Recently, the subject of postpartum rest has been getting a bit of attention here and there on the internet. Okay, I came across it twice in my Facebook newsfeed and wrote so much in the blurb before the link that I thought, Hmm...this should be a blog post ...Nah, don't have time!
Well, I am making time. This post has actually been brewing since the birth of my first baby over 5 years ago.
My First Exposure to Pregnancy In Our Culture
If you are a Mom on the Internets, you have had to come across the Pregnancy Boards. You know, the ones with "Due Date Clubs" and "Birth Month" boards. In my experience, if you can practice a good eye roll, avoid dramatic threads/users- that these boards can be wonderful! Especially with my first baby, I met other first-time Mom's from all over the world. I wasn't alone in this big kind of scary journey! We commiserated, we bonded, we shared our fears and worries. We cheered each other on during our labor threads, and shared our birth stories. I am still quite close (have even met a few "IRL") to some of these Mama's I met nearly six (6!!!!) years ago. Those boards can be a great resource, community can be made, support can be found! I recommend, I do.
But they also have a hidden danger
it is called Pressure and Unrealistic Expectations and sadly, not just "board culture", it is rampant in our western society...
Our lives were changed, our babies had finally arrived. We were New Moms! Some of us were entering the newborn trenches for the second or fifth time...Most of us for the first time.
And then the "I fit into my pre-preggo jeans" threads would appear. Or the "What is wrong with me? The scale won't budge!" threads, at 3 weeks postpartum. A few started threads for getting back into shape- even those who weren't even 6 weeks postpartum. There were threads about who had started to have sex again...It was all HURRY Hurry! Get back to normal!!! Hurry rest is bad! Hurry to show how you're rocking motherhood! Hurry get that baby to sleep through the night! Hurry to start solids! Hurry ! There were threads about house keeping and some Mama's were doing it ALL just days after giving birth. They hit the ground running- they were winning (in the Charlie Sheen sense of the word)!
I don't mean any judgement, some women really do feel fantastic after a week or two. Most felt awful during the last few weeks of pregnancy and are desperate to get "back to normal". Some (lucky badnames) really do bounce back into those pre-preggo jeans in a few days. Others feel empowered by tackling projects, or think "Well this is the easy part, it's when baby starts getting around- I need to get ahead while I can"
It doesn't help that every where we look we have images of celebrities who are svelte and back to normal weeks after giving birth. And if they are not back into perfect shape they are smeared with unflattering pictures and judgemental blurbs on magazine covers.
Even though we don't want it to effect us, it seeps in- even if we say "we're giving ourselves time", but every where we are inundated with "hurry! Hurry! What's wrong with you? What's wrong with the baby? Hurry!' it is there staring us in the face. We still feel the pressure from society to "bounce back". Forget that we're dealing with tiny little helpless humans, some that need their tired parents to spend hours on end trying to just get them to stop crying. Forget the lack of sleep. Forget the sore bottom, or healing cesarean incision, the blood, the milk (oiye, the MILK!), the tears, and the hormones flooding our systems.
It isn't fair!!! AND IT'S TIME FOR CHANGE!!!!
Just FYI, THIS is what real women look like after giving birth.
I was okay about my body after my baby was born, I have never been a skinny athletic person, I like my curves, and motherhood has blessed them. But I didn't love my cesarean shelf or lumpy belly. And I felt the pressure (big time) to get back into life. Not let this baby thing slow me down. I was out shopping at 4 days postpartum...after a cesarean, in flu season, with my newborn. :shiver
What I have learned...
I have learned that my body is precious and it deserves care. I deserve care. Especially after a cesarean birth. I am still paying some painful repercussions for my rush to "get back to normal" after my major abdominal surgery (<~ may be triggering, picture!!!) but even after my vaginal deliveries, the body needs love and care. You know how big your placenta was? Did you see it after you delivered it? It is (usually) way easier to get out than the baby (no bones!), but it is pretty big (it weights about 2 lbs).
|My Pip Squeak 2 hours old with her placenta...yum!|
Fun fact, one entire side of that big 'ol placenta was stuck to the inside of your uterus - when baby was born your body was flooded with hormones that said "uterus detach!" (super power! woot!) and usually the uterus does just that! But guess what? That big 'ol placenta was attached to your uterus. You know, like a scab, it pulled off and left a gaping wound a BIG giant gaping wound inside your body.
