Meet Courtnie McClister
Meet Courtnie McClister from Houston, Texas. Formerly an Enterprise Account Manager for an event tech company, today Courtnie is a stay at home mother and a first time mom to a sweet 8 month old baby boy. In our Meet The Mamas Series, Courtnie describes the precious moment when she meets her baby boy for the first time. She also shares the many challenges that she endured and overcame during her postpartum recovery.
Mama Courtnie McClister and Baby Luke
Can you tell me about your labor and delivery experience and how were you feeling?
At 40 weeks and 2 days, I went in for my 40 week appointment and my blood pressure was through the roof after several checks and rechecks. At that point, my doctor felt it was best to induce that day. High blood pressure during my pregnancy was not uncommon and always occurred at the doctor office (aka White Coat Syndrome), I monitored my blood pressure at home regularly throughout pregnancy so having an initial high reading at the doctor didn’t shock me but the subsequent rechecks that were not lowering was a little concerning.
I was past due and getting very uncomfortable and anxious to meet my baby, BUT hearing we’re going to induce that day was still surreal. So I went home, got my husband and hospital bags and reported back to the hospital to begin induction. I was admitted around 6pm and started the induction process around 7pm Tuesday night via Foley bulb/balloon method. I felt nervous and anxious all night, I barely got any sleep between restroom visits and nerves. They started Pitocin around 4am Wednesday morning, contractions started getting more intense within a few hours. They removed the balloon at 7am (3cm dilated), broke my water shortly after, continually increased Pitocin - contractions were rough and almost all in my back. I went in with the plan for epidural so we went ahead and called Anesthesiologist to get in line. They came almost immediately (not mad about that!), got an epidural and within 2 hours I dilated to 8cm! It took another 2 hours to get to 10cm but baby hadn’t dropped much so I labored down for an hour or so and then started pushing.
At 4:30pm, after 2.5 hours of pushing, I delivered a healthy OP (occiput posterior or ‘sunny side up’) baby. The last 20 minutes of pushing were tough, I was feeling defeated and tired. I read that when you feel like you can’t go anymore is right before baby comes, so I kept that in the back of my mind, I knew I was so close. And I had an incredible team - my husband, L&D nurse and Doctor were amazing.
The sheer relief and joy immediately after delivery is overwhelming. The moment the nurse places your new baby on your chest and you get to meet him for the first time is the absolute purest form of love in the flesh.
How long was your recovery after giving birth? Did you run into any challenges? What helped your recovery the most?
Recovery was awful. This is two fold for me. First, when Luke was 1 week old we took him to the ER for breathing trouble. He was immediately admitted, he was in or near respiratory failure, we were in ICU for 3 days and in pulmonary care for 3 days. Due to COVID, only 1 person could be with him with no in/out privileges. Needless to say, I couldn't properly rest or take care of myself - sleep was in 1 hour stretches between doctors, nurses, IV/meds, blood draws, pumping/nursing, beeping machines (so much beeping!). I was eating mostly hospital food, my husband would bring me smoothies and good coffee, and I only had a few postpartum supplies with me. Once we were out of ICU and on the pulmonary floor, I was taking care of Luke around the clock without much help, nurses were administering meds and doing vitals but the floor we were on wasn’t necessarily for babies or new moms. I believe this week was a huge setback in physical and mental recovery.
Second, I did have 2nd degree tear and as time passed, things just didn’t feel right and I didn’t feel like I was healing. But I didn’t know what to expect postpartum, I didn’t know how long the healing process would be, I assumed 6 weeks because that’s when you see your doctor to get the ‘all clear’. My Doctor confirmed at my 6 week appointment, things were indeed not right, I had a 1cm tissue separation from my tear and some granulation tissue - translation - more healing, possible ‘surgery’ to restitch and continued pain.
Long story short, I saw my doctor throughout the next 3 months, I did have to have an in-office procedure to remove granulation tissue (IT F-ING HURT and the few days after rivaled post-birth). The tissue separation healed on its own over time. My recovery was hard and long but so many lessons learned, mostly your body needs rest and time to heal. AND Luke is healthy, which is most important.
What are some products or support you wish you had when you got home that first week after giving birth? What was really helpful in making your life easier as a new mom?
- The early days are so long and so hard, I’m not sure anything can really prepare a first time mom. Due to COVID, it was just me and my husband and after our hospital scare, we weren’t willing to take any chances with people coming over. Since we couldn’t have physical help, the next best thing was a prepared meal delivered. It was one less thing to worry about.
- Nipple butter, water and snacks were key to breastfeeding for me. I kept a nipple butter, a filled Yeti of ice water and a ‘snack station’ next to the rocker in the nursery - I would refill my water and snack station daily, it’s what got me through night feedings. I also kept a nipple butter in the bathroom for after showers, it really helped nursing in the early days. I also loved having the Haakaa on hand to relieve an engorged breast especially when the baby started sleeping in longer stretches.
- Baby Frida Peri Bottle and witch hazel spray were go-tos for my entire (long) healing process.
- Some sort of baby tracking app, I use Baby Tracker for feeds (add dirty diapers the first few weeks) and Huckleberry for sleep (didn’t start this until about 5 months old). I couldn’t keep time straight so having an app help with when last feeds were, how long sleep was, when nap time is, etc. was really helpful for me.
What are some of your favorite self care rituals to do postpartum
Shower! The power of a shower and some fresh air should not be underestimated.
Did you experience any baby blues or postpartum anxiety or depression? Do you have any advice for new mothers struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression?I had the baby blues. I felt overwhelmed, sleep deprived, exhausted and very hormonal. I was responsible for this tiny human and I felt like I didn’t know what to do, I mean shouldn’t they send a nurse home with you or something!? For about 4-5 days, I told my husband, I need to have my daily cry and I’d cry for no real reason. I wasn’t sad, I was never sure why I was crying but I just needed to let it out.
After our stint in the hospital with Luke, I felt anxious for several weeks, I would check the Owlet app constantly. On Mother’s Day, we’d been home from hospital stay for less than a week, I was relying heavily on the Owlet for peace of mind and the dog got the Owlet monitor and sock off the table and crunched it - I lost it, I was SO upset. This was my sanity, this is what allowed me to get some sleep at night. I tried to order a replacement, they were backordered for weeks - I was getting a little frantic. A friend had one they weren’t using and 2-day shipped it from CA to TX, I didn’t get much sleep those nights. But with some time, I got more comfortable as a mom, got to know my baby better and started to decipher different noises, sounds and cries. Also, newborns are loud sleepers and make a lot of weird noises - no one ever mentioned that to me!
What's the worst advice you've gotten for postpartum & early motherhood?
“Just get him on a nap/night/feed schedule as soon as possible.” While this may me wonderful advice and work for some, this was not the case for this Type A, first time momma. I tried a ‘schedule’ and it would just lead to frustration and the feeling of failure. So what worked for us was more of a flexible routine that was determined by Luke; watching wake windows, sleep cues, feeds every 2-3 hours (early days) and following more of a sleep/eat/play flow. Although I love schedules and structure, keeping things flexible actually saved my sanity.
What's the best advice you've gotten for postpartum & early motherhood?
- You’re the best mama for your baby.
- Trust your mama intuition.
Any closing advice for someone who's just about to be a new mom?
Every baby is different. Don’t Google everything. Be easy on yourself, you and your baby are both learning. Take a shower. Rest your body and allow time to heal. Eat whole foods and drink a ton of water. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby. There will be hard days, you will get through it - take a deep breath.