A Postpartum Physician’s Perspective…. By Ilene Goldstein, M.D.

“Molly Lovebug”

Eight weeks ago today was my due date. Forty-eight hours later, Molly was born. Two months of crying (both mom and baby), laughing (with and at each other) and I am finally ready to blog about it all. I tried to write a post about two weeks postpartum, but my husband gently commented that I seemed distracted and it was not my best work (bold move being so honest to an emotional postpartum woman). Hopefully, this is an improvement. I would like to take a journey back through my previous blogs…

My last post prior to delivery, I wrote about birth planning and preferences. As hard as I tried not to plan, I found myself texting the on call doctor to offer my own (clearly biased) opinion on my scheduled induction. On the verge of micromanaging, I vowed to “roll with it” for the duration. And I think I did! Not planning worked out in my favor. I was fortunate enough to have a speedy, successful induction of labor, and Molly was born healthy, chubby and oh-so-loved. I preferred to try breastfeeding, but I never planned on how much I would enjoy it. Unfortunately, I also did not plan for it to be so challenging and ultimately not successful. Despite having incredible help and support, Molly and I never found our groove, but she loves her “liquid gold” via the bottle. Most importantly, she is gaining weight and thriving. As I mentioned in that recent blog, we have had so many exciting firsts, none of which I was able to plan.

Many months ago, I posted pictures of my pregnant self staying active during the third trimester. I divulged to all of you how I exceeded my weight gain goals – in this case, “exceeding goals” not being worthy of a celebration. I am happy to report that I was weight lifting on my due date, and managed a two mile walk – albeit slow and waddling – before presenting to the hospital for my induction. Although I “failed” to achieve a modest weight gain, I know that exercising throughout contributed to my success with delivery and recovery. Molly delivered with a quick sixteen minutes of pushing and I was back pumping iron at three weeks postpartum. I still have weight to lose and my body will never be the same as pre-pregnancy. However, I think it’s better. I know how capable my body is and I am so proud of the changes. My body grew a human – a very adorable one I might add! And that IS worth celebrating.

Molly loves her daily walks. We haven’t missed many since she was one week old. Inevitably, the walks take longer than I anticipate because we are mauled by strangers who want to visit with the baby. Yesterday, our waitress at lunch insisted on soothing her while we ate a few bites together. When I held Molly again a few minutes later, she had a shiny red lipstick stain on her cheek and a smile on her face. Many months ago, I commented on being a welcome recipient to unbridled kindness during my pregnancy. Now, as a family, we continue to experience so much love from this crazy, often self- absorbed world. The kindness is no longer directed at my “swagger” or my now deflated belly. It is all about Molly, rightly so. People often take a moment of their day to smile, comment on how cute she is, ask her name, and inquire how much (or little) we are all sleeping. So many of you have taken the time to read the blogs, visit our website or Facebook page, and we are so grateful for the outpouring of love and celebration via social media. I predicted in one blog that the kindness would dissipate after the pregnancy, but it hasn’t. It is perfectly redirected.

In my limited experience thus far, everyday of the postpartum presents stress and new challenges. Just when I think I am getting the hang of it or developing a routine, something changes and I stumble. As a new mom, it is unfamiliar territory and I am fraught with self doubt, feelings of inadequacy, frustration, guilt and even fear. Combine that with sleep deprivation, legitimate hormonal changes and the postpartum truly is the perfect storm. A friend provided a comment that resonated with me: every decision feels enormous. Should I finish feeding her or change her diaper first? During the twenty minutes I might spend perseverating this, I could have done both! If I swaddle her, will she be too hot? I work up a sweat just trying to decide what to do. As I mentioned in one of my first posts, we all have stress and we all make mistakes. I have learned that is normal, how it is important to ask for help, and to accept help when it is offered. It is invaluable to take care of yourself so that you can take care of those around you. Fortunately, the feelings of gratitude, serenity and happiness have outweighed the pesky negative thoughts that creep in especially in times of stress. I continue to strive to be the best version of myself, including in my new role as a mother.

Reflecting back on my very first blog when I introduced my pregnancy journey to social media, I addressed whether this experience would change the manner in which I practice or make me a “better” doctor. First, I am forever grateful to have had this experience and I can appreciate the perspective that I have gained. For this new mother, the complex and sometimes confusing emotions during pregnancy and the postpartum were more disruptive than the physical changes and discomforts. I know that may be a unique perspective, but I certainly hope to bring to my practice of obstetrics an improved understanding of these challenges as well as a renewed spirit to support women emotionally during this journey. On many occasions during my pregnancy, I was overwhelmed by gratitude recognizing how fortunate I was to experience a pregnancy at my age and after we sought care for fertility struggles. But now, with Molly in my arms, I realize that for me the pregnancy was just us lacing up for the real race. Motherhood, parenthood, is the true journey. And if it is something desired, it does not matter how you get there. Not everyone needs to lace up or stretch before the race. Some people just RUN…

One more thank you for all the best wishes and for sharing this experience with me. More pictures of our growing family included…

Ilene Goldstein, M.D. is an ob/gyn physician with Virginia Beach Obstetrics and Gynecology, PC.  She practices in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, VA.  She and her husband, Len Futerman, DDS, welcomed their first daughter in November, 2015.