The postpartum period is a time like no other. That delicate period of cocooning, discovering and unfolding with your new little bundle(s) that follows birthing them into this world. It is a special time where once more your body does some amazing transformations, and you and baby dedicate yourselves to finding your rhythm, get to know each other and forge your bonds. It’s a paradoxical time of newness, excitement and monotony. And amidst all that, your hormones are roller-coastering, your sleep is dramatically reduced beyond your control, and your stamina and ability to maintain your poise gets tested like never before.
There is just so much morphing constantly, between baby AND you, at rate which almost feels impossible to keep up with. And, if not done with proper support or mindset, it could leave you reeling and depleted. Which is not the ideal way to start your mothering journey off. Your world changes, as do your perspectives – so radically, yet organically…and honestly there is no right or wrong in this period, with respect to how you’re supposed to feel in it all. We all learn that there’s a huge range of normal here, including how quickly you start feeling like you’re “ontop of things” again.(whatever that is)
And there is no silver bullet to getting there in lightning speed, either. It’s a unique path for each woman. However, the form of care we pour into ourselves, and which gets poured onto us by others in that postpartum period, is pivotal and has long lasting effects for the woman. And in turn, on her new little family.
The postpartum period is all about adjustment and healing. Although, honestly, I hate using the word healing w.r.t birth, for it tends to then imply that birth was this terrible thing that happened to you. Whereas, unless you actually did acquire an injury in birth or something terrible indeed happened to you in the process, birth really is something that you’ve accomplished – something your body and your baby performed together, like an exquisite dance. And what an almighty thing it is that you’ve done, mama! And so yes, much like any great athlete, or accomplisher of any great feat, one would then need to rest and recoup from that wild and wonderful ride.
Birthing is no different. Your time and mindfulness about this delicate period is of utmost importance. Which, sadly in today’s world, has been juxpositioned against how fast can you bounce back and be productive; Be busy; And how fast you can get back to doing all the things pre-pregancy, but now with small baby in tow. And do so with a nice fat smile slapped on. Thankfully, Im starting to see the small signs of a shift, where society is once more seeing the wisdom in giving the mother space to embrace the importance of this necessary sacred timeout she needs with her baby. I pray this shift grows in momentum.
This is such a demanding time, with so much to figure out, on very little sleep. Lord knows, I felt all over the place some days. And whilst its all been so very en-vogue to give in to this invisible societal pressure to “bounce back”, I’d instead like to invite you, dear mama, to truly take this time with your little bundle for all the sacredness that it holds.
Even if you do feel freakin’ amazing after birth (and I hope you do!), it is still wise to take care of yourself. Now, in my experience of birthing four children, Ive had very different postpartum experiences. I’ve gone from been fully invested in my health, to not being very mindful at all. I’ve been fixated, and then laid back, and then somewhere in between. I’ve learnt a lot from mistakes I made and I’ve remembered to reuse the bits that worked and researched for more of the latest scientific studies (that often back up old wives tales). And used my time also to engage and chat to many experts in the field. (ie. Midwives, lactation specialists, chiropractors, pelvic floor specialists, gynaes, etc) So when I share this, please know that whilst I am not a doctor, it’s all based on my own personal experience along with my knowledge, both gained through discussion, as well as being a certified/qualified birth worker, myself.
Now first things first, as I was asked by plenty mamas over the years, about postpartum care for natural birth, I am speaking from my own natural birth experience, and as such do not cover anything that is specific to c-sections. However, the majority of what I share here is actually applicable to all women postpartum, regardless of the type of birth. But please be aware that c-sections often comes with a separate set of postpartum care instructions that I don’t cover here.
Alrighty, lets get cracking. First up..
1. Peeing –
I know, right? So odd. Peeing? How does peeing make it to the list. But trust me, just sit on that pot for the first time, right after birth and suddenly you’ll see what a big deal it is. But first, why is being able to pee after birth, and for the first few days after birth SO important? Well,if you were made to birth in a position that is not natural for the mother (like in the lithotomy position), your baby’s exit may have traumatized the bladder (leading to temporary paralysis), or if you had any anesthesia, this may have decreased the bladder’s sensitivity. Also, if you were made to push (which really isnt recommended or needed at all), then any resultant swelling and perineal pain can also compromise one of your body’s ability to urinate.
