Motherhood Insight with Tara McDonough

By Dr. Angela Potter

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Tara today.  She shares with us the struggle of the physical changes and the unexplained anxieties in those first tender days after giving birth!


Where do you call home?

Right now home is a new little townhouse in Bellingham, WA. We just moved from Portland this summer and are in the house-hunt search.


How many kids do you have?

I am mom to a 4 year old daughter and her two "big sister" shelter dogs.


What was one of the hardest changes for you physically during your postpartum journey?

Besides the physical fatigue, I was not physically prepared for all the swelling and water retention. I pushed, not just labored, but active pushing for over 3 hours. Crazy right? I remember laughing to myself when the labor nurse told me that first time moms often take 1-3 hours of active pushing. There was no way it was going to take me 3 hours to push a baby out. I was an "athlete" and had taken care during my pregnancy. I pushed for 3 hours and 16 minutes.

That wrecked so much postpartum havoc on my body.  You could not see a joint on my body. I had sausage swollen feet; my knees had so much swelling it hurt to bend them; and oh em gee don't even ask about my weight. I gave birth to a 6lb beautiful girl but 5 days later I made the mistake to weigh myself, wanting some sort of physical win. Instead I cried, I only weighed 2 lbs less than my hospital check-in. My body was that swollen.


What was one of the hardest changes for you mentally/emotionally during your postpartum journey?

The hardest thing for me mentally as a mom was bathing my daughter. Looking back it was the weirdest most irrational fear but I was scared to death about wiping her down. She was days old and we weren't even at the point of bathing her in the infant tub but I refused and started crying in the kitchen. It took me months to believe that I was capable of bathing and cleaning her.


That was total irrational postpartum fear but for some reason because the nurse hadn't shown me, it disqualified me from caring for my daughter at bath.


I also had "skim milk" breastmilk, which interestingly was easier for me to deal with than giving her a bath in those early days!  I could still nurse her on the go and at night but during the day I pumped and mixed with formula to get her the calories. I was definitely an emotional wreck when the pediatrician sent me home with formula, but I handled that much better at 4 months than the fear of bath time when she was a newborn.



What has been your greatest joy in motherhood?

My greatest joy is watching my daughter love the things I love and also hate the things I love. She is growing into her own little person but still has some "mini me" about her. She has an independent streak that makes me nervous but she also was the only kid in her 3 year old class who didn't cling or cry the first day or week of class. After a quick kiss and hug she ran right in ready to play, explore and learn.


Watching her love life like that makes me so full of joy, I have loved her in just the way she needs to love life on her own.



What is one resource that felt invaluable to you during the postpartum time?

I relied a lot on my sister, a pediatrician, and my two sister-in-laws, who now have 6 kids between them. They were my late night or early text for everything from Val's first fever to help with feeding to reassuring me everything was ok.


Speaking of my sister-in-laws, while I was pregnant they gifted me Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child book by Marc Weissbluth. Honestly the science and studies of the book put me to sleep but the real meat of it on how to help your child learn to fall asleep on her own was invaluable. It took 1 or 2 weeks of effort and the first few days were awful but I am convinced that my daughter is a good sleeper now because of what we learned and applied from that book.


What is one piece of advice you would like to give to pregnant moms in preparation for their postpartum journey?


My one piece of advice, is the "eating for two" is a myth but don't guilt yourself about not eating perfectly. I was given that advice early on and I think it really helped me keep my weight gain healthy, otherwise I'm such a foodie I probably would have seriously eaten for two. I craved avocados and Arby beef-n-cheddars while pregnant. Once I was rid of all of the swelling and water retention I also had a much more manageable weight loss in front of me.


Remember over 9 months you put the weight on and losing is harder than gaining, so be fully prepared for a 9 month+ weight loss journey. If it takes you longer, thats ok. If you lose it quicker thats ok too. It's not a competition, it's just about you taking care of you.



About Tara

Tara is a PNW transplant from Alabama. After years of just doing the work grind and living for vacation time, Tara and her husband sought out opportunities that could bring them to an area that they could take advantage of really living. With a background in business and economics, Tara gave up the corporate world to be a full time Stay At Home Mom after the arrival of her daughter. After a few years, Tara poured her creative and business talents into custom order embroidery and a skincare business with Rodan+Fields.  She loves the portability of the skincare business, especially after the recent move, as well as giving the gift of self confidence and dream chasing.