Motherly Collective

“I have to go to the hospital.”

Those were the last words I’d expected to be tearfully saying to my husband two days after my newborn daughter and I were happily discharged from the maternity ward. This birth was supposed to be different. It was supposed to be easier. As I would soon learn, the greatest difference between the birth of my two children would be how I felt when I got help.

The birth of my first child, my son, was a calamitous rollercoaster that no amount of birth classes nor pregnancy podcasts could have prepared me for. He arrived at 36 weeks when I simultaneously developed preeclampsia and had my water break. After two days of labor, it took a c-section for hospital staff to realize that my son had gotten dangerously stuck on his entrance into this world and his battle scars required nine days in the NICU and an MRI to scan for brain injuries. The event left me shaken to the core—physically and emotionally.

The second time around I planned for the worst, and in doing so, I intended to avert disaster. I didn’t want to be caught off guard. I didn’t want to welcome a child into the world feeling so broken, and quite frankly, I didn’t want this birth to be so hard. Upon finding out that we would be welcoming a daughter after my IVF embryo transfer, I didn’t immediately go out and buy dresses. Instead, I thought about postpartum. 

I interviewed night nannies. 

To make the birth of my daughter a more pleasant experience I wanted to invest in myself, as well as her, and I knew that getting sleep while recovering from another c-section would be pivotal. Though at the time I did not anticipate how truly important this would be to my recovery. 

After chatting with a few night nannies, I got a great recommendation and signed on a woman to help us out for a few nights the first several weeks that my daughter was home. She’d attend to the baby from 10pm to 6am while mama got some much-needed rest. She explained that she could assist moms who were breastfeeding, either by bringing the baby to you in bed or providing formula, depending on your preference. I signed on immediately, knowing that I intended to supplement with breastmilk during the day and rely on formula at night. 

As my growing belly swelled and my nights became more sleepless, I looked forward to the uninterrupted rest I would receive after my daughter arrived. My ducks were in a row. This postpartum experience was sure to make up for my last.  

As fate would have it, preeclampsia hit me like clockwork at 36-and-a-half weeks. My case was fortunately mild, and we had a smooth delivery and healthy baby via a scheduled c-section at 37 weeks. 

I was incredibly fortunate to have night care for my daughter.

On my second evening home  I did one of my twice daily blood pressure checks, as instructed by my doctor, and received an ominous 165/100. My preeclampsia had come back with a vengeance postpartum and I found myself back in the hospital. 

This time though, I was alone.

Toddlers weren’t allowed in the postpartum unit and my husband wasn’t able to secure a babysitter so I couldn’t receive visits from him, my son or my newborn daughter. I nearly drowned in sadness and the few things that bolstered me up while I remained tethered to an IV-pole were photos of my newborn daughter and updates from our night nanny letting me know how my little girl had eaten and slept.

Without her, I would have worried immensely about my husband who can sleep like a rock and wondered how he would be able to handle getting up around the clock to feed our newborn and then run after a toddler, in addition to caring for the baby throughout the day. Knowing that we had the night nanny’s support was a relief that settled my already volatile blood pressure.

When I was finally told I could leave the hospital I was overcome with emotion. I’d felt the weight of my daughter’s first days slipping away, and my heart ached for those irretrievable events. 

The nurse delivering my prescriptions could sense my anxiousness to be home. 

“Take it easy on your body. Don’t end up back here,” she warned. “Many moms do.”

Coming home I made every effort to take care of myself in a way that also didn’t compromise the care of my children— a contradiction that new moms encounter all too often. Fortunately, with the help of my husband and the assistance of our night nanny I was able to keep my blood pressure in check until it returned to normal. Now, looking back, I’m not surprised that many preeclampsia moms “relapse” because not overdoing it seems impossible when you are taking care of little ones. I credit our night nanny with giving my body the chance to truly recover and become healthy again for my children. 

I recognize that I was incredibly fortunate to have night care for my daughter. Without our night nanny’s help, I would look back on my postpartum recovery and thus my daughter’s newborn period as much more traumatic than I do now. 

With the birth of my son, caring for an injured baby with my own injured body was an experience that left me riddled with anxiety for months. I found myself constantly caught in the sway of paradoxical messaging from health care professionals—take care of yourself, but don’t let the baby sleep longer than X number of minutes. If they don’t eat enough at night, supplement with formula, then power pump after to build your supply. Again, make sure you take care of yourself. How does one take care of themself if they aren’t supported to meet their own fundamental biological needs—specifically sleep? 

Securing a night nanny was an investment in my personal wellbeing. When I signed her on, I thought I was permitting myself a kind of luxury. But I’ve begun to wonder—should investing in postpartum care really be considered a luxury? 

Now, I don’t think so.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.