How it’s already been one month (and a few days) since welcoming our sweet little girl, Penelope Rae, into our lives is truly beyond me! These past four weeks have flown and have been the wildest ride. We are still in awe that this little human is ours and that just a short while ago she was nice and cozy in my tummy. So cozy I thought she’d never come, hah!
I wanted to share my labor and delivery story and what the first few weeks with Penny have been like because let’s be real no one really prepares you for this beautiful but overwhelming experience. You can read all the books and spend countless hours trying to find the answers on the internet (please don’t do that!) but rest assured there is no playbook for how your labor and delivery story will pan out and there’s definitely no playbook for what kind of baby you’re about to have!
If you’re a soon-to-be mama, this post will not tell you what your experience will look like because everyone is different BUT I hope that at the very least it offers some advice and suggestions based on our experience thus far. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since going into labor and welcoming our little girl, it’s been to have an open mind and to give myself and my little one some grace. It’s been a tough pill to swallow at times but it has helped tremendously.
Okay, let’s dive into my story!
labor + delivery
I’ll start by stating that Penny was due August 29th.
I had a really good pregnancy and I sort of hate admitting that because I know plenty of friends and others who have had tough pregnancies full of morning sickness, nausea and extreme fatigue. I started to feel uncomfortable and “tired of being pregnant” around the 34-35 week mark. Between moving very slow, feeling extremely large and having to pee literally every 5 minutes day or night (hello, no sleep!), my great pregnancy turned “I’m ready whenever she is” REAL quick.
I was convinced I’d go early. HAH. Fast forward to Monday September 3rd at about 11pm…it all began, FINALLY.
I waddled myself to the bathroom because I had to pee for what probably was the 35th time that day and “my water broke”. I use quotations because it didn’t really break then, I just thought it did. So I called the hospital and within a few minutes I had a call back from the doctor who was on call. She asked me if my water broke and if contractions had begun. Yes and yes, I told her. She basically told me to continue timing my contractions and to make note of the pain level, and that I could use my judgement for when to head to the hospital.
I spent from about 11:30pm until 3:30am (on September 4th) laboring at home. The contractions were increasingly painful. No position I sat or laid in was comfortable. I tried to sleep but couldn’t because the contractions and back labor (yes, that is a real thing and is AWFUL) were so painful. 3:30am rolls around, I wake Pete and tell him it’s go time. We got our stuff together, he went down to pull the car right up to our apartment door since we don’t have a driveway and we headed to the hospital!
We arrived at the hospital at about 4am. It was very quiet. We checked into triage at about 4:15am. The nurse came in, set me up, did an internal exam to check how far dilated I was and to my surprise I was just 2 centimeters. “That’s it!?”, I thought. She also confirmed that my water had not broken. So when I thought my water broke at home almost 5 hours prior, it was just pee that I clearly couldn’t control. Awesome.
For those that don’t know, triage is basically a small room where you have nurses come in and out to check on you. You hang out here until you’re cleared to move to your labor and delivery room.
Some time passes and the nurse comes back in for another internal exam and shortly after that, my water broke. Oh, was it evident that my water broke. Friends had told me, “you’ll know when your water breaks” and they were right. Let’s put it this way, it was certainly not the prettiest experience. And for the record your water doesn’t just break and then you’re done releasing fluid…it keeps coming after that. Hello, hospital diapers. TMI?
The nurse offered that I use the shower which could help with the contractions and back labor pains. I think it took me 5 minutes to walk about 15 feet down the hall to the shower because the contractions were so bad. The shower actually felt really nice, relatively speaking. The hot water definitely helped with the contractions and the back labor. I think I spent about 30-40 minutes in there!
When I was about 3 centimeters dilated, the nurses offered me some drugs (not an epidural yet) to help with some of the pain. I gladly accepted them! They helped a little bit for a couple hours and I was able to get some “sleep” which was nice because I hadn’t slept since the night before.
Fast forward to about 3pm on September 4th (nearly 12 hours after we arrived at the hospital) I finally reached 4 centimeters which was basically the point at which I could be moved to my labor and delivery room and get the epidural. THANK THE LORD.
With lots of help from the nurses, we made it to the labor and delivery floor and I got setup to receive my epidural. Pete and I didn’t exactly have a birth plan but knew that we would do whatever made the most sense for myself and Penny, and to of course just get her out safely. I was very much certain that I would get the epidural and to be honest after laboring for 12 hours with basically no drugs, it was made even more clear that the epidural was for me!
