You may recognize Lee Ann because she is the owner of Portland Moms Blog, which is a fantastic resource for mothers. She has incredible insight into cross-cultural birth and postpartum practices because she had her first baby in France and her following three in the US.
Where do you call home?
Portland, Oregon. I have lived many places but Portland is where I have been raising my family for nearly 10 years.
How many kids do you have?
Four! It’s crazy, I know.
What was one of the hardest changes for you physically during your postpartum journey?
Breastfeeding was painful at the start with all of my children. I also think the sheer exhaustion of labor, delivery, and recovery coupled with the intense lack of sleep - pretty much straight out the gate - is an extremely physically challenging aspect of the first few weeks of motherhood.
What was one of the hardest changes for you mentally/emotionally during your postpartum journey?
With my oldest, I was a single mother and I felt very overwhelmed. I was fortunate enough to have given birth in France, where I was given tremendous support by the staff at the birth center in the early days.
Emotionally, the enormous lifestyle change cannot be understated. I was the first of my friends to have a baby and I felt I could no longer relate to them, I had no family near me, and I entered motherhood alone. Navigating those early months — even the first year — was a test in resilience.
With my other children, having the support of my husband was a completely different and fantastic experience. That said, it was more challenging in some ways because I couldn’t devote all my time and energy into one baby (and take naps with him!) because I had siblings to care for, as well. Just leaving the house was sometimes a battle! Nonetheless, all of my children have summer birthdays, and fresh air has been key in all of my postpartum recoveries.
What has been your greatest joy in motherhood?
I cannot put into words what motherhood has meant to me. Going from essentially only caring about my own path - as selfish as it sounds - to caring so deeply and fully about someone else’s happiness in place of my own has completely shifted my perspective.
How was your postpartum experience different with each baby?
Physically - I had tearing with my first, so that was… unpleasant. I felt like I had been run over by a truck! With all three of my other children, the actual delivery (not necessarily the labor) went much more smoothly, and my recovery felt nearly instantaneous. I did a jig once I got back into the postpartum unit right after my second was born, because I was so happy to no longer be pregnant! With all four kids, I went to 42 weeks, so the jig was well-deserved.
Mentally - As I mentioned, I was a single mother and alone for my first. For babies two, three, and four, I had a support network and family nearby, as well as a husband to help keep the family functioning. It makes all the difference in the world to have someone - or a tribe of people - looking out for you and willing to step in, if needed. I got very, very sick after my third was born due to complications from mastitis, and I really relied on others to help not just with the newborn but with our entire clan.
What is one resource that felt invaluable to you during the postpartum time?
Because I was in a foreign country for my first, I was in an online support forum for expectant/postpartum moms. He is ten and we are all still in touch! It’s amazing. Being able to relate to the women was priceless; I joined similar groups for my other kids but was admittedly less involved.
What is one piece of advice you would like give to pregnant moms in preparation for their postpartum journey?
I’d say to give yourself the time to heal, be gentle with yourself and your emotions, and acknowledge that huge life changes are bound to cause some bumps in the road.
Also, make sure you have some cozy clothes that you don’t mind totally destroying with a combination of colostrum, milk, spit up, and spilled food you tried to get into your mouth while also feeding a baby.
About Lee Ann
Lee Ann spent eight years in Paris, France before the birth of her oldest son in 2007. Prompted by the difficulties of single motherhood, she moved to Portland in 2008 to be closer to family. Shortly after moving to town, she met her husband (at work!), whom she married in 2010. They went on to have three more kids. Lee Ann works as a marketing consultant and is the owner of Portland Moms Blog (www.portlandmomsblog.com).