Meet Kendra Bell Holmes
A first-time Mom to an outgoing 7 month old beautiful baby girl. Kendra is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who works with children and their families with developmental disabilities. Recently, Kendra joined the board of advisors for Tiny Earth Toys, an educational toy subscription curated by learning experts and exchanged after play. In our Meet The Mamas Series, Kendra shares tips and advice from her experience with a prolonged postpartum recovery after her 30 hour of natural labor that ended up as an emergency c-section.
Kendra and Baby at 2 Months Postpartum
How long was your recovery after giving birth? Did you run into any challenges? What helped your recovery the most?
I would say that the physical recovery took about 2 months and the emotional/mental recovery is still very much a work in progress. To give a little backstory, I had planned for MONTHS to have an entirely natural and medication-free labor. Unfortunately after 30 hours of said natural labor, I ended up having an emergency c-section as the baby's heart rate started to dip. Add that to the unexpected addition of Covid-19 and you have the ultimate recipe for stress and a prolonged postpartum recovery.
The things that helped the most during recovery were:
- Sleep: Although hard to do when you have a new baby, trying to find as many moments to sleep as possible. I know they say "sleep when the baby sleeps" but that's not always possible. Early on, my husband and I set up a routine/schedule that allowed each of us to rest when the other was tending to the baby.
- Water: Drink, drink, drink! I loved (and still use) the 1/2 gallon cup with lid and straw that my hospital provided. I knew I needed to finish at least 2 full cups and most days were closer to 5-6. Not only did the water make me feel much better, it definitely helped boost my milk supply.
- Nipple Butter: They seriously DO NOT talk about nipple chafing enough, but holy cow was that painful. I was honestly ready to give up breastfeeding from how terrible the first two weeks were. I quickly ordered some Earth Mama nipple balm that SAVED my nipples and my breastfeeding journey.
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?
I spent my entire pregnancy preparing for a vaginal delivery and recovery process. I really wish I would have spent equal time prepping for the possibility of a c-section and what that recovery may look like.
- Hatch Skin-to-Skin Bra: It still is the only bra I will wear!! It is lightweight, comfortable and made it incredibly easy to nurse and snuggle my baby in those first weeks/months.
- Nesting Pillow: Due to my c-section, I was VERY apprehensive to using anything that put pressure on my stomach. While the "brest friend" was listed as a must-have item, it was too much work to attempt to get it around my body when I could barely get out of bed by myself. So this is where the Blessed Nest came in handy! It was extremely soft and molded to my body. This helped the baby to nurse easily and allowed me to enjoy the experience without added pain or anxiety.
- Meal Train: My family and friends set one up and provide hot meals for almost the entire first month of postpartum which was INSANELY helpful.
- Snoo Bassinet: If you know, you know !
- Snack station: One of the nurses at the hospital advised creating a snack station filled with treats to limit the amount of times I left my bed. This included the lovely assortment of medication and water I needed to take but really helped to ensure I was getting adequate nutrition to aid in my recovery. Thank You Nurse Brittany!
What are some of your favorite self care rituals to do postpartum?
Once I made it past the few weeks, I thoroughly enjoyed getting outside and taking a slow walk in the neighborhood. There is nothing like fresh air and the warm sun on your face after weeks of being cooped up inside.
I also loved during the end of pregnancy and early postpartum to soak my feet in epsom salt! Soak for 15 minutes, then lotion with cream and put on compression soaks. Apparently soaking your body in epson salt can help reduce pre-eclampsia too.
I would love to hear your thoughts/experiences with getting help from family or friends. Did you have help, and what was it like? What would you have done differently in terms of getting help from family or friends?
My husband and I both live over 600+ miles from our family which made bringing a new baby into the world during a pandemic THAT much more difficult. I would like to give a huge thank you to our chosen family here in Portland (Faith, Chelsea & Michael) who helped take care of our pup while we were in the hospital and were always a phone call away.
However, we were advised by professionals to not have any visitors in our home which meant we were entirely on our own to figure out how to keep this tiny human alive! Since I had a c-section I wasn’t able to lift, bend or lay down for close to 4 weeks, so I am forever grateful to have had such a hands-on partner. Once my husband went back to work (4 weeks postpartum) my mom came to stay with us which was extremely helpful! She cooked, cleaned and took the baby in the early mornings so that we could sleep in.
While the situation was not ideal by any means, I don't think I would have changed the experience. I enjoyed finding my groove and getting adequate rest with my husband without any outside pressure or influence. Next go around, I think we will stick to having the first 1-2 weeks alone and then welcome family/friends for support.
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 did not experience any baby blues or depression, but I certainly have had my share of anxiety. As I've discussed with many of my mama friends who have given birth in 2020, it's hard to discern what is postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety and just general depression/anxiety related to the pandemic. The advice I have for new mothers is to do some research into what PPD and PPA looks like prior to birth and make someone you know, love and trust aware of the signs as well. You may be experiencing it and due to all of the added emotions and hormones associated with birth, not realize it.
Give yourself grace and know that even if you do experience any or all of them..
YOU ARE A SUPERHERO!
YOU GAVE LIFE!
YOU ARE THE PERFECTLY IMPERFECT MAMA FOR YOUR BABY!
What's the worst advice you've gotten for postpartum & early motherhood?
Honestly any unsolicited advice was the worst for me in the first few weeks. I'm learning to appreciate it a little more now, as well as set boundaries with friends/family around it. Perhaps I'm a bit hard headed when it comes to learning things on my own, but if I need/want your advice... I'll ask for it :)
What's the best advice you've gotten for postpartum & early motherhood?
I don't remember who exactly told me this..probably Chelsea but "Do what is best for YOU and YOUR family" (this is with regards to everything; breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc.) There will be countless people giving advice, opinions and judgement on what you should and should not be doing. I made it a point to hear them all and then choose what worked for us.
Motherhood is a lot of trial and error, but at the end of the day, you know your baby best.
Any closing advice for someone who's just about to be a new mom?
Be kind to yourself and your body. Give yourself the time, space and energy to feel all the feelings...they are normal. Try your best not to focus on "bouncing back" and enjoy all those first moments because while the days may feel long, the weeks and months will fly by.
Breathe. You've got this!
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