Despite reading about and trying to prepare for the postpartum period while pregnant with my first baby those first weeks after his birth were a pretty miserable experience for me. I think with your first baby it is going to be a huge shock no matter what you do, everything that comes with being entirely responsible for a tiny human life is brand new and your body is undergoing rapid changes that have never happened to you before. That being said, I had an absolutely wonderful postpartum period with my second born, a blissful first week and then another wonderful two weeks after that spent at home. There are obviously a TON of factors that differ from first borns (knowing what to expect, your body’s physical memory, being used to interrupted sleep or very little sleep, etc. etc.) but there are a few things I did differently this time in hopes of a better postpartum that I wanted to share.
Expectation & Household Help
Be very up front with your partner about the household needs if you are to remain in bed all day during those first days/weeks. Everyday I…. sweep, do one load of laundry, do two loads of dishes, pick up the playroom before dinner, wipe down the counters, etc. Personally, having my house out of order makes me feel out of order, you may be tempted to get up and do what you would like done, you may start to feel frustrated or resentful that your partner doesn’t see or know what needs to be taken care of – in my opinion it is best to have these conversations prior to birth and as frank as possible. If after understanding the requirements and expectation your partner isn’t up for the job then you can make arrangements to hire temporary help or ask friends or family members to take on specific duties (that you now have entirely listed out). I know it feels very strange and impersonal or uncomfortable but it is SO WORTH IT when you have a tidy home and can completely enjoy resting and responding to your newborn uninhibited.
Which leads me to my next example, community. This is much harder with your first born as you may not have many friends that are mamas, or mamas of young children, but if there is any way for you to connect with other pregnant women or new moms or moms of your current child/children if this isn’t your first, DO IT. And while you can, before you are pregnant or before birth, show up for them. Make meals for new moms in the group, offer help to pregnant or new moms with their older children, reach out with flowers or anyway you can and when you have your baby they will do the same. We were showered with meals, snacks, flowers and gifts every single day that first week and it was nothing short of a continuous warm & fuzzy feeling.
At the advice of my midwife this time around I followed a vegetarian, high fat diet post birth. I really believe that this made such a HUGE difference for me. Nothing processed, no refined sugar or grains, big batches of nourishing smoothies, soups with seaweed, vegetables, soft cheeses, lots of ghee and butter, stewed fruits and nuts. This made going to the bathroom such a breeze (which seriously can be just as scary as birth itself that first week!) and I felt wonderful. Good fats are so important for hormones and there is evidence that they help combat postpartum depression, read a little more here & here. I will be forever grateful for all of the food preparation my husband did for me those first couple of weeks, and all of the generosity of our little community here made that possible. Him, my toddler and my mom, who was at our home helping out, never had to worry about anything to eat and I had endless options for quick grab-and-nurse foods in addition to everything my husband had prepped.
Postpartum Lounge Wear
This point may seem vain and unnecessary but after an ultra nourishing postpartum diet I am going to put this up there as my next biggest game changer for baby #2. I lived in ultra tight Lululemon with teeny underwear prior to having my first baby and in the last few weeks of pregnancy it was the same pair of maternity tights and tank top that still fit. Once he was born I found myself so uncomfortable in those first weeks (months) with nothing to wear, my pre pregnancy clothes WAY too small, even my comfortable pajamas were squeezing me in various places, I had no underwear to accommodate large pads, I needed easy nursing access for my baby and it felt impossible to be slightly presentable, even just being in bed. This perpetuated more of the loneliness and isolation that is often felt after the birth of a first child. I wanted to at least try and see if that could be different this time. During Black Friday and some other holiday sales and with the help of my very generous mom I picked up some nice loungewear for after birth. A silky pajama set, two pajama sets I wouldn’t mind going for a walk around the block in, two pairs of comfortable high waisted jogger sweat pants, two nursing camisoles from Belabumbum and a few pairs of black boy short underwear in a size bigger than I normally wear. I didn’t wear any of my purchases prior to birth and everything was so fresh and nice and new to me when she arrived. I would take a lovely sitz bath and change into a nice, new pair of pajamas and I felt great. Now at 5 months postpartum I still wear every piece all of the time at home, definitely a good investment.
I really wanted to make the most of our time home as a brand new family of four. Besides some aspects that are just kind of shocking, I think one of the hardest parts of postpartum is the guilt, the unrealistic expectations, the “shoulds”, the “have tos”, so I took some time before the birth to give myself some personal perspective. I was going to ask for and accept help, I was going to accept that my son was well cared for by someone other than myself, I was going to stay in bed, I was going to take a bath every day, I was going to take time and eat good food, I was going to see this as a blissful almost three weeks at home as a family, we would never all be home together for that amount of time! I was not going to power through pain or negative emotions, I was going to rest, cuddle and nurse the baby, and when someone else was cuddling her I was going to cuddle my son. And that was it. Instead of feeling trapped inside the house I was going to view it as my personal sanctuary, a spa like place, that was tidy from the help I requested, that served amazing food and where I took hot baths with and without my new baby. There was nothing else I should or had to be doing, this was it.
A friend recently posted a link to this article on her Facebook page and it is so true. We have lost so much as new mothers in this country and I really hope little by little we can support each other and help change the face of postpartum (which really extends throughout the first year, IMO!), even a little bit. What did you do to have a better postpartum? What do you recommend to new mamas? How did your postpartum experience change with each child? We would love to hear your stories