So you need to be able to pee within at least 6 to 8 hours after birth to keep any infections at bay. And even after that period, if any difficulties in that department rise, or if you develop a fever, contact your care provider immediately.
For me, peeing post birth,was all mental, though… I had been brain washed that the first pee is terrible…But as it turned out, it was nothing terrible about it at all. I think only after 2 of my births did I have a split second of burning, and then that was it. Granted, my births (and my technique of birth) resulted in zero damage down there, or stitches, and as such there was really nothing to be apprehensive about, when it came to peeing. But even with that hindsight, and knowing that its no big deal after each birth, I would always have a minute or two of hesitation before I pee. So silly, but so real.
However, if you did score yourself some abrasions or (yikes) even tearing, I get why this may make you feel a little on edge about that first pee. (ps. Yes, you can TOTALLY avoid tearing, and skip that whole drama and bit of pain. Its not a foregone conclusion that you will tear (unless you do these no-no’s), nor does baby’s size have to make a difference. Remember, it’s the old school ways of thought around birth that lead to tearing. See here how to completely avoid tearing. I’ve had ZERO tears with two babies that had each had nuchal hands and arms respectively – which is medically known to cause severe tearing. But using these understandings and my hypnobirthing, there was nothing but smooth sailing and easy birthing.)
Either way, I still like the idea of hygiene down there, especially since I’ll tend to shower during postpartum. (especially if you have cracked nipples from breastfeeding, you’ll want to keep your tatas in fresh clean water only, like in showers).
So using a peri- bottle (or any squirt bottle) filled with warm water and rough table salt. Gently squirt the water down there as you urinate. This should provide relief from any burning, and aid healing. (3/4 tablespoon salt to about ¾ peri-bottle of water)
You could also instead of salt, use witch hazel (found at chemist or any health store), which has a cooling effect. I didn’t use this, but its apparently very helpful, especially for any swelling down there.
Sitz baths are also helpful to aid cleansing, healing and soothing, particularly if you have stitches. (or if you just prefer baths) But remember to keep your breasts out, and to keep the water to cover your hips. Use a cup of salt or witch hazel. It is recommended that you soak for a minimum 20 min, for 2 to 3 times a day.
Enjoy that time out if you can get it – an unspoken part of the healing, is getting that time alone to sort your thoughts out there in the bath. Don’t feel guilty for getting it if you can. 😉
2. Pregnancy Vitamins.–
Yes, you’re not pregnant anymore, but you definitely need the extra vitamin supplementation. Remember, even though baby is outside of your body, chances are its still busy nurturing baby (if you chose to breastfeed). And even if you’re not breastfeeding, there’s a lot of morphing and recovering that you body needs to do from the past 9 months. So, HELLS YES, you need to keep on supplementing.
In fact, I am 15 months postpartum now, and am still taking my supplements.(or at least I did, and just ran out) I recommend the brand Pregnacare.
By far the BEST pregnancy supplement I have ever come across. It’s a bit pricey, but well worth it. Its from a UK brand, Vitabiotics. In fact if I could constantly get stock, I would buy it regardless of my pregnancy or postpartum state. (available at Diskem, Clicks, and online at VitaBiotics South Africa.)
If that is not available, then StaminoGro has my vote. Also pricey, but I had amazing results with it. Available here at Clicks or get it here at Diskem. And lastly, as the healthcare lady shared with me, Solgar also has a pregnancy multivite range. I’ve never used it, but I’ve used their other products with great satisfaction.
3. Belly binding/ Birth Band –
The worldwide professionals have MUCH to say on this topic – Belly Binding: An ancient practice of wrapping your postpartum belly tightly in order to help your abdominal muscles reposition to their rightful prepregnancy position, and to once more knit itself closed (and assist in avoiding Diastasis Recti (DR). You’ll want to see THIS article on DR here.)
