Tips For Success In Your Life After Birth
Your newborn won’t stop crying and nothing you do seems to placate her; and you haven’t showered or had a conversation about anything other than baby poop in three days. You feel like you can’t even physically leave your home. Is it just being exhausted, or is it something more, like postpartum depression?
If you’ve just had, or are about to have a baby… congrats!
As a postpartum support specialist, I want you to feel truly informed about what “maternity leave” really looks like. After all–you can’t really claim to be prepared for having a baby, if you aren’t also aware of what you are likely to experience after you give birth; which–at times– is a lot of emotion, a lot of exhaustion, a lot of over-extension, and a lot of challenging ‘firsts.
In order to truly feel empowered to have the most successful, healthy and happy start in your life with your new baby, there is a lot you need to know.
Call it: “tough love”on my part, if you must — but if you’re ready, please–read on.
Giving birth in ANY of the ways in which it is possible to do so (vaginal or cesarean), is no small task–and each type of birth, no matter how blissful or serene, will require an intense period of rest and physical recovery directly following–of the likes I assume you are simply not used to.
It can be uncomfortable to have to sit and heal, when you are used to enjoying a certain pace of life. And make no mistake about it–no matter how ‘mentally prepared’ you feel, life will feel VERY different, overnight, once you bring baby home. Shockingly different. Because, how could it not? There is so much change! Change to your schedule, change to your autonomy, independence, spontaneity, relationships. Much of that will feel lost, for a time, when you are postpartum. It can make the days feel uneventful, hazy, lazy, and yes, even–un-fun.
Which is why so many women are prone to postpartum depression (among other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like anxiety), at this time.
Women who give birth undergo a series of serious biochemical, hormonal, and brain composition changes. They are thrust into ‘recovery mode’ after giving birth, often needing to heal physically from a wide range of postpartum conditions–and not always honoring it.
Add to that the potential pain and discomfort of learning to breastfeed, treating Cesarean scars or vaginal tearing, and experiencing debilitating amounts of sleep-loss, and you’ve got a complete recipe for slight-to-severe postpartum unhappiness.
There. I said it.
So now that you know all that–please read on, as I share the 4 following secrets to getting through the postpartum haze in a way that reduces your risk of experiencing postpartum depression in the first place–or–helping you out of it quicker–if you’re already experiencing it:
Secret # 1: Get Educated
Your postpartum time with your new baby has the potential to be sweet, intimate, and special.
But, if we’re being completely honest—it seldom is described by women that way. This is in part due to the fact that this particular period of the “birthing continuum” is very often overlooked and tragically ill prepared for—especially when compared to how much prep time goes into learning about techniques to get through the labor and delivery phase.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and HealthRight International have published studies showing that up to 80% of women report reduced symptoms of postpartum depression and other postpartum hardships, when given proper preparatory and educational guidance. With the right education, support, tools, resources, and advice and care from the right specialists and healthcare practitioners, mothers would be in a better position to avoid or alleviate many of the common, universal challenges that arise in the postpartum time. This is why I created BetterPostpartum.com and the programs there. A Better Postpartum class is a one-stop shop for the best postpartum care practices and advice from midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, nutritionists, therapists and sleep specialists–and it is revolutionizing how women experience the postpartum period. Because as it turns out: Postpartum recovery, hormones, sleep, nutrition… all of it can be managed. Certain foods, healing modalities, and mindfulness practices can help build resiliency in our minds, bodies, and spirits, to promote total postpartum wellness.
Secret #2: Be “Selfish”
I can’t tell you how many moms I’ve worked with who are completely focused on their baby’s needs, but are dismally unaware of how badly they are ignoring or voluntarily choosing to forgo their own needs in those early days, weeks and months after having a baby.
Your needs must come first. Then your baby’s—at a very close second. Remember: You have to secure your own oxygen mask, before assisting others. This is just as true in motherhood, as it is as a passenger on an airplane. Every child deserves a well mother. So make sure your needs are getting met in a variety of ways every day, so that you are mothering from a place of wellness.
That may sound, or even feel, selfish, if you are not used to the practice of loving yourSELF with the same ferver with which you are accustomed to loving those around you. But you are worthy of that same level love and care.
And trust me, you’re going to need it.
This can mean doing anything from taking naps and breaks, to taking showers, and from visiting with friends, to handing your baby off so that you can have some time solo. The idea here is generally to let others care for you and your baby.
Don’t forget, this also may include going to see medical specialists, joining support groups, fostering a sense of community, going to the right doctors/therapists, getting bodywork like a massage… anything that falls under the big, giant realm of “taking care of you.” I’m talking about: Your needs. Your health. Your body. Your emotions. You, you, you.
Secret # 3 Eat Right
Our postpartum physiology requires us to eat certain types of healthy, nourishing and healing postpartum foods in order to better recover from the act of giving birth. What we put in our bodies can assist in the repair of our body tissue (healing tears, scars, and abrasions), help replace lost blood supply, refortify our iron levels, assist our organs in properly processing and eliminating toxins, and help us to regulate our hormonal and nervous systems so that we have a better buffer to stress.
Generally, it is recommended to eat foods that are “warm in temperature and warm in nature”. Think of foods and drinks that can be served hot and are seasoned with warming spices: hot herbal teas; hot porridge with spices like ginger, cinnamon, molasses or cloves; and also use plenty of melty animal fats like butter and/or ghee. Or try slow-cooked meat stews—and plenty of bone broths. These are the rich healing foods that can be seen in the postpartum traditions of many different cultures all over the world, for time immemorial. (Soups and stewed meats are both easy to digest and eliminate–and both our digestive system and our elimination system need our help, immediately postpartum.)
Secret #4: Be a Queen
What does this look like in practice? It looks like hiring help. Or getting your partner, your mother, your neighbor, your aunt, or anyone… to do things of real value for you and your family. Things like cleaning, cooking, laundering, and baby (or older sibling) care.
Maybe you register for a meal train, a postpartum doula, a night nanny, or a babysitter. I’m telling you: whatever you can get, get that. My general rule of thumb is: Get more than you think you need. (Trust me on that one.)
Secret # 5: Stay in Bed. Actually.
You need to recoup, recover and conserve energy. You need to nap whenever you can, if you can. Or just zombie out and lay like a corpse—you’re still recharging your batteries that way, just at a slower ‘charge’ level. The fact of the matter is: You will need lots of time in the supine position. Rest helps you heal, helps you lose less blood, helps your tears and stitches do their job, helps your internal anatomy reset properly so you don’t experience organ prolapse, and helps you to conserve your mood and energy levels. A postpartum woman’s physiology requires her to rest an exorbitant amount in order to stay healthy. It isn’t without reason that we are told of all the cultures that adhere to strict 30-40 day “lay-in” periods for their new mothers. It is rooted in science/biological need.
Natalie Telyatnikov is the Founder of Better Postpartum. To learn more, visit: www.betterpostpartum.com