(with Shannon Hannah, mama of 4 kiddos) It all looked so easy. Shannon was out with a good friend & out of the blue felt a big wave of emotion slowly steam roll her. Have you felt it before? It was guilt.
Stopped. Her. In. Her. Tracks.
She looked at her friend who was all cute nestling with her own baby, then looked back down with a scary thought…. “Will I ever be a happy as a new mom & embrace this mom thing?”.
This is something few people talk about. It’s HARD! Shannon delves right into her challenges & the most important lessons she’s learned. Just because you have one kiddo doesn’t mean you have it figured out. Shannon gets into her serious struggles with breastfeeding, a tough postpartum recovery, getting enough sleep, how to “get outside yourself” for better perspective (crying is ok!), how she stayed sane & got some relief from it all.
She gave birth to baby #4 last summer, so something she did worked. Watch below to learn what it is.
Who is Shannon?
Shannon Hannah is the mama of a 7 year old, 5 year old, 4 year old & a 9 month old! She had quick labors with each kiddo, including an unexpected homebirth (with #3), since they couldn’t make it to their birth center in time. Shannon’s hubby delivered their precious cargo while on the phone with their midwife. The Hannahs live in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Watch the Lesson (download the MP3)
Shannon Hannah- Adjusting To Mamahood
Sarah Blight: Hi. This is Sarah Blight from your Baby Booty Interviews. And we’re chatting today about a topic that a lot of mamas don’t really talk about prior to having a baby and that’s adjusting to mamahood and how difficult that can be sometimes and the challenges that you may have to face and the things that you can do to overcome those challenges. Well, today we’re talking to Shannon Hannah and she is the mama of four kids. She has a seven year-old, a five year-old, a four year-old, a one year-old and she has a bun in the oven as we speak. So thanks Shannon for being with us today.
Shannon Hannah: Thanks for having me.
Sarah Blight: So what is the one thing that you wished that you would have known when you were pregnant with your first child that you know now?
Shannon Hannah: Probably a lot of things but one of the major things is just the adjustment, just the change to your life, and I don’t know if someone had told me that, if I would be able to understand it, it’s something that you sort of have to experience. But I definitely don’t think I was prepared for a lot of the changes that I was about to encounter having my first baby.
Sarah Blight: OK. So, to talk about kind of the change after, what was life like before the kids, like what was kind of your daily life, like pre-kids?
Shannon Hannah: Sure. Well, you know I was working full time. I taught school. My husband and I had been married about four years. You know, we had a good group of friends that we went out with on the weekends and things were pretty much carefree and we just enjoyed you know, this first three years of being married and, I don’t know, we had a lot of fun.
Sarah Blight: Yeah. OK. So tell us about your pregnancy with your first child Ashton. He’s your oldest. He’s your seven year-old. What were your biggest challenges and how did you deal with them within just your pregnancy?
Shannon Hannah: I think the hardest thing with that pregnancy is that I was working full time and I was a teacher so I was on my feet a lot and I think maybe when your body is – when you’re pregnant for the first time, there are so many changes and you don’t really know what’s normal and what is OK and so I did experience a lot of just physical exhaustion I think trying to work a full time job and carry this baby. At the same time it was nice because I didn’t have other children to chase after so I could take naps after work and things like that. But yeah, it was difficult working full time doing all of that and teaching especially is a lot of extra work even outside of the classroom. So it was a lot. It was a lot carrying the pregnancy and teaching full time.
Sarah Blight: Do you feel like that kind of was your first introduction to “My life is changing” or was it still kind of like, “Well I can pretty much do what I did before. I’m just a little bit more tired.”?
Shannon Hannah: Probably the latter. I think I didn’t really feel like things were changing that much. I felt like “Oh, you know it’s harder to walk up and down these steps than I am more tired,” but I don’t think I really understood exactly what was going to happen having this little one.
Sarah Blight: So what did you do during your pregnancy that first with Ashton to prepare you for parenthood; not necessarily like the birth aspect but like becoming parents or did or did you?
Shannon Hannah: You know I think the thing with him is that I did prepare more for the pregnancy and the delivery and not so much about parenthood. And if I had to do that over I think I would have prepared more for parenthood. That is going to be forever. Birth is like, you know, well for me a one day event. But we did obviously read books. And I was thinking about this. I don’t remember doing a lot of research online. That was almost eight years ago.
So maybe I did, and I just don’t remember, but I don’t remember that being a major part of life even eight years ago. So I know I read books and I talked to a lot of friends. I did have some older moms and women around me who had done this before but like I said, I think I spent the majority of my time thinking about pregnancy and birth, not so much about parenthood.