And I, in turn, also have so much to say on it. So much in fact, that Im busy putting a post together for you on that just so you can get an idea of why many experts don’t support this practice. (And why some experts still do!) But personally, and in the way that I have practiced it, I have only reaped positive results from it. In fact in the postpartums that I didn’t practice it properly, I was left with DR. And something I now still struggle with to some extent today, and wished I had just taken a little more time to just wrap myself in those early days of postpartum.
So, yes, personally, I would still recommend this practice. (keep an eye out for my post on recommended guide lines) It’s something I watched my mother do with my sister, as it was something that both her midwife and her mother in law taught her about. And have lived to see the results in both my sister and myself…even my mom who to this day has a strong and able body sans diastasis recti belly after 6 kids (twins included).
I’ve used two different brands over the course of my postpartums. Both were pretty much the same quality wise, but will advise that you get a NEW one for each postpartum, as they kind of stretch out and lose their ability to hold somewhat. I was cheap and kept reusing them till eventually I forced myself to just buy another. Don’t be me. Get the proper, fresh ones for optimum results.
There’s also the Bengkung way, where you have to learn a special yet simple wrapping technique. Or you can go old school and use a tightly wrapped towel or bedsheet, with safety pins. Both these ways however, I found do not fit my lifestyle or patience levels. With four kids I did not have that time to slowly wrap myself up each morning with the bands or towels, and thus preferred the Velcro styles.
I bought mine at Clicks /Diskem. Buy two so you can always have one if the other needs a wash…like say when your baby pees on you. 😉 (Ps. I couldnt find my brand at either store’s online store, but , even though I didnt use this one, this brand is usually trustworthy.
I’ve noticed some nice new selections on Takealot too. I’ve never used them either, but maybe have a squizz here (this one is on sale right now. I have no personal experience with it’s quality though, so first check out reviews.
4. Afterbirth pains –
These are contractions you feel as your uterus starts to shrink back to its original size. You’ll feel them more prominently when you’re breastfeeding baby. These are as with all birth related contractions helpful little suckers, as they’re trying to help you restore your body. (All the more reason to just keep going with demand/baby-lead feeding)
Now as a first time mom, I was told about these contractions, and even read about them, but after having my first baby, I felt absolutely nothing. Like, nada, zip! I remember the nurse kept giving me pain pills for it, and I kept telling her I didn’t need them, but she insisted. So I just sneakily stored them in a little container out of her sight, until she spotted my whole collection the next day. She looked at me with complete surprise asking, “so you REALLY don’t feel any pain?” And I confirmed that I didnt, to which she finally stopped bringing me the damn pills.
However, with the second baby, I definitely started feeling a twinge, and took about a pain pill a day or two days. However, with the advent of Coco, I made sure I didn’t skip a pill (I averaged about 1 pill 3 times a day for first 3 days). And with Remy-James, my last, holy poop!! My body never really got to recover from Coco’s pregnancy and postpartum period, so you bet your bottom I was feeling every bit of those “afterbirth pains” for the first 4 days! I just made sure I was taking my ibuprofen that the midwives had advised me on, and made sure I had a FULL and proper meal before taking the pill as Lord knows I didn’t need to add any other troubles to my life soup.
So, yes, these are normal. Expect them, understand them. You might not feel them, or depending on how many kids you’ve had, they may make themselves very known to you. I was told that it gets worse with each subsequent kid. So prepare thineself, and know that ibuprofen is safe to consume – just make sure you had a good meal before you do.
5. Massage your belly and feel for any lumps.
After birth, when my midwife does her check up on me, and the placenta has exited already, she usually inspects my abdomen for any lumps as well. She gives it a gentle massage to move any last pieces of clots or placenta outward. She showed me also how to check for any lumps, and to self massage these out, as the last thing you want is to be stuck with clots or pieces of placenta in there. Normally, the body takes care of this by itself, but sometimes it does need a little nudge.
To massage, all you need to do is gently yet firmly run your fingers from the top of your abdomen towards your pubis (pubic bone), covering your entire abdomen starting from one side to the other.
These clots or bit of left over placenta can sometimes cause excessive bleeding, which is definitely a sign to contact your care provider.