Sure, as your uterus shrinks so does that scabby area (our bodies are, after all, awesome!). But I don't care if the scab was size of a cantaloup and shrunk the the size of your fist- if you had a big ol BLEEDING wound (and if you're bleeding down there, your placenta wound is still bleeding!) the size of your fist on the outside of your body every one would be FREAKING OUT, and telling you to "stay down", encouraging you to "eat well, drink lots, rest- you don't want an infection!"
|4 hours pp with my Pip baby.|
But you just had a baby, every one bleeds out their vagina, that's natural- no biggie- go clean the kitchen.
I have learned that birth is spiritual, it isn't simply physical. Your emotions and body both need time to process the event. There are lots of ways to do this...I think I will write another post about that.
I have learned that recovery deserves time. Not just because of the gaping wound mentioned above. But hormones! It took 9 months, months your body was producing extra hormones, working hard, getting less rest, taking more from you...But hormones!! Whooeee, hormones! You were a hormone making machine, and then BAM- placenta is out, birth is done!! And your body has all these hormones to shed. You sweat a ton. Your hair falls out (hopefully not completely, though it may feel like it)...You weep for no reason, you have all these wonderful and crazy feelings... If some things are too out of balance you may find yourself looking Postpartum Depression in the face. Don't get me started (because I really wouldn't know where to start) on your thyroid and adrenal health and all that they are involved in the making of your baby (and your postpartum recovery)
You've heard it in regard to postpartum weight loss, I'm sure, It took 9 months to make the baby...Give yourself 9 months to lose the weight.
I say, It took 9 months to make the baby give yourself 9 months to RECOVER. That means?
Make rest a priority. I mean it! As long as you are bleeding *at all* down there, you should be on the couch, the most exercise you should be getting is to go to the bathroom, or the cabinet to get some cheerios to sprinkle on the couch for your older children (yes, don't get a bowl- sprinkle away!) Even after the bleeding/spotting stops you shouldn't be out running around or lifting anything heavier than you're used to (toddler, baby etc). You should be resting...Napping or on the couch.
Give yourself a challenge, with my second baby I challenged myself to see if I could stay on the couch the girls entire nap for her first 9months. It was the best thing I could have done. The house was always a wreck (you can't shovel when the
Don't sweat the house work (cleaning schmeaning...Rest when your baby rests. Even if that means turning on Elmo and dozing on the couch while your preschooler uses you as a recliner) And I am not Just talking about the first week postpartum...I am talking about the first YEAR...When you get a chance to nap, TAKE IT! And make chances whenever possible.
Have 1 Job daily and 2-3 jobs weekly for your partner to tackle when/while he is home (this includes evenings or mornings before he heads to work in the first 4..No, 6 months!). For me it was making the kids breakfast daily (he still does it most mornings nearly 12 mos pp) Also the early weeks, vacuuming (cereal crumbs get annoying) and dishes, and he helped run laundry through
Cold Cereal is great That first year? Don't sweat it. If you guys are eating scrambled eggs a lot- WHO CARES? Snack on veggies (yumm carrot sticks) and have your husband learn to cook (gasp) on the weekends. When there is a baby (or toddler... or preschooler... or ummm kindergartner...Or kids! Kids those kids!!!) any thing goes!!
Oh yeah, ANYTHING GOES especially those first 9-12 weeks postpartum toddlers living in their PJ's? Eating off the floor? Not listening? Having a hard time? Driving you crazy? It's all good. Hug them. Take a deep breath. Have some one who loves them (Grandma!) take them out as much as possible. Use the TV, audio books, whatever- it is not a time to live out an ideal- newborns never "do" ideal. Know that this will pass, but in this moment it is world changing for them. Let them know you always have enough love to go around, assure them as best you can. Just go with it.
|One of those- pretended not to notice moments because it was keeping my 2 year old happy...Don't worry those stickers aren't sticky!)|
Do what makes you feel good...Need people? Invite them over...Make them clean for you..Need fresh air? Go sit outside if you can. Need time alone? That's good too. It is okay to set the boundary "No visitors (except those who help the whole time) for __________ weeks" (I waited a month)..Find ways to meet those (important needs) with out disrespecting your body's need for rest.
REST SOME MORE
I am not kidding, this is so important. My Midwife shared with me and it was hugely helpful, "Stay in the bed the first week, on the bed the second week, and near the bed the third week". I cannot tell you how awesome my recovery was following this protocol with my third baby- this has been my best year postpartum yet!
