My cousin recently had her first baby, and we’ve been talking a lot about ways in which to manage postpartum health. Let’s face it, giving birth is a big deal, and it takes it’s toll on a woman both physically and emotionally. You must be ready, even in your most exhausted state to take care of this fragile little being who is reliant solely on you, and whom you are just getting to know. When I gave birth to my second child, I feel into a deep depression at two months postpartum. Why did it happen? Sure, postpartum depression can happen to anyone, and I was more likely to get it due to my past history with anxiety. But looking back, a big part of it was that I didn’t take the time to really nourish and take care of my body, and as a result my body got very, very angry with me. Here are some things I would do differently:
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The type of help that is usually most effective postpartum is not necessarily a baby nurse, but having someone who can pick up around the house, do errands, and help entertain any older children. That way, your time can be spent truly getting to know your new baby without distractions. Ask for help from your husband or family members ahead of time, or hire a mother’s helper for the first couple weeks or longer to help ensure you do not stress yourself trying to keep up with the household management while trying to recover and care for a new baby.
I know, I know. Who sleeps when you have a newborn? But seriously, any chance you get, just rest. Which you can do only if you have help with the rest of the household and any older children. I didn’t do that but I wish I had. Sleep deprivation is directly linked to depression and anxiety. If you can’t sleep at night because the baby is awake, at least you will have tapped into some sleep during the day to help stave off total sleep deprivation.
Bone broth is a great way to help heal the body. Making homemade broth from chicken bones and vegetables ahead of time and stocking it in your freezer will allow you to easily access it after birth. Drink a mug of it daily, as it truly has properties that helps your body heal and restore itself. Bone broth is also great to drink when you feel an illness coming on as well. I will post a recipe for homemade broth soon.
Getting out once a day, weather permitting, is so essential. You need Vitamin D to keep your mood up, and no supplement can truly replace real sunshine. Even a quick walk with the baby in the stroller or a trip to CVS will help you feel more normal. I stayed inside way too much after my second child and I really think it made me crazy. I would make excuses to myself about my son’s busy therapy schedule or not feeling up to it. But staying in and not getting up and moving around daily, even for just a little bit, definitely made things worse.
Understand that this is just a season
When I gave birth the second time, I was immediately frustrated that I couldn’t keep up with my toddler while breastfeeding my newborn around the clock. I never gave myself time to acclimate to the demands of two children, and instead put all these demands on myself to do it all perfectly. I should have told myself to chill out for awhile, that it would all fall into place, even if it meant my firstborn didn’t get all the attention he was used to. It really is just a blip in time, and before you know it, your newborn is a walking talking sturdy little thing and both kids are old enough to play together. So just chill out, moms. And let yourself cry when you need to, because hormones are a bitch!
The more I read about other cultures and their postpartum practices, the more I wish we fostered more supportive postpartum practices in America. In other cultures, it is common practice to have grandmothers and aunts move into the home and allow the mother time to recuperate. New mothers are often encouraged to stay in bed for the first two weeks postpartum to focus solely on the newborn and on restoring energy. Of course, in America, it seems the push is to get back to work and to life as soon as possible. I think this adds to the depletion of a mother’s emotional and physical state. But we do have it in our power to try and make whatever maternity leave we have a little bit better, so that our mental and physical health can stay more intact. Sounds cliche but it’s true. If momma’s not happy, no one’s happy! So let’s try and be kind to ourselves and remember that restorative practices are not a luxury but a necessity.
Here’s to a happy and healthy postpartum experience!