The epidural did not hurt AT ALL! I remember learning about the process of receiving it and I was definitely apprehensive. It felt like a tiny prick in my back but truthfully, I can’t say that I remember it all too well because I was in so much pain and so sleep deprived when I received it. Within just a couple of minutes, the epidural was working. It was fascinating. I felt like a new person. I could hold a conversation with the nurses and doctors. I was smiling and laughing. Pete came into the room after they gave me the epidural (husbands/partners are not allowed in the room while the epidural is happening) and he was shocked at how much of a different person I was.
The nurses, who were SO darn sweet, set me up nice and comfortably in my bed and what was a scary experience in triage turned into a much better and honestly pain-free experience in our labor and delivery room.
The nurses kept coming in to check on me and the baby and everything was looking good, just moving pretty slowly. The day came to an end and before we knew it was now Wednesday September 5th and still no sign of baby coming. Baby was looking good in my tummy, just really comfy and not wanting to make her way out. Fast forward to about 8pm on September 5th, my doctor performed what felt like the 7th internal exam to check how far along I was dilated and I was only 5 centimeters. Crazy, right? I had no idea it could take that long to dilate. I had been in the hospital for about 44 hours at that point. It wasn’t until that point in time that my doctor explained to me that they had done all they could to get me to dilate further but unfortunately my body just wasn’t cooperating and they needed to move to plan b…a c-section.
I never thought I would have had a c-section. It was just something that I didn’t think would be the avenue I’d have to take but after laboring for nearly 48 hours, hearing my doctor tell me that they were going to have to perform a c-section was music to my ears. I was exhausted. Pete was exhausted. And we just wanted to meet our little girl!
They rolled me into the OR around 12am on September 6th and we welcomed Penny at 1:01am. Having her finally arrive safely was the best feeling. The c-section itself was not that bad at all. The anesthesiologists were wonderful and gave me just enough drugs where I did not feel anything but wasn’t completely “out of it”. I did feel a lot of pressure throughout the surgery, but no pain. The procedure took around one hour from start to finish, that’s it!
Recovery has been going really well. We spent 5 days in the hospital once Penny arrived which made our entire hospital stay just about a week long which is crazy! The nurses were absolutely amazing and I miss being so closely cared for. They would come in to check on us just about every hour and had an answer to every crazy question I had which definitely made me feel so much better about my new role as mom!
As far as my body goes, well let’s just say that a lot has transformed in the last four weeks. I was pumped up with SO much fluid during labor and delivery so after I delivered Penny, I was really blown up. My legs looked almost double their normal size. It took me about week or so to look at my incision in the mirror because I was a little creeped out by it, but when the doctors and nurses were looking at it in the hospital to make sure it was healing properly they made me feel like it was looking good and healing well. Fast forward to now, all of my swelling has gone away and I’ve definitely started losing some of the pregnancy weight due to breastfeeding and walking.
The day after I delivered the nurses asked me to get up and walk around the hospital floor. I was a little nervous because I obviously just had major surgery but I was walking pretty well and it honestly felt good to move after spending days laying down! Moving around and staying hydrated were crucial when recovery in the hospital and obviously are still very good for my body now. If you are pregnant or have just delivered, be patient with your body. It will take time for your body to heal and get back to normal. Move around as much as you feel comfortable and drink tons of water!
We came home on Monday September 10th and I could not have been more scared to now be 100% in charge of this little person who was just days old. The first two weeks postpartum were tough. Like, really tough. I was extremely hormonal and emotional. I would literally just cry out of nowhere. Cry that I couldn’t believe we now have this beautiful child. Cry out of nerves and fear. Cry because parenting is extremely hard and trying to acclimate ourselves was difficult. Cry because of lack of sleep. Cry because I couldn’t possibly believe my child was still hungry when I just fed her an hour prior - which leads me to feeding…
feeding + sleeping
Penny was born 9 pounds 7 ounces, so needless to say she was/is a bigger girl and might I add a hungry girl! I breastfed for the first time in the hospital and she latched like a champ which felt very reassuring to me. Prior to delivery, I was very nervous to breastfeed. I knew it was something I wanted to do but was so nervous for it. What if I I get mastitis or cracked nipples? What if it hurts? What if it doesn’t work well for us? I was petrified.
