Lindsey Bliss
Honest Motherhood

Lindsey Bliss

The mama of six, and director/doula at Carriage House Birth, shares her thoughts on postpartum recovery, and the life-changing advice she gives all new moms...

When we started The Glow back in 2011, our hope was to reveal a raw, honest side of motherhood we felt was missing from the narrative. At the time, we set out to begin a dialogue about the beautiful, messy, transformative path that we as women go through as we navigate our journeys as mothers. Through intimate photography and interviews, we’ve covered some of the most profound motherhood challenges and triumphs, while creating a beautiful community along the way. Six years later, we want to deepen the conversation by sharing intimate stories written by some of the most inspiring mamas we know. Honest Motherhood is our chance to share their personal essays about issues many of us have either faced in our own lives, or can relate to on a meaningful level, while shining a light on women who have not only come out the other side, but are stronger because of their unique journeys. In the words of Maya Angelou:

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

As the mother of six children (including two sets of twins!), Lindsey Bliss has birthed two boys and four girls spanning four pregnancies. Along the way, she has learned enough to write an entire book on what to expect when recovering from childbirth. From her first experience to her last, she thoughtfully and drastically changed the way she approached her postpartum care and recovery. As a birth doula, and the director of Brooklyn’s beloved Carriage House Birth, Lindsey guides her clients through their pregnancies and births, revealing to them what those first few days, weeks, and months really look and feel like post-baby. Not one to sugarcoat anything, her approach is to be 100% honest, while offering practical, positive, real-life advice for navigating the unchartered, often choppy waters of early motherhood. Here, she shares with us her personal journey through four postpartum experiences, and the same honest advice she gives her doula clients—from what to pack in your hospital bag to which numbers you should have on speed-dial.

Lindsey Bliss
“The tears were therapeutic. I needed to mourn my former self. The physical pain was a shock too and kept me very close to my home and bed during those first few weeks. My mind and body were healing in unison.”

In the Beginning

“Recovering from childbirth was something I was completely unprepared for the first time around. I was the first of all my close friends and siblings to have a baby. This was before Instagram and no one was publicly sharing all the postpartum details. I stayed in bed for two weeks straight after my first was born, healing both physically and emotionally. I was shocked by how intense and transformative my journey was. My postpartum experiences after my first-born improved with each consecutive birth. My first baby schooled me hard! I had this expectation that my life would resume as it was before. I imagined my daughter adapting to MY way of life and not the other way around. I was in extreme denial that having a baby would change literally EVERYTHING!

With my first baby I did nothing in advance to prepare for the aftermath of birth. Nothing. Zilch. I felt like I hit the ground running. I wish I had prepared for postpartum in advance. I was so focused on the birth that I was in total denial of AFTER! Transitioning from a maiden to mother was no fucking joke. The responsibility of caring for another person in that way felt crushing—the most difficult and beautiful transformation I’ve ever gone through. I cried though most of the postpartum challenges. I was emotionally raw and felt as if I had been gutted. The tears were therapeutic. I needed to mourn my former self. The physical pain was a shock too and kept me very close to my home and bed during those first few weeks. My mind and body were healing in unison.

My next birth was my first set of twins. That was a bit of a blur as well. I had my family help with food, cleaning, and baby juggling in those first initial weeks postpartum, and I had my therapist on speed dial during those first few months. I prepared in advance to have my therapist’s support this time around. It made a huge difference in my ability to embrace chaos.

 

Lindsey Bliss
Lindsey Bliss
Lessons Learned

My most recent birth (with my last baby), I prepared for postpartum the way that I should have prepared for my previous deliveries: I hired a postpartum doula. She was there to help keep me tethered to reality. I loved her company when my husband had to rush back to work. She cooked me lentil soup and helped me form a game plan for life with another child. I asked my family to help with my other kiddos. I encapsulated my placenta. The smallest chance of the placenta ‘happy pills’ helping with PPD and anxiety were enough of a reason for me to encapsulate. After taking the pills I felt like I had more energy and my hormones seemed to be balanced. I asked for help if something wasn’t going right (breastfeeding) and I surrendered to the process. When Olympia was not gaining weight efficiently, I reached out to my pediatrician and a friend who is an IBCLE (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). They determined that she had a tongue-tie, and when Olympia was a week old I had it corrected. Breastfeeding and her weight gain immediately improved. If I had not reached out for support my breastfeeding journey would have looked very different or even ended way sooner than I would have wanted.

The Unexpected

The most unexpected physical elements of my first postpartum recovery was the strange empty squishy belly that I was left with, my tender and stitched up lady bits, and of all the postpartum bleeding. When I left the birthing center, a midwife there told me to call if I had clots larger then my fist. MY FIST?! What?! No one prepared me for large blood clots. No one prepared me for the stinging and burning that I experienced while peeing. And the hemorrhoids that I got from pushing, geez. Oh yeah, and no one told me that years later I’d still be peeing myself.

The unexpected emotional element that was the most surprising was the baby blues. The name ‘baby blues’ is very deceiving. It just sounds like you might be a little weepy. I was a hysterical hot fucking mess. I recall ugly crying because I couldn’t find clean pants that fit. I didn’t want to leave my bedroom for weeks. I was filled with sadness, guilt, crushing responsibility, and overwhelming joy all at the same time. It should be called ‘postpartum rollercoaster’ instead. This rollercoaster postpartum journey followed me through two of my childbearing journeys. My third and fourth deliveries were a dream in comparison. I surrendered to the process and asked for help. I didn’t have the same expectations as I had before. I also ate my placenta after the last two births. Coincidence? Who knows, but I’d like to say my ‘happy pills’ worked.