Plan ahead- You knew you were having a baby... Unless you were one of those very rare people who didn't know..Then, I'm sorry. But generally, you knew. You probably kind of planned (obsessed?) about certain aspects of life with new baby...Folded itty bitty clothes, set up the baby stuff, researched car seats and compared safety ratings,
You know, it takes 9 months you probably had a few months to come up with some plans.
A baby for us has meant sacrifice, despite our plans and efforts to the contrary, our babies have all been surprises (what a blessing!). But it has meant setting our financial and other goals for the coming year off a bit. We set our intention, Mama and baby get the money. It meant setting aside funds for a cleaning lady, or a Mother's helper, or some thing that would bless this precious season that is the
Also, food... Stock the freezer with easy crocpot meals, create a menu full of easy meals hubby can make himself. The less that is required from you- the better! Get creative, there are always new ways to do things, baby in the house trumps how you've traditionally done things.
If there is any extra vacation time to be squeezed- we use it for the baby. That meant DH was home for 2.5 weeks, but had nothing but national holidays the rest of the year (from February on...long year but worth it!)
Prioritize Self Care: Lay out what you need...Some one to help walk a crying baby? A chance to shower or eat a meal with hands free? One hour to lay alone and try to sleep daily? What is important to you?
|knitting...knitting is good self care in my book|
GRACE GRACE GRACE
New babies are hard work. They do everything on their schedule. It is a lot happening...Even if it isn't your first, your whole life is changing again. Nothing has to be perfect, just focus on resting your body those first 9 months. In those first 9 months, don't push anything too hard.
Will you be able to drop all of life and focus on rest the first 9 weeks postpartum? Probably not. Can you take the first week and stay in bed? I bet, with creativity, you could do that! The world won't melt down in a week. Take it (fight ferociously for it!), stay in bed. Even if it meas your other kids are watching TV all day- DO IT! You are worth it. If you can get some one to bring you some food, and plan a (BIG) basket of snacks before baby is born, you should be golden.
What about the following 8 weeks? I bet, with creativity and changing some "requirements" you could probably scale back big time. Will it be the perfect 40 days of wonderful rest of being waited on hand and foot? Ha, no.
But grace...Set your intention: Your intention is to stay off your feet as much as physically possible. See how little you can do! Take advantage- seriously what other time in your life can you do that with out guilt? It's your Joy! It's your birthright as new Mom! MILK IT! That is Grace. It's for you as you try to give things up and rest. It is for your family as they work out all the adjustments and "deal" for those weeks. Grace as you all stretch into the new family you have become- with the new precious person. And for your body too, if you can't stick to a resting plan, as well as you would like. Just make it your intention- not reaching perfection doesn't mean don't try!
Oh yeah, Excercise...But not too hard! After the initial 12 weeks of rest (yes, wait 12 weeks before doing more than a gentle walk around the block!) still take it easy! I have been guilty here, it just feel so good pushing it-after nearly a year of forcing myself to NOT. But it really, it isn't good for your thyroid/adrenals that first year postpartum. Listen- if you're feeling tired and worn out after a work out: back off!
Set your intention: REST
The first year is a MARATHON... It isn't a sprint. If you jump back in during the precious early days, you will most likely hit a wall around the 6-9 month mark. And you may just hit it HARD. It could hit in the form of PPD (which can hit any time in the first year). Rest. It doesn't have to be a big deal, it is about intention. Set your intention to stay down, keep your jammies on...snuggle your new baby... drink lots of warm cozy things. After the initial first 6 weeks, think outside the box, take your kids (if they are big enough to roam alone) to play grounds and sit on a bench with baby...Get lots of fresh air and sunshine that first year, take a good prenatal... and rest. Make it your daily intention to sit for 10 minutes taking deep breaths.
ENJOY YOUR BABY!
So there you have it, a present from you, for you, REST. And if your hubby wants to spend a some money on a piece of metal commemorating the day you birthed your baby ...Tell him, "NO I want to nap for 2 hours every day for a year- give me a Nanny." Just kidding...Kind of.
I would really like to go into adrenal health and hormone function and their importance in the first year postpartum...I shall return to that eventually!
Also: READ THIS by Jessica over at the Leaky B@@b...Best thing I ever read about postpartum recovery! She probably says it way better...