The Weeks Following Childbirth
Planned up and prepared, right?
The birth plan
The home plan
The care plan
The baby’s health plan
Having a plan is Great! If you are like me and many other mothers in the world, you make all the plans for everyone else… except yourself.
The plans easily fall apart as the mother falls apart.
So let me remind you of the many cliches and quotes from many self-help articles and books: You cannot care for someone else without first caring for yourself.
Maternal health care postpartum in most countries around the world, even developed first world countries, is abysmal. A typical postpartum doctor’s appointment is just to make sure the uterus is in place and the mother isn’t bleeding to death. And, unfortunately, sometimes the bleeding to death is even ignored.
So, mother. I’m here to give you a couple of bites of advice.
You will be a better parent if you take care of yourself first
It is likely that very few professionals will advocate for you
You must advocate for yourself
Ask For Help.
Let’s take a moment to marvel over the miracle of giving life. Your body incubated another human being and nourished it to be able to enter the world. That is likely to be beyond any amazing miracle you will ever experience. Your body worked really hard to make that happen, including possibly depleting your body of nourishment to make sure baby was safe and well fed. Your entire body shifted in its mechanics in order to hold this human. Your organs and muscles had to move and adjust as baby grew.
Your everything just went through a major transformation in birthing that baby, and it is recovering. Respect that.
Let’s take a moment to recognize the fact that keeping a tiny human alive is 100% all-consuming. This is why you have to respect your body enough to care for it, and why you have to ask for help. If you don’t have anyone in your household to care for you, I highly recommend finding a fourth trimester doula in your area.
You as a mother have incredible instincts. They are not to be ignored. If something feels wrong, you need to speak up, loud and clear. “Baby blues” is depression, and many women also experience debilitating anxiety postpartum, including mental imagery that is frightening and graphic. Don’t pretend it is not happening. Talk to someone; a therapist or health care professionals, for help. Tell your partner or spouse about your struggles and allow him or her to help you.
Finally, let’s talk about that miraculous body that gave life. Chances are, it is different than what you expected. You might have expected that once the baby is out, things shift back to “normal.” You might turn on your Instagram to see that some Yummy Mummy looks perfectly polished and in great shape 3 weeks postpartum.
You are exactly where you’re supposed to be at this moment right now. Your movements and food should be because you’re appreciating yourself and nourishing your body and brain in order to care for you, who cares for the baby. Her story is not your story. As you walk forward and start to challenge your heart and muscles, make decisions based on love and appreciation, not comparison and punishment.
The best way to move forward is to listen to yourself with the guidance of a professional. Talk to a physical therapist or postpartum fitness specialist for ideas on how to move in a healing and positive way to support this new life. Remember that your body will continue to shift, heal, and change for the following year, at least, and enjoy the process.
Be your advocate. Find community with other mothers. Enjoy the process.