On that topic: Postpartum bleeding is a natural occurrence, and many women have moaned how terrible it is. I’m here to tell you, that may not be YOUR reality, even if it was someone else’s. I bled so lightly postpartum for 3 out of my 4 births – lighter than my usual period. (After Coco’s birth I had slightly heavier than a normal period type of bleeding for the first 3 days, thereafter, it became pretty normal flow.) But please note that if you have NO bleeding, that could also be a problem, so contact your care provider ASAP if that is you.
Also, if you have such heavy bleeding that soaks a pad every hour for two hours. This may be a sign that you are experiencing pieces of placenta retained in your uterus that may require surgery or that your uterus isn’t contracting and is allowing you to bleed too much.
Guys, I have a mouthful and then some to say about breastfeeding. After feeding four kids I’ve been around the block and had SO many different unique challenges with each child, because each child is unique – duh!
My biggest bit of advice to you on this is, if you’re struggling, and well meaning friends, mothers and aunties come around with all their bits of advice, smile nice, nod your head and say thank you. But then seek out PROFESSIONAL services to help you! And, no the nice nurse at the labour ward is not the professional. And no your gynae is also NOT a professional either. You want a lactation expert, a trained, qualified and EXPERIENCED lactation specialist. The difference they make is HUGE!
If you choose to breast feed, then just make up your mind, and go with it. Know that you may get lucky and it’s all so easy. Or you may not, it can get hard. And sometimes, if you’re unlucky, it’s f&%# hard. But know that you CAN do it, if you so choose to. All you need is the right kind of support and care. And patience.
With Remy-James (my fourth child) he turned out to be the easiest breastfeeder of the lot. But it took us 7 days to find our rhythm, and for him to work out his latch. With Morgan, my first, I learnt so much, and spent so much time with lactation specialists and we actually had a great run also after a few days, but I had to learn what it all entailed. But with the other 2, holy cow, I had so many challenges and heart breaks and pain, I really learnt a lot more with them. I’ve shared some of those lessons, and you can see what all I’ve written on breastfeeding over here.
Talking about breastfeeding, guys, you want to give that whole mastitis schpiel a wide miss. That is one horrible path you just don’t want to go down on. I shared my own personal journey through that hell, and you may want to have a read on that over here – how to avoid it and how to get out of it (without surgery or antibiotics)
Ps. Engorgement is not to be mistaken with Mastitis. The two are WORLDS apart. Engorgement can easily be sorted out, despite how uncomfortable it feels. Mastitis feels closer to death. But mastitis can start off as engorgement. So take care, feed as often as baby wants and don’t get engorged.
8. Feeding your body.
If ever there was a time to restrict your kilojoules, NOW IS NOT THE TIME! Please mamas, just don’t do it! I know you might be feeling a little eager to shed those extra kilos that came along with baby, but honestly now is just not the time to start any fad diet (no time is ever good for diets that favour severe restrictions, in my book, by the way) Instead you should be sure to be fueling your body up with the right stuff. Your body and mind is going to be put under such demand over the next few months, you’re going to need to your body firing up all cylinders, so that you can get through this.
Especially if you’re going to be nourishing your child with your body, you need to ensure that you have stores in your body to not only provide that nutrition to your child, but also ensure that your own stores are sorted so that you dont feel depleted and exhausted. Because remember, as with pregnancy, in breastfeeding your body will deplete your stores to ensure that baby gets what she needs, even if it means leaving you feeling weak – baby is your body’s number one priority. So you have to make sure you take care of you, by refilling on all those vital nutrients!
Stock up on single handed snacks that can be easy to pick up. Think:
• mini pitas filled with chicken or humus,
• egg/chicken/turkey/tuna sandwiches
• Protein shakes (vegan proteins) & fruit (apples, bananas, etc)
• Protein bars (these usually contain carbs as well, so make for great in between meal snacks)
P.s. When you dont have someone to assist and feed you in these precious days where baby just wont let you put him/her down, a baby wrap is a life saver. Have a look-see over here for more on baby wraps.
