Category Archives: Postpartum

Losing the Baby Weight

When does my excuse expire?  The excuse that I am still carrying a bit of baby weight?  Surely not too much longer, now that my baby is almost a year old.

Ugh.  I had been living by the mantra 9 months on, 9 months off.  But that window has slammed shut.  And I’m still not at my goal.

I don’t know why not.  I gained 36 pounds during pregnancy, 4 pounds less than what my doctor recommended (yes, I too had read that 25-35 pounds was the goal, yet my doctor said I should aim for 40).  I exercised throughout my pregnancy.  And although I did eat more loosely than normal (in terms of giving into cravings that I would normally resist), I by no means was eating for two.

The day after delivery, I was down 12 pounds.  By the time I left the hospital, I was down 19 pounds.  By the end of the week, I was down a total of 22 pounds.  It was melting off!

And I had five months of leave scheduled.  Five months!  At this rate, I reasoned, I could lose less than a pound a week.  Or, even better, go back to work in better shape than pre-pregnancy!  Everyone was commenting on how good I looked.  How thin.  As if I’d never had a baby.

And I admit I was smug.  This was all so easy.  I wasn’t even healed yet, but I was already getting back to my pre-pregnancy size.  Already I could fit into pre-pregnancy jeans.  And this was before I even started working out again.  It was really going to start flying off then!

And then – I plateaued.  With 6 pounds left to go.

No worries.  It’s only 6 pounds.  I still have months before going back to work!

And still – nothing.

Hmmm… Must be because of my age.  Okay now it’s time to kick it into gear.  Amped up workouts – check (at 4:30am, no less).  Calorie tracking app on iPhone – check.  Limited junk food – check.

And yet – nothing.

The 9 months on, 9 months off mantra kicks in.  Keep up the workouts.  Watch the diet.  Limit the alcohol.  Carry around a wriggly new 20 pound weight that is attached to my hip.

But my 9 months is up!  Now what??

Granted, I get that 6 pounds (hovering between 5 and 7) is a mere drop in the bucket.  A lot of people would be happy with that.  I’m sure Jessica Simpson would take it.  Not a huge deal.

But it IS.  To ME.  I want to fit into my clothes without them feeling tight.  I want to put away the “bloated day” jeans that have now become my primary jeans.  I want to be able to wear a fitted t-shirt again!

And maybe it’s not even the weight.  Maybe it’s just that my body has changed.  Your hips are wider now, says my none-too-sensitive husband, one morning out of the blue.  As if he is saying something like I think I’ll wash the car today.  

Me, in my hormonal state:  Do you think I’m fat now?  (I can’t even believe I asked that, as I typically don’t like to think of myself as THAT person)

Hubby:  I like your body shape better now (Notice the evasion of the original questions).

So I’ve talked to my other mommy friends.  It’s true, they say, your body will never be the same again.  And maybe they’re right.  Everything else, outside of the extra layer around my mid-section, seems to have settled back into place.  Maybe that extra layer will never go away.

Sigh.  I’m just not ready to give in to it.

Paid Parental Leave

Check out the above graphic (provided by CamiliaUSA).  And it gets better.  Did you know that there are only 4 countries in the world who have no federal law mandating paid time off for new parents?  Yep: Swaziland, Papa New Guinea, Liberia, and the good ole US of A.

Nice.

Here, the postpartum period is considered a period of “disability” and is paid out of Short Term Disability (STD) for 6-8 weeks.  Beyond that, we’re SOL.  Yes, we are provided a total of 12 weeks of job protection under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but as far as compensation goes – in most states – there is nothing.

Fortunately for me, I live in California, which does offer a slightly better plan.  After the 6-8 weeks of paid disability, I am provided the option of an additional 6 weeks of compensation up to 55% of my weekly salary (capped at about $1000/week) paid out of California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) plan.

As far as job protection goes, I am also better protected under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which allows for 12 weeks of job protection AFTER I’m released from Short Term Disability.

Bottom line is this: In most states, working mothers (and only mothers) are paid for 6-8 weeks postpartum (6 weeks for vaginal delivery, 8 weeks for c-section) out of Short Term Disability.  Beyond that, they remain job protected for an additional 4-6 weeks under FMLA (which provides 12 weeks total job protection – beginning with the birth of the child).  That breaks down as follows:

  • Job Protection:  12 weeks of FMLA each for mother and father, beginning when the baby is born (so up to 24 weeks if taken one after the other).
  • Compensation:  For the mother only, typically 6-8 weeks of full pay under STD.