Sarah Blight: So going – you said if you had to kind of do it again, you probably would have done more. What kinds of things do you think you would have done, kind of looking back now to prepare for parenthood?
Shannon Hannah: I think I would have read more about parenthood. If there are so many books out there on raising children and I feel like I’m reading those now. I’m just starting to like, do that at this point and eight years in. I think definitely reading more – you know, I’ve in recent years gone to mom groups and things like that that has really been a good support system but I wasn’t doing that back then. I think you could even do that as a pregnant mama-to-be; get around other mom who have experience that you glean from. And I didn’t – I wasn’t really thinking that back then. I just thought, I’ll just bring this baby home and it will be so fun and easy and you know, I didn’t really know.
Sarah Blight: OK. So let’s get into that aspect. You said, you mentioned in your pre-interview that you had some difficulties with recovery. But talk to us a little bit about the childbirth experience real quick. What was that like?
Shannon Hannah: My childbirth with Ash was actually really nice I think for our first. It was six hours. I went in, I was overdue by about five days. They induced me with Pitocin which is pretty intense. I made it to about four centimeters and then Epidural. And then for a lot of women, it slows things down, for me it actually spat everything up. So within 20 minutes or so, I was ready to push.
Sarah Blight: Oh my gosh [Laughter].
Shannon Hannah: So, I know, it was crazy. And then within you know half an hour or so later, he was born.
Sarah Blight: Wow.
Shannon Hannah: So my labor – my labor was really, you know especially for your first was really pretty nice. But I did tire and had an episiotomy and tearing. So that part wasn’t so nice. I didn’t know that until after were off.
Sarah Blight: OK. So how did that – do you think that, the episiotomy and the tearing was what kind of what really made physically your recovery so difficult?
Shannon Hannah: I think a combination of that definitely. I was sore for 12 weeks.
Sarah Blight: Wow. And when you say you’re sore, what do you mean? Like, what does that mean, like to give us details.
Shannon Hannah: I don’t know how much you want but –
Sarah Blight: Give me the whole enchilada.
Shannon Hannah: Well, I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t sit on anything. I had to take a pillow with em in the car. For about 12 weeks, I was not normal. And I don’t know if that’s normal but that was definitely my experience. Also, my baby, he never – to nurse, he never latched on. So it was – and that was something I really wanted experience so that was emotionally difficult. And then I had a lot of infections, mastitis I developed, trying to nurse, had a yeast infection that I got and he got the thrush along with that. So just for the first three months I was kind of riddled with just different struggles just recovering physically that were pretty difficult and I was not anticipating for sure.
Sarah Blight: Did you end up breastfeeding Ashton or did you end up with formula or how did you navigate those problems?
Shannon Hannah: We did a little of both. I pumped for six months. So he definitely got breast milk. I was committed to him getting it. But he did – I mean he took if thru the bottle, not from me. And we did do formula as well. And again, that was something that I felt like I could have been more prepared for. I know I did take some but it was a pretty difficult. So after six months of pumping, we just decided, you know, we’d done six months and we changed over to formula and bottle.
Sarah Blight: Did you have lactation consultants kind of come by or –?
Shannon Hannah: I did.
Sarah Blight: Yeah, OK.
Shannon Hannah: In the hospital, I did and then I went to some support groups and they were able to help me figure out that I had a yeast infection which was contributing to a lot of pain and discomfort so all the time I was trying to still get him to latch on. So I would pump and then try to get him — I mean I think I probably did that for the full six months. He kept trying and kept trying, it just didn’t happen.
Sarah Blight: Yeah. So how did that, did that wear on you emotionally as well if you have this kind of idea of bringing your baby home and suckling him to your breast and was that hard on you?
Shannon Hannah: Oh, absolutely. I think – I mean, I literally cried I think probably everyday for the first three months. And I was never diagnosed. I don’t know if it was post partum or baby blues but I definitely – that was an expectation that I had and so I felt like I was maybe not as much of a mom because I couldn’t do it and it I didn’t go easily for me. And so – I mean he was a great, easy happy baby which helped so much because I knew that he was still OK. But yeah, I really struggled thru that and it was just sad that it didn’t work though I wanted it to.
B: Looking back, do you think there’s anything you could have done to kind of help or was it something you really just needed to go thru and experience? I mean we can’t always avoid every hardship that we’re going to have in life obviously but was there anything that kind of looking back, you would have just given yourself more grace or just sort of been a little more open handed about it or is there or were you just probably trudged thru it like you had to do?