Precook and freeze meals so that dinner is sorted no matter what. I never really got the hang of this, but every time I wished I did, as it would have saved us so much energy and time.
Try to make each meal protein heavy. But mamas, you will still need carbs, without a doubt! Please don’t cut carbs now, because aside from carbs forming a vital part in many other biological roles in your body, it also forms a very critical role in your body’s ability to assimilate the proteins you consume. But, if you do feel the need to cut carbs, maybe chat to a registered dietitian who’s experienced in postpartum mothers and health to find out what’s best for you). Balance is the key, however, Im just trying to get the point across that it’s crucial for your body to get protein in via all your meals in this time. For there is a lot of rebuilding your body will be doing, while also nourishing your baby. Its a multi tasking machine and needs all the right fuel.
As I shared on my instagram stories, Bone broth really is the real mckoy when it comes to superfoods, and is not only great for postpartum but during pregnancy too.
It is an excellent source of various proteins, including collagen. antioxidants, and amino acids, and all in all, aside from nourishing you, it also helps heal your gut lining and improve your immune system. To add to that, a large amount of healthy vitamins and minerals can be found the broth, making it rich in glucosamine, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. This is one little sidekick you’ll always want by your side, and I am so sorry, I didn’t include it from the start for myself. I think I was probably too limited in my thinking at the time – thinking that this is just way too hippy for me. (lol) But the truth is, this is one powerful little snack!
There is good a reason this superfood has been touted as an amazing healer for centuries, and been used in Chinese traditional healing to this day.
9. Good teas to add to your pantry:
• Rasberry leaf tea – If you read my older posts, youd know I’m a big fan of this tea, and its benefits have been well researched. Postpartum wise this tea will help tone the uterine walls, and thus assists in postpartum bleeding control, as well as help increase milk supply. I’d also add that it’s great for helping induce labour (its more of a uterine toner , than inducer, but I’ve only had inducing results when drinking mine – see this article here for the effects it had on me, and furthermore other ways of how to help induce labour and when is the safest and best time to even consider trying to induce labour.)
• Hibiscus tea – this tea is known to help prevent hypertension, as well as lower blood pressure, help with menstrual cramps, reduce blood sugar levels, keep your liver health, and help with depression and aid digestion. Its also a rich source of Vitamin C.
Well, it goes without saying that drinking sufficient water in everyday life is vital to your wellbeing, ad so you can imagine that it becomes even more so important during a time like postpartum when your body is this powerhouse machine doing ALL the things.
You’ll need to ensure you keep your water intake up – minimum 8 glasses a day, however if you’re breastfeeding you’ll want to up that tremendously. I personally drink much more on a normal day, and use the rule of 2 glasses after every meal or snack, 2 glasses after every coffee or tea, 2 glasses when I wake up, and 2 before I go to bed. you dont have to – as I know many struggle with drinking water. (I dont understand it, but I get it). But try to be more aware of your intake during this time, as it can actually affect your energy levels.
For breastfeeding you may want to pull in the big guns of Jungle Juice. I explain how well it works, and the recipe over here.
This sounds so straight forward, but once baby is there, you’ll soon find this the trickiest thing to do. But it is imperative that you do. You may just need to change your mind on how that looks for you. It may not necessarily mean sleep for you (although that is first prize, so if you can, grab it). But mostly it’s about finding some peace, having your feet up, a quietened mind and not busying yourself with that endless to do list.
I know not many of us are blessed with help from a family member or anything like that in this time, and we often sit with the dilemma of “should I also fold laundry when baby folds laundry”, when told to sleep when baby sleeps. And the truth is, that in this time, perhaps some mental peace should be made that perhaps just let things go a little. Let the kitchen be. Let the lounge be. Just for now. Just that little bit to give your body every bit of time to truly recover and restore itself to full strength, so that you can then do ALL the things with great vitality and gusto one day soon.
Rest is truly going to be one of your best secret weapons here in coming out of this stronger and feeling ready to do life with your new family. It gives your body a chance to reorganize all its bits and pieces, and knit back together.
