Looking back on the pregnancy and birth of your first child, was there anything about the postpartum period that you thought would be different?
I had no idea the range of emotions I was going to experience after welcoming our first daughter. I had imagined joy and happiness but along with that came an insane fear, so many tears, and many emotions I didn't even know existed. Everything I ever wanted or had worked towards at the point in my life, changed in a matter of seconds. I never imagined that happening. I also grieved the birth I had wanted and planned for. I cried every day for months over having medical choices made for me during our birth that I begged not to have. As strange as it may sound, I felt violated and robbed of an experience I had been anticipating so much. While this was definitely overshadowed by the excitement and love I had towards our daughter, it was very unexpected and took some time to process.
When you prepared for your second and third children, did you do anything different from preparing for the first?
We did A LOT differently. We went a holistic route with our last 3 pregnancies, had a much stricter diet, saw a midwife and had and will have home water births. We researched and educated ourselves much better and our pregnancies and birth experiences have been incredible! Going this route gave us everything we wanted and so much more. With our second birth, my husband and I became advocates for things we didn't even know existed with our first birth! We have incredible relationships with our midwife and her family, felt so much love, support and empowerment and had birth experiences that involved almost no pain, recovery periods and experienced so much joy! My body responded so much better physically and emotionally to going a holistic route!
What was your biggest challenge as a first time mom?
Probably processing through my emotions and separating myself from my daughter. I had absolutely no desire to ever put her down. I held her, wore her in various baby wraps, slept with her... I just didn't know how to put her down. I was a full time graduate student and also went back to work part time after Norah was 3 months old and I remember how painful it was to separate myself from her for even a few hours... I didn't experience any postpartum depression with our first daughter, but very surprisingly did with our second. I had a full year where I felt a bit foggish and in a funk and it wasn't until I was coming out of it a year later that I realized what I was experiencing. Although mine was not as intense as some mothers experience, it was a strange challenge that I was not expecting...
What is your biggest challenge to a mom of 3 going on 4?
This was so unexpected. We planned for one baby and are about to welcome our fourth! So unexpected, but so amazing!! Probably my biggest challenge is battling the thought of going back to work. I finished my masters in counseling and love being a therapist but now motherhood has consumed so much more of me than I have ever imagined. If I didn't have student loans to pay back, I probably would not go back to work, for a long time, as I love being at home with my daughters so much. We're educating them at home and I guess my biggest challenge is the thought and fear of not having this time with them but also understanding we have a heavy financial burden to take care of now. When I started grad school we didn't have any babies... by the time I finished, we had 3 and my heart had changed so much. So if you know of anyone looking to pay off someone's loans, send them our way please😂😂😂 The emotions that come with wanting to be with your children and fearing not being able to has been very challenging for me.
How did you overcome those challenges?
I'm working through them right now. My husband is amazing and supports us so well in so many areas but I feel I will have to work eventually. We've gotten creative with side jobs, providing some day care, collaborating with various companies and trying to make a little income through our passions while we are in this transitional period. I'm really hopeful that somehow we will make a way where I won't have to work for some time but also a realist in the sense that I understand this is something I may have to do and will do so with a grateful heart because I'm supporting my family.
How did your self care routine change over time?
I have always been pretty laid back and never really had much of a self care routine aside from the normal wake up, shower, brush your teeth go about your day and repeat before bed... but now, some days all of those things feel like a luxury😂 I'm a big believer in dry shampoo, easy make up and long showers these days! I think I'm lucky in the sense that I'm pretty low maintenance but it still is a challenge to make sure I'm taking care of myself even in the little things. Self care really is so important! I try to get out with friends for coffee, good conversation and a little thrifting as this refreshes me big time. My husband and I also try to spend every evening together and that is so awesome to have that to look forward to and to help us unwind! Netflix and chilling involves a lot more Netflix and chilling than it once did before almost 4 babes!
What did your family and friends do to support you after having a baby?
We are blessed with some awesome friends! My best friend and I attend each others home births and are very like minded and she's been so helpful and supportive the last 3 years! She understands the physical and emotional aspects of child birth and parenting and sometimes just having that person who understands what you are feeling and is open to listening and sharing can be so helpful in the time after welcoming a baby. Definitely helps me feel less lonely. People bringing meals, encouraging us through kind words & listening to us... oh, and surprising us with coffee are always some of the ways we feel most loved and taken care of most after welcoming a baby!
What have been some of the most memorable ways that they have shown their support?
I mentioned my best friend Olivia. She was there for the birth of our third daughter, will be at my next birth and I was blessed to be at her two previous home births. Having her there to hold my hand, speak affirming things to me and just love me meant so much to me. I've never had a friend like this. Having friends stop by with an unexpected lattes makes me feel so loved and cared about! Honestly, people letting us share our birth experience helps me, especially, process through the experience and is therapeutic for me. Really, as cliche as it sounds, our friends & family just assuring us that they are here for us after having a baby helps us so much. Even if we don't ever take them up on their offers, knowing that we have a community around us who loves us and wants to help us extremely helpful to us.
What is one piece of advice you would give to other moms who are expecting?
First, remember to enjoy your pregnancy. Pregnancy can come with difficult emotions, physical pain and discomforts but we are truly lucky to experience it. I have friends who struggle with infertility and it's so painful to watch the way they long for pregnancy and a child. Whenever I'm finding myself thinking negatively during pregnancy, I remind myself how blessed I am. You won't be pregnant forever no matter how much it feels that way... Second, research the birth choices you have... Research the choices you will be making for your baby when they're born. If you have a partner/spouse, research these things together and discuss these things while you're pregnant so that you are in confident agreement about the choices you will be making together before and after your child arrives! And be kind to yourself. Your body changes, your heart changes, your desires and priorities change and all of those things are ok. Don't try to compare yourself to other moms or to what you imagined you would be like pregnant or as a mother but just embrace the new you and try to be the healthiest person and mother to that baby or babies as you can be. And if you find you're struggling emotionally in ways you weren't expecting, seek out and talk to somebody you can trust to help you walk through it all!!
Amanda Pahls is an amazing mom of 3 (going on 4)!
Check out her blog here: amandapahls.com
Follow her on IG here: @amandapahls