultant talked to you and said “None of this is going to work if either one of you is crying.” There’s another… I’m gonna add that to my bag of mantras for breastfeeding. And thank you for that!

Ivy: Oh, good!

Adriana: Another lactation consultant once told me, it’s… like, look, when you start to walk, how many times do you fall? It’s completely natural, but how many times do you fall and fail before you actually start to walk? Like, that’s natural… but it’s not easy. Same thing with breastfeeding! It’s, like, change in expectations, right? Change in expectations, and that’s if you don’t have any issues going on. I mean, you guys had other things layered on top of that.

Ivy: Yes! So, I also had some physical healing issues. So, in addition to the breastfeeding issues, I was about a week postpartum I think, and I was taking a shower. And when I was getting out of the shower, I, like, felt something on, like, the inside of my leg, like, sort of up by my crotch. And I was like, “Oh, what’s that?” Like…

And it was like… a piece of hair was, like, sort of stuck to something. So I’m like, “Oh, you know…” So I go to pull it and all of a sudden I get this, like, shooting pain and I was like, “Oh my God! I have… like, my hair is, like, tangled up, like, stuck on a stitch or something.” I didn’t know what was going on!

So I, like, glanced down and I see, like, a tangle of hair or something, like, hanging down. And I’m like, “Oh my God. I’m gonna have to cut the hair out.” I don’t know what it’s stuck on, like, but, like, I’m horrified. And I don’t say anything to Adam or anything. So I go and get the scissors and I cut it, and I look at it and I realize… it’s not my hair. It’s, like, a stitch or something that was hanging down, like, the material that they used to stitch me. So I was like, “Oh my God!” like “What have I done? I’ve just… my vagina’s never gonna heal!” Like who pulls their own stitch out? But it was, like, an inch and a half hanging down… like, I had to do something about it!

Adriana: It wasn’t helping you heal, for sure, and like… it was just hanging there. It was doing nothing.

Ivy: Oh my gosh. So I called the midwife’s office in the morning and they, you know, they had me come right in and she looked and she was like, “Yep, you cut out one of your stitches, it looks like.” And I also… she also noted that I had, like, a smaller laceration on the side that wasn’t stitched, that was sort of, you know, slowly healing.

But she’s like, “You know, it looks like everything’s gonna heal just fine. You didn’t mutilate yourself or anything,” you know, “It’s gonna be fine.” I was like, “Okay. Thank you.” So that went okay. Then, luckily, my six week postpartum checkup went fine and I was like, “Okay,” like, you know, she kind of gave me the go ahead for… to resume exercise and resume sex, if I was ready.

So I was really happy to be exercising again, because my mood was not great. I would say I had probably had the baby blues. I’m not sure that I’d go so far as to say I had postpartum depression, but, like, I was just still, like, super emotional and just, like, really kind of sad. And I really wanted to get back to exercising because that is something that has always helped my mood.

So, I sort of gradually got back into that, started with walking and then got back into power yoga pretty quickly soon after. And we had tried to get back into having sex, but it was super, super painful to the point where I couldn’t do it. I had scheduled a visit for three months after my six month postpartum visit.

That would become my new sort of yearly exam time. And I was really glad that I had that visit scheduled because, you know, I went in and I told my midwife— I was about five months postpartum at this point— and I was like, “Look. Something is wrong,” like “I’m trying and I’m having a really hard time. Things are really painful when we try to have sex.” And she was like, “Well, do you wanna go see a pelvic floor physical therapist?” And I was like, “Yes, please!” because I had, you know, heard that pelvic floor PT is part of the sort of standard of care in other countries for postpartum moms. And I was just searching for something that would help.

So I went in and it turns out I had… essentially, the way that it was explained to me was that my pelvic floor was sort of spasming, and that’s why it was so painful. And I also found out that I had an ab separation, which I wasn’t aware of. So she gave me some exercises to start working on the diastasis or the ab separation, and we also did some… she did some internal work to help with my pelvic floor and the spasms.

And going to see my pelvic floor PT, who was such a wonderful human being, was literally life-changing. It made such a difference and it was, it was so… I guess, sort of comforting to know that, like, we have identified the problem and to have concrete ways of working on it and to fix it so that I wasn’t having this issue anymore.

It made such a huge, huge difference. And it also… you know, I was able to then be more mindful of when I was exercising, sort of engaging my abdominals and making sure that I wasn’t causing more damage and making the separation worse versus, you know, making it better. So if there’s one thing that I could recommend to any postpartum mom, is that if you’re having any sort of issue, please— you know, any sort of physical issues, you know, pain or, like, leaking urine or anything like that— ask for a referral to a pelvic floor PT, because it would make such a difference.