Look up “laid back mothering”, and take only what you need from it. 😉
11. Stay warm
I know that sounds odd…Like stay warm? Honestly Tracey, is that the extent of your wisdom? but if you ever delve, even just a little bit, into Chinese medicine and their ancient ways of caring for a mother postpartum, you’d know that a lot of that is care is centered around warmth .
There are a few practices you could invest in to assist this, like asking a qualified and experienced acupuncturist to do a “Mother warming” for you. This includes lighting a stick of moxa (which is just mugwort compressed into a cigar-like stick) – and warm your abdomen and your back until you feel pleasantly warm throughout your body. This is said to assist in helping you with your overall energy and recovery. And even has benefits of improved milk production.
And If I think back to the postpartum periods where I did tend to my warmth, and take the time to keep myself cosy, to the point where I felt comfortably warm, I had excellent milk production, and more importantly I experienced a VERY easy time expressing milk (I was expressing litres, not ml’s!)
In those times I did so, however, I didn’t do any thing fancy like use an acupuncturist, though. I just made sure I took my daily HOT showers (which is easier said than done), dressed warmly thereafter, and comfortably, and made sure my feet were warm and cosy. Hubyy also occasionaly gave me warming massages. (and no silly, just the massages, no happy endings!;) )I also used water bottles and beanbags too when necessary. Eating warming foods helps too. Think soups and broths (see Bone Broth in this post).
So, you don’t need fancy things to achieve this warming effect– even though you may very well get better results if you did.
12. Hair loss –
I have so much to say on this one, but basically it boils down to two things.
1. Hormones, so go have a squizz over here on my experience with hormones and its effect on my scalp.
And then 2.(way more importantly) Nutrition. I also have a lot more to say on the effect of the quality of your nutrition and hairloss (and your general postpartum health), and have touched on it briefly in this post, under “Feed you body”. But if you were to ask me whats just three things I totally recommend a postpartum mom should consume to assist with postpartum hair loss? I’d go with:
• MultiVitamins (see above)
• Never skipping meals
• Bone Broth again. That stuff is amazing.
Aside from all the other amazing content of bone broth, it also contains glutamine and arginine. Glutamine supports the growth of fibroblast cells which in turn promotes collagen synthesis. Arginine serves as an antioxidant. Together they encourage collagen production and healthy tissue growth….translated to, less hair fall, less weakened strands of hair and nails, and less tired looking skin. Bring on all the bone broth!
13. Network of care
If there is one thing that I’ve learnt about postpartum, it is that now is NOT the time to be “showing metal” by showing you can do it all alone. (You just birthed life into this world – you are ALREADY a freaking powerhouse!) If you are unfortunately doing this wild ride on your own through no choice of your own (that is, with just you & hubby, or heaven forbid, literally on your own), then I see you. I salute you. I get you. I was you in two of my postpartums. And it is hard. So f*%# hard.
Chances are you’re also just getting on with things, like head down, in the grind, feeling all the love and the highs, and then wiping away the tears in the lows, while you’re alone in the dark with baby; Because, well, that just is your reality. But really, it was never meant for you to be doing this alone mama.
I later learnt that many women actually have such a great network of care coming in from all sides, family helping to cook, and hold baby. Friends popping in just to feed the mother or help clean the house or do a round of laundry, or drop dinner off for the family. Someone just to hold baby so mom and dad could just catch a nap or a small break. A friend to come listen with a non judgemental ear. And they have it for months on end, and it is glorious, and as it should be. But not everyone has that. I know I had a great support from my mom with my first. (We moved in with her after my dad passed on, so that we could assist and support her, then we ended up preggers, and we stayed a little longer.) So she was not necessarily in there helping us all the time, but she fed us all so well, and could hold baby if I needed a shower. And just knowing she was there made us feel at peace. So I know what that is like to have that kind of postpartum support – and I was truly in top form when I came out of that postpartum period.
BUt the next babies we didn’t have that, and it showed. It was only after chatting to a friend, after having Coco, who then pointed out how important it was to have proper support, and how crazy Mike and I were to push ourselves like that without any much support at all – with two other kids as well. I read a few books too, and it all pointed to how much difference that support makes mentally and physically. And it resonated with me.