When you go through the postpartum experience for the first time you really don’t know how to prepare. After my first baby was born, I acknowledged how majorly transformative it was. I was easier on myself the second, third, and fourth time. I allowed myself to feel all the different feelings and process them. I also asked for help when I needed it. I stopped trying to be super human and handle everything myself. It’s my nature to just handle shit, but sometimes it’s OK to ask for help though.

 

Lindsey Bliss
Lindsey Bliss
Seeing the Light

When I teach new parents about how to prepare mentally for the physical and emotional changes after labor I reiterate that the birth is only going to be one-four days (hopefully not longer) and then it’s over. What are your plans once you have this baby? Who is your village? Do you have support? I try not to sugarcoat how intense, both physically and emotionally, the postpartum period can be. Be easy on yourself. I teach my clients to ask for help if necessary. Asking for help shows strength. I encourage clients to have a few phone numbers for therapists if they are prone to anxiety or depression. I had my therapist on speed dial when I gave birth to my first set of twins.

My recipe for healing postpartum is REST, REST, and more REST! Don’t try and do too much too soon. Stay in bed skin-to-skin with your new baby for the first two weeks if possible. Eat lots of nourishing food and hydrate well.

New Baby, New Body

After my first baby I felt very disconnected from my body postpartum. I didn’t embrace the stretch marks or the added weight gain. I had just transitioned from the modeling world to motherhood. It was a bumpy road. I viewed the changes that my body went through as negative. The shift was massive. Fast-forward to my most recent birth and I LOVE my postpartum body. I’m proud of what it has done. Each stretch mark is a reminder of how my body was able to grow and birth life. My saggy boobs fed six babies. That’s pretty awesome.

Many first time mothers are afraid of tearing. I know I was. With my first baby I had some tearing. My labor went really fast and I didn’t have much control over the pushing. This led to second-degree tears. I’m not sure anything can really be done to prevent tearing during a fast pushing stage other than the midwife trying to protect the perineum. The jury is out on perineal massage for preventing tearing. Some studies have been done that show it may reduce your risk of tearing. I think it’s definitely worth giving it a go. There are no risks. It’s free. Why not? The good news is that with second timers the risk of tearing significantly decreases. I had zero tearing with my consecutive deliveries.

Lindsey Bliss
The New Normal  

This leads me to discuss postpartum sex. There are real valid fears of sex being painful due to tearing during childbirth. The good news is that your vagina heals really quickly. If it doesn’t you should seek out the support of a pelvic floor physical therapist. Many obstetricians recommend waiting to resume sex around six weeks postpartum (sometimes sooner). This is usually a case-by-case situation. After my first birth, I bleed for 12 weeks. My care provider instructed me to wait until the bleeding stopped to resume sex and rigorous exercise. For some folks you may stop bleeding a couple weeks post delivery and get clearance. You may also be ready to go physically but have ZERO desire to exercise or get freaky. That’s okay. There are no rules on how you should feel postpartum. I struggle with often feeling extremely tired and touched out. Constantly breastfeeding and baby juggling makes sleep a top priority. Try to carve out a little one-on-one time with your partner. There are other ways to be intimate if you are not feeling ready for sex.

Be easy on yourself postpartum. Ask for help. Call upon your village. Allow yourself to process all the feelings that come up. There is no rulebook. Practicing gratitude every day will help you keep things in perspective. My dear friend always says, “It’s like a hurricane in a teacup.” This phase feels like 1000 years when you are in it but I promise you it will pass. It gets easier.

I give all of my doula clients a packing list for the hospital and for homebirths. Here are my top must haves.

Hospital Birth Must-Haves…

Bring a birth doula, especially if you are birthing in a hospital.

Pillows: There are NEVER enough pillows in the hospital. Bring a dark pillowcase too, so yours won’t blend in with the hospital linens.

Water bottle and/or bendy straws: Hydrate like crazy.

Wash Cloth: Essential for cooling off during the laboring process. Have your birth partner put in a tub with ice water and place on your forehead or chest.

Yoga ball: Most hospitals have them but you should check in advance to confirm. If not bring one. They deflate post delivery.

Lip balm

Music

Personal toiletries

Massage oil

Battery operated candles for setting the mood

Aromatherapy: Lavender is often the top choice for labor

Snacks: Nothing super acidic as you may be nauseous during or after delivery

Clothes: During and after birth I recommend a cozy robe—perfect for post delivery skin-to-skin with your newborn. And of course super comfy socks.

Baby outfits

Car seat

Home Birth Must-Haves…

This list is pretty much the same but I will list a few more additional options.

Candles

Birth Altar: Serves as a focal point during your labor and can contain positive birth affirmations and/or photographs, crystals, flowers, etc…

Birth tub and/or liners

Shower curtains: To cover bed, couch, or floor, depending on where you birth your baby.

Towels: Four to five towels that can be tossed.

Receiving blankets

Witch hazel: For easing the post delivery peeing

Container for placenta (if you decide to keep it)

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