Adriana: Mhm. And I am so happy to hear, one, that you were better, right? That you found something to make you feel better and address your issues. And that you were able to find out about the diastasis, so you can address that as well. But to also hear you recommending it to other people, because that’s something that I would love, like, for everybody to go do at least one check up with a pelvic floor PT. Which, at that point, were you like, “I’ll just try anything! Give it to me!” or was it like, “I’m hesitant about this ‘cause it’s kind of embarrassing, but I will…” Like, what was your mindset at that point? Because I think a hang up  is part of the problem that we don’t go and, you know, go do pelvic PT.

Ivy: Well, I think the fact that I had heard of it before and the fact that I learned that it was standard of care in some other countries, that really helped. And I was… part of me also was at that point where I was just like “I can’t go on like this! Something needs to change.” Of course having someone assess your pelvic floor is not something that’s comfortable, you know?

And part of the assessment, she asked me all kinds of questions that are really, really personal, that you don’t typically talk about with anyone, nevermind someone you just met! And, you know, she did an external exam as well as an internal exam. So, you know, it was definitely… I had to sort of go outside of my comfort zone a little bit, but I was just at this point where I felt like something needed to change. I had to do something, so I might as well try this.

Adriana: I thank you for sharing your experience. I speak to a lot of practitioners, then we recommend it, but I don’t speak to that many— on the show, at least— to that many people who have had it done and have had it was really a great thing to do.

Ivy: Yeah! Yeah, it was a really great experience and I pretty much recommend it to anyone who will listen, like anybody that I know who’s like having a baby or just had a baby, like, “Look, if you’re having any issues, consider, you know, asking for a referral to a pelvic floor PT.”

Adriana: And it’s France that does it part of their… I think everybody gets about 10 or 12 visits, after birth as part of their postpartum care.

Ivy: Amazing!

Adriana: Yeah. Awesome! So then this was, like, maybe eight months out you were feeling physically, you know, different, but finding your new normal?

Ivy: Exactly, yeah.. And things have been quite smooth from that point on— you know, I haven’t really hit any other roadblocks and I think, you know, the PT really made all the difference in the world with my confidence levels as well.

Adriana: Mhm. That’s awesome. So, Ivy, as we wrap up, what are some parting words for listeners, or some things that we wanted to make sure we got to that we didn’t, or some other recommended resources that really helped you?

Ivy: Well, I think, I think just sort of educating yourself as much as possible— whether that be through listening to podcasts or reading or watching, like YouTube videos of births, things like that. To me, knowledge is power. And I think, you know, the more knowledge that you can give yourself ahead of time, the better prepared you’re going to be.

Adriana: Now— and I am the nerdiest person on information and knowledge— so I am a hundred percent behind you. Thank you so very much for coming on the show to tell your story!

Ivy: Oh, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity! I think that the fact that you’re giving new parents this platform is such a wonderful, wonderful thing and it’s only gonna help all of the families who are preparing for their first or subsequent little ones.

That was Ivy Tumlinson sharing her hard-earned postpartum insights.

If you want to connect with us, we’re on Instagram as @birthfulpodcast, and we especially love it when you share with us what resonated with you most from the episode. So, if you’re not driving, go ahead and tell us right now! Take a screenshot of this episode and post it to your stories, making sure to tag @birthfulpodcast so we can see it and amplify it.

As always, you can find the in-depth show notes and transcript of this episode at birthful.com, where you can also learn more about my birth and postpartum preparation classes and download your free postpartum preparation plan. 

Also if you feel that you’re constantly learning something new from Birthful, then the best way to support us is by trying out any of the wonderful products made by our sponsor, while taking advantage of the great offers they provide our listeners. You can also join any of my perinatal classes. This is what allows us to continue doing this work. 

Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte.

Thank you so much for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to follow us on Goodpods, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and everywhere you listen. 

And then come back for more ways to inform your intuition.

CITATION

Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Story] How She Was Surprised by Both Birth and Postpartum, but in Opposite Ways!” Birthful, Birthful, June 14, 2023. Birthful.com.

 


 

A color family portrait of birth storyteller Ivy, her husband Adam, and their daughter Aura

Image description: a color family portrait of birth storyteller Ivy, her husband Adam, and their daughter Aura

About Ivy Tumlinson

Ivy Tumlinson is a licensed independent clinical social worker and qualified mental health professional, who lives on the East Coast with her husband Adam and their daughter Aura.

 

 

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