In California, working mothers are also paid for 6-8 weeks postpartum under Short Term Disability.  But once they are released from FMLA, they are granted an ADDITIONAL 12 weeks of job protection under CFRA (vs. FMLA, which starts the clock upon the birth of the child).  Once STD coverage ends, both mothers AND fathers are each eligible for up to 6 weeks of compensation at 55% of their weekly salary under California’s PDL plan.  That breaks down like this:

  • CA Job Protection:  12 weeks each of concurrent FMLA and CFRA for mother and father, beginning when the baby is born.  The benefit for the mother is that while FMLA begins when the baby is born, CFRA protection doesn’t begin until she is released from Short Term Disability.  So this gives her an additional 12 weeks beyond the initial 6-8 weeks covered by STD/FMLA (that’s up to 18-20 weeks total).  If both parents take their full protected leaves one after the other, that is a total of 30-32 weeks of job protection.
  • CA Compensation:  For the mother only, typically 6-8 weeks of full pay under STD.  Beyond that, both the mother and father are each entitled to an additional 6 weeks of compensation of up to 55% of their respective weekly salaries (capped at $1000/week) under the CA PFL plan.

Confused yet?  Yeah, me too.  It took me no fewer than 5 phone calls to HR to understand my rights and entitlements, and I still have to refer back to my notes to make sure I’m understanding correctly.

Let’s compare this to the rights of our friendly neighbors to the north.  In Canada, mothers get 15 weeks of maternity leave paid at 55% of weekly salary (up to $485/week).  After that, mothers and fathers are entitled to an additional 35 weeks (to be shared) of paternity leave at the same pay scale.  Finally, there is an additional 2 week unpaid “waiting period” for benefits that is also job protected.  That’s a total of 52 weeks (1 full year) of job protection after the birth of a child!

And our neighbors to the south?  Mexican parents get 12 weeks maternity leave paid at 75% of salary.  Not too shabby.

And it gets better.  Canada is simply considered middle of the road as far as parental leaves go.  The Czech Republic, for example, allows for 28 weeks of maternity leave (6-8 weeks even before the birth of the child) paid at about 70% of normal salary.  After that, paid job protection is offered for up to 4 YEARS, paid on a sliding scale (the less time you opt to take, the more compensation you receive every month).  You heard that right… 4 YEARS!

Just one more example (of the many) is Norway.  Parents there can opt to receive either 56 weeks of leave at 80% pay, or 46 weeks at 100% pay.  Furthermore, the mother is required to take at least 3 weeks prior to birth and at least 6 weeks after.  Likewise, the father is required to take at least 12 weeks under the “daddy quota.”  Beyond all this, the mother and father can each opt to take an additional 12 months of job protected leave.  So, if the family decided to extend the leave as long as possible, that’s a total of 3 years and 1 month!

Now let’s look at some of the developing nations.  Surely an industrialized nation like the United States would offer leave programs at least comparable to those of developing nations?

Not so fast.

The Congo offers 15 weeks of maternity leave, paid at 100% of salary.  Vietnam offers 4-6 months, paid at 100% of salary.  India offers 12 weeks, paid at 100% of salary.  Even Afghanistan offers 12 weeks at 100%.

And the list goes on and on….

Perhaps one of the best examples is the United Nations.  Members of this organization are allotted 16 weeks of maternity leave paid at 100%, and 4-8 weeks of paternity leave paid at 100%.  I suppose you could consider this the international agreed-upon baseline.

We don’t even compare.

I’ve heard the counter-arguments, of course.  The cost.  The potential for discrimination against women in hiring.  Not to mention the fear that a parent would take advantage of the full paid leave, and then quit anyway (after becoming so accustomed to being at home, etc).

Let’s start with the cost.  Yes, there is a financial cost associated.  But there are ways to shoulder the burden.  In Canada, for example, the amount comes out of the federal Employment Insurance program – paid into by working Canadians.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be shouldered by employers.

As far as discrimination against women in hiring, that seems to be a pretty naive statement, assuming that only women would and should take parental leave.  If the policies were equivalent across both men and women, I doubt there would be much incentive for employers to hire one over the other.  Additionally, with all our laws protecting women and minorities from discriminatory hiring practices, I would hope that we’re protected here.

