Reflections On a Year With a Tiny New Roommate
What Worked, What Didn’t, and What What I Wish I’d Known
Pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum have been wild, wonderful, occasionally turbulent and endlessly exhausting. Here are some of the products, wisdom, and rituals that helped me through my own journey.
Of all the things I miss pre-baby, I miss my jawline the most. I should have treasured it when I had the chance, but alas. One year and counting since I gave birth, and I’m still adjusting to the losses big and small – along with the gains, which are plentiful. Now, just in time for my first mama’s day where I’m not a complete zombie from months of sleep deprivation, I’m reflecting on this postpartum chapter (which lasts forever, if you really think about it) as we begin to emerge into the season of rebirth and regrowth.
Becoming pregnant during the pandemic was both a challenge and a gift. Being unable to live “normally” – meet friends, go to cafes, shop for a stroller in person – meant that my pregnancy was nothing like what I had anticipated. But, instead of focusing on feelings of loss, I chose to take advantage of those 40 weeks by cocooning and turning to a trusted circle of loved ones for advice, support, and several “is this normal?” moments.
I have no regrets about this. I rejected the tradition of unsolicited pregnancy and parenting advice, and I was so much happier for it. Take this, don’t drink that, give the baby this, restrict yourself from that – a pregnancy announcement seems to invite endless opinions, whether you want them or not. It also starts you on a trajectory that often doesn’t align with lived experience: first comes the cute baby bump, followed by a gender reveal (if that’s your thing), then the baby magically appears, and mama begins the “bouncing back” process. No ma'am.
Instead, I opted to lean into a group text thread [shout out OG YONIS] where there are two rules: no judgment and no “right” way. The pressures – literal and figurative – put on women and other birthing people are enormous. And if you don’t fit the narrative, it’s easy (especially amongst the hormonal ebbs and flows) to feel like a failure. Are you feeling the 2nd trimester euphoria? Have you started nesting yet? Have you bonded with a baby? Are you sleeping when baby sleeps? And on and on and on. I could write a whole novel on the pressures pregnant people face during this period of our lives, but I’ll save it.
It's so easy to forget – especially when you’re tired, your body is breaking down, and the internet makes you feel like you should be striving for mommy perfection – that every body is different, and we all have different needs, timelines and priorities. Some of us will despair when we see the dark circles under our eyes, the stretch marks on our bellies, the wiry gray hairs poking mischievously out of our heads. Others see these changes as badges of honor, rites of passage, or sacred keepsakes. Some of us need time to ourselves, hoarding precious moments of solitude with our tiny new earthling. Others will require round-the-clock support from friends and family. Motherhood is complex – it’s excruciating, amazing, painful, exhausting, and magnificent all at once. And all of it is OK. (And when it’s really not “OK”, it’s OK to seek help.)
You may find, as I did, that there are symptoms – aches, pains (and yes, joys!) that you didn’t even know existed – even though countless generations of women have experienced them before. This is the real failure, not you. We have failed, as a collective, to provide women and birthing people with the space to share their experiences of pregnancy, labor and postpartum. Instead, the whole process has been gate-kept, shrouded in shame and secrecy. Even now, when reproductive health is more visible and open than ever before, we seem to only want to see the “good” parts. Often, these are also the most unrealistic parts.
So, if I can give you one piece of advice, parent-to-parent, it would be this: forget everything you’ve seen and heard about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Use this time to start from scratch. Find people you trust, establish healthy boundaries, and discover what’s right for you and your baby. This is a messy process, and why wouldn’t it be? It’s nature’s greatest gift, and perhaps her cruelest joke. If you’ve been through it, you know what I mean. One thing is for certain, though: however you do pregnancy, birth, postpartum and parenthood, you’re a damn hero.
I was lucky enough to find some products that soothed me while I was pregnant and as I entered the fourth trimester, so I gave them a home here at TFP. These may work for you, too – I hope they do! And in the spirit of doing what feels most right for you, I hope you will take only what serves you and leave the rest behind.
A wonderful, warming ritual, this Tisane tea includes ingredients that strengthen the uterus before and after labor. Fans have also claimed that it helped reduce morning (let’s be honest, all day) sickness in the first trimester. Often referred to as the woman’s herb, red raspberry leaf provides B vitamins, vitamin C, and a number of minerals – including potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and iron. It can also be used postpartum to help regulate your cycle once it returns. There are also claims it will help shorten labor, although not in my case, unfortunately!
What a delightful sip! This delicious elixir was super handy for boosting my mood, regulating hormones, and restoring collagen. Nourishing and decadent, it’s perfect for the first trimester when nourishing yourself can seem impossible, and for the third – when eating again can also become impossible.
Even though I spent months on end in a cocoon of breastfeeding, diapers, naps, swaddling, baby wearing, learning, tummy time striving, sleeplessness and baby bliss all at once, I made sure to have a couple things in my back pocket that were just for me. You’d be surprised how something quick like a swipe of deodorant can make you feel human again.
The fragrance is subtle (helpful when trying to get the baby's delicate nose used to mum’s scent) and it just works, which can’t be said for all natural deodorants. Non-toxic, non-aluminum body care became a priority for me during pregnancy and postpartum. While I was breastfeeding, I wanted to have peace of mind that I wasn’t introducing harmful substances to this new being — there’s plenty of time for the unavoidable toxicity of life for him later!