Thankfully all of my fears went away once she latched and I was assured by the lactation consultant and nurses at the hospital that I was doing it right. Having the LC and the nurses’ support and help at the hospital was like gold. I listened to everything they said and asked a gazillion questions. I would recommend doing the same for those that are even a little nervous to breastfeed. I remember in those early days, I would get anxiety knowing that I was the only source of nutrition for Penny. I felt like all I did was feed her. I was breastfeeding her about 10-12+ times each day only for her to still show signs of hunger. This grew extremely exhausting. I would feed her and then about 45 minutes later would have to feed again. Around two weeks postpartum I decided to start pumping because I wanted to start creating a supply so that Pete or other family members could help with feeding. Pumping was the best thing I could have started doing at that point because I learned that my supply was very, very slim. No wonder why I was feeding her so much! No wonder why she was showing signs of extreme hunger all the time.
We went to the Pediatrician for a 2-week visit and chatted about a plan going forward for feeding our hungry little girl. I clearly wasn’t producing enough milk to satisfy her needs and feeding nearly 12 times (sometimes more) each day was growing very tiresome and was taking a toll on me emotionally. We decided to introduce formula and do a mix of breastmilk and formula and it has been life changing. Seeing Penny satisfied after her feedings and sleeping well has made me so happy. A fed baby is a happy baby and in my eyes there’s no right or wrong way to nourish your baby. I felt like a monster those first two weeks, and it was evident that something needed to change. I realized that I needed to be in a good place emotionally so that my baby could be happy too. I’m so thankful that we have a wonderful pediatrician who has helped me understand that. If there’s one thing I cannot recommend enough it’s to find a really good pediatrician who you LOVE. It has been so comforting and helpful to be able to look to our pediatrician for answers, support and help - stay away from internet forums and groups and listen to your pediatrician. He/she will know your baby better than any random person on the internet, and will be able to provide you with the answers you’re looking for.
Penny sleeps pretty well and has been giving us some longer stretches in the evenings so we’ve really only been doing one overnight feeding each night as of lately (fingers crossed that continues!)….it is amazing and such an improvement from the 2-3 hour stretches we were getting the first two weeks. We try to do her first nap of the day in her crib so that she stays accustomed to it. She sleeps in her crib, in our room, overnight and it’s been working pretty well. I sometimes get nervous that we’ll wake her up when we hop into bed but we just try to be extra quiet and keep her sound machine on the highest setting so that it drowns out any noise we’d make! For her remaining daytime naps, she’ll sleep in her rock ‘n play in the living room. Since our place is so small, it’s nice to be able to keep an eye on her in that while I’m either on the couch or in the kitchen.
day to day life
The days with a newborn are pretty uneventful at times but are so snuggly too. Pete was home with us for three weeks and then my mother-in-law visited for a week so having the extra set of hands for those first three weeks was amazing. Before having Penny, I kind of thought that it’d be silly to have Pete home for three weeks because “how much could he really do to help?”. Well, was I so wrong. Between getting acclimated to our new normal and my crazy hormones, I leaned on Pete so much. Not only was it so helpful to have him home to help with stuff around the apartment but having him there for emotional support was so necessary. I also couldn’t and still technically can’t lift anything heavier than Penny so to have him home to help us just get out the door to go for a walk with Penny in the stroller, was also so necessary! Now that Penny and I have had a week to be just us two, I feel so much more comfortable being on my own with her. I feel like we’re in a good groove with a routine and it feels good to feel like myself again emotionally.
We’ve been doing a lot of napping and lounging around the apartment but I’ve also been making it a point to get out of the house at least once each day. We’ve been using our stroller daily and it has been totally amazing. We love it so much and Penny loves it too! We’ve been putting her in the bassinet attachment but have also used it with the carseat. Getting fresh air each day, even if it’s just a short walk up to CVS has helped break up the day and helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something for the day. Lol!
Becoming a mama to Penny has been hands down the best thing that’s happened to me. Watching Pete become a dad and be a dad has melted my heart over and over again, and seeing Penny look at him brings tears to my eyes…I swear she already loves him so much. I always knew I wanted to be a mom and couldn’t wait for the day, but there really is no better feeling in the world than becoming a parent. It is the true meaning of unconditional love. And now I understand why my mom would and still does get so emotional about my sisters and I. Hah! No but seriously, it is life’s greatest gift and I can’t wait to watch her grow!
One last note - I had my friend and very talented photographer Janelle, capture all of these precious moments you see in the photos used in this post (thank you so much Janelle!!). I am so grateful for all of these sweet moments in our little home with Penny. These photos were taken three weeks ago and that already feels like a lifetime ago! The days and weeks go by SO FAST now that she’s here. Time, please slow down!
So that’s it - my extremely long post about welcoming Miss P and what I’ve learned and experienced this past month! I’d love to hear from you so please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below or send me a DM over on Instagram, where I’m trying to show parts of our Penny adventures each day. : )