Big knit underwear, pads bigger than you’ve ever worn, being helped to the bathroom, burning when you pee, feeling like your insides will fall out every time you sneeze or cough, fear of the first bowel movement, so much blood. Prolapse that can last for months or even years, tears that don’t heal, nerve damage, a libido that never returns.
After pains, cracked nipples, body aches, engorgement. Worry, anxiety, baby blues, post-partum rage, anxiety, scary thoughts. No sleep.
Are they breathing, area they eating enough, is this normal?
Postpartum is different for everyone. It can be extremely hard, especially now with limited support.
Know that it is ok to feel all these things. Don’t look at the blissful Instagram photos and think there is nothing going on behind the scenes. Birthing a human is hard. Recovering is hard. New routines are hard. I see you. I am here for you.
My recovery from my first birth was heavy mentally and physically, even with some preparation, so this time I knew I needed to do more.
I want to share with you what has helped me this time around, especially during this time of Covid19.
Immediate Physical Recovery
Essentials: Peri bottle, a couple days worth of depends, knit underwear, pack of pads from extremely heavy to light (Thinx or Knix work well for lighter days as well), padsicles for first couple of days, tucks pads, perineal spray, sitz bath herbs or epsom salts.
Support: Someone to contact who you can ask about your healing. Medical professional, doula, friend with lots of experience.
Aim for 5 days in the bed, 5 days on the bed, 5 days around the bed. At the very least.
Rest as much as possible. Don’t think of night and day anymore, just sleep when you can. Let them all roll into one. Only things to-do: feed the baby and feed yourself.
Essentials: Syringes ( if you plan on collecting colostrum before baby is born or to top up), Lanolin nipple cream (or other brand), Haakaa pump to catch run off, electric pump (optional) breast pads, nursing bras, nursing pajamas and loungewear, boppy or my brest friend feeding pillow, nursing journal (bought or self made) to keep track of pees and poos, water bottle, nutritious food.
Support: Contact some lactation consultants before birth, check their prices, and make sure they will be available around your due date.
Know that breastfeeding is hard. Some mom’s even cite it as being harder than labour. Get the support you need. Sore nipples are common, cracked bleeding nipples are a sign you may need some help. It gets easier with practice and time.
Essentials: Pre-prepped frozen meals or organized meal drop offs. Warm, nourishing foods to restore your depleted energy. Broths, soups, stews. Avoid cold drinks and foods, even in summer months.
Support: Ask a close friend to set up a meal train, or set up a postpartum fund for meals and other care. Seek out postpartum chefs or meal services that deliver. Ask a friend to prep meals from The First Forty Days.
Your appetite will increase, especially if you’re breastfeeding and your body will need certain nutrients to heal well and restore your energy. See book recommendations at end of article.
Essentials: Reading up on postpartum mood disorders before baby is born. If you have a partner, ensuring they are looking out for the signs if PP depression.
Support: Seek out virtual therapists specializing in perinatal mental health, online mom’s groups, virtual postpartum doulas, ask friends you can rely on to check in on you with a weekly zoom call or daily text, categorise friends who can help cheer you up, have a chat, help to share the mental load, check in on your partner…some people are better to help with the serious stuff, some are better at making you smile. Journal about your journey and how you are feeling.
Loss of identity is a huge factor postpartum which can come up months after baby has been born. Know that the 4 month mark can be extremely hard for some new parents and postpartum depression can show signs from 2 weeks – 12 months post birth.
No essentials here but nice to have a if you can make the time. Traditionally these would be done by others but in the time of Covid19, DIY is the next best thing.
Moxabustion, acupressure, massage, vaginal steaming, sitz bath, rose quartz, sound healing, reiki, meditation, herbs.
Support: Contact Chinese Medicine Doctors or Postpartum Doulas and Healers who are doing virtual sessions. They can guide you and your partner through various care rituals that will help the body to process and heal the birth experience. Distance healing is also available from some energy workers. Create a postpartum box for yourself which may include: a meditation candle, some rose quartz, a list of rituals, questions to reflect upon, a journal, a book, music.
Even though it may seem like there isn’t even time to take a shower putting your healing first for a set time each day or week will be extremely beneficial to your mental and physical recovery.
Connect with your partner before baby is born. Make a list of the top 5 things you see could be a potential problem postpartum. Brainstorm solutions BEFORE they happen. Main areas of conflict include: finances, division of household chores, work, relationship, social life, influence of in-laws.
Make a bliss list of things you enjoyed before you became pregnant. Remind each other to reconnect with these things postpartum. Could include: favourite music, foods, writing, exercise, favourite flowers, dancing etc…
Know that you may only connect with one of these things in the first year postpartum and that is ok. This list should not be a to-do list but more a touchstone list to help reconnect to a part of yourself that may lie dormant for a while.
Long-term Physical Recovery
Essential: Safely reconnecting to your core and pelvic floor.
Support: Contact a pelvic floor physical therapist doing virtual sessions. Book a session pre-birth and then follow ups based on their recommendations, after birth. Find Postnatal specialists to help guide you through how to safely connect to your core and pelvic floor, starting with your breath and slowly moving on to physical exercise. Know the signs of prolapse, incontinence, and other pelvic floor dysfunction to help you communicate these issues virtually with your care provider. Since we can not be physically checked at this time it falls on us, even more, to be aware of our own physical state.
Have patience. Know that recovery can take weeks to months to years. 6 weeks is not an adequate amount of time to heal for many.
Birth Story Processing
Even if you had a good birth experience, reflecting on your birth can be healing to the body and mind. You may not release that you are holding tension around an event or moment that happened at birth. It is especially important to do so after a traumatic birth.
Support: Seek out a a qualified Birth story as Medicine practitioner, someone who can do virtual Havening, or work through one of the recommended books below.
30-45% of new parents say that their birth was traumatic, in reality the number is most likely higher as many cases go unreported and many who ‘have a healthy baby’ don’t classify their experiments as traumatic.
“Emotional birth trauma is related to an unexpected, unwished for event, in the child bearing year. Which renders the individual helpless, powerless, or abandoned. This event cause a real or perceived threat to the individuals safety, well being or life or that of a loved one” – Pam England
Addressing your story, your experience, your trauma can be an extremely emotional and empowering exercise to validate and help heal your experience.
There are also many classes that you can take that will help guide you through the postpartum period. They will go into detail about what to expect in those first few days and weeks. Including procedures immediately after birth at home or hospital, healing, the second night syndrome, new born preparation, mental health.
The Fourth Trimester – Kimberly Ann Johnson
The First Forty Days – Heng Ou
Body Full of Stars – Molly May
Illuminating Herstory: a safe place to reflect, rebuild, and reclaim your birth story – Arianna Alloway
Labyrinth of Birth – Pam England
Come As You Are – Emily Nagoski
Traumatic Child Birth – Chery Beck
Therapy and the Postpartum Woman – Karen Killeen
This Isn’t what I expected – Karen Klimen
PELVIC FLOOR PT TELEHEALTH
Amanda Fisher Empower Your Pelvis
VIRTUAL BODY WORK, BIRTH STORY PROCESSING, CLASSES:
POSTNATAL FITNESS SPECIALISTS
Perineal care: https://spiritshopbk.com/collections/vaginal-care
Nipple Cream: https://amzn.to/3aF7Pn3
Breast Pads: https://amzn.to/2zsD2Nl
Postpartum recovery tonic: https://www.themilkmoon.com
After Ease: https://amzn.to/2y2cylq