Did you ever imagine that washing your hair would become such a luxury? Dry shampoo became my constant companion when I was in need of self-love, which was basically whenever I passed a mirror. This lightly fragranced formula from La Tierra Sagrada is extra handy because you can use the brush (it’s not an aerosol) on all the tricky spots. Plus, the added color for light or dark tresses makes blending easy. I’ve had so many people tell me this is their all-time favorite dry shampoo, and it wasn’t until I was postpartum that I really got it.
Not much needs to be said about the healing power of a good eye cream for a new mom. This eye cream delivers serious results. Its enlivening vitamin C, CBD, and green tea formula helped my under eyes look and feel rested even though I was far from it. It takes all of two seconds to apply, and I would leave it bedside while he nursed.
Tenderness is unavoidable, whether you have a belly birth (a much more appropriate name for a c-section surgery, in my humble opinion) or vaginal delivery. Back, hips, shoulders, neck, even wrists – they’re all up for grabs when it comes to postpartum aches and pains. (Did you know there is actually something called Mother’s Thumb? De Quervain's tenosynovitis, if we’re being scientific about it. Yet another postpartum experience that we’re never taught about.). I had to vary ice and heat on my wrists when they weren’t in use, thanks to tendonitis triggered by the repetitive motion of picking up the babe or breastfeeding. This CBD salve lathered under a wrist guard brought much-needed relief back to my overworked mama hands.
My naturopath and friend, Dr. Egenberger of Remede Naturopathics, prescribed something so simple to concoct but so hard to find that we decided to make it ourselves. This satchel of herbs – calendula, St. John’s wort and chamomile – is like tea for your body. Make a large pot (simmer for 20 minutes on low heat), pour into the tub, and then submerge with or without baby. It’s mild and safe and helps with skin irritation, but – perhaps most importantly – with perineum tissue repair. Whether you fancy a full bath or a sitz bath, this was a game changer for the first 6 weeks when we were both in diapers. I would follow this up with a homemade padsicle (oof, there has to be a better name), made from all-natural pads and alcohol-free witch hazel with aloe.
In the early days, finding our breastfeeding groove was a challenge. Striving for a good latch, healing the nipples, battling engorgement and fearing mastitis, I turned to a gift that had been given with an entirely different use in mind. A jade gua sha stone is typically used for lymphatic drainage and facial massage, but this popular tool was surprisingly helpful for something I hadn't planned on: breast massage. Until I worked with lactation consultant and baby guru Krystal Keys, I didn’t know about the existence of hind and foremilk – or that making sure the baby gets a healthy mix of both is absolutely essential. To keep the supply moving toward my nipples, I used the stone to gently massage while he was nursing.
Two boobs, one stone? Studies actually show that practicing breast massage while breastfeeding and pumping helps increase milk output by up to 48%. Hand compression and massage help to compress the ducts and empty the breast more effectively, which means a lower chance of mastitis. Yes, please! The stone was an unexpected but incredibly effective ally. I had to share with other moms in the trenches of BF. We love an adaptable product.
We already know that coconut oil is incredibly versatile. But what we love about this one is that it’s food grade, which means you can use it on your breasts and nipples and know that baby is getting safe nourishment without any harmful chemicals. I used this before each nursing session and then followed with triple zero lanolin for healing. There’s a serious adjustment period as you are both acclimating to one another, and this ritual creates ease and comfort. Coconut oil is also wonderful for baby skin irritation – particularly for eczema relief, as was the case for my kiddo. I also loved it for stretch mark prevention and skin soothing during pregnancy (speaking of adaptable products).
And finally, the elephant in the room: Cannabis and its relatives
While CBD has societal clearance, so much more research is needed to understand the effects of cannabis during pregnancy and breastfeeding. While I was pregnant and suffering from hormonal sleep deprivation, my healthcare provider recommended over-the-counter medications like Benadryl and Unisom. While I’m all for relief for tired pregnant people, how is it that these manufactured medications are safe, but something as deeply natural as cannabis isn’t?
There’s already so much guilt and shame around having needs as a mother – even the need for release and relaxation are wrapped up in complicated societal mores. We’re accepting that mommy may need a glass of wine at the end of the day – but what if mommy needs a weed gummy to manage pain, anxiety or nausea? What if a little THC helps a new parent manage their patience, tap into their energy reserves, or open themselves up creatively? When my gummies hit, I’m able to drop into the moment, be present, think creatively and connect more authentically with those around me. If I’m honest, the right weed gummy makes me a better parent because I’m a better me. Plus my coloring skills and dance moves level up significantly. Let’s work towards dropping our judgment and finding our way towards better solutions – parents deserve it.
I want to shout out to my support system, the existence of which is a privilege every birthing person deserves.
- Regan Goodrich, Seed Acupuncture + Massage
- Anna Leisher, North County Body Work
- Heidi Long, doula
- Olivia Kroening-Roche, midwife
- April M. Hansen RN, reflexologist, healer
- Krystal Keys, lactation consultant & baby guru
- Nicole Egenberger ND, Remede Naturopathics
We all deserve rest, relaxation and relief during this time of our lives. So even if your self-care ritual involves sitting alone in your car for 20 minutes scrolling through social media instead of running errands, we see you. Remember: no judgment, and no “right way” to show yourself love.
Founder of The Flower Pot