And for mothers (or fathers) opting to take long leaves and then quitting for good – well, yes, that is a risk.  However, I feel it is a much larger risk given the very short time period Americans have of protected leave today.  Parents are left with no good alternatives; we either leave our tiny 6 or 12-week-olds with caregivers, or simply give up and quit until they are older.  For me personally, this was a very very difficult decision, and I was “this close” to throwing my hands up and quitting until my son was older (and probably would have, had I not been fortunate enough to be offered a much more flexible position).  Canada, again, appears to be a good example in that after 12 months at home, statistics show that the vast majority of mothers feel ready to leave their children with other caregivers and transition back into their careers.  In addition, it is much easier to hire a temporary replacement for a 12-month contract instead of a temporary replacement for 6-12 weeks (which basically leaves the American employer SOL until the parent returns to work).

So where does this leave us?  We remain in the Bottom Four internationally as far as paid parental leave goes.  Not really something to be proud of for a nation that touts itself as the leader of the free world.  Consider that prior to 1993, there was NO provision for protected leave (and employers could deny at will), and I suppose we’ve come a little ways.

But we still have so much further to go.  We talk about the children being our future, yet are forcing mothers to leave them at 6-12 weeks-old.  I am constantly surprised in my conversations with other mothers; how many don’t realize how poorly our leave regulations fare against international standards.  Does that mean we just accept it they way it is?  That we assume this is the best we can get?

I hope not.  Our children and future generations depend on it.

10 Things I Wish I Had Known About Postpartum Months

So now that I’m a few months postpartum, I suppose I fancy myself some sort of postpartum expert.  Well really, when compared with what I knew before (read: NOTHING), I truly am an expert.

I don’t know what it is about the whole pregnancy and new baby process, but there are so many details that nobody shared with me (or maybe I’m just in the wrong circles??  The conundrum of an older mom with childless friends??)  Outside of the actual baby making process, which gets far too much attention, the rest has basically been a big mystery to me.  Kind of a Google-as-I-go type experience.

So I thought I would do my part and try to share some of the biggest surprises or “not-what-I-was-expectings” I encountered after giving birth:

