I was speaking with a friend the other day who is expecting her second baby. She mentioned how she was not prepared for her postpartum needs after her first was born. “There was a huge focus to prepare for baby care but there was nothing about mama care,” she said.
I too was not prepared for my physical recovery after my first daughter’s birth. I must have pulled a muscle somewhere because I couldn’t walk correctly for a month following her birth. It never dawned on me to call my OB because my six-week check up was already scheduled, and they didn’t seem to want anything to do with me until then. During the long days and nights of the newborn stage, I worried that I was maimed for life. Thankfully, my mother continued to reassure me (from several states away) that my body would heal. She was right. It did. I was walking normally by the time I went to my follow up. Although I didn’t necessarily require medical attention, it would have been nice to know what was going on with my body.
Postpartum Moms Need a Supportive Community
In her book “After the Baby’s Birth… A Woman’s Way to Wellness”, Robin Lim says “All too often the only postpartum care an American woman can count on is one fifteen-minute appointment with her doctor, six weeks after she has given birth. This six-week marker ends an arbitrary period, within which she is supposed to have worked out most postpartum questions for herself.”
Many women don’t need professional medical care, but they do need support from their communities. They do need love and reassurance, as well as help with meals and cleaning. They need other women to hold them up as they settle into life with a new baby.
The Truth about the Postpartum Period
I often wonder if I wasn’t prepared for the physical recovery of birth because women who had been through childbirth didn’t want to scare me or make me apprehensive about it. I don’t want to scare anyone either, but I also think it is a disservice not to prepare women for the reality of postpartum recovery. The postpartum period will be challenging no matter what kind of birth you have. And that is ok. It is nothing to be afraid of.
In preparing for your child’s birth, prepare also for your physical recovery. Make a postpartum plan along with your birth plan. Discuss your expectations and potential needs with your partner, family and support team. Remember that you as a mother will need care, especially in the first week after baby is born.
Practical Postpartum Tips
- Rest & Recovery – Even if your labor and delivery are ideal, your body will still need time to recover. Even professional runners take a week or two to recover after a marathon. Give yourself permission to rest.
- What is REST for you? – What might be restful for you might not be restful for someone else. Find what will feed your soul and your body. Is it extra sleep? Reading a book? Listening to music? Taking a bath? Think about what is restful for you and prepare a space to allow yourself to rest while someone else takes care of the baby.
- Don’t stress about being unproductive –If you have been working full-time or even part-time before giving birth, the postpartum period can feel frustratingly unproductive. That is ok! Try to accomplish one thing a day for the first month, even if that one thing is brushing your teeth. Make goals for yourself, but make them realistic.