Shannon Hannah: You know I think with age comes experience and comes maybe some ability to relax and I wasn’t there. I couldn’t – I could not relax about it and just enjoy it. In my pregnancy after that, I think I was able to do that a little more and I had very different results. So I think I was just – I was stressed. I put a lot of pressure on myself for how it should be and yeah I think I very much just didn’t really take the time to enjoy it and relax and just deal with what was happening and I was kind of constantly striving to make this work. So, yeah I think I would have done things differently.
Sarah Blight: So he’s now seven. So do you notice a difference between him and his other siblings who may be were exclusively breast fed? I mean, or is it just – because at the moment, I guess what I’m trying to get at, at the moment it just seems like such a major deal. And I know for me and my experience, I felt the same way like, this will totally jack up my kids, you know, for the rest of their life. What perspective can you give mom now who might be struggling with breastfeeding to kind of point to that?
Shannon Hannah: I’m so glad you asked that question because Ash is an amazing little guy. He is very smart, he does so well at school. He’s been on the honor role two years running now. And I know a lot of the studies you read and he’s healthy as a horse, like the kid’s hardly ever sick. So you know, I’m sure there are some in some of these studies that you read that breastfeeding’s best and your children won’t be as smart, your know whatever it is, but he just is an amazing kid. And so I haven’t seen really any difference at all between, you know, behavior or academic ability or anything like that with him. He slept great. He was always my best sleeper even compared to the other two. So, yeah, he’s an amazing kid.
Sarah Blight: Yeah. I think sometimes it’s hard when you’re in the moment to kind of see outside of the immediate situation that you’re in. So I think it’s cross-talk to hear from you that yeah, like, you know life goes on and you have a great kid and you know, it’s OK if it doesn’t work. It’s OK if it doesn’t work out the way you really want it to. You’re feeding your baby. That’s the most important thing [Laughter].
Shannon Hannah: That’s right. You know, we bonded. I think the bonding was the thing I was nervous about. Am I going to be able to bond with this baby? And we’re not going to have this, you know, close relationship and I don’t notice any difference between him and my other two who were exclusively breastfed. The bond is strong and I think that’s just something between the mother and her child.
Sarah Blight: Did you intentionally kind of do – try to do chest to chest and skin to skin a lot with him as kind of keeping in mind that you weren’t necessarily having those moments when he was at your breast and that you wanted to really, really have that bond?
Shannon Hannah: Absolutely. I mean, you name it, I’ve tried it. So anything out there that I would ever hear of, you know, oh yeah. I took a bath with him and oh yeah, any closeness, any bonding that we could experience I think I probably. If I heard of it, I did it. So yeah, absolutely.
Sarah Blight: So everyone talks about the blur of like the first few months of being a new mom and I can attest. It’s definitely true. There is that blur. I don’t really remember a whole lot of the daily detail. I just know I survived and yeah. How can you explain or try to help someone who hasn’t ever experienced that before? What kind of tips can you give them to kind of make it thru those times? Is there any like advise you have?
Shannon Hannah: You know I think and you share this a lot and maybe it sounds a little cliché but you learn to rest or nap when your children are doing a nap, because I think to me a lot of it’s a blur because you’re functioning on sleep and trying to adjust and your days turn into nights and what not. So I think just being napping even if you’re not a napper now, you’ll become a napper. You should become a napper. After you have little ones, yeah, I think that and maybe just being able to relax.
Again, I know that sounds maybe easier said than done but realizing like you said earlier, every little thing you do is not going to jack up this baby for the rest of her life. Like, you know, there’s a lot of grace we had and you know, people have been having babies and raising babies forever and some of these little things that we get stressed about end up really not being that big of a deal.
Sarah Blight: What changes did you notice in your lifestyle just from like a daily perspective after you had baby?
Shannon Hannah: I just realized that life wasn’t just about me and my husband anymore. Life was about taking care of this new little person. And sometimes that was really hard to just not be selfish. And then other times it was an absolute joy to know that your life was now more than just yourself.
Sarah Blight: What was – can you give us an example of a time when it was just really hard not to be selfish or just generally like scenario so people can get an idea of what that means?
Shannon Hannah: You know I did remember – I hope this answers your question. I remember right when he was new-born, having some friends come over to bring us a meal and they had a little one that’s probably about a year old and they were playing and laughing and throwing them up in the air and just looked at them and thought, “I’m never going to experience.” Life is – I’m never going to be happy again,” like “This stinks. This is hard. All I do all day is try to nurse this baby and change diapers and I don’t like ti. It’s not fun. It’s not what I thought it was going to be.”
