After eight deliveries, I feel comfortable to talk about my personal postpartum experience. With each baby’s arrival, I learned how to prepare for the ups and downs of postpartum, which has been very appropriately nicknamed the fourth trimester. Even though I’m not wiser nor a medical professional, I know my postpartum self pretty well – and it isn’t six weeks. Feeling stronger, feeling rested, coming out of the mental fog, having stamina and focus, all these take longer that six weeks to recover.
We all have ‘glitter marks’ (I read this somewhere, and I love it!) in different places. Some carry extra weight, other’s skin is forever changed, a few have soft in different places. Many of our glitter marks disappear and some stay with us forever.
But not all the changes are physical, our minds will cope differently which is the one part of postpartum that you can’t physically see or compare. We find ourselves exhausted with the joy that is the fourth trimester as we become acquainted with our shifting hormones. You can be happy beyond measure and cry tears of sadness or fear at the same time.
Motherhood changes us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Some of these changes are permanent, but most are only temporary. The unsettled feeling, discouragement, freak out moments can be so normal and often feel that they’ll become permanent.
We want these early newborn days and weeks to be a celebration of the sacredness of life, so having a chance to understand and prepare will help the transition that is postpartum. I’m compiling a list of my postpartum essentials, but today I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned about the postpartum journey:
it gets better. With the passing weeks, you will feel stronger and have more stamina.
it’s very brave to ask for help. Remembering that so many women understand and care makes it tremendously better.
slow down. Have time to bond with the baby, time to talk, and cry. A good friend, mom, or husband will allow you to have a good sob and release those hormones.
eat, drink, and sleep well, or as best you can. Nutritious food is very important to balance our hormones. It will be difficult to find time and mental focus to invest into menu planning and healthy pantry items, so it’s best to prepare before the birth. I freeze wholesome meals before baby comes, stock the pantry, make simple breakfasts menu (more like a list that Dad or grandma can follow), and lunch ideas based on what we keep stocked and what the children like.
get in the sun. I have made it part of my recovery routine to be outside everyday (usually a short 15 minute stroll).
probiotics. Gut health is closely associated to mental health. Link.
prenatal with DHA fish oils. Continue to take it daily. Getting enough iron, vitamin D, B vitamins, and proteins will help recovery.
activities for the siblings. I always buy a few craft kits from Hobby Lobby of Michael’s. Many years ago, my sister-in-law mailed us a new Cat in the Hat DVD soon after having a baby, and it was so hepful for the siblings. Having the littles sitting at the table with a craft or on the couch while you nurse is priceless peace of mind. A container with new puzzles, coloring books, crayons, stickers, etc. is also handy.
routine. I try to have a couple things that I do everyday that make me feel normal. Notice I said a couple :). Little daily anchors, if you will. Mine are to have a cup of coffee in the morning, take a shower (even if it’s mid-day), sit down with the family at dinnertime, pray with the littles and kiss them in their beds. These few and little things are big deals in postpartum and can help make you feel sane.
What other advice would you give an expecting mama?