I wasn’t being offered this help, and often if I did ask for help, I would be refused or shut down. Which then would make me just feel awful, unworthy of the help I required and just too afraid or proud to ever ask for it again. And so I with my 2nd and 3rd children, I would then just get on with things, struggle, cry and deal.
Which I’m sure you would agree is just not ideal. I knew when my 4th (surpise) pregnancy came along, with still a small baby to see to and 2 other children in tow, I knew there wasn’t much space for me to once more just deal. I wanted to come out of this thriving! Not just for me, but for my children, for my husband, for family. For us! I knew that taking care of my family and their well-being, both physically and mentally was of utmost importance to me, and that meant doing hard things. So I swallowed my pride and asked for the help I needed.
It didn’t come easily, and I tried to not take it personally when I was refused. But just did my best to get the assistance I needed. There is only one person I could ask really– my mother- so I also knew I wouldn’t be getting a whole lot of help as she doesn’t live close by, and she was getting on in her years, and I didn’t want to load her with too much. But she really is my go-to woman. My rock. And the very best and closest thing to me tending to my own children, mostly because I tried hard to model myself on her. And I was so glad she did help when she could. And it made a huge difference to both my well-being and that of my family.
Also when people offered help or asked what they could do, I no longer said, “nothing”, like I used to with the first three births. With Remy, I would say, “yes please, dinner for tonight would be helpful”, or “yes, please bring a litre of milk and loaf”. Or I would say, “yes, you can come over, but baby and I are headed for a nap at 2pm, so you’ll have to excuse me at that time.” (setting boundaries is crucial)
The point is, do your best in trying to build a network of care, as hard as it may first feel to you, your mental and physical health is your responsibility. Even if it doesn’t flow to you as easily to you as it may to other women, take it as your responsibility to yourself and your family that you will set things in place. I know it sucks to sometimes have to ask for help, but if you feel you need help, ask. And keep asking till you find someone willing to assist.(and do your best to not take any refusals personally – they may be dealing with their owns fires at the time.)
Also, know that even if you cant get the physical help you may require – and sometimes that’s just how it plays out, I know it did for us many times – sometimes all you just need is someone who understands where you’re at and can meet you there; Who creates a safe space for you to express what you’re going through; To give you the space to express how you really feel – whether its happiness or exhaustion, self doubt, sadness or angst. Having someone like that is the kind of magic you didn’t know you needed until they present it to you.
Postpartum actually extends well beyond the first 6 weeks or so…in fact it lasts as long as your body and mind actually need to recover, and grow into the new skin of motherhood. It is a time to be nourished, cared for, and seen…and to be tended to by someone who understands the rawness of this time, and to let you know you are not alone.
As I’ve said earlier, the fourth trimester is possibly the most transformative time in a woman’s life. Her mind is forever altered, mentally and spiritually….and so many deeper areas of her soul is unlocked. It is vital that only the richest and most supportive care is given to her.
There is so much more that I want to add to this list, so much more I want to say on each point. But I know it’s a lot, and hope that you find value in this. To all you mamas in postpartum or about to head into that sacred space now, it may not be easy, but the only way is through it. There is no back in motherhood. Only through. So as you traverse these waters, I hope you feel a greater sense of preparedness, and empowered to make this a truly rich experience that leaves you feeling vital and excited about the next step in motherhood.
Remember,mama..this is YOUR journey. Your unique journey, so do not do yourself a disservice by comparing yourself to another mother’s journey. You are where you need to be, and you will find your own rhythm. Be gentle and kind with yourself…for anything that you whisper to yourself, will settle in..Deep into your bones, till eventually it will feel like the truth,even when its not. So spread that self love and patience onto yourself generously, mama.
Also, take this time, mama, to enjoy your new little baby. Savour their tinyness, their scent, their warmth. Do as much skin to skin as you can…even when it gets hard. Especially when it gets hard. You’re doing well, mama, and you’re not alone. Ever. (Feel free to reach out to me too.)
Sending love, strength and coffee your way, mama!X