And I think I ended –I think I was crying when they were there, seeing them because it made me just feel like, — for some reason I I felt like I was never going to get there. I felt like life was never going to be joyful again. I felt like things were just always going to be hard. So I think I was feeling very like, selfish. “I don’t want to do this. This isn’t what I thought was going to be like having a baby.” And seeing them, I just thought I’m never going to be like that. And she said to me, “You know life will never be normal again but – normal as you know it or as you knew it but it will become a new state of normal and you’ll develop new routines and new things that are the two of you and this baby.” So that really helps me like, it won’t be what it was like when it was just the two of you, but you will develop a new state sense of normal. So that really helped me.
Sarah Blight: How long did it take before you really felt that way, before you kind of can say, “Oh, I feel like my friends who, you know, were throwing their wonder all up in the air.” Did it take a year? Did it take that long? Did it or …?
Shannon Hannah: I don’t think so. I feel like by somewhere between three and six months. He was sleeping. We got into routine. I kind of was functioning again. So now, I don’t think a year but somewhere between probably three and six months for me with my first especially.
Sarah Blight: So it sounds like you were mourning the passing of your old life. Do you feel like that’d kind of what it was that you needed that time to just kind of be sad about the fact that life with you and your husband was no longer and it was now another little person who you really had to provide for. Do you feel like that?
Shannon Hannah: I think there was probably a taste of that. It sounds – to me it sounds a little selfish because it was like, you know, I wanted this baby. We wanted this baby, and he was amazing but I think I’ve experienced that. I think I did then a little bit of, “Well, I can’t just go out anytime I want to anymore and I can’t do some of the things that I want to anymore.” I’ve experienced that with each child. A little bit of – it changes the relationship that you have already.
So it changed the relationship between my husband and me when we added a third person. And then we added our second child, it changed the dynamic of the home with just the three of us. Then when we added the third one then it changed the dynamic of just the four of us. So I think I’ve gone thru that mourning process with each. And it is sad but then you realize, oh, but there’s so much joy that we had in this new, in this new thing.
Sarah Blight: Oh, sorry. Do you think your husband, was he going thru similar feelings or was he just kind of unaffected by it all? What do you think he was experiencing?
Shannon Hannah: I wouldn’t say unaffected. I don’t know that he felt that in the same way I did. I don’t know that recently or you know, afterwards, he would say, “Well I didn’t get my wife back for three months. It took three months for me to get my wife back.” And I think he just meant – not like in a greedy sort of way but just that I finally became – my personality came back and I could function s a human being again. And it felt like we were kind of back to that normal I talked about. So I think he felt it a little bit. I think he probably felt it more in our relationship than anything else because he had to share me now with this baby.
Sarah Blight: Was there anything that you did during that time or during those times with each of the subsequent you mentioned, I think that’s a really good point that you know, just because you’ve done it once doesn’t mean that it’s a piece of cake from here on now. You know, it’s always adjusting. I feel like that’s really one of the things I’ve learned about motherhood. You’re always adjusting to new phases and new, new things. What did you do during – what have you done in your life as a mom to kind of survive those moments where you’re trying to kind of adjust. Is there anything specifically that you did or people you reached out to or thing, resources you used?
Shannon Hannah: Sure, well, probably cried a lot. And then after that, when I pull it together, you know, I’ve been blessed to just have a lot of good friends and support systems along the way; mom’s group that I’ve been a part of. And we’ve moved quite a few times but not as always sort of been a staple for me. Trying to getting out of myself in realizing that, this isn’t something that is unique just to me, that most women go thru the same sort of things that we all go thru. It’s hard to having a baby. It’s hard having toddlers and baby running around. These are just hard things.
So I think for me – you know I read books or looked online, yes, but to me the best thing is just to talk with other moms, to be surrounded by other people who can help and support and just be a listening ear. So, I think that’s probably what I’ve done more than anything. And I have some great girlfriends that still now we get together once a year and have a girls’ trip, you know, get away from it all and that’s something look forward to every year. So things like that.
My husband’s great about giving me night’s out. I know when my kids were really small, he’d come home from work and find me, you know, just shoveled and un-showered and crying on the bed or something. And he’d say, “Just go. Just go. Go to the coffee shop. Get out of here for a few hours and you know, let me have the kids.” And so, yeah I did a lot of that sort of thing.
Sarah Blight: Hmm, really good advice. Well, to all the mamas who are watching, if you have any questions or comments about adjustments and the things you’ve experienced that you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments below and we’d love to hear from you. Thanks, Shannon for sharing your adjustments with us and good luck with number four in the oven right now. Thanks for watching everyone, we’ll see you soon.