Your little one has now made his/her entrance into the world and you are yourself born as a mother, what a miraculous thing!
The focus is often on the child as he/she is understandably a source of wonder but both the postpartum mother and child need to be equally nurtured. I have to say that I had massively underestimated how a mother can feel in the few days and weeks after giving birth both physically and emotionally.
- YOU made it happen!
The postpartum mother might have to deal with the disappointment of not having been able to have the birth she wished for. I can’t say enough that no matter how your baby was born - C-section, forceps or natural birth - you did give birth to that child, lady! Give yourself credit even if you received some help. The most important thing is that you and your child have finally met and are well.
- Be kind to your body
Your body has been through a trauma in the etymological sense. The Greek word trauma means “wound”, so consider yourself a patient: your body has some healing to do. There is therefore no need for you to rush into “getting back to normal”, whatever that means for you.
Among other things coming to mind is your pre-pregnancy fitness level. Rushing into doing exercise could lead to the exact opposite result, extending the duration of the healing process.
One example is doing sit-ups and crunches before being discharged by your GP (generally at 6 weeks postpartum or 8 weeks if you had a C-section). Your pelvic floor muscles have been stretched and weakened, and in extreme cases, if starting exercise too early, you could end up with a prolapse. Similarly, if you have separated stomach muscles (or diastasis recti), sit-ups, crunches and planks could aggravate the separation. Abdominal breathing and some gentle Pilates exercises such as pelvic tilts lying on your back with your knees bent are appropriate though. The key words here are “take it slow!”.
- Rest, rest… and rest!
To help you deal with the emotional and physical ups and downs, rest as much as you can. You might have heard this quote before: “The bridge between despair and hope is a good night sleep.” (E. Cossman) While you won’t be having a good night sleep per se for a little while, try to rest or sleep while your baby sleeps. That means taking naps several times a day. You will be amazed at the difference 20 minutes here and there makes. I wondered a few times how I managed to be remotely functional over those first postpartum weeks despite what seemed to be little sleep at night but I did take regular naps during the day which all added up to a decent amount of rest.
- Healthy eating
Along with rest, food is essential in assisting your recovery.
Food is absorbed by your body and becomes you so make sure you eat wholesome fresh food. Think soups, dahls, stews, salads, complex carbohydrates (such as quinoa, amaranth and millet) and fibres. Nothing out of the ordinary, simply healthy flavoursome eating!
About 3 weeks before my due date, I started cooking regularly and in bigger quantities, freezing extra portions that certainly came in handy in the early days of postpartum. For inspiration, I can’t recommend enough the Hemsley + Hemsley cook books. Their first one The Art of Eating Well was such a success that they published a second one last February entitled Good + Simple. Healthy delicious nutritious food, just what the doctor ordered!
- Your support team
Both you and your partner will be able to do with some support, emotionally, physically and practically! Ladies, let your partner change most the nappies over the first couple of weeks (isn’t it what parental leave is for?! ;-)) and don’t feel bad about it!
Your partner will feel pretty tired or overwhelmed too but you have to deal with not only less hours of sleep, you are also on the mend after a physical trauma. I know I keep repeating it but it is important to remind yourself that you have a whole lot more on your plate.
Saying that, both you and your partner will need the support of your close friends and family. My husband and I needed to talk about the birth itself and it was great to share our experience with our loved ones. Talking to friends who were several times mum was for me of great help and insight. I am grateful to them for being so open and bringing some sense of humour into the mix!
While you will probably not feel like going out for a week or even two, you might like having some company every now and then
Word of caution: having too many visitors in a day can leave you even more exhausted so please make sure you don’t overstretch yourself. Oh and during those visits, it is more than ok not to play hostess, you are a patient! Let your partner, or even better, your family and friends be in charge of serving teas and coffees and don’t hesitate to leave the room if you need to have a lie down.
We made the mistake of having a kind of open day for our friends to pop in about 8 days after our daughter’s birth and ended up having non-stop visitors from 11am until 7pm… Needless to say I was a total wreck by the end of the day!
- Patience and yet more patience
Patience will be your most precious tool. Patience towards yourself, your partner and your baby. Give yourself time to get to grip with motherhood.
Trust that your baby will start crying less and less as he/she gets accustomed to his/her new environment and gets to know you.
Be patient with your partner who might struggle a little with the new dynamic and accept that your body needs time to heal sufficiently before you can resume some of your usual activities.
Rest, heal and get stronger by the day, new mamas! :-)
If you would like to get in touch, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to listen and share the little that I have learnt 4 months into the journey of motherhood!
*More in my next blog in the Healthy Motherhood series: “Mum and Baby Special Bond”.