  1. Mothers don’t always immediately bond with their babies.  Okay, so at first I thought there was something wrong with me.  Up until the moment I delivered, I was fully expecting a heartfelt and tearful first meeting with my child.  Heck, I cry when the kids on 16 and Pregnant give birth!  So why was it different with my own son?  I was sort of… hmmm… indifferent?  Relieved that I did my job and delivered, immediately interested in his health and well-being, but not overly emotional in the slightest.  In fact, it took a good few weeks before that moment, that tidal wave of emotion, finally overtook me.  So why?  I’m not really sure, but my best guess is that up until that point, “my baby” was an abstract concept.  The focus was on preparing for The Baby, putting together a nursery for The Baby, keeping The Baby healthy, and then ultimately safely delivering The Baby.  It’s really like a job in a way, and I think I approached it with a detachment similar to that – preparing and getting ready, but not one iota of an emotional investment.  I realize now that this is VERY normal; and that it can take days, weeks, or sometimes even months for a mother to fully and completely bond with her child.  I wish I had known this upfront; as instead I wondered if what I was feeling was normal, if I was a good mother, if this was IT as far as the feelings I would feel for my baby??
  2. Your physical recovery will be tougher than expected.  At least in my case.  I knew delivery was gonna be tough, but I had no clue as to what to expect after that.  Nobody talks about it!  I figured that I was healthy, I worked out, and after a few days I should be in pretty good shape.  NOPE!  It took me weeks before I could sit down normally, and weeks more before I could even consider working out again.  Stairs were ridiculously difficult.  When a friend asked me what I felt like physically after giving birth, I don’t think I was too far off when I replied that I felt like a bomb had gone off down there.  I even called my doctor at one point asking her is this normal???  She assured me that it was.  So instead of expecting to immediately become SuperMom, take care of yourself.  Rest in bed.  Let hubby take on more chores.  HEAL.  It ain’t an easy process.
  3. You will bleed like you’ve never bled before.  And I was supposedly prepared for this!  I stocked up on the super-ultra-extra-long-nighttime-double-wing maxi pads thinking I was armed and ready.  HA!  For those who don’t know, the sanitary napkins they give you in the hospital are the size of dishtowels.  NO JOKE.  I actually laughed when the nurse gave me my first one.  But boy, I stopped laughing when I was changing those suckers every hour on the hour.  At the risk of sounding dramatic, you will think you’re hemorrhaging.  There is THAT MUCH BLOOD.  And it doesn’t stop for weeks on end.  I guess the good news is that I will never complain about a heavy period again.
  4. Baby’s meconium will ruin everything it comes in contact with.  Black, tarry, and incredibly sticky, it does not come out.  It’s difficult to even wash it off your hands… think black leg wax getting on your fingers and clothes.  Do everything in your power to keep it in the diaper and in the diaper alone.
  5. You will still look pregnant.  So sad, but so true.  Despite believing that I had lost every one of the 36 pounds I had gained with the breaking of my water and delivery of the baby and placenta, I was wrong.  I still had my bump.  I was convinced that the nurse forcefully massaging my bump twice daily was doing me a favor in helping to get my tummy back to normal; turns out she was simply trying to massage my uterus back into place.  It probably took a good 2 weeks for the bump to go all the way down…. well, go down to the base layer of baby fat that I now had to lose.
  6. You will bloat like Violet the blueberry girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Postpartum hospital pictures are NOT YOUR FRIENDS.  As bloated as I was at the end of my third trimester of pregnancy, it was nothing compared to the beach ball I ballooned into immediately after giving birth.  I’m told that this is largely the fault of Pitocin.  Whatever the case, expect to look precisely your worst at precisely the moment when hundreds of new baby pictures are immortalizing you forever.  Quick Tip: At least wear a cleavage-flattering shirt (as the saying goes, there’s no great loss without some small gain).
  7. You will lose a lot of hair.  Remember that “thick and luxurious” hair that is so heavily touted during pregnancy?  Get ready to lose it.  I thought I was somehow exempt as my hair remained intact for the first couple of months postpartum.  Then suddenly, at exactly 12 weeks, the shedding began.  Handfuls of hair falling out all over the place – blocking shower drains, coating the couch, littering my pillow, and even getting all over the baby when I held him (which is ironic, because that’s right about the time he started losing his hair too).  You become scared to run a brush through your hair for the clumps you will find in it afterwards.  Last week my hairdresser pointed out the tiny little hairs growing in above my forehead.  So I guess it does come back… Eventually.
  8. The Flu will find you.  I am never sick.  Truly.  Maybe once every several years I will catch a cold.  Yet in the four months since I’ve given birth, I’ve had the flu no fewer than 4 times.  I’m doing everything right – trying to sleep, taking my vitamins, taking extra vitamin C supplements, trying to eat right, and barely even leaving the house…  but it still gets me.  I’m told this is because my immunity is at an all-time low right now after my body has gone through the ginormous effort of building and delivering a baby.  I’m told that it sucks every nutrient out of you and depletes your “stores.”  Whatever the case, seems like it’s true.  So stock up on tissues and remedies.
  9. You will become a weepy basket case.  At least I did.  I thought pregnancy hormones were bad, but postpartum hormones take the cake.  I cry over everything.  My baby.  My husband with the baby.  When the baby is unhappy.  When the baby is joyful.  TV shows.  Commercials.  Other peoples’ babies.  It appears that this situation has improved as time has gone on, but I do feel like the birth of my son has permanently tapped into some previously-untouched crying receptor in the brain.  I suppose the best I can hope for at this point is to try to control the impulse during inopportune moments.
  10. ANXIETY takes on a whole new meaning.  I’ve never been an especially calm person.  I am a worrywart by nature and am often afflicted by Analysis Paralysis.  But my anxiety has skyrocketed 10-fold since the birth of my son.  I doubt I will ever have a fully restful night of sleep again.  Every random scenario that could possibly happen – I’ve accounted and planned for.  I worry about falling down the stairs while holding my baby, I worry about his bowel movements, I worry about him hitting milestones, I worry about letting him out of my sight, I worry about the risk of illness, I even worry about things like what if my husband was driving us in the car and suddenly passed out or had a heart attack – yes, I worry about all of it.  And, sad to say, I don’t think that anxiety is subsiding anytime soon.

So there you have it.  Not all of it is bad, but they are things I wish I had been told prior to experiencing.  And these are just the ones that come immediately to mind – I’m sure there are many others I’m missing.  Of course the beautiful part of postpartum months is the time spent getting to know and bonding with your baby.  So all of these inconveniences are minor drops in the bucket compared to that.

Still… I would have liked to have known.  🙂